Meet Thomas Frizlen – Founder Interview Series 1/6
November 29, 2021
Thomas, you are the founder of Swiss Ocean Tech. Did you always want to have your own company?
Big business has always fascinated me. When I finished my master’s degree from Sweden back in 1993, I started working for ABB in Switzerland. It was global, it was complex, it was quick-paced and I loved it. I remained in that environment for most of my professional life but the call to create something of my own nevertheless was always in the back of my mind. It accompanied me over many years and when I finally found the solution to that anchoring problem I was seeking, I knew it was time to take on the challenge. That was the real beginning of Swiss Ocean Tech.
When did the issue of anchor dragging start occupying your mind?
Anchoring has been on my mind for as long as I can remember. On the one hand it is this unknown entity when sailing and brings an element of uncertainty. On the other hand, it is an art and demands great skill. Even when you anchor well, you are never 100% sure that the anchor will hold. There is simply no solution existing today which will alert a sailor when their anchor is about to move.
That is then what keeps you up when anchoring?
What keeps me up at night is not knowing what is actually happening with my anchor. If I know my anchor is safe, then I sleep tightly. If I know my anchor is dragging, then I can do something to remedy that situation. But not knowing either way, that is terribly unsettling and will keep me up at night, yes.
Have you had anchor dragging experiences yourself?
Take us back to your childhood. How did you become a sailor?
I was born and raised in Sweden. As far back as I can remember, sailing has been a part of me and I have always enjoyed it immensely. My father was a very keen sailor and we would spend many a day (and night) discovering the immense Swedish archipelago in our little wooden Schärenkreuzer.
What are some of the challenges of sailing in Sweden?
As there are approximately 25’000 islands just in the archipelago of Stockholm, you need to have a good grasp on navigation. There are shallows, underwater rocks and you have to know exactly where you can and can not sail. With a small boat, there is a little more leeway, but as our family boat got bigger over the years, much care had to be given to our sailing route for the day and then where we anchor overnight.
Did you work in the sailing industry whilst growing up?
During my university summer months, I worked for a sailing school in Stockholm. I taught mostly adults where we would sail out into the archipelago for 5-7 days, practice every form of day and night sailing and really experience the nature around us. It was always an adventure.
I also became a wind surfing instructor whilst at high school and after graduating I took a gap year and accepted a job offer in the Maldives to teach wind surfing.
How did you experience the nature in the Maldives compared to Sweden?
What do you love about sailing?
Sailing for me is freedom. It is about experiencing the nature around you, but it is also about mastering the skill of sailing. It is about navigating, optimizing the sails, there is never a dull moment. But there is also always time to reflect…to unwind. It is the best time for me to think.
How does your family now feel about your sailing passion?
When did the idea of AnchorGuardian come to you?
I studied Industrial Economics at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. As an engineer, I never really understood that there wasn’t a solution to support me in my anchoring process. When it comes to navigation for instance, there are so many tools at our disposal. There are GPS, radar, depth sounder and others, but as far as anchoring is concerned, we really do not have anything that monitors the anchor.
At the beginning, some of my ideas were kind of wild and to be honest, not very realistic. Over the years however, my ideas became more sophisticated and AnchorGuardian began to take shape. I spent my weekends and evenings refining my idea and discussing it with experts within my ever-growing network. It developed over time, it did not come to me overnight.
And that led to the beginning of Swiss Ocean Tech?
It did. I knew the experts from the different technological fields but I had to get them enthusiastic enough about AnchorGuardian and the possibilities available to us to actually join our start-up. In the end, we were six co-founders from 3 different countries. We designed our first prototype, we engaged in market surveys, we had multiple conversations with potential customers – all in our free time. We were encouraged and motivated by the great interest in safe anchoring. Once we had secured our first financing seed round at the beginning of 2020, it was all-in and we haven’t looked back since.
Where does the name Swiss Ocean Tech come from?
We all know there is no ocean in Switzerland, but our solution is very sophisticated, precise and of a high quality, and that is very much Swiss.
The Ocean is what we need to sail. It is what we sailors love and what I think, we all want to preserve not only for us, but for all future generations. As anchoring has an influence on the health of the oceans, it excites me to be able to devise smart technology which minimizes that influence wherever possible.
What do you wish for the future for Swiss Ocean Tech?
Well, there are many things I wish for but in the end, I guess it all comes down to our vision for the future. Our vision is to make anchoring safe, for sailor, ship and sea. It is that simple.