Gazebo Gazette

Combining strengths in traditional maritime industries like shipbuilding, fishing, seafood processing, and coastal tourism, with advanced technology, and business and professional services, the Mississippi Gulf Coast is recognized as one of the strongest blue economies in the nation.

Mississippi’s coastal counties are home to more than 4,200 maritime-related companies, creating one of the highest concentrations of blue economy jobs in America.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Coastal Mississippi annually employs 147,000 people, generating over $16 billion in gross domestic product.

The Gulf Blue Initiative is bringing “Big Ideas Out of the Blue” capitalizing on the region’s geography and maritime resources and positioning the Mississippi Gulf Coast to lead the development of world-changing innovation.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is the “Innovation Gateway to the Gulf of Mexico” with its state-of-the-art research facilities, wet-labs and year-round access to warm Gulf Coast waters. The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) Gulf Blue Navigator (GBN) leverages this position to accelerate time-to-revenue for late-stage startups. This four-month blended program provides unique access to expertise, collaboration, research, testing, light manufacturing, funding, and physical infrastructure.

The 2024 GBN Cohort includes six startup companies, Mythos AI, LeVanta Tech, BLUEiQ, Seasats Inc., V2 Forensics, and Oscilla Power. All these companies have registered to do business in the State of Mississippi and currently have membership to the Gulf Blue coworking space located in the Gulf and Ship Island Building in downtown Gulfport, Mississippi.

Over the span of the four-month program, these start-ups have been presented with unique access to USM’s partners, capabilities, and resources focusing on uncrewed systems. Currently, this Cohort is prepping for Demo Day, happening on June 12th at the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, where they will pitch their technology to maritime companies, the community, and investors.

Natalie Guess, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program Manager in the Office of Innovation Management is a strong promoter of the GBN program.

“We are helping to accelerate these companies to market with their technologies and introduce them to our greatest asset, the Gulf of Mexico, and work with our marine science and ocean technology departments,” states Guess.

Jansen Cohoon serves as President of V2 Forensics, a Mississippi-based start-up offering solutions in digital forensics with artificial intelligence (AI), professional 3D scanners, and mobile forensics capabilities. Specialties include reducing complexity and time when investigating uncrewed vessel activity through advanced cybersecurity.

“USM allows us to have access to the facilities at the Port of Gulfport and research expertise,” said Cohoon, “Working with Southern Miss has been hugely beneficial.”

Rob McGurrin, co-founder of BLUEiQ, headquartered in Massachusetts, seeks to create social, economic, and environmental value while protecting biodiversity. The small business is committed to clean technology and sustainability while developing underwater sound into intelligence.

“We are trying to solve problems in the protection of biodiversity, reduce mammal strike vessels, and keep dolphin populations healthy,” explains McGurrin.

Dylan Sparks serves as Director of Operations with Mythos AI, headquartered in Florida. Sparks and his team are creating autonomous and self-driving vessels while helping to develop sustainable solutions to provide a greener global shipping industry.

Kelly Echols is the founder of LeVanta Tech based in Missouri. Echols named his company after his father and envisions blue tech in the sea and sky through “float-and-fly” drones. The drones have the capabilities to fly at high speeds with low detectability for civil and defense missions.

Seasats and Oscilla Power cannot be overlooked with their expertise in uncrewed vessels. Headquartered in California, Seasats serves science, defense, and commercial/ survey markets with the capabilities to endure ocean life with its autonomous surface vehicle (ASV). Oscilla Power created the Triton wave energy converter to provide power to uncrewed vessels while utilizing renewable energy solutions of the ocean.

The Gulf Blue Navigator is made possible by the participation, support and financial contributions of our sponsors and partners who assist with recruitment, selection, curriculum, mentoring and more. This project was paid for in part with federal funding from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality under the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act).