This article was initially published on Techcrunch
The people who work on shipping vessels are vital to world trade, but they still experience a lot of arcane hiring processes. Many lack transparency about important things like pay or even the working conditions of the ships they will spend months on. Maritime recruitment platform Seafair was created to solve these problems. It vets seafarers and shipping operators and uses matching algorithms to fit crew members with the right vessels.
The company announced today it has raised $5.7 million led by General Catalyst, with participation from FirstMinute Capital, Signal Ventures, TA Ventures, SV Angel, SpeedInvest and returning investor FJ Labs. This brings Seafair’s total funding to about $7 million.
Seafair was launched late last year by Agapitos Diakogiannis, who was born and raised in Greece, and its current clients include one of the world’s top 100 shipping companies.
“Greece is one of the global superpowers in shipping, so when I was working in consulting, I became close to the industry and really fell in love with it.”
After consulting, Diakogiannis spent time in venture capital, where he saw how labor marketplaces are disrupting industries like construction, manufacturing, oil and gas.
Diakogiannis realized he had the network to address a large market opportunity, but there was another reason for starting Seafair. After talking to seafarers, he realized how opaque the hiring process is. Many people have trouble finding jobs even though their labor is in high demand and they don’t know a lot about working conditions or payment before accepting a placement.
Seafair matches workers with shipping companies based on their background, skills and performance, and uses matching algorithms to make the process of filling vacancies more efficient. It also provides vessel operators with human resources software that helps them consolidate data that is otherwise siloed in different ERP platforms and spreadsheets. Seafair is currently focused on senior officer roles, like chief engineers and ship masters, since those positions are the ones that have the most certification and training to track.
Shipping companies are based around the world, but about 50% of seafarers come from Eastern Europe and the Philippines, so they typically rely on agencies to staff vessels. Since agencies rely on hiring commissions to make money, however, they might not always provide the best fits for openings, Diakogiannis said.
Seafair provides a digitized and more transparent version of traditional agencies (and is licensed to operate as an agency in Ukraine and the Philippines, with more countries planned).
First, seafarers upload their CVs online, then Seafair runs a series of background checks and online assessments. If it decides someone is a good fit for a vessel, the platform schedules interviews. If they are hired, Seafair starts the deployment process, including digital contracts.
The platform also verifies employers and the vessels under their management before they can start using Seafair. The startup’s HR software includes tools to manage payments, insurance, schedules and rest hours. Some of its features customized to the maritime industry include alerts for when a seafarer’s certifications are going to expire and salary recommendations to help increase retention rates.
Seafair’s new funding will be used to build more technology for seafarer vetting and expand in markets including Germany, Nordic countries and the United States.
In a statement, General Catalyst managing director Niko Bonatsos said, “The maritime industry is one of the last untapped frontiers. One needs deep industry insights, an ambitious vision and a determined team to succeed in a market like this — and we saw all the above in Seafair.”