Anthony DiMare: CEO & Co-Founder of Bedrock Ocean Exploration – Ep. 115

Anthony DiMare: CEO & Co-Founder of Bedrock Ocean Exploration

Anthony DiMare is the CEO & Co-founder of Bedrock Ocean Exploration, a vertically-integrated ocean exploration company that’s built proprietary robotics and software to explore the oceans quickly and cheaply.

Basically none of the world’s sea floor is mapped, and this knowledge has far-reaching implications for weather predictions, global shipping, and so many other things that are vital to our survival.

Learn the multiple businesses and models Anthony has pursued, how he’s gotten millions in funding so far, and how he wound up named to Forbes 30 Under 30.

Bedrock Ocean Exploration has been featured in Fast Company, TechCrunch, CNN, CNBC and more, and when you hear this man speak, you’ll know why.

Full Unedited Audio Conversation:

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2:27 – “Interestingly enough, I sort of grew up learning that the maritime world is actually quite evil and will destroy you. And my great, great grandfather ran a lobster fishing business in Boston that ended up going to zero and it sort of ruined the whole family, broke everything up. And so I grew up in the aftermath of that. And so actually I sort of found my way back to the ocean through, again, my own interests as a human being, not necessarily because I was pushed into this space. I just became personally obsessed and sort of found myself – I enjoyed a day out on the water better than I did on land. Stuff like that started happening a lot more as, I think from the age of like 14 onward, I started realizing this is a better way to live life and I’m personally happier doing it.”

5:48 – (Ross) “The other thing that you mentioned I want to touch on because you said going through a door while they’re open, I cannot express enough how much I believe that to be true. I believe that there are these waves that come, and I have nothing of the success that you have in that regard, but I have built a couple of start-ups and as a marketer, I’ve worked with these things and I’ve seen the way that you think you can force something, but you just can’t. And then there are these greater forces, these macroeconomic forces that happen. And when you’re in that one, like I built a very large dance music blog at the exact right time with college buddies, and it was 2010–11. I’ve always loved dance music since I was ten years old, 1996. I was into it. But then the world changed and suddenly when Avicii was getting popular, all that stuff changed in the world and then EDM became this trend, and then the dance blog took off. So there was this door and we walked through it and it became really successful. But if you tried to do that today, it just wouldn’t work.”

7:52 – “I, through a strange series of events, ended up at a naval architecture firm in New York City. And I was working on commercial ships and ferries and pleasure yachts and pleasure craft and all these different things. And I was sort of getting this deep, pretty immersive learning experience about how ships were put together and the systems you need to connect to make a ship do what a ship does. And I vividly remember this, I was doing the CAD on a bridge system of a ship and I realized that all of the different systems that you would assume would be connected because you would assume the information from one would help the other one do what it does better. Meaning, for example, a weather system, you would assume that would connect to the autopilot because in shipping, weather has a demonstrable effect on the economics of any voyage as well as the safety of the crew…I think that was one of those things where I was like, ‘Why is nobody else seeing this door open?’”

9:10 – “I had this direct connection to another entrepreneur in New York City named Bre Pettis, who had just sold MakerBot at the time. And so I had personal projects that I wanted to get 3D printed. And he said, ‘Listen, you can come use my basically workshop and 3D print things on the weekends whenever you want, as much as you want.’ I was like, ‘Wait, really?’ Like, this is thousands of dollars. I was poor, broke, student loans, the whole thing. And I just showed up and I started printing stuff and he was like, ‘You’re actually going to take me up on that?’ I’m like, ‘Who wouldn’t take you up on that?’ And it turns out many people had not taken him up on that. And so by being around him, who had just sold one of the best technology companies in New York City, and just frankly, being like an idol to me growing up or learning about mechanical engineering and all the 3D printing movements that were happening, and I was obsessed with that…He started asking more questions about what I had doodling in my head. And I was like, ‘Wow, there’s this obvious problem. The maritime world has no idea what’s going on in the tech world, and the tech world has absolutely no idea what’s going on in the maritime world.’”

15:06 – “Imagine walking in the door with a Greek billionaire who owns 50 ships worth over $1 billion alone. And you’re this young person who knows their language so you can communicate with them but they have been burned by technology before. And so you really need a partner there to sit down and be like, ‘No, I know how to build good technology.’ And so that was how I ended up meeting Brian, my co-founder then. And we sort of came together and at the exact same time there was a multigenerational Greek shipping family in New York, we went out for breakfast and ended up just saying, ‘Listen, I have all these pieces together. I just need to understand the problem more. Like, one, is this a problem? Two, does this sound reasonable? And three, would you buy it? And I literally had like a PDF at the time of what I thought would sort of do it, and I put it on the table. I was like, ‘What if you had that every day on a screen in a web browser?’ and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, this is great. This is perfect.’ And that was like the catalyst.”

17:05 – “One of the largest impacts on just general ship efficiency, if you’re looking at a single ship on a single voyage, one of the largest impacts can be weather. And for those that don’t know, Marine weather prediction is terrible. And you think it’s bad now with all of the localized weather models breaking and random storms popping out of nowhere, it’s way worse on the ocean. Like nobody has any idea what the hell the weather’s going to do.”

17:42 – “We brought in some MIT meteorologists and we had them do a lunch and learn at Nautilus, and they were like, ‘Yeah, the biggest problem is we just don’t understand the shape of the sea floor. So we don’t even know the bounding box of how to let the supercomputers try to model energy movement around the ocean, which actually affects then how weather forms out at sea and usually comes then on land.’ And I’m sitting there, I’m like, ‘So you’re telling me there’s this fundamental blocker of we don’t understand what the seafloor shape is. And that is a main reason why we can’t predict weather over the ocean.’”

Trouble in the Suez Canal

*22:06 – (Ross) “Lest we forget, amidst all of the chaos and the many newsworthy events that have happened in the last few years, there was that time where in the Suez Canal, one single ship blocked all of the traffic. People said, ‘Oh, we don’t know when this is ever going to be fixed, could be weeks, could be months. And by the way, there’s a backlog of ships.’ And at the time that all of that was happening, I was visiting my mom down in Huntington Beach. And Huntington Beach is right next to a giant port. And looking on the beach, you could just see massive container ships backed up as far as the eye could see. And you knew that based on how far away they were, how freaking massive each one of these things is. And I was just doing a little napkin math in my head and thinking how many items are right here, in my view, stacked up that we can think about. And of course, these things are not going to be on the shelves. Whatever’s in them is not coming here and it’s not coming here any time soon. So I think we have these little bits and pieces as laypeople of understanding, ‘Oh, this is a problem.’ And all of these geopolitical strategists, they say shipping lanes and all of this is going to be a bigger problem in the future.”

27:25 – [How much of the seafloor has been mapped?] “If you use Bedrock’s definition of ‘mapped,’ or at least a commercially acceptable version of the word ‘mapped’, it’s probably on the order of magnitude of like less than 0.001%. To give you a sense of just how little, and I mean datasets that would matter are like, right now they consider ‘mapped’ like just understanding the shape. That’s one thing that they think about. There’s no imaging requirements. There’s no magnetic sort of interference or sort of need to know where there are metallic objects. And this could be both applied to manmade objects, as well as just understanding what the substrate on the seafloor is. And then even more important is the first couple layers of the seafloor because this affects how things might move.”

33:08 – “The first thing to say is, so we’re actually a data company at the end of the day. Yes, we have submersibles. Yes, we build cloud software that allows that data to be readily available, accessible and all these things. But we’re not selling. We’re not selling SASS and we’re not selling the robots. But these two things together have allowed us to put together a unique and proprietary data product that allows other people that are infrastructure companies or energy companies or renewable energy companies to then go and do the work that they need to do to put up this infrastructure much faster, much cheaper with a bit of a different business model.”

35:57 – “We’re just finishing the completion of our first assembly facility. We are doing a lot of the assembly ourselves in house. And that vehicle or that assembly facility is designed to do about 10 to 15 vehicles a quarter. So by the end of next year, we should have anywhere between 40 to 50 vehicles. In any given scenario, let’s just say we’re going to for all intents and purposes, let’s go with an offshore wind farm site. Let’s say it’s 100 square kilometers and it’s 15 kilometers from shore, something like that, right. We could get away with putting anywhere between 3 to 10 vehicles in the water, you know, relatively from shore, let them transit out to the site slowly and they’re on just a loop. So they come back to shore. We open up the vehicles, we swap out the batteries. There’s a hard drive already in the battery case, we put it into the charging case. It starts immediately pulling the data right off of that thing. You put in a new battery, close it up. It does its recalibration, set, off it goes again.”

[FIRST CLIP]

Mapping the Seafloor

*37:48 – “It gets really interesting, we can think at a fleet level and you can get 3 to 4 operators from Bedrock out to a site in a day with up to ten vehicles if you have them. And you can do an entire site like that in less than a week. And because the sonars on board are meant to be closer to the sea floor, they don’t have to be as loud and as powerful. It also means that the frequencies, we get to use literally frequencies like, you know, think of it like audio, like sound, like speakers. The frequency that we use are high enough above a level where marine mammals can hear them. So, you know, kind of like as we get older, we can’t hear frequencies above a certain pitch, marine mammals are the same way. And so if you’re above that frequency, you’re not damaging them. So it turns out we don’t need environmental permits to go do the work either. So literally, someone can call us up, we’re there in like a day or two. We’re mobilizing the fleet the day after that, we’re out mapping a site close to shore, and we’re out of there within two weeks.”

39:06 – “To go from something that normally would have taken 12 months of time between the permitting and getting the contracts in place, all of the work that needs to go into mobilising all your equipment onto the site to then do the work, to then process it, to look at it, to get all the reviews from the environmental review, from the archaeological review, from the governments got to do a stamp of approval to make sure you didn’t break any laws when you did that work because you’re in a marine mammal protected area. To do all of that and shrink it into this one to three month process, depending on how big the site is and how far offshore it is. That’s game-changing for anyone.”

44:05 – “There’s no real understanding right now of something with what we’re calling a seafloor mobility risk profile for any given site. So imagine in some parts of the world – and particularly off the East coast of the United States, where you have a very flat, sandy continental shelf – hurricane moves through there. Everything’s different. And I mean, like, everything is different, and you might have a sand dune that shows up in the middle of your wind farm. Maybe half your cables got exposed. So you bury your cables. I mean, literally physical cables that connect these wind farms, the electricity back to the grid. Maybe that gets exposed and you don’t want that. That is not a cable that you want anyone to be able to just go and see and touch and do something with, right? So you try to bury them in many cases, but in a very dynamic, shifting environment that’s a huge problem. That is a risk.”

45:35 – “When you look at just what we can do today, purely limited by the technology, infrastructure, business models, bureaucracy around the way we do the work now. There is a really interesting future if you could do it like twice a year, with marginal extra cost but you end up getting what we’re calling like a 4D subsea data sets. You can start to see how it moves and shifts and changes at your particular site and being able to mitigate against a massive environmental risk which could take down the entire farm.”

47:00 – “A great model for this, for better or worse, is what we learned when the Block Island Wind Farm was built. They’re having tons of downtime problems because cables keep getting exposed, stuff gets snapped. Turbines sort of move because the sea floor moves more than they thought it moved. And so if you even knew that ahead of time, you could have changed the financing structure as well as the operational plan of how you maintained that critical piece of infrastructure. I think everybody in the industry, at least from what we’re hearing, is totally on board, but there’s no company that can actually service those sites that way. So we need to take the concept of a survey, which kind of is this one time thing into monitoring, and that is where the fleet size and the growth of the fleet and the operational efficiency of us as a company starts to really give us not just a competitive edge, but frankly a completely differentiated product than anybody else. And so that’s what we’re really working towards.”

50:01 – (Ross) “Sometimes when you’re really far ahead of the curve, you feel insane because you’re not going to get that feedback from the world at large. Like you said, ‘people thought we were crazy in 2019.’ And I think if you’re really smart, you see things in advance and you can have two people who disagree on a certain point, and that’s the political climate of our world and our country today. But the beauty of science, and what I’ve always loved about it, is that who’s going to be right? You have two people: ‘We disagree. It’s your point of view. It’s my point of view.’ Yeah. But in 50 years, one of us is going to be right and the other one is going to be proven wrong.”

56:41 – (Ross) “I think the other thing that you have done well and I think perhaps, well probably not intentionally, but you talk about this balance between short term and long term and you have a long-term goal. And the long-term goal is what if we could map the entire sea floor? What if we could predict the weather patterns? What if we could do all of that? But with 0.01%, that is a very, very long-term goal. Nigh impossible. However, you found something else in the short to mid-term range that will make this business be profitable in a certain industry. So you’re not setting out just putting these things out and just let’s just go exploring and see what we find. You say ‘No, in the short term, we’re going to help these wind farms because that is the door that is open right now that we’re going to run through.’ And that becomes a sort of insurance policy to mitigate potentially massive losses for these. And to you, it’s money in the door every other month, every quarter, every six months, every year, and you get to be profitable and generating income in that short mid-term. And then when that starts to scale, you will be able to make further inroads on your ultimate larger goal. So you had to kind of break down your big goal into something that was smaller and more bite sized, but also that was profitable.”

Focus on Real Problems

*1:03:33 – “There’s real stuff. Like, pick up a Wall Street Journal, right? And, like, just open up a couple of pages and sift through it and open up an Economist. You can find 50 massive fucking problems right now that we have no global solutions for. To me, I’m like, that is way more important to get right than us understanding how to like transfer NFTs. Not to say that that’s not profitable or something that will become an influential piece of technology or something that I deeply believe could be, I don’t believe has proven it yet, but that’s just my own personal belief, is that it’s not really at an infrastructure stack yet. It could be, and I’m glad people are working on it. However, is it because they were looking for a problem and didn’t have one or didn’t want to find one? It was just wild. And so we had everyone coming to us being like, ‘Are you going to become a tokenization company?’ I’m like, ‘No, like this is not the point. The point like, we have this massive missing data set in the world and it’s critical for all of our futures. We’re going to go focus on that one.’”

Tune Out Shiny Distractions

*1:05:57 – (Ross) “We believe because like the efficient market hypothesis, all of these things. But then at the end of the day people panic – like ‘buy high, sell low.’ The markets have always shown that people are panicky, that they’re herd animals, that they follow trends, the rise of these meme stocks, all of that stuff has shown that a lot of these decisions are not being made by a governing intelligence, right? It’s just a greed and shiny object syndrome. So that’s what makes the people like you, and to his credit, Elon Musk, even though he has many things in his personal life that I’m not such a big fan of, but the people who do stay focused on something in a world that is constantly trying to distract you and constantly trying to say, ‘Hey, hey, Anthony, you can make more money over here quicker, you could be richer, you could drive a faster car, you could do this if you went over here.’ And to wilfully tune that out is, I think, the greatest challenge of intelligent people of our time. To ask ourselves ‘What is really important?’ Well, I’ll tell you what’s important. Energy is really important. Water is really important. Food is really important. But it’s not shiny. It’s not shiny, it’s not bright, and it’s not blinking at you.”

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