Johannes Pinl, CEO and Founder of defense & security technology company MARSS, explains how he grew the company from an idea as a university student into a rapidly expanding, cutting-edge high-tech defense company.
Tell us a bit about MARSS?
MARSS is a technology company with a specialism in defense & security. I founded the company based on the idea of using innovation and technology to help people protect what mattered most to them.
Established originally for super yachts in 2005, we quickly evolved into a diverse tech company protecting people globally in all domains, from critical infrastructure to military and civil assets.
How did you establish the company?
In 2004, when I was still a student, I had the idea to develop an automatic parking or berthing system for yachts. One of my professors, who was my mentor at the time, said: ‘The idea might not be the best one, but I believe in you’ and that’s how we got rolling.
Very quickly we realised a far more pressing need was to understand how to improve the security around yachts, especially as this was around the time of the piracy attacks in Somalia. That brought us onto the path we’re still on today - looking at how to effectively protect a vessel, critical infrastructure and even cities.
What exactly is the technology MARSS offers?
We have an AI powered Internet of Things (IoT) platform, NiDAR, which provides turnkey solutions by fusing intelligence and surveillance to grant full 360-degree situational awareness and control to our customers. This helps them to strengthen their defense and security - be that for cities, military bases or other assets (yachts, cruise liners, palaces, ports, oil platforms) - against hostile threats.
I would describe what we do as giving multi-domain situational awareness capability, which is highly versatile and can be deployed from land, air and sea including sub-surface. The technology will observe an asset and an area of up to several kilometres around it, building a security shield. It can detect and classify anything that gets too close and is suspicious. An alarm will be raised and counter measures put in place to make sure the threat does not get too close to cause potential harm.
Our NiDAR solution is at the core of all MARSS technology. It is responsible for helping protect over 3 million lives today.
What makes the MARSS system different?
I keep mentioning this word, but it’s the technology. We embraced image processing Artificial Intelligence early on and this helped us to accelerate fast - NiDAR was developed to understand and paint a picture of a situation, enabling customers to very quickly make the right decisions in the event of a security incident.
Our AI significantly improves the speed and accuracy of threat recognition, it can understand what is coming towards the area it is protecting, seize the image and rapidly classify it. It sees the potential threat as an image and can understand if it is a danger and give appropriate responses. It understands over 1000 objects, able to detect an abnormal or suspicion behaviour. For example, using blue force tracking, it would recognise the operator’s own deployed asset if it was approaching at speed and would not, in this instance, raise an alarm.
How would you describe the journey you have been on to get MARSS to where it is today?
Hard work and stubbornness!
I was lucky to have a great support team and investors from day one who believed in us, which is rare. After that it was all down to hard work, commitment and not giving up.
I had to learn from my many mistakes along the way, in the early days I was often the youngest one in the room. I had to learn as I went along but I had grit and determination to see this business through to where it is today. I am extremely proud of MARSS and the amazing team I have around me.
Being privately-owned also gives us the capability to react quickly and with agility to our customers’ needs.
What drives you personally?
It is probably the search for something new, being innovative, problem solving. Creating something no one else has solved is a key driver for me. It gives me great pleasure and I enjoy the challenge. I’m happy to say this thinking is synonymous with how MARSS thinks.
When we started this company, we were new in tech in the yachting market. We learned our lessons here and developed the technology to protect yachts and their owners. Providing safety on a yacht is a big challenge, we used a lot of what we learned here and applied it directly into our other applications. The drive to solve this problem, then creatively rolling it out to other sectors and countries, has driven our success.
What would you attribute the success and growth of MARSS to?
This comes down to our key values. Product innovation, listening to the customers, working out how to solve their problems, in an agile and authentic way. And never compromising on quality.
That, and a team of people who genuinely understand this market and are committed to making a difference. This community is known affectionately as ‘MARSSians’. The term MARSSian embodies what makes us what we are. We are successful because they live our values every day.
What is your vision for the company?
Our vision is to take the MARSS mission and deploy it across nations, helping them become more efficient and safer, ultimately fostering a better quality of life for their citizens. At MARSS, we call this ‘smart and secure nations’. We are already seeing evidence of this with NiDAR deployed across national level infrastructures and several promising Smart City initiatives.
We are now gearing up for a sharp growth and will be launching a game changing product at the WDS in Riyadh in March 2022 which will help to broaden access to critical C-UAS technology to those who need it most.