Indian Origin MIT Scientist, Founder and CEO Set to Revolutionize the Maritime Industry
Sampriti Bhattacharyya is an Indian-origin scientist, founder, and CEO of a pioneering electric water navigation company in the United States: Navier, that is revolutionizing the maritime industry with its electrical hydrofoil boat technology. A hydrofoil is a wing-like attachment mounted below the boat’s hull providing lift to the boat. As a hydrofoil empowered boat gains speed, the hydrofoils lift the boat's hull out of the water, decreasing drag and allowing greater speeds. Hydrofoil technology allows a vessel to glide more efficiently through the water thus making it more efficient and smooth mode of navigation.
Sampriti’s story is an inspiring journey of perseverance, ambition and exploring uncharted horizons making her an iconic figure among the Indian diaspora in the United States.
Sampriti was always fascinated by space and curious about ocean exploration, taking astrophysics, cosmology, and robotics classes in her youth.
Launching her journey from a local college in Kolkata, Sampriti has risen to unprecedented heights in life.
While at college, she applied to 540 internships and after receiving a total of 4 responses, she eventually secured a summer internship at Fermilab, a particle physics and accelerator laboratory in USA. At age 20, Sampriti boarded a plane for the first time and arrived in Chicago, USA with $200 in her pocket.
Following her stint at Ferbmilab and while earning a master of science at the Ohio State University, Sampriti secured an internship working on autonomous aircraft at NASA’s Ames Research Center. NASA is where she also first learned about the young entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley. She was inspired by Mark Zuckerberg and the fact that somebody so young could be CEO of a company.
Subsequently, Sampriti entered the PhD program in mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 2015, at the age of 28 and two years before earning her doctorate as a roboticist, she launched Hydroswarm. The company, which produced underwater drones to map the ocean floor had to eventually be wrapped up but Sampriti’s goal of creating a fleet of autonomous vessels remained etched in her mind.
She was inspired by Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos who advises to be stubborn on your vision, but flexible on details. This was her motivation to carry forward despite the shut-down of Hydroswarm.
Sampriti pivoted and had her eye on the upcoming electric vehicle revolution and mobility advancements from land to sea. In 2020, she tapped fellow MIT-trained engineer Reo Baird to help launch Navier. Her persistence saw her start-up draw $10 million in seed funding from the likes of Next View Ventures, Liquid 2, GFC, Sergey Brin, a co-founder of Google and Primavera Capital, one of the largest funds of China. She established a core team of seven industry experts. Sampriti recruited hydrofoil specialist Paul Bieker as the lead naval architect. She also tapped in ex-Google and ex-Uber engineer Kenneth Jensen who is now chief technology officer of Navier.
"Besides perseverance of steel, her extraordinary ability to network and get the best talent on board has been Sampriti’s super hero strength."
Navier’s mission is to “Make our waterways as accessible as our highways and to build the most compelling marine vessels that will drastically reduce operational costs and enable a new era of clean waterborne transportation, connecting the world on a scale that was never possible in the past.”
Navier wants to create a cleaner, more efficient way to travel on the waves and, in the process, alleviate congestion on the roads.
Working out of its San Francisco headquarters, Navier designed a 30-foot, eight-passenger electric foiling yacht (the N30) that progressed from sketch to full-scale, finished boat in 11 months. Three months later, a second vessel was complete. The N30 glides four feet above the water on three carbon foils that boost speed and efficiency while minimizing wake and drag.
Credit: Navier YouTube Channel
The foil concept has been around since the early 19th century, but Navier’s proprietary operating system sets the N30 apart. The vessel’s sensors feed information about wave conditions to software that then adjusts the foils to ensure a smooth ride. The tech array even includes autodocking, or “one-click docking.” The boat is also equipped with two 90 kW electric motors that allow it to hit 35 knots at full tilt and cover 75 nautical miles at 22 knots.
Thanks to the foils and the diminished drag, the zero-emissions cruiser, Navier claims, is 10 times more efficient than traditional gas-powered boats. It is the most advanced electric marine vessel yet.
Maritime presents a trillion-dollar opportunity for Navier where currently the shipment industry untilizes legacy ships, boats and fleets that are not efficient. A conventional boat operating on the surface pushes water, consuming energy. A hydrofoil travels above the water that drastically reduces drag by 90% and now instead of $4.00 per nautical mile, one can potentially incur just about 38 cents per nautical mile.
The N30 can reach a top speed of 35 knots or about 40 miles per hour and has a range of 75 nautical miles—about 86 miles on a charge. It is also packed with technology given what the company calls a software driven approach providing full autonomous navigation with auto pilot technology and one-click docking, removing a big headache for many mariners.
The N30 was developed as a platform that can be customized for different purposes. Navier recently closed on a partnership with a company that will run N30s as water taxis in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Navier also recently announced a pilot project with financial services firm Stripe. Starting in March this year, Navier will offer shuttle service from Larkspur Ferry in Marin County to Stripe’s headquarters in Oyster Point, a bayside tech haven in South San Francisco that’s time-consuming to reach via land transportation such as a car.
Navier is on an exciting journey of reshaping the maritime industry and the Indian Diaspora is proud of a scientist and CEO in Sampriti that will inspire many more generations of women leaders in the future.