Thinking like a Tugboat: How PortXL brought MATCH into the world to innovate in rough seas.  


( The best ideas across humanity have often been born out of a crisis. When around this time last year Covid-19 began acquiring full pandemic status, it disrupted lives and operations across the globe. PortXL, the world port accelerator, was not exempt from it.

Since 2015, the Rotterdam-based accelerator has been running a yearly acceleration program for the port-related sectors of maritime, energy, logistics and refinery, selecting a cohort of 15-25 start-ups and scale-ups together with their corporate partners. These companies would spend 3 months in Rotterdam, immersing themselves in the local ecosystem and broadening their business horizons, with the objective of signing paid pilot contracts. This yearly program brings the industry together with the humble start-ups to work together on a futureproof port ecosystem.

The program involves a considerable number of face-to-face meetings, firm handshakes, and presentations in front of audiences. With the spectre of Covid-19 haunting Europe in early March 2020, PortXL had to digitalize the entire program in barely a week. The show must go on, after all. Initial reactions from corporates were to freeze innovation budgets, the bread and butter needed to bring progress to an industry in desperate need of innovation, bringing many projects to a standstill.

The challenge did not faze them, and while many were locking themselves to the outside world, PortXL opted to expand. Innovation can be done affordably; they have been doing it for years already. Much like large vessels need the humble agile tugboats to anchor at port, so do corporates need start-ups to innovate efficiently; many just do not realise it. They should be thinking like a tugboat. This is how MATCH by PortXL was born.

What is MATCH by PortXL?

MATCH by PortXL incorporates one of the accelerator’s key strengths of matching start-ups with solutions to corporates with industrial challenges. So far, they have collected over 180 challenges from companies in and around the port of Rotterdam and matched over 1200 start-ups and scale-ups to said challenges. Many of these innovators are already present in the PortXL start-up database – numbering over 4200 companies – but there are plenty that sign up via the website too.

With MATCH, the ambition is to realise 100 innovative projects in one year. The process is simple:

  • Challenge owner (any company within the port ecosystem) reaches out via the Challenge Navigator and the challenge is published
  • Start-ups & scale-ups either submit their solutions themselves or the PortXL scouting team consults their extensive database to find the best fit
  • The scouting team creates a report collecting the top 5-10 solutions
  • The challenge owner receives the report and reaches out to PortXL indicating their preferred start-up(s) and the connection is then made by PortXL between the companies.

“MATCH takes the true and tested PortXL formula and lowers the entry barrier to participate, while still bringing significant value. It accelerates the process for companies that may not yet have the resources to fully commit to our 3-month program but want to start innovating within their organisation. With MATCH, this can be done with minimal commitment and great upside.”

– Philip Roos, PortXL Senior Acceleration Manager

What the future has in store

Simple, efficient and – until September 2021free. PortXL remains active on the international front, with their expertise in sustainable innovation being made good use of in the AspBAN EU project, in Quebec, New Zealand, and through long-standing contacts with the Cyprus Maritime Marine Institute in Larnaca, perhaps soon on the island of Kýpros too. The future can bring many wonderful things – and after all, an innovative and sustainable future is the reason why PortXL is passionate about this.

Make sure your company is ready for that future by having a world of entrepreneurs at your disposal to assist you with your challenges. Discover MATCH on the website and submit your challenge via or email them at


Read also: Accelerating innovation for sustainable growth


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