West Michigan Startup Launches ‘Carbon-Free Sailing as a Service’

Dana Lowell and her co-founders of Lilypad Laboratories Inc. set out to change the way we think about access to water – an abundant resource in West Michigan that can sometimes be out of reach for some.

Enter Lilypad, the company’s solar-powered, low-speed shareable boat that can be rented for leisurely cruising. The technology harnesses both clean energy and autonomous vehicle technology to make waterways more accessible. After launching its first boat in Saugatuck late last summer, the company plans to have a second vessel on the water this year.

Lowell recently joined The MiBiz Podcast to talk about the intersection of renewable energy and mobility and “carbon-free navigation as a service”. Here are some highlights of the conversation, which is available in full here.

On launching a startup after a long career in business development:

“I got to a point in my career where it was: if not now, when? In terms of jumping in and starting something big and something that would make a difference in the world. I’ve had the chance to work with some super talented people in my career.

About “Carbonless Sailing as a Service”:

“We’re all veterans of the business and wanted to do things a little differently in how we put things together. We are not only doing an environmental good, but also a social good. We wanted to improve access to water. Currently, Michigan owns 23% of the world’s fresh water; we wanted to improve access to water. We wanted to make it as easy as pulling out your phone and planning some time to hit the lake.

On how it works:

“It’s simple and easy to use. There’s a joystick to toggle and steer you in the direction you want to go. It only moves 5-6 miles per hour and is designed for waterways that are of this type of speed orientation. It’s quiet, runs great, and is absolutely the most maneuverable ship you’ve been on. It is designed for people who are new to boating or who have never sailed before.

As a circular business from Michigan:

“We take great care in selecting materials that are ultimately sustainable. There’s a reason we use aluminum for our room instead of fiberglass. It is 100% recyclable. The batteries are recycled Toyota Prius batteries. The wood we use in all of our decking is mostly recycled reclaimed wood. And we take great care to use locally sourced components.

Alejandro L. Myatt