SRH Campus Hamburg

A CEO´s Story by Ivan Ladan from Marine Digital

"If you can make it simple, if you can make it easier – you should!" - Ivan Ladan

Last week, Sinje Peulings from our HH Career Service had the opportunity to join the guest lecture with Ivan Ladan, the CEO of Marine Digital, who shared his success story with our Supply Chain Management students. 

Marine Digital is a company that optimizes vessels in their operation management including logistics processes to make them more efficient. This focus was the pathway of Ivan building a company and overcoming obstacles in establishing himself in the market: A CEOs Story.  

In the long-term Marine Digital keeps in mind to analyze the CO2 Footprint of containers and the overall shipping. But everything must start somewhere and first, you must succeed in your field before you can make it bigger.   

As the vessels and the technical part were not my fields of expertise, I was quite intrigued by the story of the success behind Marine Digital and Ivan Ladan himself.  

Ivan Ladan is a very inspiring person; he saw an opportunity - a gap in the market - in organizing the supply chain of maritime transport. The idea was to decrease the vessel fuel and decide which is the smartest route to use. Satellites are supposed to help with the calculations, which brings in a lot of technology you have to think about. They had to realize that steel is a very thick material and hard to overcome with signals. In addition to that it is expensive and in poorer parts of the world, they might even get stolen, even if you take on the financial expenses to begin with.  

Therefore, the first obstacle was the difference between the product and the necessary technology. The outcome of the product differs, starting with the core technology which is needed to secure the product and then again, the specializations depending on the request of the customer. With that comes the learning that you must be flexible in what you offer and what you can sell. So, someone can only succeed if you don't stick to one algorithm. Especially startups work like that: Specify and develop the product which fits the customer. This is once again easier said than done, especially if you also shouldn't oversell what you can change to the core product, because if you can't deliver it in a reasonable time or realize that what you had in mind is not possible, you will not succeed. So, start with the core and boost it up with what else you can do depending on the customer’s needs.  

One last obstacle was that it is important to have the target group in mind. If the customer company is already long in the business and is not aligned with the technological development on the market, you need to explain the product probably a bit more. If you find someone who understands your product with not too much explanation, it’s easier to sell.   

"If you can make it simple, if you can make it easier – you should!" - Ivan Ladan  

Getting a lot of insights regarding the obstacles and learnings in building the company Maritine Digital itself, Ivan Ladan also gave a quick overview of the personal sacrifices he had to make. Time, relationships, hobbies and weekends are for sure sitting on the bench for the first couple of years. Ivan Ladan, therefore, had to learn quickly how to be most efficient and productive. He made it his agenda to talk to people and even hire those who have more experience in fields he does not bring to the table himself. Learning on a personal note is for everyone who wants to build their own business, to realize your own skills and knowledge and do not pretend that you can do it alone. You can't and that is totally normal. Talking to someone with more experience than you, whether in their field of expertise or in their own experiences of building a company from scratch, makes all the difference. The critics along the way might be uncomfortable but the best way is to learn from it and make it better.  

Although it sounded like an immense amount of work, many sacrifices and lots of ideas shattered into pieces because of obstacles he hadn't seen coming, Ivan inspired the students and everybody else with his open mindset and his eagerness to learn and become better with every challenge. For us in customer service, it's great to see what the students can take away in terms of learning. 

Prof. Dr. Cordelia Friesendorf

Academic Director SRH Campus Hamburg, Professor for International Business Administration