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were mindful that the tools should be useful to industry veterans. SeeForge has developed what founder James McDonough calls a “fat-fingered app,” one easily used by hulking oil hands who “have fat fingers, not skinny ones like me.” The company moved to Houston from Perth, Australia.
Greg Archibald, founder and CEO of Greasebook in Oklahoma City, OK, showed an amusing video of grizzled and grey pumpers, or oil well maintenance workers, offering testimonials about Greasebook’s app and digital dashboard, which records and analyzes maintenance information gained onsite. “It has saved my life,” one man intoned, seriously.
Kirk Coburn, Surge’s founder and managing director, and an Xconomist, said incoming applications and the mix of each of the accelerator’s three classes has shown a new emphasis on energy hardware startups in addition to software firms.
“We’ve seen that Houston needs a hardware lab, a place where people can blow things up,” he said.
Indeed, one of the startups this year is Autonomous Marine Systems, which has developed what founder TJ Edwards calls a “satellite for the seas.” The startup has built a self-piloting catamaran that can measure wind, waves, currents, and can survey sea floors. “Most of this data is now acquired by satellite,” he said. “But satellites can’t look beneath the [ocean’s] surface or peer through clouds.”
As is typical for Surge, Wednesday’s demo day had a rock-concert feel, starting out with mimosas, bloody marys, and breakfast tacos for the assembled audience at 8 a.m. RedLabs founder and University of Houston business professor Hesam Panahi manned the turntable on stage, spinning tunes as DJ Surge. (No word yet on whether Panahi plans to take his show on the road.)
This year, the startups did not speak about their fund-raising campaigns, as many groups have chosen to do in light of solicitation rules in the JOBS act. “Are they raising money?” Coburn asked the audience. He paused with a look that seemed to say, “Duh!” without verbally elaborating.
He explained the accelerator’s decision on this by likening the US Securities and Exchange Commission to the folkloric Bigfoot, saying: “You don’t mess with Sasquatch.”