Houston’s Surge Ventures Hits the Pause Button on Accelerator Program

Houston’s Surge Ventures, founded four years ago to boost innovation in the energy industry, has set its startup accelerator on “pause.”

Speaking on a panel at the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship energy funding conference Thursday, Surge founder Kirk Coburn said the focus would now be on the fund’s existing 30-plus companies.

“Let’s hit a pause button and figure out what we have,” he said. “We have 34 companies fighting the fight. I’m not going to add more because there’s a lot of good companies in there.”

The decision comes amid slumping oil prices—down to about $49 a barrel from a high of $103 in July 2014—and a change of approach for Surge itself. Whereas earlier startup classes had featured a wide array of cleantech innovations, in water and solar, as well as oil and gas, the scope has narrowed more recently to more traditional energy operations.

Earlier this year, the organization formally re-christened itself Surge Ventures (instead of Surge Accelerator) as part of an effort to focus on a more long-term strategy, such as the raising of a $30 to $50 million fund and make follow-up investments with portfolio companies.

When I spoke to Sam Long, who was brought in in January to run day-to-day operations at Surge, he said another goal is to expand Surge’s mission to be a producer of energy innovation information.

That’s not to say that Coburn is pessimistic about prospects in the energy business. “Low oil prices means there’s never been a better time to invest,” he said.

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