Oil Price’s Dip Challenges Energy Entrepreneurs to Rise

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industry conditions.

Clark says he learned a fundamental lesson. “We had very early traction and we thought that traction meant a good market fit,” he says.

Project Insiders had bootstrapped itself for about $30,000 and came to the Surge program in 2014 with about 30 customers. At the end of the program, the startup had doubled its customer roster. “We were capital positive right away,” Clark says.

He began to look at expanding the business, paying more attention to talking to investors than listening to what customers needed. “I realized we weren’t solving the problem well enough,” he says. “It was just for the bullish times and otherwise not something people would pay for.”

Still, one entrepreneur’s downturn is another’s opportunity. “Whenever everyone was going full steam, it was hard to get their attention,” says Dane Witbeck, founder and CEO of Meshify, which makes an Internet of Things device that connects typical industrial components such as sensors or tanks in order to better monitor them. “They were making money and there was not a lot of incentive to change.”

With companies in distress, Meshify is getting a lot more interest from managers looking for cost savings. Witbeck says the company is also selling to the environmental monitoring and insurance industries.

James McDonough founded another Surge startup, SEEForge, which makes an app that digitizes reporting paperwork for safety inspections and other reviews that take place at remote industrial sites such as oil and gas platforms. “We had multiple supermajor projects put on hold,” he says of the industry’s largest companies.

Bu, he added that they have so far been able to ride the tumult because their software can also be used by companies in other industries.

“We have the luxury because our platform was not just for oil and gas,” he says. “We’re thankful for that.”

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Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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