Robart Brothers Seek “Unconventional” Funds for Energy Tech Startups

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cost savings are attractive to the large oil companies, energy investors say.

Some have taken different approaches to finding investment opportunities. This summer, Alex Rozenfeld, who formerly led Shell Ventures, started his own firm, Climate Impact Capital, to focus on cleantech investments in water, food, and environmentally friendly energy products and services. His idea is to tap into investors such as large foundations and family offices that take a longer term view on returns, and buy into his belief that tackling climate change is good for business.

Houston Ventures founder Chip Davis says his $35 million fund has been successful in digital oilfield investments, and those include support services such as NuPhysicia, which creates healthcare networks for geographically dispersed populations such as on offshore oil rigs.

Robart and his brother got into the energy industry at their firm PacWest Consulting Partners, a research and consulting firm. They stayed on at PacWest after the company was bought by global consulting firm IHS in November 2014, and they later helped to found a water technology company, Digital H2O.

Now, as they invest in energy startups more broadly, Robart says one of the main challenges he’s working with is that many of the experts driving innovation in analytics and software come from industries outside of oil and gas.

The management team at Corva, for example, has deep expertise in analytics and gleaning important information from such data collection, he says. But they were new to the oil and gas world when they formed the startup.

“The founder has been heads down for three, three and a half years getting familiar with the technology challenges in drilling,” Robart says. “While the outsider perspective allowed him to take a different approach in using software to solve oilfield problems, there is still a big credibility gap he’s got to climb from people within the industry.”

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