Houston Investors Step Up to Bring Tech Innovation to the Energy Sector
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Houston energy investment firm, Eunike Ventures (pronounced “unique”), is employing a model with similarities to BBL’s to promote innovative technologies in the oil and natural gas sector. In particular, the firm has agreements with Anadarko, Equinor Technology Ventures, and Hess to form the Hybrid Accelerator for Energy Technology. Eunike’s accelerator will work with the oil and gas operators to identify, screen, and pilot innovative tools as well as mentor startup entrepreneurs.
“It’s critical to work with experts who have operational experience in integrating oil and gas products and services,” Amy Henry, Eunike’s CEO, said in a press release last week. “We can help facilitate technology trials that are done right with process safety in mind and minimal disruption to ongoing operations.”
All in all, Houston is hoping to leverage its status as the world’s headquarters of the energy industry into leadership in oil-and-gas innovation as well. Houston Exponential, a technology-focused civic organization founded last year, has made investing in tools like industrial IoT, robotics, and materials sciences—all key in energy—a priority. And The Cannon, a co-working space located in the western part of Houston known as the “Energy Corridor,” has formed a partnership with Chevron Technology Ventures.
Lewis, who was a mentor to Surge startups, has spent his career in energy investment working with young startups and public companies, as well as private equity. About five years ago, he built a digital-focused market intelligence business with ETR&D, a New York-based firm that measured and analyzed the needs of technology executives in some of the world’s largest companies.
“Then we would go to the startup ecosystem to try to find solutions to those tech gaps,” he says. “I thought, ‘let’s do it better and focused on energy and natural resources.’”
BBL hopes that its approach will help it avoid Surge’s fate, which folded under the weight of collapsed energy prices five years ago. Lewis also says he thinks that executives in big energy companies have made engaging with the tech world a larger priority.
“They’ve stood up innovation teams and given them directives, KPIs, and budgets to make this happen,” he explains. “Digital transformation is the buzzword in the industry. On the tech side, we’ve never seen a greater confluence of technologies: cloud, analytics, AI, industrial IoT, AR, VR. It’s the perfect tailwind and timing for this model.”