As Houston distances itself from the energy downturn of 2014, an emerging innovation culture has taken root in Houston, powered both by large energy companies and the start-ups who are sources of innovation and new ideas.
“Those tracking the sector’s transformation agree that Houston has made substantial progress in leveraging some of its strongest attributes — its economic strength, university programs and engineering talent — to build a culture of innovation geared toward its industrial base. More startups are taking root, sometimes with help from experienced workers laid off during the bust.
Venture capital investors are starting to focus on energy. And oil and gas companies have, to varying degrees, become more open to disruption and talking with competitors to encourage experimentation across the board.”
One such major company to accelerate innovation within the company is Anadarko Petroleum, with Jose Silva as the company’s lead strategist for advanced analytics and emerging technologies. He leads a team that is piloting projects with seven start-ups “using biotechnology, artificial intelligence, data analytics and other capabilities.”
Several start-ups have emerged from the downturn.
One such company, Data Gumbo, is developing blockchain technology related to the offshore industry. In the wake of the energy downturn, half of the company’s workforce was either “bought out, laid off, or otherwise displaced from oil and gas companies during the energy bust. “That’s part of the reason [they] were able to snap up people with 15 or 20 years of experience.”
Another start-up, GoExpedi, created an online marketplace for rig parts and equipment. In less than 18 months, the company has scaled from two employees to 18 and serves a number of customers across the oil patch.
Funding is also starting to accelerate. Once such fund is Blue Bear Capital, which was an early investor in GoExpedi. Blue Bear has offices in Houston, L.A., London and Norway and focuses on fast-growing private companies that apply data-driven technologies and innovative business models to the global energy supply chain.
Blue Bear’s founder, Tim Kopra, told the Chronicle, “There is capital to go around for the companies that are able to demonstrate their value. “It’s definitely a growing sector.”
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