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With the growing oil and gas crisis, Houston expert suggests an investment in tech

Now is the time for oil and gas companies to embrace modern technology solutions. Getty Images

The oil and gas industry has always been volatile. The profitability of leading companies has largely stemmed from their ability to predict future changes and therefore adapt to them. However, when a truly unpredictable situation happens, uncertainty clouds the entire market.

Such a structural shift has occurred at the intersection of the marketplace and COVID-19. The traditional energy sector must find ways to change, but it has to occur in non-traditional ways. We believe that technology will show us a way forward.

At the beginning of 2020, the oil and gas market looked optimistically at its forecasts for the year. Those predictions were left in shambles after the OPEC debacle and the novel coronavirus wreaked havoc on the world. Those events combined to cause demand shortages that led to historically low and unsustainable price points for the industry.

Therefore, we predict a lot of bankruptcies and layoffs until we see economies come back online and demand increase. However, companies with a strong cash flow and minimal debt should use this as an opportunity to turn technology into profitability, but it will require a willingness to learn and try new things.

At EAG Services & EAG 1Source, our midstream and upstream clients look to us for solutions. While they focus on combating the unknown and staying afloat, our team conducts diligent internal investigations to locate technological and infrastructure answers.

We have assembled three actionable insights in response to the shifts experienced by many oil and gas companies.

Lean into the digital age by automating your processes

The importance of accurate and timely data is at an all-time high as headcounts decrease and human capital becomes more valuable. By investing in automation, you'll increase business efficiency as a hedge against workforce risks. You will also achieve simplicity, transform your digital presence, and increase service quality and delivery.

Such tools should automatically capture, process, and extract essential data for executing routine processes. This includes information such as POP statements, invoices, meter readings, and non-operated statements that can be integrated into your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System. These next-generation intelligent information systems combine workflows, content management, and automatic classification of files based on the meta-data most important to your organization.

Recognizing the value of your employee and their time goes a long way, especially in an emergency situation. It is imperative you give them tools that helps them operate as efficiently as possible so they can make rapid and informed decisions. During this time more than ever it is essential that your resources are able to quickly correlate information, and analyze and provide you with answers to determine your next move.

Provide remote access with cloud hosting

While many oil and gas companies look for ways to cut costs due to low consumer demand, cloud hosting offers you opportunities to eliminate capital purchases of IT hardware. Moving applications to the cloud not only helps protect your important data, but it inherently forces your organization into a remote work mentality.

Additionally, as team sizes and workloads shift, cloud computing offers essential flexibility to either grow or shrink, as many cloud and infrastructure hosting firms offer a "pay-as-you-use" model. Cloud computing also provides solutions for disaster recovery and business continuity by delivering data to your remote offices with enhanced security.

Establish a cybersecurity plan to protect your data

We've seen a rise in phishing attempts and cyber-attacks over the last month. Hackers recognize that people are in a unique situation, so they disguise themselves as "updates" and "signups" for news regarding COVID-19.

Do not let your employees or business assets fall victim to a cybersecurity incident. Give your staff secure access to data by providing systems with tools and software that block exploits and filter out malicious attacks.

Your company's exposure increases when corporate devices lack necessary security capabilities. This is true whether your employees connect to corporate assets from remote locations or use non-managed devices. You company should consider company laptops, change how users access corporate data, and deploy anti-virus and management tools to home-bound employees on a temporary basis.

Even with the unprecedented changes across the oil and gas industry, we've seen many businesses implement these modifications and succeed. By introducing technology that integrates their systems, they are weathering the current storm and preparing for unforeseeable threats in the future. Those who adapt and invest in technology today will be sustainable and scalable tomorrow.

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Elizabeth Gerbel is CEO of EAG Services and EAG 1Source, which provides business process, technology, and advisory services to the midstream and upstream oil and gas market,

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Building Houston

 
 

Auburn University's SwiftSku took first place in this year's virtually held Rice Business Plan Competition, but it was the second place company that went home with over half a million in cash and investment prizes. Photo via rice.edu

In its 21st year, the Rice Business Plan Competition hosted 54 student-founded startups from all over the world — its largest batch of companies to date — and doled out over $1.4 million in cash and investment prizes at the week-long virtual competition.

RBPC, which is put on by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, took place Tuesday, April 6, to Friday, April 9 this year. Just like 2020, RBPC was virtually held. The competition announced the 54 participating startups last month, and coordinated the annual elevator pitches, a semi-finals round, wildcard round and live final pitches. The contestants also received virtual networking and mentoring.

Earlier this week, Rice Alliance announced the seven student-led startups that then competed in the finals. From this pack, the judges awarded the top prizes. Here's how the finalists placed and what won:

  • SwiftSku from Auburn University, point of sales technology for convenience stores that allows for real time analytics, won first place and claimed the $350,000 grand prize from Goose Capital. The company also won the $50,000 Business Angel Minority Association Prize, the $500 Best Digital Elevator Pitch Prize from Mercury Fund, and the $500 Third Place Anbarci Family People's Choice prize, bringing the company's grand total in cash and investment prizes to $401,000. The company also won the CFO Consulting Prize, a $25,000 in-kind award.
  • AgZen from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a pesticide alternative spray and formulation technology company, won the second place $100,000 investment prize (awarded by Finger Interests, Anderson Family Fund, Greg Novak, and Tracy Druce). The startup also won a $300,000 Owl Investment Prize, the $100,000 Houston Angel Network Prize, the $500 Best Energy Elevator Pitch Prize from Mercury Fund, and the $1,500 Third Place Anbarci Family People's Choice prize, bringing the company's grand total in cash and investment prizes to $502,000. The company also won the $30,000 in-kind Polsinelli Energy Prize.
  • FibreCoat GmbH from RWTH Aachen University, a startup with patented spinning technology for the production of inexpensive high-performance composite fibers, won the third place $50,000 investment prize (also awarded by Finger Interests, Anderson Family Fund, Greg Novak, and Tracy Druce). The company also won the $100,000 TiE Houston Angels Prize and the $500 Best Hard Tech Elevator Pitch Prize from Mercury Fund, bringing the company's grand total in cash and investment prizes to $150,500.
  • Candelytics from Harvard University, a startup building the digital infrastructure for 3-D data, won the fourth place $5,000 prize.
  • OYA FEMTECH Apparel from UCLA, an athletic wear company that designs feminine health-focused clothing, won the fifth place $5,000 prize. The company also won the $5,000 Eagle Investors Prize, the $25,000 Urban Capital Network Prize, and the $1,000 Second Place Anbarci Family People's Choice prize, bringing the company's grand total in cash and investment prizes to $36,000.
  • LFAnt Medical from McGill University , an innovative and tech-backed STI testing company, won the sixth place $5,000 prize and the $20,000 Johnson and Johnson Innovation Prize, bringing the company's grand total in cash and investment prizes to $25,000.
  • SimpL from the University of Pittsburgh, an AI-backed fitness software company, won the seventh place $5,000 prize. The company also won the $25,000 Spirit of Entrepreneurship Prize from the Pearland Economic Development Corp., bringing the company's grand total in cash and investment prizes to $30,000.

Some of the competition's participating startups outside of the seven finalists won monetary and in-kind prizes. Here's a list of those.

  • Mercury Fund's Elevator Pitch Prizes also included:
    • Best Life Science $500 Prize to Blue Comet Medical Solutions from Northwestern University
    • Best Consumer $500 Prize to EasyFlo from the University of New Mexico
    • Best Overall $1,000 prize to Anthro Energy from Stanford University
  • The Palo Alto Software Outstanding LivePlan Pitch $3,000 Prize went to LiRA Inc. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • The OFW Law FDA Regulatory Strategy Prize, a $20,000 in-kind award went to Paldara Inc. from Oklahoma State University.
  • The Silver Fox Mentoring Prize, which included $20,000 in kind prizes to three winners selected Ai-Ris from Texas A&M University, BruxAway from the University of Texas, and Karkinex from Rice University as recipients.
  • The first, second, and third place winners also each received the legal service prize from Baker Botts for a total of $20,000 in-kind award.
  • The Courageous Women Entrepreneurship Prize from nCourage — a $50,000 investment prize — went to Shelly Xu Design from Harvard University.
  • The SWPDC Pediatric Device Prize — usually a $50,000 investment divided its prize to two winners to receive $25,000 each
    • Blue Comet Medical Solutions from Northwestern University
    • Neurava from Purdue University
  • TMC Innovation Healthcare Prize awarded a $100,000 investment prize and admission into its accelerator to ArchGuard from Duke University
  • The Artemis Fund awarded its $100,000 investment prize to Kit Switch from Stanford University
The awards program concluded with a plan to host the 22nd annual awards in 2022 in person.

If you missed the virtual programming, each event was hosted live on YouTube and the videos are now available on the Rice Alliance's page.

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