HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 26
Early-stage energy tech startups to be hit hard by COVID-19 and flooded oil market, Houston expert says
The oil and gas industry has been hit with a double whammy of challenges with COVID-19 and its imminent recession, but the global industry was already facing an oversupply of oil — and now an even smaller demand.
One of this confluence of obstacles' victims is going to be early-stage energy tech startups, Sean Guerre, managing director of Innovate Energy, says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast.
"When you think about what's happening in the oil downturn, unfortunately it's just a slice in huge uncertainty sandwich that we're all having to go through right now," Guerre says.
Not only is the pandemic unprecedented, but the cyclical energy industry hasn't faced a situation with so much discrepancy between supply and demand since the 1930s, which is a bit too far back to really take in any lessons learned.
Energy tech startups that are pre-funding and pre-pilots are going to struggle to get a foot in the door at bigger companies and aren't going to find much funding — both venture capital and corporate venture are down, Guerre says. He recommends really focusing on messaging moving forward — startups need to pitch cost-saving and efficient solutions.
"You've got to make sure your message fits the market," Guerre says. "What was working four weeks ago is probably not what you're going forth with now."
Innovate Energy, which produces online content for the advancement of energy tech and innovation, has seen a rise in interest in digital and unmanned solutions like robotics and industrial virtual reality.
"We're seeing a huge interest in autonomous, unmanned solutions," Guerre says. "Anything in that remote, autonomous area that allows people to continue to do inspections, mapping, surveying, and all kinds of work that don't involve more people being involved in the process — we're seeing a real acceleration there."
Startups are also challenged with a lack of events and networking opportunities with the COVID-19 mandates to stay at home and social distance. Guerre, who founded Stone Fort Group to put on virtual and in-person programming, says it's a new burden on event holders to use technology to optimize their events for the happenstance and socialization that happens at in-person events.
"How do we actually help people connect who wouldn't normally would have connected if they hadn't been sitting next to each other in a general session or waiting in line at the coffee line," he says on the show.
Guerre shares his thoughts on the state of energy moving forward, and how key these virtual events are on the podcast. Listen to the full episode below — or wherever you get your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.