Houston innovators podcast episode 12

Meet the Houston entrepreneur revolutionizing maritime shipping with software and data analysis

Houston-based Voyager, co-founded by Matthew Costello, has created a software solution for inefficient communication practices of the maritime shipping industry. Photo courtesy of Voyager

While in business school, Matthew Costello could not kick the thought of all the inefficiencies within the maritime shipping industry. He asked a friend, Bret Smart, to help him look into some of the logistical communications issues within the industry. The two co-founders of Houston-based Voyager started asking some questions for all the different parties involved in shipping across seas.

"The data we got back was pretty alarming," Costello says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It basically showed that whoever you speak to in the maritime industry, people are spending about 40 percent of their day on what we would consider low-value, low-complexity tasks."

Some of these tasks included copying and pasting information from spreadsheets, forwarding materials to the right person, and countless emails — sometimes even 10,000 emails for just one large shipment.

The duo created Voyager, a software-as-a-service company that connects the various entities involved in a shipment, to solve this massive communications problem.

"It essentially works very similar to a project management tool," Costello, who is the CEO of the company, says. "When you think of a voyage where you have a large oil and gas company shipping 100,000 barrels from Houston to Singapore, right now, that voyage will involve 10 different companies located all around the world with 50 to 100 different users.

"With Voyager, what it allows companies to do is essentially have all of those counter parties working together in a shared environment to manage the voyage together — entirely email free," Costello says, adding that their software is also able to automate parts of the process as well as collect data for analysis.

In August, Voyager closed a $1.5 million seed round of funding and has eight clients working with the software. In the last episode of the podcast for 2019, Costello shares his international fundraising story, what he has lined up for Voyager in 2020, and more. Stream the episode below and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.



Alex Robart, CEO of Ambyint, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss his plans to grow his company. Photo courtesy of Ambyint

After years of having to educate potential customers about the game-changing technology that artificial intelligence can be, Alex Robart, CEO of Ambyint, says it's a different story nowadays.

"We're seeing our customers spend a little more time understanding AI," Robart says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "More and more boards of mid-sized [exploration and production companies] are challenging their executive teams to do something with AI."

Ambyint, a Calgary-based energy tech startup with its sales and executive teams based in Houston, uses AI to optimize well operations — Robart describes it as a Nest thermostat but for oil rigs. On average, 80 percent of wells aren't optimized — they are either running too fast and not getting enough out of the ground or running too slow and wasting energy, Robart says.

Recently, Ambyint closed its series B investment round at $15 million led by Houston-based Cottonwood Venture Partners led the round with contribution from Houston-based Mercury Fund. Robart says these funds will go to growing their technology to work on a greater variety of wells as well as hire people in both the Canada and Houston offices.

Robart runs Ambyint with his twin brother Chris, who serves as president of the company. The pair have long careers as serial entrepreneurs and even run an energy tech investment company, called Unconventional Capital. Between the two shared companies, the brothers have their own niches.

"We've been really thoughtful about ensuring that we take on different portfolios — we don't really own things jointly. That's been really helpful for us to carve out our own spheres that we own," Robart says."Chris has really become our lead customer-facing person on all things new products."