Houston innovators podcast episode 4

Meet the Houston investor that's bridging the gap between big energy companies and startups

Patrick Lewis co-founded BBL Ventures that helps connect energy companies to startups that have innovative technology solutions for their pain points. Courtesy of Patrick Lewis

The energy industry is at an inflection point. In order to compete, oil and gas companies are really focusing on innovation and engaging startups. That's where Patrick Lewis comes in.

Lewis, co-founder of BBL Ventures, has been a tech investor in the Houston innovation ecosystem for about 25 years, and he started seeing an opportunity to help large companies identify their pain points and connect them with startups that have the technology to design solutions. He created BBL Ventures — and an accelerator for its portfolio companies, BBL Labs out of Station Houston — to become a matchmaker of sorts for big corporations and the startups that can help them stay competitive.

"At our core, we're an investment firm, but our mission statement is to be the innovation partner for the energy and natural resources industry," Lewis says on the fourth episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast.

The key element to BBL's model is the reverse-style pitch. Rather than hosting a pitch competition with a wide range of energy tech startups, BBL teamed up with ExxonMobil earlier this year and identified two specific robotics problems and called for startups to pitch solutions.

After the success of the reverse pitch, BBL hosted an Emerging Technology Symposium at The Cannon last month. The event brought together individuals on both sides of the table — the corporates and the startups — further bridging the gap between the two.

Lewis discusses BBL's past success and future plans, as well as what keeps him up at night as a tech investor in Houston on this week's podcast. Check it out below and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.


LaserStream has been acquired by Stress Engineering Services Inc. Getty Images

A Humble-based startup that provides laser-based scans of pipeline has been acquired by Houston-based Stress Engineering Services Inc.

LaserStream's technology that can evaluate damage and corrosion as well as calculate measurements of various equipment has been folded into SES. Three of the startup's leaders will join SES to run the group, and the financial amount of the deal has not been disclosed.

"We are proud of the prior working relationship enjoyed between our two companies and we are confident that LaserStream will forge a successful future as part of SES," co-founder Jason Waligura, who will move over to SES, says in a news release. "We look forward to delivering strong results for our existing clients, as well as expanding our capabilities with the world class service and capability of SES."

SES has acquired LaserSteam's laser-mapping technology and will combine with its laboratories and service offerings in Houston; Waller, Texas; New Orleans; Cincinnati; Singapore; and Calgary, Alberta, per the release. The technology is impactful on several industry verticals, including upstream, midstream, and downstream oil and gas, as well as the aerospace, consumer, and medical services industries.

"We believe that growing our existing capabilities is critical to our success in the broad spectrum of markets in which we participate," says Kenneth Bhalla, chief technical officer at SES, in the release. "The acquisition of Laserstream will add new, innovative capabilities in our core markets. This will diversify our product portfolio and capabilities in new and important areas. We are very excited to add LaserStream to an already outstanding business and team."

LaserStream was named one of the 10 most-promising startups at Rice University's fifth annual Rice Alliance Startup Roundup event at the 2019 Offshore Technology Conference. The company was rounded in 2014.


Photo via laserstreamlp.com