Many startups turn to offshore outsourcing to fuel their growth. The Now Network, a Houston-based energy tech startup, is doing just the opposite — relying on stateside in-sourcing.
The SaaS company is in the midst of building out its in-house development team, including full stack developers and UX/UI designers. This year, The Now Network plans to add another four to six developers, on top of the six who already are on board. Stacey McCroskey, the company's director of product since September 2019, leads the team.
Previously, the development team consisted of more than a dozen contract workers in Ukraine and India, says Mush Khan, president of The Now Network. Khan assumed the president's role in May 2019.
"We believe that having our own in-house team drives a sense of ownership over the product. We have to eat our own cooking, because what we build, we have to support," Khan says.
Compared with the outsourcing model, the in-house team enables the company to more quickly release higher-quality products and more quickly respond to customers' needs, he says.
"Over the years, The Now Network has seen immense growth, consistently advancing its technology framework to drive faster payments, increased driver retention, an expanded 3PL network, and increased business revenue," Sam Simon, the company's founder, chairman, and CEO, says in a release. "The addition of an in-house development team will only amplify this growth, promoting more opportunities for cross-collaboration and customer feedback, to expand upon and refine existing features."
Members of the in-house development team are working on expansion of The Now Network's last-mile logistics platform for wholesalers, third-party logistics (3PL) carriers, drivers, and users of fuel. Khan says the platform offers "complete visibility and accuracy" throughout the fuel delivery process.
Competition for tech talent in Houston industries like energy and manufacturing is ramping up as the region evolves as "a fast-paced, innovative environment," he says.
"We believe companies like ours offer an opportunity to build a product from the ground up," Khan says, "and in an environment that allows them to express themselves creatively."
In June 2019, staffing firm Robert Half Technology put Houston in fourth place for the anticipated volume of IT hiring in U.S. cities during the second half of the year.
"The technology market in Houston remains strong as more companies are investing in systems upgrades, focusing on security, and taking on digital projects," Robert Vaughn, Robert Half Technology's regional vice president in Houston, said in a release. "The candidate market remains tight, and companies that prolong the interview process or don't make competitive offers tend to have the hardest time staffing open roles."
Today, The Now Network employs 15 people, all but one of whom works in Houston. The company expects to grow its workforce to around 30 by the end of 2020, Khan says. To accommodate the larger headcount, The Now Network is moving this month from WeWork at the Galleria to a 6,000-square-foot office in the Upper Kirby neighborhood.
To help finance its growth, The Now Network will soon launch its first-ever fundraising effort. Khan says the company will seek more than $5 million in investment capital.
Founded in 2015, The Now Network strives to simplify the last mile of the "energy ecosystem," which Khan describes as "slow, opaque, and expensive." Its SaaS platform automates delivery functions in the energy supply chain, doing away with manual labor and tedious paperwork, he says.
Since early 2018, the startup has handled more than 180,000 customer transactions involving over 1.8 billion gallons of fuel.
The Now Network is a portfolio company of Simon Group Holdings, a private equity firm based in Birmingham, Michigan. One of its key areas of focus is the energy sector.
In 2017, The Now Network (previously known as FuelNow Network) entered a strategic partnership with Houston-based Motiva Enterprises LLC, a fuel refiner, distributor, and retailer owned by Saudi Refining Inc. Khan says his company is collaborating with Motiva to roll out The Now Network platform to U.S. fuel wholesalers.
"As of now, Motiva doesn't have a stake in our company," he says.
Motiva owns East Texas' 3,600-acre Port Arthur Refinery, the largest oil refinery in North America, with a daily capacity of more than 600,000 barrels. State-controlled Saudi Aramco — which went public last year in an IPO valued at $2 trillion — owns Saudi Refining.