Breaker19 is an Uber-like truck booking platform founded by two Houstonians. Photo via Getty Images

In a world where ”the customer is always right," two Houston founders have followed that rule right to their next venture.

Breaker19 — a groundbreaking mobile application built in late 2023 to be an efficient oilfield trucking and hotshot marketplace — was co-founded by Rodney Giles and Tyler Cherry. The native Houstonians also co-founded BidOut, a leading Oil & Gas procurement platform in 2021.

“About a year ago, one of our BidOut clients, a large operator, came to us and basically said that the biggest problem they have in the oil field is ordering trucks,” remembers Giles. “From there, they asked would we be willing to build something similar to Uber, but for oilfield logistics and trucking? So, we built Breaker19.”

After their customer presented a challenge, Giles and Cherry got to work. They envisioned the technical architecture almost immediately and assembled a team of software engineers to build an in-house application in less than a year.

“We launched Breaker19 in November 2023, and my goodness, it has taken off like crazy,” says Giles. “It is growing incredibly fast. We’re doing hundreds of truckloads a day now, all throughout West Texas, South Texas, North Dakota, really all over the U.S.”

Now, armed with such large publicly traded companies as British Petroleum, Breakout19 has a network of more than 1,500 trucks similar to transportation companies like Uber, where drivers make themselves available to be dispatched according to their health, safety and environmental requirements.

Breaker19 is doing so well, in fact, that it’s sped past Giles and Cherry’s original collaboration, BidOut.

“Breaker 19's probably, you know, growing ten times of where BidOut even was in its early days,” says Giles. “So, we'll always explore options that make sense for our shareholders. Fortunately, my co-founder and I have previous companies that we built and sold and have experience in scaling and have experiences in multiple departments, whether it be finance or sales or marketing or operations.

“So, currently, we do operate BidOut and Breaker19 separately, but they are, you know, through common operating structures. And, you know, we're able to maintain the scale and maintain the growth right now. And right now, the company is doing great financially and has cash flow positives. So, for us, you know, our goal is just to continue. I feel like we've kind of solved an archaic problem and did it in a really simple way, and it's working out pretty well.”

And it all started with a simple question from a customer — "Hey, can you guys come up with something like this?"

“It all came together just by listening to our customer’s needs,” says Giles. “And we always try to go into our clients and help them with a lot of what they do. But we always want to know about what their other pain points are. You know, there's still people, you know, that are operating with very archaic processes, very, you know, manual back-office processes. And our job is to speed them up with software. And so Breaker19 was able to do that.”

Practically speaking, Breaker19 is more than a software solution. It also closes the gap between qualified drivers and end clients by vetting participants for the platform in an efficient and pragmatic fashion.

“We have a very rigorous vetting process for the drivers,” Giles explains. “I mean, that's really what makes the oil and gas trucking industry so unique. Insurance requirements have to be significantly higher than most carriers. They have to go through very well-funded safety trainings where they are familiar with the oil field. And then number three, these drivers have to have personal protective equipment. They have to have flame-retardant clothing, they have to have slo-mo boots and they have to have hard hats.”

Procedure is important, but professionalism is equally important to Breaker19.

“You know, we do not allow the carrier to show up on a customer's locations in shorts and flip-flops or Crocs and, you know, be protected,” says Giles. “And so, for what we're dealing with is very mission critical, but also very, you know, very high-risk.

“For example, we are checking insurance statuses four times a day. If a carrier were to cancel their insurance, we're aware of it immediately because we want to make sure that we always have active insurance in place. So, we have a process that these carriers go through. Again, we've got over 1,500 of them now that are well-vetted and well-qualified.”

As Breaker19 continues to scale, Giles and Cherry hope their burgeoning app becomes the go-to ordering platform for the entire oil and gas industry for all of their trucking, hot shot and transportation needs.

“We're bringing on some significant, large enterprise clients right now that make up 10% of the U.S. market share for each customer,” says Giles “So I think when we start to compound those, I think we easily see the trajectory there as really being something that's taking off pretty fast. So, I think at the end of the day, we just hope to keep delivering a great experience for our clients, make their ordering process easy.”

With both BidOut and Breaker19 doing great financially, proud Klein Oak High School alums Giles and Cherry have purchased a steer to support Texas youth and agricultural causes. Additionally, moving forward, the duo pledges to give away a full steer each month to a customer of their Breaker19 platform.

"We are passionate about giving back to our community and nurturing the next generation of leaders in Texas," says Cherry. "Having personally experienced the transformative impact of FFA, we saw this initiative as a meaningful way to both support local agriculture and provide our clients with a taste of authentic Texas beef.”

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Houston college lands $5M NASA grant to launch new aerospace research center

to infinity and beyond

The University of Houston was one of seven minority-serving institutions to receive a nearly $5 million grant this month to support aerospace research focused on extending human presence on the moon and Mars.

The $4,996,136 grant over five years is funded by the NASA Office of STEM Engagement Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO) program. It will go toward creating the NASA MIRO Inflatable Deployable Environments and Adaptive Space Systems (IDEAS2) Center at UH, according to a statement from the university.

“The vision of the IDEAS2 Center is to become a premier national innovation hub that propels NASA-centric, state-of-the-art research and promotes 21st-century aerospace education,” Karolos Grigoriadis, Moores Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of aerospace engineering at UH, said in a statement.

Another goal of the grant is to develop the next generation of aerospace professionals.

Graduate, undergraduate and even middle and high school students will conduct research out of IDEAS2 and work closely with the Johnson Space Center, located in the Houston area.

The center will collaborate with Texas A&M University, Houston Community College, San Jacinto College and Stanford University.

Grigoriadis will lead the center. Dimitris Lagoudas, from Texas A&M University, and Olga Bannova, UH's research professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Space Architecture graduate program, will serve as associate directors.

"Our mission is to establish a sustainable nexus of excellence in aerospace engineering research and education supported by targeted multi-institutional collaborations, strategic partnerships and diverse educational initiatives,” Grigoriadis said.

Industrial partners include Boeing, Axiom Space, Bastion Technologies and Lockheed Martin, according to UH.

UH is part of 21 higher-education institutions to receive about $45 million through NASA MUREP grants.

According to NASA, the six other universities to received about $5 million MIRO grants over five years and their projects includes:

  • Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage: Alaska Pacific University Microplastics Research and Education Center
  • California State University in Fullerton: SpaceIgnite Center for Advanced Research-Education in Combustion
  • City University of New York, Hunter College in New York: NASA-Hunter College Center for Advanced Energy Storage for Space
  • Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee: Integrative Space Additive Manufacturing: Opportunities for Workforce-Development in NASA Related Materials Research and Education
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark:AI Powered Solar Eruption Center of Excellence in Research and Education
  • University of Illinois in Chicago: Center for In-Space Manufacturing: Recycling and Regolith Processing

Fourteen other institutions will receive up to $750,000 each over the course of a three-year period. Those include:

  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge
  • West Virginia University in Morgantown
  • University of Puerto Rico in San Juan
  • Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada
  • Oklahoma State University in Stillwater
  • Iowa State University in Ames
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks in Fairbanks
  • University of the Virgin Islands in Charlotte Amalie
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu
  • University of Idaho in Moscow
  • University of Arkansas in Little Rock
  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City
  • Satellite Datastreams

NASA's MUREP hosted its annual "Space Tank" pitch event at Space Center Houston last month. Teams from across the country — including three Texas teams — pitched business plans based on NASA-originated technology. Click here to learn more about the seven finalists.

Booming Houston suburb, other Texas towns among the fastest-growing U.S. cities in 2023

by the numbers

One Houston suburb experienced one of the most rapid growth spurts in the country last year: Fulshear, whose population grew by 25.6 percent, more than 51 times that of the nation’s growth rate of 0.5 percent. The city's population was 42,616 as of July 1, 2023.

According to U.S. Census Bureau's Vintage 2023 Population Estimates, released Thursday, May 16, Fulshear — which lies west of Katy in northwest Fort Bend County - ranked No. 2 on the list of fastest-growing cities with a population of 20,000 or more. It's no wonder iconic Houston restaurants like Molina's Cantina see opportunities there.

The South still dominates the nation's growth, even as America’s Northeast and Midwest cities are rebounding slightly from years of population drops. The census estimates showed 13 of the 15 fastest-growing cities in the U.S. were in the South — eight in Texas alone.

The Texas cities joining Fulshear on the fastest-growing-cities list are:

  • Celina (No. 1) with 26.6 percent growth (42,616 total population)
  • Princeton (No. 3) with 22.3 percent growth (28,027 total population)
  • Anna (No. 4) with 16.9 percent growth (27,501 total population)
  • Georgetown (No. 8) with 10.6 percent growth (96,312 total population)
  • Prosper (No. 9) with 10.5 percent growth (41,660 total population)
  • Forney (No. 10) with 10.4 percent growth (35,470 total population)
  • Kyle (No. 11) with 9 percent growth (62,548 total population)

Texas trends
San Antonio saw the biggest growth spurt in the United States last year, numbers-wise. The Alamo City added about 22,000 residents. San Antonio now has nearly 1.5 million people, making it the the seventh largest city in the U.S. and second largest in Texas.

Its population boom was followed by those of other Southern cities, including Fort Worth; Charlotte, North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; and Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Fast-growing Fort Worth (978,000) surpassed San Jose, California (970,000) to become the 12th most populous city in the country.

Meanwhile, population slowed in the Austin area. Jacksonville, Florida (986,000), outpaced Austin (980,000), pushing the Texas capital to 11th largest city in the U.S. (barely ahead of Fort Worth).

Population growth in Georgetown, outside Austin, slowed by more than one-fourth its population growth in 2022, the report says, from 14.4 percent to 10.6 percent. It's the same story in the Central Texas city of Kyle, whose population growth decreased by nearly 2 percent to 9 percent in 2023.

Most populated cities
New York City with nearly 8.3 million people remained the nation's largest city in population as of July 1, 2023. Los Angeles was second at close to 4 million residents, while Chicago was third at 2.7 million and Houston was fourth at 2.3 million residents.

The 15 populous U.S. cities in 2023 were:

  1. New York, New York (8.3 million)
  2. Los Angeles, California (4 million)
  3. Chicago, Illinois (2.7 million)
  4. Houston, Texas (2.3 million)
  5. Phoenix, Arizona (1.7 million)
  6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1.6 million)
  7. San Antonio (1.5 million)
  8. San Diego, California (1.4 million)
  9. Dallas (1.3 million)
  10. Jacksonville, Florida (986,000)
  11. Austin (980,000)
  12. Fort Worth (978,000)
  13. San Jose (970,000)
  14. Columbus, Ohio (913,000)
  15. Charlotte, North Carolina (911,000)

Modest reversals of population declines were seen last year in large cities in the nation's Northeast and Midwest. Detroit, for example, which grew for the first time in decades, had seen an exodus of people since the 1950s. Yet the estimates released Thursday show the population of Michigan’s largest city rose by just 1,852 people from 631,366 in 2022 to 633,218 last year.

It's a milestone for Detroit, which had 1.8 million residents in the 1950s only to see its population dwindle and then plummet through suburban white flight, a 1967 race riot, the migration to the suburbs by many of the Black middle class and the national economic downturn that foreshadowed the city's 2013 bankruptcy filing.

Three of the largest cities in the U.S. that had been bleeding residents this decade staunched those departures somewhat. New York City, which has lost almost 550,000 residents this decade so far, saw a drop of only 77,000 residents last year, about three-fifths the numbers from the previous year.

Los Angeles lost only 1,800 people last year, following a decline in the 2020s of almost 78,000 residents. Chicago, which has lost almost 82,000 people this decade, only had a population drop of 8,200 residents last year.

And San Francisco, which has lost a greater share of residents this decade than any other big city — almost 7.5 percent — actually grew by more than 1,200 residents last year.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

How this Houston clean energy entrepreneur is navigating geothermal's hype to 100x business growth

houston innovators podcast Episode 237

Geothermal energy has been growing in recognition as a major player in the clean energy mix, and while many might think of it as a new climatetech solution, Tim Latimer, co-founder and CEO of Fervo Energy, knows better.

"Every overnight success is a decade in the making, and I think Fervo, fortunately — and geothermal as a whole — has become much more high profile recently as people realize that it can be a tremendous solution to the challenges that our energy sector and climate are facing," he says on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

In fact, Latimer has been bullish on geothermal as a clean energy source since he quit his job as a drilling engineer in oil and gas to pursue a dual degree program — MBA and master's in earth sciences — at Stanford University. He had decided that, with the reluctance of incumbent energy companies to try new technologies, he was going to figure out how to start his own company. Through the Stanford program and Activate, a nonprofit hardtech program that funded two years of Fervo's research and development, Latimer did just that.

And the bet has more than paid off. Since officially launching in 2017, Fervo Energy has raised over $430 million — most recently collecting a $244 million series D round. Even more impressive to Latimer — his idea for drilling horizontal wells works. The company celebrated a successful pilot program last summer by achieving continuous carbon-free geothermal energy production with Project Red, a northern Nevada site made possible through a 2021 partnership with Google.

Next up for Fervo is growing and scaling at around a 100x pace. While Project Red included three wells, Project Cape, a Southwest Utah site, will include around 100 wells with significantly reduced drilling cost and an estimated 2026 delivery. Latimer says there are a dozen other projects like Project Cape that are in the works.

"It's a huge ramp up in our drilling, construction, and powerplant programs from our pilot project, but we've already had tremendous success there," Latimer says of Project Cape. "We think our technology has a really bright future."

While Latimer looks ahead to the rapid growth of Fervo Energy, he says it's all due to the foundation he put in place for the company, which has a culture built on the motto, "Build things that last."

“You’re not going to get somewhere that really changes the world by cutting corners and taking short steps. And, if you want to move the needle on something as complicated as the global energy system that has been built up over hundreds of years with trillions of dollars of capital invested in it – you’re not going to do it overnight," he says on the show. "We’re all in this for the long haul together."