Tough times in oil patch raise prospects for tech startups

When Oliver Diaz needed instructions on how to jump-start his car, he didn’t run to the glove box to dig out his user manual. Instead, he whipped out his cellphone and used software designed by his company to search online for maintenance documents.

He then pointed the phone under the hood, selected “jump-start” from a list of procedures and up popped a constellation of icons, giving Diaz step-by-step directions overlaid on the smart phone’s image of the Jeep’s engine.

His goal is to develop the application for use by the oil and gas industry, which has been slow to replace the reams of paper crammed into inches-thick binders describing in precise detail how to move a land rig or drill a well.

For Diaz and other tech entrepreneurs hoping to pick up oil and gas customers, the crude price slump that began last summer provides a a chance to pitch  ideas to companies seeking ways to pull more oil and gas from the ground for less money.

He touted his wares Tuesday from the stage of Houston’s House of Blues, where  450 entrepreneurs, investors and energy executives gathered for an event hosted by Surge Ventures, which provides funding and guidance for energy startups.

The crude slump has forced companies to get creative, giving them a higher tolerance for risk as they snap up new technologies aimed at reducing inefficiencies and slashing costs, said Kirk Coburn, founder and managing director of Surge Ventures, in an interview with Fuel Fix.

With the oil industry now more willing to consider new ideas, Houston’s tech companies are in the best position to capitalize on the change of attitude, he said.

See the full report on the Surge Ventures even at