Our First Year as an Energy Focused Accelerator

We launched a mentor-driven seed accelerator in the Energy Capital of the World, Houston, focused on the intersection of Energy + IT. We primarily focus on software and software enabled technologies that help solve the world’s energy problems. Software can make our world’s energy value chain more efficient by empowering new energy sources, reducing the footprint and resources required to find and extract our natural resources, upgrading our century old electric grid and protecting it from cyber attacks, creating new energy markets, increasing the visibility and diminishing the risk of new and existing energy markets, and enabling consumers to reduce their own power consumption.

We launched a mentor-driven seed accelerator in the Energy Capital of the World, Houston, focused on the intersection of Energy + IT. We primarily focus on software and software enabled technologies that help solve the world’s energy problems. Software can make our world’s energy value chain more efficient by empowering new energy sources, reducing the footprint and resources required to find and extract our natural resources, upgrading our century old electric grid and protecting it from cyber attacks, creating new energy markets, increasing the visibility and diminishing the risk of new and existing energy markets, and enabling consumers to reduce their own power consumption.

SURGE was conceived by angel investors and venture capitalists from the energy sector, energy executives and industry experts wanting to find new technologies, former regulators, and successful entrepreneurs. In many ways, SURGE was born out of the wildcatter, entrepreneurial spirit that built the city. What started as a concept has been born. And we exceeded our own expectations.

Why Houston?

Yes, I am a 7th generation Texan and grew up in Houston. Houston is in my blood. But why should companies from all over the world come here for 3 months? Forbes recently ranked Houston one of the coolest cities. Besides cool, let me explain why it is the place for your business:

  • Houston is the second largest IT Services Economies in the world. You need talent and deep domain expertise. We have it.
  • Texas is a fully deregulated utility market. Competiton runs in our blood.
  • Entrepreneurs are welcome.
  • Texas has deployed the largest number of smart meters in the country. These data hogs are generating massive amounts of bits continually. And we need entrepreneurs that can manage, analyze and act upon it.
  • Houston is the home of Energy Trading. The users, producers, and marketers of energy commodities live here. And they are asking for better tools, visibility, and analysis.
  • Texas generates more wind energy than anyone else. We need to use it like our friends over at Clean Line Energy Partners.
  • Houston’s ecosystem is second to none because of the customers, the capital, the service providers that know how to work in this industry and the community of other leading entrepreneurial partners like the Rice Alliance and Houston Technology Center.

Why Now?

All of this sounds great, but why now? At SURGE, we talk a lot about context. Context is one of the infamous 5 C’s of Marketing. Context describes the cultural, technological and legal factors that limit (or unlock) what is possible. When there is a technological breakthrough or a change in the law, entrpreneurs react and create revolutionary ideas. At SURGE, we are watching cultural, technological and legal changes in the energy industry in real-time:

Generational crew change in the energy industry. There is a massive gap in experience between the baby boomer senior leaders, whom are about to retire, and the majority of employees who are young and not experienced enough, yet, to completely take the reins.

Software is eating the World. We agree with Mark Andreesen. Software is going to impact the energy industry just like it has in technology, telecom, entertainment… “Oil and gas companies were early innovators in supercomputing and data visualization and analysis, which are crucial to today’s oil and gas exploration efforts.” And SURGE found amazing entrepreneurs who are challenging old paradigms and developing using new concepts. And we are looking for more for SURGE 2. APPLY HERE.

The Industry is Decentralizing. My friend Rod Beckstrom wrote a great book about the natural ebb and flow of industries and how they move from decentralization to centralization back to decentralization. What drives decentralization? When an industry becomes too centralized, entrepreneurs rebel. The energy industry has already undergone decentralization with the nationalization of the world’s oil reserves. Energy is now undergoing the second stage of decentralization due to the rapid speed of technology development (look at what hydraulic fracturing has done), the low cost of software development and the natural trend of Gen Y.

There is a need for early stage capital in Energy Software. And there is an extreme need for innovation in energy. While there is a strong community of later stage investors including energy only venture capitalists, private equity firms, and the venture arms of the industry, there was no source for investing in early stage entrepreneurs until SURGE. In our first year, the SURGE team recruited over 40 of the top global venture capitalists and energy corporate development groups to join forces. And based upon class 1, we have validated that there is strong demand for new and fresh ideas and there is capital to back that up.
What did we learn

You will have to continue reading in future blogs to learn deep insights about class 1. But here are a few tidbits:

  1. We learned that entrepreneurs can work hard and have fun too.
  2. We learned that the community, industry, and city has adopted SURGE and wants it to win.

I will expand on many of these thoughts in future blogs…but for now, send the world’s best entrepreneurs to us. We want transformational entrepreneurs that want to make a difference…and having fun doing it.