Catalysing Houston venture growth after hurricane Harvey

KemalAhead of Corporate Venture Houston, GCV’s first Houston conference on November 1st, Kaloyan Andonov, GCV’s top analyst, and I spoke to Kemal Anbarci, vice-president and managing executive of Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV), the Houston-based venturing unit of oil and gas major Chevron.

The conference, at Partnership Tower, will support Entrepreneurs for Houston, a charity providing an entrepreneurial edge to Houston’s post-hurricane recovery efforts. Please contact me if you’d like to come. I’m particularly keen to hear from non-Houstonian VCs and start-ups.

Kemal says that the reasons Chevron is co-sponsoring the conference (alongside Shell, BP, the law firm Baker Botts, and others) include the need to “widen the pool of capital” available to the Houston’s “vibrant start-up ecosystem.”

Hurricane Harvey left Kemal and his family “shaken but dry and all right” and CTV’s venturing strategy mostly unchanged. “What has enabled Chevron Technology Ventures to be a successful venturing group and the longest-lasting, continuously operating oil and gas venturing arm is our focus on resilient infrastructure,” he says. “This unfortunate event confirms the validity of our long-term strategy.”

But CTV has a new, additional, short term focus; “to energise local entrepreneurs and accelerate their business activities into growth.” To this end, CTV will use the conference to announce more details of its new Catalyst program, “which is meant to make early-stage companies more investable for corporate and traditional venturers,” says Kemal.

One of CTV’s first Catalyst companies is Rheidiant, “a Houston-based company that applies industrial internet of things (IIoT) and machine-learning technologies to help identify small leaks on pipelines,” he explains.

Rheidiant’s CEO Murat Ocalan is among the Houston-based and Houston-bound start-ups and venture-backed businesses speaking at the conference, that, according to Kemal, all “reflect the convergence of digital technology, data science and other impactful innovation.”

One of the best examples of such ‘convergence-tech’ businesses is Maana, a Californian big data play whose €26m 2016 series B drew capital from Intel Capital, CTV, Shell Technology Ventures, Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures, GE Ventures and others. The line-up of ‘convergence tech’ CEOs speaking at the Houston conference includes:

  • AJ Abdallat, CEO, Beyond Limits (a portfolio company of BP Ventures)
  • Babur Ozen, CEO, Maana (a portfolio company of CTV, STV, Intel Capital and others)
  • Jim Dechman, CEO, Veros Systems (a portfolio company of CTV, STV and others)
  • Barry Zhang, CEO, Quantico Energy Solutions (an STV portfolio business)
  • Peter Harding, Founder and CEO, Kelvin Inc
  • Murat Ocalan, CEO, Rheidiant (supported by Chevron Catalyst)
  • Lawrence Whittle, CEO, Parsable (a portfolio business of Schlumberger Technology Invest, Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures and others)

If you’re a venture-backed business and would also like to participate in the November 1st conference, please contact me.

Our full interview with Kemal will be in the October edition of Global Corporate Venturing.  Please let me know if you’d like a copy.


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