By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2014, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
For as much as angels and other early stage investors (like i2E Inc.) enjoy working with and supporting entrepreneurs, we can turn fairly cautious when it comes to writing checks.
When you see as many deals as we do, you learn that with start-ups there are a lot more red flags and caution lights than indicators that shout full speed ahead.
Our best advice to entrepreneurs who seek the green light is to focus on the customer. The question that all investors want answered — regardless of the technology, industry, or even the size of the investment round — is how much, how often, and how willingly will customers pay for the solution to their problem that the entrepreneur plans to use our money to build?
We listen to the words and then we look for validation — from customers and from the industry.
In June, i2E closed on a $1.4 million Series A preferred equity investment in Well Checked Systems International, a Tulsa-based company that specializes in event-driven, remote well-site video monitoring and reporting. SeedStep Angels and other investors joined the round.
Using satellite technology and proprietary, cloud-based software, the Well Checked system zooms in and records high-quality images of every important aspect at the well site, day or night, 365 days per year.
“We can come into a well site, stand our tripod, drop our motion sensors, and leave in a day,” said Mike Haines, Well Checked co-founder and CEO. “We supply everything, from the communications and power to all the equipment. We help people see their well sites.”
And when an operator or owner can see in clear detail what’s happening at a site, there are very practical benefits.
For example, they can reduce or eliminate theft. They can also see safety issues or evolving problems, such as a ruptured pipe or an injection line that has started to pop pin holes.
“We help oil companies be environmentally safe and keep their facilities secure and continually productive,” Haines said.
Well Checked recently was recognized by the Oil & Gas Awards as the 2014 Mid-Continent Industry Supplier of the Year.
Well Checked was also a finalist for West Coast and Southwest New Technology of the Year.
These awards are sponsored by major oil and service companies and the leading press of the industry.
Nominees are reviewed and judged by more than 100 oil and gas executives and industry experts.
Winning Industry Supplier of the Year was based on Well Checked’s service to customers and the wide applicability of the company’s solution across the largest to smallest oil companies.
The oil and gas industry is acknowledging that Well Checked is breaking through boundaries to provide solutions to their customers that couldn’t be provided before.
That’s the type of validation that turns yellow lights green.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at [email protected].