Back to Top

Global Energy Mentors

Improving the Odds for Energy Startups

The Lightbulb Goes Off—We Can Change the World!

by Scott Shemwell, D.B.A.

Big Idea

Seemingly out of the blue but as the result of experience, business pain or from an interaction with an individual or group, the so-called lightbulb goes off.  What if we did such and such, wouldn’t this make our world a better place?

Inspiration occurs in the strangest ways.  The preverbal business idea on a cocktail napkin often results in success and even the next unicorn.  It has happened.  But not without a plan.  Not without successful action.

Now you have a Big Idea, what is the next step?  Where do my team and I go from here?  If you live in Houston, Texas USA or are a participant in the global energy sector you probably know that Houston has a significant Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.

Sometimes, a significant presence can be intimidating and moreover, which of all the entry points do you approach?  Yet everyone seems willing to help me, so how can I avail myself of this capability?  You need a plan.

From Idea to . . .

Henry Ford is (possibly) attributed with saying, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”  Not settling for an incremental market, he invented and popularized the Tin Lizzie ushering in the new age of the ‘horseless carriage.’

Conventional wisdom tells us to write a business plan and shop for investors.  However, an early question in the process, “Does anybody care?”

In the case of the Model T, the evolution from horse to horseless was not as big a step as it first appeared.  Customers just needed to see a value proposition or a reason to ‘buy.’

They realized their transportation was faster, better and they did not have to stable livestock.  In other words, their transportation process and value proposition changed for the better.

If your Big Idea was the result of discussions with customer and identifies their ‘pain points,’ you are off to a good start.  Follow up with trusted advisors and ‘flush out’ issues and finalize an approach to a product/solution.

If it is more of an (transformational) idea than an easily understandable solution, additional work will be necessary.  Can you show clients the value with a demonstration?  If it is too big for that, i.e. changing a manufacturing process, you will need to demonstrate and document HOW.  What are the economics?  What are their risks and the mitigation strategy?

One comment, if your customer segment is energy or those similar critical infrastructure sectors such as medical, stay away from terms such as Minimum Viable Product (MVP).  This business model may work for software apps but not for life threating applications.  Statements like this will not likely get approval by the energy firms’ CFO.


Your Big Idea may in fact change the world.  Many have.

The late actor, Eddie Cantor is supposedly said, “It takes 20 years to make an overnight success.”  Perhaps you have 20 or more years in the field.  Bummer that the clock seems to start over when something new presents itself.

However, the ole adage about Internet Dog Years, remains true and maybe accelerating to insect years.  Shrinking time to market for new ideas is the result of knowledgeable individuals doing the dreaded homework.  Be Prepared as the Boy Scouts, the Lion King and others say.

Many times, entrepreneurs (sales people and others) gain the coveted appointment with a decision maker only to come away disappointed.  In most occasions they have not been able to convince that individual that the solution matters—value to the firm.  This does not need to be the case.

First of a Thousand Steps

Your Big Idea sets you on a voyage.  Leaving the dock and sailing one mile at a time can lead to circling the world more than once.  Serial entrepreneurs are continuingly launching new solutions and the opportunity for success has never been greater.  These opportunities are available to all.

Seize the Moment and Go for It!

Next Time:  How to Articulate Your Value

About Scott Shemwell

A mentor with the Global Energy Mentors

Dr. Shemwell, Managing Director of The Rapid Response Institute is an authority and thought leader in field operations and risk management with over 30 years in the energy sector leading turnaround and transformation processes for global S&P 500 organizations as well as start-up and professional service firms.  He had been directly involved in over $5 billion acquisition and divestitures as well as the management of significant projects and business units.

For more than a decade he has been directly involved with Fortune 100 firms, Government Agencies, and a large number of mid-size as well as start-up firms addressing a number of business and technology implementation problems.  For example, his Economic Value Proposition Matrix® model was developed with and for the energy sector and has been used extensively in CAPEX and Risk assessments.

He has been a thought leader in the use of data and information enabling Operational Excellence for over twenty years.  Recently, his firm developed OpEX, a mobility enabled solution in support of Regulatory Compliance and Contractor Management.

He formerly served as Chief Operating Officer for an energy services company.  He directed Oracle’s Energy Practice as vice president responsible for driving the strategic direction and business development.

At MCI Systemhouse (now HP) he developed and implemented of the firm’s Y2K practice with a focus on the real-time systems responsible for both upstream and downstream petroleum production operation—forerunner of today’s Digital Oilfield.

While serving on the Halliburton Energy Services Leadership Team, he led its Information Technology line of business and was directly engaged in the transformation of the company into its Integrated Solutions business model as well acting as the CIO of the $2 billion Terra Nova (offshore Canada) project.  Moreover, he was the Chairman of the Landmark Graphics acquisition team.

Dr. Shemwell has authored over 1000 articles and presentations including six books; Essays on Business and Information, volumes I & II; Implementing a Culture of Safety: A Roadmap for Performance Based Compliance as co-author and its companion How to Assess the Maturity of your organization’s Culture of Safety in Ten Minutes or Less.., as well as Governing Energy: Organizational Governance—Issues of the 21st Century series  (2012-2013 & 2014-2015 Editions) and Structural Dynamics: Foundation of Next Generation Management Science.  He also serves as a member of the PennEnergy Research Advisory Board where he has authored the blog Governing Energy for more than six years.

Formerly a Commissioned Officer in the United States Army Air Defense Artillery, he holds a Bachelor of Science in physics from North Georgia College, a Master of Business Administration from Houston Baptist University and a Doctor of Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University