Education: Bachelor of Applied Science, Electro-Mechanical Engineering, The University of British Columbia
Whether he’s being accepted into an elite program or launching ultra-successful startups, Stephen Robinson has the smarts and business acumen it takes to stand out in the energy industry. And with his second successful imaging business, DarkVision, he has no plans of slowing down.
“I have a natural interest in imaging technologies–the phrase ‘seeing is believing’ really solidifies the fidelity and value the human vision system provides,” he says. “It’s exciting to combine that interest with a love for developing new products and solutions that solve valuable problems for industry. DarkVision’s just getting going, and we have a big technology roadmap ahead of us that I’m really excited about.”
The company: DarkVision has developed a new series of acoustic-based imaging technologies that are used to capture images inside of oil and gas wells. By capturing a clear picture of the inner workings of wells, operators can make better decisions that reduce operating costs, increase production, improve well designs, fix well integrity problems and minimalize environmental impacts. And unlike optical-based camera technologies, DarkVision’s acoustic imaging systems can see through the opaque fluids commonly found in wells.
A bright idea: “The technology is a complex acoustic-based imaging platform packaged into a downhole tool that allows oil and gas operators to see inside wells in high resolution through any wellbore fluid, regardless of clarity and fluid type,” Robinson says. “This is a massive innovation and one of the holy grails that the industry has been searching for over decades.”
It took Robinson and colleagues more than four years to develop their flagship product, which was first tested by a pilot customer in 2017.
The technology is now being used throughout North America, with more than 26 E&P companies using DarkVision’s technology in Canada and the U.S.
Career path: Robinson is a graduate of The University of British Columbia’s (UBC’s) electro-mechanical engineering program, which accepts just 10 students per year. He graduated with honors in 2005. He co-founded his first startup, ClearVision Technologies Inc., during his final year of school. He actively built the business despite a full academic schedule. During a six-year period, Robinson led the company as chief executive, taking the optical inspection technology from its initial prototype to a profitable business that dominated the packaging inspection sector and was acquired in 2011 by a US competitor. In 2013, he co-founded his second imaging company, DarkVision.
Awards: Robinson’s startups have racked up a slew of awards. ClearVision’s flagship product line won the Innovator of the Year award at Supercorr in 2012, and the Best Product of the Year prize during the 2014 Stevie Awards.
And during its first year of business in 2014, DarkVision took first place in a New Ventures BC contest, claiming the prize for the top high-tech startup company with the most potential.
Teamwork: Of course, Robinson didn’t do it all alone. He and business partner Graham Manders have been working together since the two met in the engineering program at UBC. Robinson and Manders started and grew ClearVision, then went on to launch DarkVision together in 2013.
Manders is DarkVision’s chief technology officer, and he is the mastermind behind ClearVision and DarkVision’s technology, playing a pivotal role in the company’s success, says Robinson.
“Graham is a really talented, smart and technically brilliant engineer, but he’s also really practical and personable. He’s a very easy person to work with and we have long history together built on all the successes and challenges we’ve faced together over the years,” he says. “We’ve always worked well together and bring complimentary skillsets and personalities to the business. Most importantly, we’ve built a deep trust and respect for each other that’s the result of fighting countless long, hard battles together on the same team, and pretty much always coming out on top.”