When you’ve spent three years developing the prototype for a startup business, launch day must be filled with a great deal of excitement. However, when launch day arrives around the same time as the world is shutting down in response to a global pandemic and shockingly low oil prices, excitement soon turns into the proverbial “cautiously optimistic.”
For Armand Paradis, CEO at 18-month-old ComboCurve Inc., May 2020 was just such a juxtaposition of emotions. “It was a terrible time to release anything because of COVID and negative oil prices. The whole sentiment in the market was very bad, and it was tough,” said the former reservoir engineer at Equinor, turned entrepreneur in an exclusive interview with Hart Energy. “So, we released the product and were thinking if we get 10 clients in the first year we’ll call it an amazing year.”
Paradis, whose company announced the closing of its eight-figure Series A financing, sold his efforts a bit short. “We compensated for the terrible times by working significantly harder—80, 90 hours a week and nonstop on Saturday and Sunday. And, that wasn’t unique to us, it was our web developers and the rest of the team members. Everyone is an equity owner in the company, and everyone is fully dedicated to solving the problem.”
According to Jeremy Gottlieb, president of ComboCurve, the company not only survived the inauspicious beginning but thrived to the tune of a 700% revenue increase over the first 18 months and will end the year with over 150 client companies. Among those clients are nearly 20 publicly traded oil and gas operators.
It was a quick rise to say the least. “We spoke to so many companies and [this type of growth] just never happened before. It’s one of a kind,” Paradis said.
Angel in the midsts
ComboCurve’s story begins with Paradis’ frustration over 40-year-old economic solutions while working on the Appalachia assets for Equinor (then Statoil) in 2014.
“From the first day that I joined the company, I figured the sheer number of wells that we are operating, it requires a certain workflow that we don't have, and that was not just unique to Equinor, of course, that problem existed across all the companies in the energy space. So, it was a big transition going from operating very few wells to all of a sudden, very expensive wells, but the sheer number of wells as well,” Paradis said.
“And then we were using tools … that were built 40 years ago with very minimal update, so the tool was very, very hard to use and not user friendly, and with very minimal training materials,” he continued. “It was extremely hard to run our asset, especially the sheer number of wells. So, the workflow was very disjointed, meaning you do a part of the workflow here in one software. Then you have to export that workflow to another software, and then export it to another software because each one of the software was doing only a piece of the puzzle, but imagine that across hundred engineers, how difficult it is to manage, and then things are changing every day.”
Paradis saw it as an opportunity.
His goal was to build a platform that takes all that disjointed workflow, put it in one nice, clean cloud-based solution that everyone can log in and work together collaboratively. “It would have an interface that everyone can use with very minimum training, and also be auditable so that everyone can log in and understand what is going on instead of dealing with a black box that maybe 2% of the people in the company know how to use and see what's going on,” he recalled. “It was a very huge project, and I built a prototype of the platform, and I showed that prototype to Jeremy.”
At the time, Gottlieb was head of finance at Deep Gulf Energy, so he understood the idea for the product and loved it because he was personally dealing with the same challenges. They teamed up and started building the product and the company.
They also met with several investors. “A majority of them said it’s not going work. It’s impossible because you’re trying to replace something that has been around for 40 years,” Paradis said. “But a lot of the investors haven’t worked as engineers themselves, so they didn’t get the problem.”
It was then that met with Danny Rice and the Rice brothers. “They were engineers and they were dealing with the same type of challenge when they were running Rice Energy,” Paradis said. “it was perfect timing because they had sold their company to EQT and invested in our company. They put the seed investment in our company back in 2018.”
It turned out to be a good startup to bank on.
With unprecedented growth happening the company grew from two guys to nearly 60 employees seemingly overnight.
Asked where the company goes from here, Gottlieb said the goal is to get everyone on board with their platform.
“We are incredibly excited with our continued growth and proud of our entire team to continue delighting the customer from the product and customer success side. Our vision of best-in-class product and best-in-class support has been our north star from the beginning,” Gottlieb said.
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