See how this entrepreneur’s venture is helping oil and gas companies get a clearer view of their business.
When Jeremy Gottlieb met business partner Armand Paradis to begin building Inside Petroleum Inc., it marked the culmination of dual dreams for Jeremy: the chance to have a meaningful impact on the energy industry while tapping into his entrepreneurial spirit. The FinTech has built cloud-based, enterprise-level software that boosts companies’ ability to forecast wells, analyze cash flow and collaborate across their business. But from the time the idea was hatched in 2017 to the time the company launched in May 2020, the challenges that arose included two of historic proportions: the COVID-19 pandemic and the first-ever instance of negative oil prices.
Jeremy, with his colleagues, moved forward undaunted. He leaned into his industry experience, including all he had gained at the outset of his career in the Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) Strategy and Transactions (formerly Transaction Advisory Services) practice. Inside Petroleum has rapidly built its client base and added headcount even as the pandemic persists. Jeremy spoke with us recently about the future of the energy industry, the value of relationships, and the thrill ride of building a business and developing disruptive technology.
What motivated you to build your software, ComboCurve?
When I worked for Deep Gulf Energy, I was always asking for economic runs from the reservoir team periodically on Saturday night. I would have done this on my own, but never had access to the tools to make it happen. The software packages in the oil and gas space were just not very user-friendly or efficient, and they made it challenging to collaborate.
My thought was that there was a great opportunity to build something to help our finance team, reservoir team, planning groups and operations team work in a system together and create more visibility to enable better teaming and greater efficiency. Through a mutual friend, I met Armand in 2017. Armand had built a software prototype and was sharing it with some close industry contacts. We met for coffee a few weeks later and spoke about the vision of building an enterprise-level platform. I left my job at Deep Gulf in January 2018, and we raised our funding through a team of former Rice Energy executives.
What’s been the biggest surprise about moving from dream to reality?
Everything is 20 times harder than you ever expect it to be, especially building a team from scratch. Recruiting people from the tech world into oil and gas technology was challenge No. 1. But we showed them the old platform – what people have been working on within oil and gas for 40 years – and told them that we can build something better. That got them excited that we could do something great for our industry. Then we got the ultimate surprise of opening up into a market when COVID was so severe, along with negative oil prices. We had to ask ourselves what we were going to do.
And what was that?
We decided to first execute on mineral companies, because it was currently a much more active market. We focused on one or two public companies, landing an opportunity with a major Permian Basin player, and that’s been an amazing relationship ever since.
We were able to leverage that early success and began building and building. As we gained traction, we were able to capture a good chunk of the market from May 2020 to December 2020, and that gave us a solid foundation.
Did the pandemic have any silver linings for the business?
It accelerated things. The industry had a vast amount of layoffs during that time, but companies still needed the same number of forecasts and had to manage the same number of wells. That made our system significantly more valuable to them. Ultimately, it’s all about your team and how they’re able to prop each other up and execute in a challenging market. I was proud of the way everybody stepped up to quickly deliver features that clients were requesting.
Tell us about the technology and what it does.
We saw key needs in the industry to unify data, give real-time visibility into production results, and eliminate work silos so teams can collaborate better and manage budgeting and cash flow more effectively. Our technology effectively incorporates multiple software packages into one to yield significant efficiency gains from collaboration, incredible speed and integrated workflows. Clearly, using multiple tools can lead to mistakes when translating forecasts across platforms.
For example, one leading petroleum software provider doesn’t offer daily forecast capability, so if you’re making business decisions based on a tool that’s only giving you monthly volumes, it limits when you can schedule wells, and you don’t have good visibility into cash flow. When a well is ramping up, there’s a lot of volatility in barrel production, so if you have 50 or 100 wells coming online at one time, it can materially impact the company’s production and related cash flow. The visibility that our platform offers enables much better decision-making.
What are the most exciting and challenging things facing the industry?
I’m pretty bullish about the energy space over the next few years. Oil and gas companies understand the value of technology. The adoption rate, especially among the large oil and gas majors, has been significantly faster than I ever anticipated. Everyone understands that efficiency is critical to driving that extra dollar of cash flow per barrel. We’re discussing partnering with companies for their other lines of business as well, because while our technology can be applied to oil and gas, it can also be applied in other energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal.
I also see companies understanding what needs to happen during a transition period. Oil and gas companies know how to sequester carbon better than anybody else in the world. They know how to extract and how to inject back into the ground. So, we’re looking forward to working with diverse energy companies as their business models transition. We’re equipped to partner with them as they position themselves for success over the next 10, 20, 30 years.
What type of help have you had navigating the market as an entrepreneur?
We’ve built a strong network with a number of fellow co-founders of companies. It’s amazing to have access to other CEOs, CFOs and COOs who will take the time to discuss the trials and tribulations of building a business. We have a fantastic board that includes the founders of Rice Energy. They helped us bring the software to life and be efficient with our time as we developed. We also have an outside board member, Kevin Klausmeyer, who is on the boards of several publicly traded technology companies. He’s been incredibly helpful when it comes to thinking through our strategy and brand.
What have your continuing relationships with EY people meant to you?
I’m fortunate to have many EY connections who have been amazing, and it makes the difficult process of building a business easier and much more rewarding. Deborah Byers remains a mentor and advocate and offered us the chance to inform the EY team on our system and its value to energy companies. I am also in regular touch with other EY alumni, like Octavio Saenz, who was my mentor when I worked in Strategy and Transactions and is now an energy company executive.
He arranged for us to introduce our product to the reservoir engineers on his team. Brandon Lamb has been fantastic ever since he took me under his wing at EY, teaching me so much about the M&A due diligence process. Tony Joyce, Raymond Tam and Jack Reilly also stand out for me.
I also keep up with Bridget Naik and Justin Zborowski. So there have been many who have been incredibly supportive. If not for those initial three years at EY, it wouldn’t have been possible for me to be where I am today.
When did your entrepreneurial spirit first surface?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. As a 12-year-old, I started a business, taking care of everybody’s dog in the neighborhood. I liked being able to do something without following the traditional roles and paths. When I went to college, I earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees as fast as I could. I was the same way in high school – taking a year off from high school and spending a year working instead of being in the classroom.
What motivates you each day?
The excitement of growing and learning new things is the coolest thing about a startup. I love working with our clients, understanding their problems, and helping them transition and move their businesses forward using the latest technology. But it’s also about being a trusted advisor to our clients – because I have both the finance and the oil and gas backgrounds – and building that deeper, long-term relationship.
What haven’t we covered that you’d like to share?
Relationships are just so critical. If people don’t know how strong the EY alumni network is, hopefully they can reach back out and keep those relationships going. Because when you work with folks at midnight or 2:00 a.m. to get deals done, it creates a strong bond among everybody who pulls together to achieve as a team.
More about Jeremy Gottlieb
Family first: Jeremy’s top priorities are his wife and two young children.
Seeing greens: When time permits, which isn’t often these days, Jeremy enjoys squeezing in a round of golf.
Burnt orange ties: A proud University of Texas graduate, Jeremy loves to return to Austin to enjoy Longhorn country.