Startup boom in times of crisis

The four friends in Optime Subsea bet their money and careers just at the time the oil prices drastically sank. In the middle of crisis, oil companies are started as never before.

Last autumn the friends Trond Løkka (43) and Tor-Øystein Carlsen (37) quit their safe and well paid senior positions in the american oil service company FMC Technologies. By new year the oil prices had gone down and down and down. Two weeks into 2015 the provisional bottom at 46,6 dollars per farrels was reached.

The timing couldn’t been worse? No, it could barely been better, according to the innovators themselves.

Times of crisis are the right times

– We saw that the market went down, and with that the opportunity to introduce new technology, says CEO Jan-Fredrik Carlsen (39), who also is the Thor-Øystein Carlsens big brother.

Thor Arne Løvland (37) and Jan-Fredrik came from FMC and into Optime Subsea in May. The four of them stands behind one of six companys which through Techmakers, a so called accelerator, shall get as fast as possible out in the market through a intensive program lasting for three months.

Timing is important, and big brother Carlsen says there are at least four reasons for crisis to be the right time to go for it:

1. Times of crisis give birth to new technology: In 1985 Saudi-Arabia gave up its strategy of pushing proces by holding back production and instead opened its taps. The result became a shock of supply, which in short time halved the oil prices. The result also became a break through for oil recovery done at the bottom of the ocean, rather than from gigantic platforms over the surface of the ocean.

The crisis pushed forward the hole subsea industry. We believe the same happens today, big brother Carlsen says.

Even though oil recovery from the bottom of the ocean can give big savings, it can be very expencive to complete, maintain or to plug the oil well because big oil rigs have to manage the operations from the ocean surface.

The tool which perform the operation at the bottom of the ocean, may be managed through long cables and pipes, often many cilometres long. which is lowered from the vessel to the underwater device.

Optime Subsea’s ide is to sink the hole toolkit to the bottom of the Ocean, and remote control the operation from smaller and cheaper vessels.

2. When the upturn comes, you are on the first track: – If you want to join the upturn you have to be ready, big brother Carlsen says.
To come first out of the starting block when it comes an upturn, depends on having everything in place. Not just a product, but also a range of approvals.

– This can be har to achieve in combination with high activity. We can focus on getting all approvals in place now that it’s quite silent, Jan-Fredrik Carlsen says.

3. When everything goes good, everyone is to busy to build alliances: – Three years ago, nobody had the time to listen to you, Jan-Fredrik Carlsen says.

Everyone were to busy pumping up oil. When it’s quiet, its easier to make partnerships and to get meetingswith the big suppliers.

– Its easier for them then, to listen to small innovative companies which introduce cost effective measures.

4. It’s enough of people looking for a job. – A good team is important, and it is easier to get a good team now, Harald Olderheim says. He is Business Developer in Kjeller Innovasjon, ans main responsible for the Techmaker Accelerator.

The problem: The money. The four founders have bet an annual wage each, in addition to their careers. The company har also gained support from Innovasjon Norge, Notodden utvikling as and Telemark utviklingsfond, and fresh capital when Deep Ocean bought 24 percent of the company earlier this year.

In total, it has become more than 10 million NOK. The company is wishing for 100 millions more to build itself up in a downturning market.

Read more here (in Norwegian).