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Oilsand Tech Meetup

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The first ever Silicon Valley-style tech meetup will be happening in Fort McMurray this February, with a focus on improving technology in the Oilsands. Aaron Tschirhart recently sat down with YMM and told us more.

YMM: What is an Oilsand Tech Meetup?

AT: It’s an informal meeting place for people who are interested in building products that can improve the Oilsands.

The Oilsand Tech Meetup brings people together from the technology startup community, oil and gas, product development, engineers, business people, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs (entrepreneurial people in a large business) who are interested in building product based solutions in the oil and gas business. Each event combines networking and a theme night focused on a specific topic. Topics include product development, alternative extraction methods, 3D prototyping or a specific startup, Oilsands or oil and gas technology.

YMM: Building products that can improve the Oilsands sounds like a daunting ambition. How does a meetup like this help encourage innovation?

AT: Essentially this is an open format where people can come and share ideas, collaborate and learn how to build innovative products.

The larger focus of the meetup is to build an open oil and gas startup ecosystem in Alberta focused on applying Silicon Valley design tools, resources and support to help accelerate innovation.

YMM: What kind of tools and resources are you hoping to share?

AT: “Human Centered Design” (also known as “Design Thinking”) is a product design tool that has been used to build impressive products, like the first mouse, laptop and the iPhone. By focused on the end user and trying to build a product that solves a specific problem can create novel solutions to complicated problems.

The maker movement is another export from San Francisco that has the potential to accelerate innovation in the oil and gas industry. Maker spaces give you access to the tools to be able to build whatever you can dream up. From electronics, laser cutters, CNC machines, 3D modelling you can find them all in maker spaces. This access to tools would otherwise be un-accessible or extremely costly gives individuals the ability to build prototypes that can provide a proof of concept for a new products or industrial focused solution.

YMM: For people who have a product ready to go, what can you tell them about oil and gas startups? Do they even exist?

AT: The oil and gas startup ecosystem is a new addition to the technology revolution that is changing the world around us. Houston has been ground zero for helping early stage energy technology focused startups move from a prototype into commercialization. Surge Accelerator founded in 2011 by Kirk Coburn has led a movement to validate and accelerate early stage energy focused startups. The results speak for themselves; many companies that have gone through the accelerator are radically changing the industry such as Metal Networks and SEE Forge Mobile Solutions.

Metal Networks is changing the industrial metal marketplace. Metal Networks is an online marketplace where industrial users can instantly buy and sell pipe or industrial metals or pipe with the click of a button. It links in with supplier’s inventory systems in real time and changes a process that would have taken 2-3 hours to find material into 2-3 seconds. This is an example of how an industrial focused startup can change an industry.

SEE Forge mobile solutions is a mobile solution that changes the way a workforce interacts with ERP software. (Such as SAP or Oracle) Using a mobile app combined with intrinsically safe cases, it allows oil and gas operators to manage safety and production risks in real time. Paperwork is eliminated by instant real-time entry into the ERP. This is another example of how a technology-focused solution can accelerate productivity in an oil and gas environment.

The Oilsand Tech Meetup is all about bringing these tools and concepts together into one place where people can meet and talk about how to build technology solutions.

Come out to the Fort McMurray kickoff on February 18th starting from 7 pm at the Wood Buffallo Brewing Company. Admission is free and all are welcome.