Eunike Ventures helps to commercialize cleantech companies and help innovators and startups with the opportunity for field trials. On this episode of Economic Development Podcast, the COO of Eunike Ventures, Thomas Henry, discusses the carbon-free industrial growth in the coming years and Houston’s potential in helping companies to scale in the region and across the country. He explains the three pronged areas on which Houston’s cleantech industry growth depends.
I think it’s going to be a long road for the venture people from Silicon Valley, because they feel oil and gas is dirty. I need to go to Cleantech. But again, I keep telling people you have to understand the swim lanes of oil and gas and a Cleantech.
- 01:57 – It is actually a need in the Canadian ecosystem to actually have something that is very similar to the model that we have.
- 04:28 – Have some key milestones and translate these goals to KPIs and make sure these KPIs are measurable for the three players.
- 06:39 – Houston has got a massive amount of capacity to field test the new energy technologies.
- 14:28 – The whole Zoom system has allowed people to save time and a lot of front end work can be done by Zoom.
- 15:40 – Houston is going to be the epicenter of getting all the companies into Cleantech and we are excited to be part of it.
Thomas Henry 00:00
Where Houston’s heading is actually, I think it’s on a positive note but there are some challenges.. Houston has to kind of encompass and revolves around three kinds of pronged areas. One is the government policy, the correct application of it. It is seen as a carrot stick approach where customers, industry players, as well as consumers play a key role. And the third is the innovator’s correct driving costs and commerciality. And this has to be overlayed against the timeframe, which is what we call the 2030 or 2050 timeframe where we are being carbon neutral or even carbon negative.
Fabiola Fleuranvil 00:51
To the Economic Development Podcast presented by Blueprint Creative Group. And we’ve been discussing targeted industry growth, any shifts from the pandemic, what opportunities to trends may present itself, moving forward in the future in a post COVID environment. We previously had an interview guest with the Greater Houston Partnership where the organization discussed the oil sector’s impact and the region’s shift to renewables as they call it energy 2.0. So we’re continuing in that same vein. And we have today Thomas Henry, who is the COO of Eunike Ventures based out of Houston. Hey Thomas, how are you?
Thomas Henry 01:31
Good. Hi, how are you doing? The weather here is great. Excellent. You can’t see it of course in the visual podcast. But it’s excellent weather here.
Fabiola Fleuranvil 01:40
Well, good. So briefly tell us, a quick blurb about Eunike Venture since you’re in the Cleantech space, you have this accelerator that you’re collaborating with the Canadian what is it, the Canadian.
Thomas Henry 01:57
It is with the Canadian so-called Cleantech accelerator called Foresight. But again, it is actually a need in the Canadian ecosystem to actually have something that is very similar to the model that we have over here. And that’s why it has been spurred by the Canadian economic development as well as the people from the Canadian Consulate in Dallas.
Fabiola Fleuranvil 02:26
So Eunike Ventures helps to commercialize Cleantech companies, right? Obviously Houston is the energy capital of the country. You can say a leader globally when it comes to energy in that sector. And when it comes to building out the capacity to grow the industry from Cleantech and renewables, where do you see Houston’s potential and really taking charge of that and helping startup companies and other ventures to really scale and grow in the region and across the country.
Thomas Henry 03:01
Yeah. So again, maybe what I can put it in the context of, I mean, everybody’s talking about COVID and post COVID. So, I personally feel there was no change from pre to post COVID. You know, I would just use that as a marker as a change agent on how quickly the oil and gas industry has kind of plummeted due to supply demand infraction. And there was an increased level of awareness in the industry that was spurred by consumers, for the first time preferably by carbon neutral, carbon negative type products. So in a way where Houston is heading is actually I think it’s on a positive note, but there are some challenges. I mean, where Houston has to kind of encompass and it revolves around three kinds of pronged areas. One is the government policy, the correct application of it. It is seen as a carrot stick approach where customers, industry players, as well as consumers play a key role. And the third is the innovators, correct driving cost and commerciality. And this has to be overlayed against a timeframe, which is what we call the 2030 or 2050 timeframe where we are being carbon neutral or even carbon negative.
Fabiola Fleuranvil 04:24
Well, obviously Houston can lead that charge, right?
Thomas Henry 04:28
Yes, definitely. I think there is clear leadership in Houston and on numerous fronts on embarking with Cleantech. But again, you know, it’s good to try to measure, and have some key milestones and translate these so-called goals to KPIs and make sure these KPIs are measurable for the three players that I just mentioned, correct. I mean from a government policy, from your customers, which are industry players and consumers, and then also the innovators who are bringing the technology to fruition.
Fabiola Fleuranvil 05:03
From a policy perspective, what do you think companies like yours would want to see?
Thomas Henry 05:10
Yeah, so again, there needs to be a win-win. For companies like us, where we work with our alliance partners, industry players, where we provide companies or innovators or startups with the opportunity for field trials, what we liked about the Canadian system is that hopefully, Houston can start thinking about how government policies can play a very active role from the government incline to make sure that companies like us actually thrive. In terms of either support from funding, but more importantly, to provide that so-called growth for startups to say, “Hey, you know, I’m going to take a risk at your technology and we’re going to try to fund half of it while the industry funds half of it.” So a lot of it has to do with, and with Cleantech to say, Hey, am I going to take a risk in trying to prove up the technology and how do I prove up the technology? So they get into bed quite easily with the industry players in trying to work together to a Cleantech goal and KPIs.
Fabiola Fleuranvil 06:24
Okay. So let’s…
Thomas Henry 06:26
Houston could benefit from that a bit more from policy.
Fabiola Fleuranvil 06:36
Okay. So let’s talk about Eunike Ventures because you’re helping to bring more of these ventures to the pipeline.
Thomas Henry 06:37
Fabiola Fleuranvil 06:37
So what type of work do you do with them?
Thomas Henry 06:39
We serve as a technology bridge between, so like what we have for it in Canada, we have got a technology bridge with business France. We’ve got a technology bridge with innovation Norway, the Israeli Innovation Authority. And what we do is we seek technologies globally that are ready to do business in Houston. But to do business in Houston, it’s not easy. So in terms of when I say not easy, it is just the ability to do field trials. It is about… Hey I’m introducing the technology, but I need the industry to be able to provide that field to test my technology, correct. So that’s where I think Houston has got a massive amount of capacity to be able to do that. And that’s what we’re trying to do in terms of bringing Canadian companies.
Like last year, we vetted about 500 companies from Canada that want to play in Houston. What do you call an ecosystem? And it is all not only just Cleantech, but also transition type technologies, correct what we call ESG type technologies, which a lot of people tend to kind of sideswipe. Because ESG is not just about reducing carbon footprint it is one element of it. But it’s also about maximizing and trying to understand what your operational efficiencies are — to reduce the carbon emissions. So it is a very, how should I say complex problem, but people tend to just go for the quick wins.
Fabiola Fleuranvil 08:19
Okay. So let’s shift to growth opportunities in Houston. Obviously because of the pandemic, we’re seeing a lot of shifts in different markets, and it looks differently depending on where we’re talking about. So for example, out in the West in Silicon Valley, you’re seeing a lot of exits, which was already happening in California, but since the pandemic we’re seeing more of it. So a lot of different markets are as they stand to gain from a lot of the Silicon Valley companies that may be looking to relocate. So for those Cleantech companies that may be based out of that region what do you think Houston has to offer for them to choose Houston versus somewhere else?
Thomas Henry 09:02
Well, Houston has got a very diverse, how shall I say mindset. I mean, and with the diverse mindset, you get people to be able to think of different scenarios, different opportunities. What is interesting is Silicon Vallies can come and relocate to Houston. Hopefully, the Silicon venture arm, also try to relocate. So that’s why I think with Houston, we have created this HX fund. I mean, the ability to invest in Houston. So not only the startups relocating back to Canada, I mean to Houston, but also to have the venture capital to come in and play in our system ecosystem that would help and benefit a lot. And I think it’s going to be a long road for the venture people from Silicon Valley, because they feel oil and gas is dirty. I need to go to Cleantech. But again, I keep telling people you have to understand the swim lanes of oil and gas and a Cleantech.
And there is a thing called a transition. It is the transition that we talk about that needs to happen because that is doing current business, much more efficiently, and that alone can reduce your carbon footprint. And then you say, Hey, how do I look on the other swim lane, which is the Cleantech swim lane, and how do I get a kind of a parallel processing and, and that part, so you can’t divorce one from the other. And I think both can survive in a happy ecosystem. So Silicon Valley needs to come and think and say, Hey, how can I – let’s say, spur my company over here in Houston, which is predominantly kind of oil and gas. And say, Hey, my Cleantech can solve an immediate problem right now in the oil industry, but in the longer run, this is the way to go. So I think there’s an opportunity, so they shouldn’t be looking at I’m just coming here to establish a Cleantech, but think about how you can actually get into the system first, before trying to solve world hunger.
Fabiola Fleuranvil 11:19
Well, you know, just based on what you’re saying the greatest potential to tap into maybe more immediately is the venture side. You know, when it comes to recruiting those companies because, obviously, that’s going to help to scale the capacity of startup ventures in Houston to be able to grow and scale the way that they need to. And, you know, when you mentioned how you have these links, global links to other technology focused districts, or arms around the country from Israel, I think about what your company’s doing, including what others do. That’s also going to help to scale the growth of the Cleantech and renewable sector in the region.
Thomas Henry 12:01
Oh yeah. I mean, if we take a look at last year we had a technology open call with the Israeli Innovation Authority. I think 90% of the companies were related to Cleantech. And again, you know we work closely with EPI Center Accelerator down in San Antonio that works in the utility space. And we work together with them in trying to get field trials for these Israeli companies so that they can actually grow in Houston. So if they get the opportunity, I mean that’s why we are looking at the industry to actually step up and say, Hey, you know, I’m willing to try this technology and not actually – you know not provide this opportunity. If they did that, you will have more companies internationally actually taking that leap forward and coming over and setting up base in Houston and eventually the business in Houston.
Fabiola Fleuranvil 12:58
Okay. So as we close you obviously you’re doing a lot and you recently had news where you’re partnering with the Canadian Consul General with this accelerator. What else do you have with Eunike Ventures? What does the future look like? What are you excited about?
Thomas Henry 13:17
It is a very exciting journey. We are launching what we call energy next hub mid April under the guidance of the Canadian Economic Development. And then that platform will be the kind of cornerstone to actually link up with various ecosystems. So we’re looking with business France to join them. They’re going to be starting up what we call the hydrogen hub. And they’re looking at bringing French companies and vice versa, US companies to France, and it’s kind of a gateway to Europe. So we will be actively involved with that. And then we are also looking soon to Latin America and bringing them on board. We’ve been in talks with Ecopetrol. And we’re looking at bringing companies from Columbia and Cleantech type companies to Houston.
Fabiola Fleuranvil 14:17
Do you think the pandemic will have any impact on companies? Well, obviously the timing may be affected, but will it have any long-term impacts on international companies coming into the market?
Thomas Henry 14:28
No, surprisingly, not at all. In fact, the whole Zoom so-called system has allowed people to do a bit more reflection, correct. So they didn’t have to actually get on a plane and say, I wasted my trip not knowing who to talk to. So now a lot of the front end work can be done by Zoom. And then when they get on the plane to come over here and talk, it’s more on how do I sign my contract and things like that. So it was a blessing in disguise, actually, so the trips are a bit more effective. So for example, we’d be trying to do some work with even bringing companies from Indonesia. We’re going to use Amy Henry, who is the CEO of Eunike Ventures and is a board member with Tie Houston. So we’re going to use Tie Global. If you don’t know about it, look at companies outside, in the Asia Pacific area. So again, it is going to be global. Houston is going to be the epicenter of getting all the companies into Cleantech and we are excited to be part of it.
Fabiola Fleuranvil 15:45
Good. So this is a very exciting time for you. I know you mentioned the San Antonio partnership, are you tying in all of these global partnerships with some type of relationship locally with the Greater Houston Partnership or even the city?
Thomas Henry 15:59
Yeah, we want to do that, but at first we just wanted to make sure that we have consolidated all these technology bridges. And then we want to have a discussion with the Greater Houston Partnership to make sure that we have the right platform and the support that we need. Now, we can’t do this alone, because we are doing this for Houston, but we need the Greater Houston Partnership to actually, you know, the mayor himself to help. And now with this first launch in Canada there’s no reason why we can’t work together. And how should I say use this as a vehicle to get that collaboration going.
Fabiola Fleuranvil 16:39
Good. So I’m excited for Eunike Ventures. I’m excited for all of the companies. I think that’s going to be great for the country in general, obviously for Houston as well and the sector. So this is good work that you’re doing.
Thomas Henry 16:51
Yeah. It is putting back into Houston and hopefully, with the energy 2.0 Houston will be on the map if it’s not already on the map. But we just need to make sure that we can measure the deliverables and show some tangible delivery of targets that Houston can be proud of.
Fabiola Fleuranvil 17:12
Thank you again, Thomas. I thank you for joining us today.
Thomas Henry 17:16
It’s a pleasure to have a discussion and look forward to the news in the near future. And we’ll be launching a few technology bridges as I would like to call them.
Fabiola Fleuranvil 17:30
Exciting. Thanks again.
Thomas Henry 17:32
Fabiola Fleuranvil 17:33
Thanks again for tuning into the Economic Development Podcast presented by Blueprint Creative Group. There’s more episodes featuring economic development leaders throughout the country. And we thank all of the participants for sharing their perspectives. Check out all of the episodes in this series at blueprintcreativegroup.com/economicdevelopment.