eyes on EY

Houston energy leaders score wins at annual regional entrepreneur competition

These Houston-area executives were recognized by EY's annual regional awards. Photos courtesy

You might say that four Houston executives with ties to the energy sector are energized about an award they just received.

The four executives recently were named winners in the Gulf South division of the Entrepreneur Of The Year awards program. They’ll now compete at the national level.

The one winner who works directly in the energy industry is Roger Jenkins, president and CEO of Houston-based Murphy Oil. Jenkins rose to the company’s top positions in 2013. He joined Murphy Oil in 2001 as a drilling manager in Malaysia.

Jenkins earned a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from Louisiana State University and an MBA from Harvard University’s business school.

Murphy Oil is an oil and natural gas exploration and production company that operates primarily onshore in the U.S. and Canada, and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.

A Fortune 1000 company founded in 1944, Murphy Oil generated revenue of nearly $4 billion in 2022.

In 2020, the company announced it was shuttering its headquarters in El Dorado, Arkansas, as well as its location in Calgary, Canada, and consolidating its operations into a new main office in Houston. About 190 Murphy Oil employees worked in El Dorado and Calgary.

“Our ongoing execution excellence across our significant offshore backlog and over 1,000 oil-weighted onshore locations will ensure that we will remain a long-term sustainable company,” Jenkins told Wall Street analysts in May 2023.

While not exactly an energy company, Solugen's co-founders — Gaurab Chakrabarti, CEO, and Sean Hunt, CTO — are representing the clean chemicals space within the energy transition.

Solugen, founded in 2016, makes and distributes specialty chemicals derived from feedstock. The startup is reportedly valued at more than $2 billion. To date, Solugen has raised $642.2 million, according to Crunchbase.

In naming Solugen one of the most innovative companies of 2022, Fast Company noted that the carbon-negative process embraced by Solugen and the startup’s “ability to sell flexible amounts of chemicals to companies looking to lower their own footprint have helped the company make inroads in a traditionally slow-moving industry.”

Another Houston executive with connections to the energy sector also is regional Entrepreneur Of The Year winners.

Ludmila Golovine is president and CEO of Houston-based MasterWord Services. The company provides translation and interpretation services in more than 400 languages for clients in sectors like energy, health care, and tech. The woman-owned business launched in 1993.

“It is a great honor for me and for MasterWord to be recognized alongside the other EY Entrepreneur Of The Year winners,” Golovine says in a news release about the Entrepreneur Of The Year honor.

In all, 10 executives from Houston-based companies were hailed as 2023 regional winners in the Entrepreneur Of The Year program, run by professional services firm EY. Aside from Jenkins, Golovine, Walker, and Smith, they are:

  • Steve Altemus, president and CEO of space exploration company Intuitive Machines.
  • Mark Walker, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Houston-based Direct Digital Holdings, and Keith Smith, co-founder and president. Direct Digital Holdings operates advertising platforms for clients in sectors such as energy, health care, travel and financial services.
  • Daryl Dudum and Matthew Hadda, founders and co-CEOs of Specialty1 Partners. The company provides business services to dental surgery practices.
  • Mohammad Millwala, founder and CEO of DM Clinical Research. The company operates 13 sites for clinical trials.

Also grabbing a regional award is Omair Tariq, co-founder and CEO of Austin-based Cart.com. The company, which provides software and services to online merchants, relocated its headquarters from Houston to Austin in 2021. Tariq remains in Houston, though.

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A View From HETI

A Houston-based initiative has been selected by the DOE to receive funding to develop clean energy innovation programming for startups and entrepreneurs. Photo via Getty Images

Houston has been selected as one of the hubs backed by a new program from the United States Department of Energy that's developing communities for clean energy innovation.

The DOE's Office of Technology Transitions announced the the first phase of winners of the Energy Program for Innovation Clusters, or EPIC, Round 3. The local initiative is one of 23 incubators and accelerators that was awarded $150,000 to support programming for energy startups and entrepreneurs.

The Houston-based participant is called "Texas Innovates: Carbon and Hydrogen Innovation and Learning Incubator," or CHILI, and it's a program meant to feed startups into the DOE recognized HyVelocity program and other regional decarbonization efforts.

EPIC was launched to drive innovation at a local level and to inspire commercial success of energy startups. It's the third year of the competition that wraps up with a winning participant negotiating a three-year cooperative agreement with OTT worth up to $1 million.

“Incubators and Accelerators are uniquely positioned to provide startups things they can't get anywhere else -- mentorship, technology validation, and other critical business development support," DOE Chief Commercialization Officer and Director of OTT Vanessa Z. Chan says in a news release. “The EPIC program allows us to provide consistent funding to organizations who are developing robust programming, resources, and support for innovative energy startups and entrepreneurs.”

CHILI, the only participant in Texas, now moves on to the second phase of the competition, where they will design a project continuation plan and programming for the next seven months to be submitted in September.

where they’ll implement their programming and design a project continuation plan over the next 7 months. In September they will submit their plans with the hope of being selected to negotiate a three-year cooperative agreement with OTT, worth up to $1 million each.

Phase 2 also includes two national pitch competitions with a total of $165,000 in cash prizes up for grabs for startups. The first EPIC pitch event for 2024 will be in June at the 2024 Small Business Forum & Expo in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Last fall, the DOE selected the Gulf Coast's project, HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub, as one of the seven regions to receive a part of the $7 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The hub was announced to receive up to $1.2 billion — the most any hub will get.


The DOE's OTT selections are nationwide. Photo via energy.gov

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