big moves

Houston offshore robotics company secures $12M, makes major leadership changes

Houston-based Nauticus Robotics has a new CEO and fresh funding. Photo via LinkedIn

In the wake of a leadership reshuffling and amid lingering financial troubles, publicly traded Nauticus Robotics, a Webster-based developer of subsea robots and software, has netted more than $12 million in a second tranche of funding.

The more than $12 million in new funding includes a $9.5 million loan package.

Nauticus says the funding will accelerate certification of the company’s flagship Aquanaut robot, which is being prepared for its inaugural mission — inspecting a deep-water production facility in the Gulf of Mexico that’s owned by a major oil and gas company.

The new funding comes several weeks after the company announced a change in leadership, including a new interim CEO, interim chief financial officer, and lead general counsel.

Former Halliburton Energy Services executive John Gibson, the interim CEO, became president of Nauticus last October and subsequently joined the board. Gibson replaced Nauticus founder Nicolaus Radford in the CEO role. Radford’s LinkedIn profile indicates he left Nauticus in January 2024, the same month that Gibson stepped into the interim post.

Radford founded what was known as Houston Mechatronics in 2014.

Victoria Hay, the new interim CFO at Nauticus, and Nicholas Bigney, the new lead general counsel, came aboard in the fourth quarter of 2023.

“We currently have the intellectual property, prototypes, and the talent to deliver robust products and services,” Gibson says in a news release. “Team Nauticus is now laser-focused on converting our intellectual property, including both patents and trade secrets, into differentiated solutions that bring significant value to both commercial and government customers.”

A couple of weeks after the leadership shift, the NASDAQ stock market notified Nauticus that the average closing price of the company’s common stock had fallen below the $1-per-share threshold for 30 consecutive trading days. That threshold must be met to maintain a NASDAQ listing.

Nauticus was given 180 days to lift its average stock price above $1. If that threshold isn’t reached during that 180-day period, the company risks being delisted by NASDAQ. The stock closed February 6 at 32 cents per share.

The stock woes and leadership overhaul came on the heels of a dismal third-quarter 2023 financial report from Nauticus. The company’s fourth-quarter 2023 financial report hasn’t been filed yet.

For the first nine months of 2023, Nauticus reported an operating loss of nearly $20.9 million, up from almost $11.3 million during the same period a year earlier. Meanwhile, revenue sank from $8.2 million during the first nine months of 2022 to $5.5 million in the same period a year later.

Nauticus went public in September 2022 through a SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) merger with New York City-based CleanTech Acquisition Corp., a “blank check” company that went public in July 2021 through a $150 million IPO. The SPAC deal was valued at $560 million when it was announced in December 2021.

Nauticus recently hired investment bank Piper Sandler & Co. to help evaluate “strategic options to maximize shareholder value.”

One of the strategic alternatives involves closing Nauticus’ previously announced merger with Houston-based 3D at Depth, which specializes in subsea laser technology. When it was unveiled last October, the all-stock deal was valued at $34 million.

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A View From HETI

A Houston company is hoping to make an impact on Norwegian companies navigating the energy transition. Photo by Pavel Danilyuk/Pexels

A Houston-based human resource tech platform has announced a new partnership that hopes to help Norwegian energy companies that are navigating the energy transition.

Kahuna Workforce Solutions has teamed up with Norwegian operating services provider PXO AS to provide operations readiness and assurance infrastructure to Norway’s energy sector. Both companies reportedly have Norwegian customers already, and Kahuna brings its software platform while PXO has technical and field experience.

“PXO represents everything we look for in a partner as we strive to ensure successful and rapid adoption of competency-based training and development programs,” Jai Shah, CEO of Kahuna Workforce Solutions, says in a news release. “As a company that works with many of the same customers as PXO, we’ve seen their expertise firsthand. It is clear they are the right partner to help us not only address the current needs of the energy industry but also pioneer innovative solutions that will shape the future of competency readiness and assurance in Norway.”

Both companies reportedly have Norwegian customers already, and Kahuna brings its software platform while PXO has technical and field experience.

“Just as we serve as a bridge between project and operation phases, Kahuna equips enterprises with validated competency data,” Leif Olav Moe, CEO of PXO, says in the release. “By uniting our technical and operational expertise with their cutting-edge competency management solutions, we are delivering a unique solution unlike anything the market has yet to provide—signifying our commitment to building a more skilled and competitive workforce to ascertain safer and more efficient operations.”

Reuters reports that in 2024, Norway is expected to see $22 billion in investments from oil and gas companies. The partnership between Kahuna and PXO hopes to capitalize on this opportunity and support "streamlining skills validation and aligning operational standards with expanding ESG initiatives and emerging technologies," per the release.

“When you combine our capabilities with PXO’s extensive experience in supporting operations with strategic training and competency services, there is no other competency management solution that comes close to building a skilled, safe, compliant, and competitive workforce," Shah adds.

Last year, Kahuna closed a $21 million series B funding round led by Baltimore-based Resolve Growth Partners. At the time, the software-as-a-service company reported that it would use the fresh funding to continue product development and hire across sales and marketing, product development, customer success, and engineering. The company also will grow to support global customers.

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