Breaker19 is an Uber-like truck booking platform founded by two Houstonians. Photo by Marcin Jozwiak/Pexels

In a world where ”the customer is always right," two Houston founders have followed that rule right to their next venture.

Breaker19 — a groundbreaking mobile application built in late 2023 to be an efficient oilfield trucking and hotshot marketplace — was co-founded by Rodney Giles and Tyler Cherry. The native Houstonians also co-founded BidOut, a leading Oil & Gas procurement platform in 2021.

“About a year ago, one of our BidOut clients, a large operator, came to us and basically said that the biggest problem they have in the oil field is ordering trucks,” remembers Giles. “From there, they asked would we be willing to build something similar to Uber, but for oilfield logistics and trucking? So, we built Breaker19.”

After their customer presented a challenge, Giles and Cherry got to work. They envisioned the technical architecture almost immediately and assembled a team of software engineers to build an in-house application in less than a year.

“We launched Breaker19 in November 2023, and my goodness, it has taken off like crazy,” says Giles. “It is growing incredibly fast. We’re doing hundreds of truckloads a day now, all throughout West Texas, South Texas, North Dakota, really all over the U.S.”

Now, armed with such large publicly traded companies as British Petroleum, Breakout19 has a network of more than 1,500 trucks similar to transportation companies like Uber, where drivers make themselves available to be dispatched according to their health, safety and environmental requirements.

Breaker19 is doing so well, in fact, that it’s sped past Giles and Cherry’s original collaboration, BidOut.

“Breaker 19's probably, you know, growing ten times of where BidOut even was in its early days,” says Giles. “So, we'll always explore options that make sense for our shareholders. Fortunately, my co-founder and I have previous companies that we built and sold and have experience in scaling and have experiences in multiple departments, whether it be finance or sales or marketing or operations.

“So, currently, we do operate BidOut and Breaker19 separately, but they are, you know, through common operating structures. And, you know, we're able to maintain the scale and maintain the growth right now. And right now, the company is doing great financially and has cash flow positives. So, for us, you know, our goal is just to continue. I feel like we've kind of solved an archaic problem and did it in a really simple way, and it's working out pretty well.”

And it all started with a simple question from a customer — "Hey, can you guys come up with something like this?"

“It all came together just by listening to our customer’s needs,” says Giles. “And we always try to go into our clients and help them with a lot of what they do. But we always want to know about what their other pain points are. You know, there's still people, you know, that are operating with very archaic processes, very, you know, manual back-office processes. And our job is to speed them up with software. And so Breaker19 was able to do that.”

Practically speaking, Breaker19 is more than a software solution. It also closes the gap between qualified drivers and end clients by vetting participants for the platform in an efficient and pragmatic fashion.

“We have a very rigorous vetting process for the drivers,” Giles explains. “I mean, that's really what makes the oil and gas trucking industry so unique. Insurance requirements have to be significantly higher than most carriers. They have to go through very well-funded safety trainings where they are familiar with the oil field. And then number three, these drivers have to have personal protective equipment. They have to have flame-retardant clothing, they have to have slo-mo boots and they have to have hard hats.”

Procedure is important, but professionalism is equally important to Breaker19.

“You know, we do not allow the carrier to show up on a customer's locations in shorts and flip-flops or Crocs and, you know, be protected,” says Giles. “And so, for what we're dealing with is very mission critical, but also very, you know, very high-risk.

“For example, we are checking insurance statuses four times a day. If a carrier were to cancel their insurance, we're aware of it immediately because we want to make sure that we always have active insurance in place. So, we have a process that these carriers go through. Again, we've got over 1,500 of them now that are well-vetted and well-qualified.”

As Breaker19 continues to scale, Giles and Cherry hope their burgeoning app becomes the go-to ordering platform for the entire oil and gas industry for all of their trucking, hot shot and transportation needs.

“We're bringing on some significant, large enterprise clients right now that make up 10% of the U.S. market share for each customer,” says Giles “So I think when we start to compound those, I think we easily see the trajectory there as really being something that's taking off pretty fast. So, I think at the end of the day, we just hope to keep delivering a great experience for our clients, make their ordering process easy.”

With both BidOut and Breaker19 doing great financially, proud Klein Oak High School alums Giles and Cherry have purchased a steer to support Texas youth and agricultural causes. Additionally, moving forward, the duo pledges to give away a full steer each month to a customer of their Breaker19 platform.

"We are passionate about giving back to our community and nurturing the next generation of leaders in Texas," says Cherry. "Having personally experienced the transformative impact of FFA, we saw this initiative as a meaningful way to both support local agriculture and provide our clients with a taste of authentic Texas beef.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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Exclusive: Houston clean energy accelerator names 4th cohort of early-stage tech companies

coming soon to Hou

The Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator has named 12 early-stage energy technology companies to its latest cohort.

The companies, which hail from six states and two countries, are providing solutions across carbon management, advanced materials, hydrogen, solar, and more. The program, which operates in a hybrid capacity based out of the Ion, will run for 10 weeks beginning July 9 and culminating in a demo day alongside the 21st Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum on September 12. Throughout the duration, the companies will come to Houston three times.

"As Houston’s preeminent energy startup accelerator, this is an open door to the region’s energy ecosystem for ventures from around the world and puts them through a rigorous curriculum to bolster their fundraising efforts, prepare them for accelerated adoption into the marketplace and expand their connections for potential pilots, partnerships and sales," per a Rice Alliance news release.

This cohort's executives-in-residence, or XiRs, include Tim Franklin-Hensler, John Jeffers, Ritu Sachdeva and Nick Tillmann. In addition to these innovators — who bring their expertise, mentorship, and strategic growth planning — the program is ed by the Rice Alliance’s Kerri Smith and Matt Peña.

Class 4 for the Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator includes:

  • 1s1 Energy, based in Portola Valley, California, develops electrolyzers with boron-based materials so that utilities and heavy industry can produce low-cost green hydrogen to decarbonize existing and future businesses.
  • Houston-based Capwell provides a cost-effective, modular, and easily transportable system that eliminates methane emissions from wells for state governments and oil and as companies.
  • CarboMat, from Calgary, Alberta, provides a clean technology that produces low-cost, sustainable, and mid-tier grade carbon fibers at a 60 percent reduced production cost and 50 percent reduced GHG emissions to composite manufacturers in industries that require large volumes of inexpensive carbon fibers for production of commodity grade products.
  • Cleveland, Ohio-headquartered Corrolytics offers cutting-edge technology that detects corrosion on-site and in near real-time, providing accurate insights into microbial corrosion and general corrosion.
  • Geolabe, from Los Almos, New Mexico, provides an automated methane monitoring system that helps organizations measure environmental performance and introduce and prioritize remedial actions.
  • Kaizen, which operates in Tomball just outside of Houston, provides hydrogen based microgrids that enable fleet electrification at sites that are grid constrained or off grid. The solutions emit no local emissions and reduce global emissions.
  • Los Angeles-based Mitico offers services and equipment to capture carbon dioxide with a patent-pending granulated metal carbonate sorption technology captures over 95 percent of the CO2 emitted from post-combustion point sources.
  • OceanBit, headquartered in Honolulu, provides ocean thermal energy technologies and power plants that delivers abundant, affordable, base load power to utilities and companies who need a firm, dispatchable, and 24/7 carbon-free source of electricity.
  • From Ontario, Canada, QEA Tech provides detailed building envelope energy audits using drones, thermography, and proprietary AI based software.
  • Houston-based Sensytec offers patented sensors, delivering real-time, accurate material performance data of concrete and advanced building materials.
  • Vroom Solar, based in Springfield, Missouri, provides Smart Solar Management technology that optimizes solar and optional AC power differently at a lower cost and smaller footprint for solar customers who need affordable, efficient, and user-friendly power anywhere.
  • VulcanX, from Vancouver, Canada, provides hydrogen and solid carbon to gas utilities, steel manufacturers and ammonia producers who require low-cost and low-emission hydrogen.

Since launching in 2021, the Clean Energy Accelerator has accelerated 43 ventures that have raised more than $166 million in funding. According to the program, these companies have piloted their technologies, connected with investors, created jobs, and many relocated to Houston.

The 2023 cohort included 15 clean energy companies.

Oxy enters new partnership to demonstrate, deploy promising lithium technology

teaming up

Houston-based Oxy has opted into a joint venture to deploy lithium technology from its subsidiary.

The JV is with BHE Renewables, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa. The partnership will demonstrate and deploy direct lithium extraction technology from TerraLithium, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Oxy.

TerraLithium's DLE technology extracts and commercially sustainably produces lithium compounds from geothermal brine. Lithium has been a vital part of batteries for electric vehicles, and energy grid storage, which both areas have seen continued demand. The battery lithium demand is expected to increase tenfold over 2020–2030 according to the International Renewable Energy Agency

“Creating a secure, reliable and domestic supply of high-purity lithium products to help meet growing global lithium demand is essential for the energy transition,” President and General Manager of TerraLithium Jeff Alvare says in a news release. “The partnership with BHE Renewables will enable the joint venture to accelerate the development of our Direct Lithium Extraction and associated technologies and advance them toward commercial lithium production.”

BHE Renewables currently operates 10 geothermal power plants in California’s Imperial Valley. The location processes 50,000 gallons of lithium-rich brine per minute to produce 345 megawatts of clean energy. The joint venture aims for an environmentally safe way to demonstrate the feasibility of using the TerraLithium DLE technology to produce lithium, which began at BHE Renewables’ Imperial Valley geothermal facility. The companies also plan to license the technology and develop commercial lithium production facilities to expand outside the Imperial Valley area.

“By leveraging Occidental’s expertise in managing and processing brine in our oil and gas and chemicals businesses, combined with BHE Renewables’ deep knowledge in geothermal operations, we are uniquely positioned to advance a more sustainable form of lithium production,” Richard Jackson, president of U.S. Onshore Resources and Carbon Management and Operations at Oxy adds. “We look forward to working with BHE Renewables to demonstrate how DLE technology can produce a critical mineral that society needs to further net zero goals.”

Poll: Many Texans, Americans still shy away from EV ownership despite recent pushes

by the numbers

Many Americans still aren’t sold on going electric for their next car purchase. High prices and a lack of easy-to-find charging stations are major sticking points, a new poll shows.

About 4 in 10 U.S. adults say they would be at least somewhat likely to buy an EV the next time they buy a car, according to the poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, while 46% say they are not too likely or not at all likely to purchase one.

The poll results, which echo an AP-NORC poll from last year, show that President Joe Biden’s election-year plan to dramatically raise EV sales is running into resistance from American drivers. Only 13% of U.S. adults say they or someone in their household owns or leases a gas-hybrid car, and just 9% own or lease an electric vehicle.

Texas, which was recently deemed one of the worst states for EV drivers, was reported in a Texas Trends survey to only have 5.1 percent of residents drive an electric-powered car, truck, or SUV.

Caleb Jud of Cincinnati said he’s considering an EV, but may end up with a plug-in hybrid — if he goes electric. While Cincinnati winters aren’t extremely cold, “the thought of getting stuck in the driveway with an EV that won’t run is worrisome, and I know it wouldn’t be an issue with a plug-in hybrid,″ he said. Freezing temperatures can slow chemical reactions in EV batteries, depleting power and reducing driving range.

A new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency requires that about 56% of all new vehicle sales be electric by 2032, along with at least 13% plug-in hybrids or other partially electric cars. Auto companies are investing billions in factories and battery technology in an effort to speed up the switch to EVs to cut pollution, fight climate change — and meet the deadline.

EVs are a key part of Biden’s climate agenda. Republicans led by presumptive nominee Donald Trump are turning it into a campaign issue.

Younger people are more open to eventually purchasing an EV than older adults. More than half of those under 45 say they are at least “somewhat” likely to consider an EV purchase. About 32% of those over 45 are somewhat likely to buy an EV, the poll shows.

But only 21% of U.S. adults say they are “very” or “extremely” likely to buy an EV for their next car, according to the poll, and 21% call it somewhat likely. Worries about cost are widespread, as are other practical concerns.

Range anxiety – the idea that EVs cannot go far enough on a single charge and may leave a driver stranded — continues to be a major reason why many Americans do not purchase electric vehicles.

About half of U.S. adults cite worries about range as a major reason not to buy an EV. About 4 in 10 say a major strike against EVs is that they take too long to charge or they don’t know of any public charging stations nearby.

Concern about range is leading some to consider gas-engine hybrids, which allow driving even when the battery runs out. Jud, a 33-year-old operations specialist and political independent, said a hybrid "is more than enough for my about-town shopping, dropping my son off at school'' and other uses.

With EV prices declining, cost would not be a factor, Jud said — a minority view among those polled. Nearly 6 in 10 adults cite cost as a major reason why they would not purchase an EV.

Price is a bigger concern among older adults.

The average price for a new EV was $52,314 in February, according to Kelley Blue Book. That's down by 12.8% from a year earlier, but still higher than the average price for all new vehicles of $47,244, the report said.

Jose Valdez of San Antonio owns three EVs, including a new Mustang Mach-E. With a tax credit and other incentives, the sleek new car cost about $49,000, Valdez said. He thinks it's well worth the money.

"People think they cost an arm and a leg, but once they experience (driving) an EV, they'll have a different mindset,'' said Valdez, a retired state maintenance worker.

The 45-year-old Republican said he does not believe in climate change. “I care more about saving green” dollars, he said, adding that he loves the EV's quiet ride and the fact he doesn't have to pay for gas or maintenance. EVs have fewer parts than gas-powered cars and generally cost less to maintain. Valdez installed his home charger himself for less than $700 and uses it for all three family cars, the Mustang and two older Ford hybrids.

With a recently purchased converter, he can also charge at a nearby Tesla supercharger station, Valdez said.

About half of those who say they live in rural areas cite lack of charging infrastructure as a major factor in not buying an EV, compared with 4 in 10 of those living in urban communities.

Daphne Boyd, of Ocala, Florida, has no interest in owning an EV. There are few public chargers near her rural home “and EVs don’t make any environmental sense,″ she said, citing precious metals that must be mined to make batteries, including in some countries that rely on child labor or other unsafe conditions. She also worries that heavy EV batteries increase wear-and-tear on tires and make the cars less efficient. Experts say extra battery weight can wear on tires but say proper maintenance and careful driving can extend tire life.

Boyd, a 54-year-old Republican and self-described farm wife, said EVs may eventually make economic and environmental sense, but “they’re not where they need to be” to convince her to buy one now or in the immediate future.

Ruth Mitchell, a novelist from Eureka Springs, Arkansas, loves her 2017 Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid that can go about 50 miles on battery power before the gas engine takes over. “It’s wonderful — quiet, great pickup, cheap to drive. I rave about it on Facebook,″ she said.

Mitchell, a 70-year-old Democrat, charges her car at home but says there are several public chargers near her house if needed. She’s not looking for a new car, Mitchell said, but when she does it will be electric: “I won't drive anything else.''

___

The AP-NORC poll of 6,265 adults was conducted March 26 to April 10, 2024 using a combined sample of interviews from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population, and interviews from opt-in online panels. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 1.7 percentage points. The AmeriSpeak panel is recruited randomly using address-based sampling methods, and respondents later were interviewed online or by phone.