Stuart Kinnear, CEO of Interface Fluidics
1. What does Interface Fluidics do?
Interface Fluidics is a nanotechnology company that works with the oil and gas industry to de-risk new production technology 100X faster and 10X cheaper than any other method on the market today.
At Interface, our microfluidic Reservoir-On-A-Chip technology provides the same data as traditional methods, with a fraction of the time and dollar commitment. What once cost $150,000 and 3 months of time, we can do for less than $10,000 in a single day.
2. What inspired you to start this? What problem are you solving?
The technology was invented by Tom and Dave as part of Tom's Masters work at the University of Toronto. We started the company because Tom was working at Suncor Energy evaluating new technologies for their reservoirs, and they were holding up a $100MM project up on results from David Sinton's lab at the U of T. We are able to deliver results that are confidential, faster, and without any of the conditions that come with working with universities.
We are excited by the potential for this technology to change the way that the oil and gas industry things about innovation and technology development. Today in Alberta, it takes 7 years on average to move a technology from concept to commercialization. We are able to reduce that time span by 2 or more years. This can result in increased revenues for our producer partners by billions of dollars over that two years.
3. How did you determine who your audience might be for this product?
Tom spent almost 3 years working at Suncor Energy in the new technology group, working to vet and prove new technologies for their Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage production facilities.
Since we started the company, we have had the opportunity to travel all over the world, and we have kept an open ear to as many opportunities as possible, and talking to as many potential customers as possible. That has allowed us to refine who exactly we can bring the highest value to.
4. What are your greatest achievements so far?
One of our biggest accomplishments so far was taking third place at the Energy New Ventures competition two days after Tom and I quit our jobs to work on this company full time. That competition gave us the publicity and access to amazing mentors through Kinetica Ventures that have helped us since that day.
The other accomplishment that I am proud of is building a company that can employ eight people within two years after incorporating.
Lastly, we have built relationships with amazing customers that are taking a risk, and moving the industry along with us.
5. What are your future goals for your company?
We want to democratize access to the information that we are able to provide. When Interface is the first stop for the industry when drilling a new well, it will look like a very different industry.
We also want to look outside of oil and gas.
6. How has Startup Calgary helped you?
Startup Calgary was the first organization that Tom or I talked publicly to about Interface. At that first Launch Party pitch coaching event in October of 2016, we realized that we could do it and that there was a support network out there for people like us, looking to try and build something amazing using technology.
7. How can companies make the most of their experience with Startup Calgary and Launch Party?
Ask lots of questions and take the feedback that you get seriously. Launch Party taught us just how important communication is when you are starting a business. The mentors involved helped us massively.
8. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to take their idea from the back of a napkin to the marketplace?
Don’t try to protect your idea. There are an infinite number of great ideas but very few people who actually do anything with those ideas. The only way that you can start is by telling everyone about what you want to do and getting feedback.
9. Who do you look up to in the Calgary startup community? Which companies are doing cool things?
Jim Gibson is an amazing advocate for the community, and is trying to make it as easy as possible to get out there.
David Edmonds, and the A100 are experienced, welcoming, helpful people that want to see everyone succeed.
Patrick Lor took the time to give Interface great feedback for how to think about our company, and genuinely took the time to learn about us in a way that most haven’t.
Pieter Boekhoff and Thomas Battle at Nobal Technologies are building a global company right out of downtown Calgary.
Koleya Karrington at Absolute Combustion is doing amazing work with their new clean combustion burner.
Mitch Carlson at Intelligent Wellhead Solutions has built a product that is making some of the most dangerous jobs in the oil and gas industry safer for the people operating the system, and the environment.
10. If you could do one thing differently while building your startup, what would you have done?
Think big. We didn’t give ourselves permission early on to think really big about what the team and the technology could do. That held us back from raising money, targeting big clients, and doing even more than we could have. The oil industry is massive and we were only really targeting what we knew. By educating ourselves on the challenges that the majority of the industry had, instead of what Alberta had, we were holding ourselves back for no reason.
11. If you could tell the rest of the world something about Calgary, what would it be?
I love Calgary (and by extension Alberta) for the energy that we have here. It isn’t the biggest, it isn’t the fastest moving, but the city is an abundant source for positivity. I can’t imagine starting our company anywhere but Alberta. People are friendly, give each other the time of day, and looking for an excuse to help each other out.
12. What was the biggest surprise you encountered building your startup? Could be obstacles or happy accidents. If so, what did you learn from these?
I was surprised by the community. I didn’t know it existed, and by networking within the community, we have been able to leverage the help of so many smart people, and made great friendships along the way.
The power of networking is real and is valuable. Until I started Interface, I never really appreciated it, and now I value the people in my network as much as any other asset at the company.
14. If you had to tweet another start-up advice (140 characters or less) what would it be?
Find out how you can help someone else first.