Executive joins N.D. firmA California entrepreneur who was promoting the oil and gas industry found Silicon Valley too green for his taste. So he packed up his expertise and headed for the land of fossil fuels.
By: By Dave Kolpack, The Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — A California entrepreneur who was promoting the oil and gas industry found Silicon Valley too green for his taste. So he packed up his expertise and headed for the land of fossil fuels.
Ian McPherson, a former industry analyst who founded two Silicon Valley companies, is handling sales and marketing operations for Pedigree Technologies, a software company hatched in the basement of a Fargo home. Over the summer, the company increased its work force from 21 to 32 and moved into a new 4,000 square foot building.
McPherson likes what he sees in a state that recently moved into fourth place in domestic oil production.
“The energy world in the Silicon Valley right now looks very green. Everybody is looking for the next magic bullet to solve the energy crisis,” McPherson said from the company’s Fargo headquarters. “I thought there was a better opportunity to make an impact in our energy world right here, at Pedigree, than most of those other places.”
Pedigree’s software allows such users as fuel distributors to remotely track and monitor information in real time on the Internet. CEO Alex Warner, 35, who founded the company five years ago in the basement of his house, compares the technology to Facebook with equipment and machines.
“The tanks are almost acting as dispatchers,” Warner said. “The tank can say, ‘I’m at a low level. I need to notify someone that someone needs to keep me filled. Send a message to the nearest trucking area because I have GPS coordinates, and you can tell the driver he needs to come here next.”‘
While Pedigree does business around the country, Warner said it doesn’t hurt to have one of America’s biggest oil reserves in his back yard. North Dakota produced a record 62.8 million barrels of oil last year, thanks in part to improved horizontal drilling technology that allowed exploration of new pockets in the Bakken shale and Three Forks-Sanish formations.
While Pedigree has nothing directly to do with getting to the oil, its programs help those companies remotely manage and maintain their equipment, tanks and pipelines.
“Pedigree says, ‘In order to do your job, you should have access and immediate real time data from these systems, and we are going to give this to you in a single interface,”‘ McPherson said. “You only need one place to go for this.”
McPherson, 42, founded Apprion, which provides wireless networking for industrial plants, and Wireless Data Research Group, a consulting firm for electronics, computing and communications. That background led him to the lecture circuit and several meetings with Warner, who “was always the best student in the room,” McPherson said.
McPherson eventually decided his next job should be in North Dakota.
“There are so many people with just barely different technologies and approaches chasing the same problem,” McPherson said. “Here we have a unique solution and we’re taking it to a marketplace where that impact is immediate. We’re able to show value in a matter of days, where new solar cells take years to develop ... and it’s a huge capital investment.”
Liquids derived from petroleum account for almost all transportation fuels, and renewables account for 7 percent of all energy consumption in the U.S., said John Harju, associate director for research at the University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center.
“Despite all of the attention that is paid to wind, solar and the other renewables, they really don’t have a significant stake in our energy paradigm,” Harju said.
One of Pedigree’s customers, Farstad Oil Inc., based in Minot, N.D., delivers petroleum products to North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Wyoming, Iowa, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Company transportation manager Eric Lawson said the Pedigree software has eliminated the need for most last-minute product deliveries, which are costly because vehicles have to make special trips outside planned routes.
“We worked with them from the ground up when they built the system, so I guess it was tailored to what we needed to do within our industry,” Lawson said.
Pedigree also is working with the Department of Defense after winning an $8.4 million contract in 2007 with the U.S. Navy to use its technology for surveillance and UAV applications.
The company added 11 employees over the summer, including three executive and marketing positions, five sales executives, and three software developers. The Pedigree executives would not release sales figures, but said they doubled revenues in 2009 and are expecting the same in 2010.