The biggest difference-maker between whether a startup grows, stagnates, or folds its tent comes down to how successful that company is at signing up and retaining paying customers.

There are two reasons for a customer to do business with a startup — either the startup’s product or service helps customers capture market share and revenue, or the startup helps reduce costs.

Well Checked, a Tulsa-based company that specializes in event-driven, remote well-site video monitoring and reporting for the oil industry, excels at both.

Here in Oklahoma, we all know that the oil industry is cyclical. When times are good, they’re really good. When oil prices drop, like now, everything tightens up.

It becomes critical for oil companies to contain costs. They don’t make investments in new equipment; they don’t drill new wells. Because so many costs are fixed, well owners and operators are under incredible pressure to reduce unpredictable costs — spills, ruptures, theft, vandalism and accidents from noncompliance.

That’s where Well Checked shines and that’s how the company delivers hard dollar benefits that are cost-justified whether oil is at $50 a barrel or two times that. Even as the price of oil has dropped, interest in Well Checked systems has continued to grow.

“We’ve been able to help our customers lower their lease-operating expenses by preventing losses before they happen,” said Mike Haines, Well Checked co-founder and CEO. “We monitor the state of alerts, and tie that to video. With our thermal cameras, we can physically see a leak from a well head or tubing. We recently prevented a spill because our infrared sensors picked up vapor from an injection pump.”

Another Well Checked strong suit is theft prevention. As an example, one customer, plagued by theft of copper and oil, has had zero incidence of theft since Well Checked was installed. Not only do most potential thieves avoid Well Checked-monitored sites, Well Checked cameras have captured photos of robbers that are good enough for detectives to use.

Haines sees Well Checked’s technology progressing in a direction that will allow well owners and operators to prevent even more failures and unpredictable events. Well Checked calls it predictive-based monitoring — the idea is to identify conditions that can lead to a future failure and take corrective action before a well has to be shut down.

Every business is susceptible to the ups and downs of the markets and industries it serves. It’s especially challenging for startups to ride the waves.

It’s doubly important for young companies to create solutions that offer their customers real payback in good times or bad — and to be able to demonstrate, as Well Checked has,  through real customer experience, that the payback is achievable.

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at


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