SixLab Discovers the Next Great Plateau for Entrepreneurs
Introducing the window into the future of energy exploration.
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Welcome to our weekly Q&A session with members of our Studio X team. Today, we have the fearless leaders of SixLab, Jeeyoo Song and Elijah Kim. (5–10 min read)
Can you start by giving a few sentences on what SixLab is and how it came to life?
I like to say it’s kind of a living organism that’s constantly changing and evolving. In the spirit of startups, we’re continuously iterating and improving SixLab. But in my opinion, it is a platform that is empowering upstream exploration startups with industry-leading talent, resources and data from Shell to help them be successful. And by being successful, we mean fundamentally disrupting upstream exploration in the oil and gas industry as a whole. There has been a growing number of upstream exploration startups in the recent years but only a few of them are receiving the support they need to innovate and grow. SixLab is formed to fill this void and become the place that provides tailored support for exploration startups to bring innovative new technologies to life.
Do you mind talking a little bit about what kind of companies and entrepreneurs you are looking for and how you started to grow this community?
So we’re looking for entrepreneurs who really want to bring new ways of working and create disruption, good disruption, in the exploration space with digital technologies. They don’t have to be from the exploration space as long as they have new ideas that are relevant and have potential to create a big impact in exploration. When we started out looking for great startups in this space, it was actually pretty difficult to find them at first because they’re not really that visible or too active in the general technology scene. And then we started to plug ourselves a little bit deeper into the exploration and geoscience communities and that’s how we learned a little bit more about entrepreneurs and startups who are working on cool ideas that can really turn exploration upside down. After that, it just kind of became a chain effect of one person connecting us with another great person and eventually grew into a community together.
The community that we are building feels like a very unique place that doesn’t exist anywhere else. This is the only place dedicated to entrepreneurs who are passionate about bringing new technologies into the oil and gas exploration industry.
And they’re really challenging the status quo and always pushing each other on shaping the future of exploration.
I know you’ve started a Slack channel where a lot of these entrepreneurs are connecting, can you touch on this?
When we started out our Slack community, we only had three people, basically the three of us talking to each other. But now, we have close to 100 people who are actively working with each other and it is so great to see people share opinions across multiple companies. We’ve had active discussions on the future of exploration tech marketplace, bounced off ideas on what other industries might have relevant technologies, and shared feedback on each other’s demos and product launches. And what’s funny about our founders and entrepreneurs is that they all are very adventurous people so they love venturing out into nature, go hiking and biking, and then discovering new places. So some fun things started to happen in our community.
The founder of Geolumina, David, was actually talking to another founder, Evan of Oseberg, because they both share the same hobby of mountain biking. We later found out that David saw some potential synergies in working with Evan’s team in the future, when he got to learn more about what they were building. So it was really amazing to see them connect on something totally different from their work and also help each other in expanding the vision of their companies. Similar to this, we are starting to see a lot more of sharing common interests, industry information, and really helping each other out with different types of expertise. The crowd that we have are super engaged and they always want to pitch in their idea to create something unique. Even with what we are building at Studio X, we’re already starting to see them feeding advice and insight into Xeek and XCover and sharing knowledge.
We have this beautiful space in Austin, that hopefully we will be settling into soon but for now, we are mostly working remotely. Can you just talk a little bit about adjusting to the new norm of working virtually and still activating this community in a tremendous way?
First and foremost, the most important thing is the health and safety of our team and our partners, including the extensions of them, meaning our immediate family, and our neighbors. So we’re quickly adjusting to this new norm of connecting virtually to make sure everyone can stay safe. Instead of hallway conversations, we are using Slack and we are replacing in-person meetings with video conferencing over Zoom. Celebrating small and big wins on Slack and sharing photos and stories of our lives have helped us feel like we are still together and connected. With Zoom meetings, we are making an extra effort to make them more interactive and engaging with virtual polling and white boarding tools. Dealing with the connection issues and delays can certainly be frustrating, but we’re getting used to it. We’re getting used to the: hey, don’t forget to unmute or hey, can you please mute. It’s the new norm that is slowly but surely becoming normal.
Definitely look forward to being back in our physical space, opening it up to the community, but in lieu of that we’re doing our best to make sure that we have the best virtual community and resources for our startups and entrepreneurs.
Can you just tell me your favorite part about working at SixLab?
It’s actually, it kind of sounds cheesy, but I really love working with our startups, because they are a huge inspiration to me. All of them are passionate about their vision and they really feel that they need to make a change to solve real problems. Their drive really moves me and makes me want to try extra hard to give them more opportunities to shine. So being able to just help them get closer to that vision, a little bit closer, is what really makes this experience special. A lot of our founders are great at their own areas of expertise, like geoscience and data science, working on crazy analysis that I can never imagine myself doing. But there are some areas that they also need some help on like how to prepare a pitch presentation, market and brand themselves, how best to actually approach customers. So being able to help them through those areas and make the connections with our mentors to fill up those gaps have been the most rewarding experience so far.
Let’s switch gears to talk about what happens behind the scene. Can you walk us through a little bit of a day in the life of the SixLab team?
So pre-covid was a pretty standard venture operation including, meetings when we were physically together in the office, doing a daily stand up and scrum, etc. which we do today except they are exclusively done over Zoom. We typically just have our sprint plan that we punch against but again, our main goal is to bring in promising startups and accelerate them towards a pilot with Shell. And in order to do that, we have to define our target, find them, bring them into SixLab, and then work with them to develop pilot opportunities. To get started, we need to know what the gaps and opportunities are in this industry by working closely with our advisors and mentors. Understanding underlying needs and defining the right target startup is the beginning.
After we have the target, we have to go find them. So we’ve been using digital marketing tools to do that with LinkedIn being our primary channel. We pretty much live on LinkedIn. It’s a tab that just stays open all day, and we’re working with our head of growth to design LinkedIn marketing campaigns and display ads to raise awareness on what SixLab is. We’ve been very fortunate to create positive viral effect using LinkedIn which ultimately led to finding some great startups. After that, we spend a lot of time and effort to really understand the startups and have open discussions with the founders, our Advisors-in-Residence, and experts to make sure that there’s a strong fit for us to nurture them and work together on a pilot opportunity at Shell. We really think that the key to our success will come from this collaboration so this is a critical part of our day to day. From these discussions, we can get a good sense of what we need to do for the mentoring events, customer outreaches, leadership alignment, etc. and they get fed into our sprint plans.
In one sentence, what is it like to work at Studio X as a whole? And if you want to throw a little fun fact about yourself, we’d love to know a little bit about you.
(Elijah) Well, it’s a dream come true. I mean, I couldn’t be working with a more capable, competent, sharp team that is balanced with humility. Everybody is so accomplished and has done so much, they’re super smart and sharp, but they’re also just so humble. I’m very thankful to be part of this team.
Fun fact about me. Okay. So I recently got into gardening, I’m not very good at it. But it’s also a workout. And then the other thing that I’m really excited about is the Oculus Quest I just got. I’m pretty excited about the potential because I think it actually is applicable to our industry and that you could literally have a screen the size of a football field.
(Jeeyoo) Working at Studio X kind of makes me feel like I’m walking through a really great amusement park. Every time I turn a corner to talk to a different team, there is something new and exciting happening, like growth is launching some brand new campaigns, design is coming up with some beautiful websites and assets, etc. They just whip them up in a couple of days. So it’s always amazing to see what they can pull through and I’m very happy to be part of this team full of wonders.
Fun fact about me. I’m actually a bass player. So now that I’m sitting at home all the time, I am trying to actually play it more than when I used to commute. My only worry was bothering my neighbors, but they’re blasting music during the day anyway so I think I can start too.