12 Aug TeamWise: Induo
Meet Induo—a team of MBA students and undergraduates from Rice University and the University of Houston that will provide targeted, on-demand training for client-facing professionals in the oil and gas industry. They are addressing the need to connect sales knowledge and technical knowledge within the industry. For example, an account manager that is selling into Oil & Gas and is preparing for a new client meeting is forced to go online and look through publications for information that is often outdated or unvetted. At no point are they taught exactly how to apply this information.
Induo will initially offer short courses that focus on content that can be immediately applied to a sales positions in Oil & Gas, but plan to move into different aspects of the industry as they develop their product. They provide training that informs salespeople who key decision-makers are, what they care about, and how their products can fit into their clients’ operations. With their product, Induo will reduce the time needed to prepare for client meetings, help them understand their clients’ needs better, and thus improve sales performance.
Consisting of Rice MBA’s Jeff Ye, Jen Sun, and Ned Lash, along with undergraduate developers Will Koh from Rice and Shriva Bhatnagar from UH, Induo is aiming to solve a problem that hits close to home. As an account manager for Rockwell Automation, Jeff personally experienced these pain points.
The first couple years were relatively difficult because you are going into a completely new industry, and oil and gas is known to be a beast of an industry. So there is a lot of inside information, things you need to understand in order to understand other things, so it was very difficult to transition into that phase where you start becoming comfortable having valuable conversations with your customer.
Originally, the team planned to solve a different pain point for business school students by creating audio reviews of business case studies. Jeff teamed up with Jen, who ran a profitable business after graduating from Rice as an undergraduate, and Ned, who studied at West Point before serving as Captain in the Army for two tours in the Middle East. After beginning to flesh out their idea in Al Danto’s New Enterprise class at the Jones School, they joined the OwlSpark accelerator and recruited both Will and Shriya through the Computer Science Departments of Rice and UH, respectively.
However, after researching their idea further, they discovered a number of barriers to entry to address this problem. Looking to pivot, the team was caught in a directional limbo for a handful of weeks. As they continued to hit brick wall after brick wall, the idea of helping salespeople in the oil and gas industry to understand the technical points of the field came to Jeff in a brainstorming session. After the pivot, they were able to validate their hypothesis that this was indeed a significant problem by further customer interviews. From there, they found opportunity.
Building out their business model came as a challenge, but the team used their business acumen to overcome the challenge once again. They’ve been met by several other challenges—the team has had to play catch-up all summer dealing with mentors critiquing their every step and keeping up with the requirements of the program as they try to build out their business.
Despite these challenges, one thing that was clear for everyone from the beginning was how much they enjoyed being the captains of their own ship and developing their own idea. With both Jeff and Ned coming from large organizations, being part of an agile and nimble team has been a refreshing change of pace. The rest of the team also found having power and control over their own project incredibly rewarding. Throughout the summer, the team has also built relationships with industry experts to start developing their content, and to carry-out extensive customer validation.
When they’re not grinding in TMCx developing their business, the Induo founders have been known to throw some of hottest pool parties in town. With Popeyes and Shiner Bock, how could you possibly have a bad time?