RigUp, co-founded by Mike Witte '14, provides a seamless marketplace that connects service providers and job seekers in the oil and gas industry. We asked Mike to share more about RigUp’s vision and how his company is helping to increase employment and eliminate the wasteful underutilization of the traditional energy workforce.
Tell us more about RigUp and the problem it solves.
Since 2014, 80,000 people have left the oil and gas industry, creating a massive void in the talent pool. While qualified labor and service providers are on the decline, this has not stopped a continued growth in fragmentation of staffing and consulting entities. The culmination of these issues has led to wide-scale legal ramifications that are only getting worse. Employment lawsuits are up 2x in the last decade, and with the rise in a gig economy, there are estimates the energy industry will be paying out billions of dollars in misclassification claims over the next few years.
We empower the men and women of oil and gas; these are the independent contractors, and small business owners that are most affected by the difficulties of doing work in this industry. We aim to get them more work, get them paid more, and get them paid faster. Because of the service we provide at the field level, these individuals have given back to RigUp by spreading the network, and helping us break down industry norms.
What are the challenges of being a technology startup in the oil and gas industry?
People like to speak to “resistance to change” in oil and gas. However, I don’t believe that is the case. I believe the industry has grown receptive to change, and RigUp will continue to be a leader of that movement. The biggest challenges in oil and gas are keeping up with a changing commodity environment that constantly moves the pain points for buyers and sellers. One day everything is being driven to cut costs, and the next it is all about scaling operations faster. You must create solutions that provide a better way to work across a changing landscape, that can provide value in all scenarios.
How does RigUp use technology to save contractors $30K per year and companies 20-50 percent on labor?
Unlike brick and mortar staffing and consulting firms, RigUp leverages technology to grow and manage its growing network of more than 22,000 service providers and independent contractors across North America. With our software platform, we can run the RigUp network 50 percent more cost effectively than competitors, and a lot safer than the current environment.
How have you kept RigUp’s company culture as the team has grown?
We have tried to be as transparent as possible to all our employees. My co-founder and RigUp’s CEO, Xuan Yong, has done a phenomenal job at setting up systems and processes to gather feedback and provide information back to employees. He takes this very seriously. We try to provide the same level of transparency at 70 employees that we did with seven.
What would you have done differently in launching and growing RigUp? What is your advice for budding entrepreneurs?
It is hard to narrow the learnings of the last three and a half years into a single piece of advice. While we did a good job iterating quickly early on to find the right go-to market value proposition, we did not do a good job of staying focused. Like other industries, there are opportunities for improvement everywhere in oil and gas, which makes it easy to get lost in trying to solve all the industry’s problems. Early on, find your niche, and stay focused and disciplined on growing in that space.
How did your experience at Columbia Business School shape your path and help you launch RigUp?
Columbia Business School taught me to think about the world differently. It gave me a level of confidence and broader understanding of the world in general. I came to Columbia thinking there were a few doors that could lead to success, but I came out believing that I could achieve anything.