Fund IV | Invested: 2003 | Exited: 2010 (large private equity firm)
We identified a serial entrepreneur in Peter Duncan, CEO of MicroSeismic. The company was Peter’s third startup, and we knew he could pull off something extraordinary.
Peter was sold on passive seismic, or using naturally occurring events like earthquakes to visualize the subsurface. Two theories existed at that time. The first was that passive seismic was just another seismic tool, and the other was using passive seismic for frac monitoring. We bet on the second. The shales were just getting started, and Altira and Peter foresaw which market would win.
Altira validated the opportunity with MicroSeismic though rigorous due diligence, applying our technical prowess to evaluate the use case in the oil and gas industry. Leading the Series A investment, Altira brought on co-investors who could add value, including a large oil and gas strategic venture group. Subsequently, Peter quickly gained data and then, shortly thereafter, customers.
Peter holds a PhD in geophysics and is an astute businessman, but his focus has always been on making the technology superior. MicroSeismic focused on analytics and processing, developing innovative seismic acquisition techniques for “reuse” in frac monitoring by its customers, now engineers versus geophysicists.
In 2010, we brought in another respected venture capital firm and invested in another round. The shale industry had erupted, and MicroSeismic received a $200 million valuation. Peter had grown a Series A $2.5 million pre-money to a Series B of $10 million. After the majority recapitalization MicroSeismic kept growing, generating $100 million in revenue prior to the 2014 downturn.
At every stage, Altira served as a strategic advisor — from introducing MicroSeismic to new customers, to recruiting the talent it takes to grow and protect a business. We also helped exact the strategy, advising moving to buried arrays, or building out arrays for whole land masses versus for just one well.
Throughout the venture, we were the “go-to” for financial acumen and tax expertise. We provided guidance on legal issues including intellectual property, patents, and even lawsuits. Peter Duncan was awarded as Ernst & Young’s U.S. Entrepreneur of the Year for his impressive efforts leading the company through growth and change.
MicroSeismic completely changed the landscape, and today the company is still the leading provider of surface-based microseismic acquisition in the world.
Funds III and IV | Invested: 2001 | Exited: 2010 (IPO: NASDAQ:RNET)
Altira was the first institutional investor in RigNet. From the start we instinctively knew the story was about the model. In this case, something just clicked.
An enterprising Norwegian team built and sold an offshore communications system in the North Sea. They were looking to bring their approach to the U.S. and secured a contract with Ensco. Previously, companies would bring their own communications systems, their own antennas, offshore. RigNet saw an opportunity — have one antenna and provide a service via satellite.
We were intrigued. These entrepreneurs had taken a capital-oriented model and turned it into a service company model that could be applied anywhere in the world. The oil and gas industry is remote, mobile, and variable. Deploying technology effectively and delivering reliable communications systems are critical.
Altira made an investment at a $4 million pre-money valuation. As RigNet continued its upward trajectory, we brought in another round of investors, both domestic and foreign, in a Series B. The company was maturing and began making strategic acquisitions, including a land-based communications business. RigNet had raised upwards of $50 million.
In 2006, RigNet’s investors had brought in Mark Slaughter, a highly respected oil and gas professional, to run the company. Mark carefully directed the company through many challenges, including management, capital, and FCPA issues. Altira served as Mark’s trusted advisor, leading every charge from identifying capital to recruiting a seasoned management team.
Altira and our partners took RigNet public on the NASDAQ exchange in 2012, raising nearly $70 million in capital. We progressively sold our shares over time, generating the highest return of any of the institutional investors. We worked with RigNet for over 12 years, investing in every round the company raised, because we knew the market would reward the technology, the people, and the unique business model.
Altira saw RigNet’s value grow from $4 million to $1 billion on the public markets. The company has grown to more than 300 global offshore rigs.