“The lady that ran the courthouse was named ‘Peaches’.” – Allen Gilmer
“We focused on Texas only, and we covered things we could get from the Railroad Commission. So, that was production data back to 1970. Then there were permits and completions. Permits, we collected daily, because we were located there in Austin, so we could just go up there and get permits every day. We also collected completions daily, but that wasn’t as important because of the lag times involved.”
“Then the other element was leasing activity. That was something no one had ever tried to do before. That involved us literally going and driving to courthouses all over the state, looking up the indexes and seeing what people had done since we had last been there. We would locate the leases to the abstract level, but we weren’t at that point trying to map them.”
Allen Gilmer, the co-founder, former CEO and current Executive Chairman of Enverus, is talking about the company’s original suite of data offerings when it started operations 20 years ago, under the name of Drillinginfo. Those who have become familiar with the oil and gas industry in recent years probably won’t realize it, but what Gilmer is detailing in those two paragraphs represented a transformational, game-changing event for independent producers in 1999, and later for the biggest companies in the business.
I had personally been in the industry since 1979 and first ran into Allen at a trade association (TIPRO) conference in Fort Worth in 2000, where he was giving a presentation about his new company. Having been involved in the collection and analysis of the very data elements described above, and knowing how cumbersome and labor-intensive it was for any company to obtain them, I understood then that Gilmer and his partners had a product that would provide tremendous benefit to any company.
Prior to DrillingInfo’s founding, the permitting, completions and production data Gilmer refers to could be obtained on request, either by fax, postal mail, e-mail (which was only then coming into common use) or by sending an employee to Austin to collect it in person at the headquarters of the Texas Railroad Commission. But the Commission’s records had yet to be digitized, so the hard copies you could obtain would then have to be taken back to your home offices, where the data contained in them would have to be manually entered into your computer databases. Drillinginfo put them on a map, on the internet, at a time where a page wasn’t bigger than 40 kb, and access was slow and over a telephone modem.
As Gilmer pointed out, obtaining the leasing data was even harder, because that information was filed by the lessors at the county courthouses of Texas, and Texas is home to 254 counties, more than any state in the nation. Plus, Texas is a big place — 832 miles from Port Arthur to El Paso, 861 miles from Dalhart to Brownsville — so big that many companies employed landmen who were on the road as much as 90% of the time.
Which is why, as Gilmer explained to us when we interviewed him in early October, most companies doing business in Texas found themselves to be range-bound.
“When we started this business,” he said, “if you were an independent oil and gas company, unless you were one of the largest like a Samson or a TXO or somebody like that, you worked an area. You worked the panhandle of Texas; you worked West Texas; you worked Railroad Commission District 3 or 4. You worked just a small area because that’s what you knew. You didn’t really know all the pieces in all the other places. As a result, you didn’t really have an understanding whether you were or weren’t spending your most precious commodity, which is your time, in the best places to make money in the business.”
Gilmer credits his background in the seismic business, more on that later, as the experience that helped germinate the idea in his mind. “At some point when I was doing the seismic stuff, it hit me like a hammer,” he said, “because we’d have to figure out where we were going to need seismic crews, what projects we were going to undertake, what were the well economics, all over the U.S., and all this other stuff. And all of these things just weren’t easily available.”
It was shortly after that that he got together with his partners — Mark Nibbleink, Bill Fowler and Martin Payne — to begin the work of forming Drillinginfo. “Mark had the original idea, putting drilling permits on a map. From that seed, we took off. We were all independent oil and gas guys, and looked at what it is that we needed to know before we could go out there and make a decision whether or not to go forward on a project,” he said. “At the time we were doing this, small companies wouldn’t even look at a project outside of the geographical area they worked in.
“So, our goal was to figure out how we reduce the size of that first step down to the point where you’d even look at a deal. And that was what we first went to market with.”
Gilmer laughed when he talked about the company’s initial marketing strategy. “Between us all, we knew a couple thousand people. So, we called them all up and told them what we were doing, and they all loved it. And if they didn’t love it, well, now they had to have it because everybody else was going to know what they were doing.”
Rather than trying to hit 254 county courthouses every month, Drillinginfo’s initial strategy on collecting lease filing data was to focus on the counties in which there were filings for new drilling permits. That was because, as Gilmer pointed out, “leasing activity generally pre-sages permit filings.”
He and his partners would also try to collect as much information as they could over the phone, but many county courthouses weren’t overly cooperative to that approach, especially when their halls were often filled with company landmen waiting to get access to their files. Gilmer told a funny story about one courthouse employee who was positively aggressive about it all.
“I remember there was one county seat in East Texas, the lady that ran the courthouse was named ‘Peaches’,” he said, smiling. “And Peaches once locked our guy in the courthouse basement overnight. Frankly, there are all sorts of fun stories about driving around the state of Texas.”
“Exxon called us up one day – we thought it was a practical joke.”
Because Gilmer and his partners were all independent producers themselves, their original vision was to create a service company that would fill the needs of companies like their own, and those producers became the initial target market. After all, the big companies had whole departments full of people whose jobs it was to collect, collate and digitize all of this information and make it usable for the rest of their employees and management.
But it didn’t take long before larger companies came calling. “Our first bigger client was Dominion Oil and Gas,” Gilmer remembered. “Ron Gonzalves, the VP of Exploration there was the first guy to write a bigger check for a bigger company — this was just a couple of years after we got started.
“I remember asking him, Mr. Gonzalves, you probably have all this data elsewhere in your databases, and you spend millions of dollars to collect all this stuff in-house every year. Why did you decide to take this subscription? He said, ‘If I have a question I need answered, I can go into your product and get it answered in 2 minutes. Otherwise, I’m going to have to set up projects to take a technical professional to go do this, and I might get an answer in a day.’”
For Drillinginfo, signing a deal with Dominion was like catching your first 25-pound redfish. It was an event that led the company into a new, bigger target market. And it wasn’t long before the company got a nibble from the legendary “big one.”
“Exxon called us up one day — we thought it was a practical joke, to be honest,” Gilmer says with a laugh. “But they called us up and asked us to come to Houston to demo our product at one of their buildings there at the time. That’s like being a guy in high school in 1976 and having Farah Fawcett call you.
“So, we were like, yeah, sure, who is this really?” he laughed again. “But it truly was Exxon, and what had happened was a case where they owned the minerals that were immediately offset to the biggest gas well drilled in the United States at the time. That was down in Brooks County. Exxon owned the minerals in the lease next door to it, but they didn’t have any active exploration in the area, and there was no real way of bringing it to your attention before the other operator had drilled that well if you weren’t specifically looking for it.
“And Exxon calculated that they had lost about a quarter of a billion dollars through drainage before they figured out that someone had drilled next to their fee. So, that was what they were trying to address, and we were the system that allowed them to address it. That was our first real breakthrough.”
Looking back on it all from his perspective 20 years later, Gilmer said he still finds great value in periodically reviewing the company’s original business plan. “I open up the old, original business plan for the company and read it again every year, because we still have not achieved all of the things we thought we could accomplish. We’ve achieved some things far beyond what I’d imagined we could do, but there are still certain things that we have not.”
Given the way the company has evolved into offering one of the most robust and diverse portfolios of services in the business, that’s hard to imagine.
“I am here right now because of a light-green Camaro Berlinetta.”
Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s in a middle-class family in El Paso, it would have been hard for a young Gilmer to ever imagine he would end up becoming the CEO and Chairman of such a large and successful company.
“El Paso has always been this interesting place that is out of place and time. It’s closer to two or three other state capitals than it is to Austin. So, it’s really an island,” Gilmer began, as he reflected on those younger years.
“This has always been an interesting city,” he continued. “The people who came here came to chase the American dream. It’s a true multi-cultural city where everyone gets along. What everyone has in common is a sense of tradition and family, and they were what I’d consider to be a true example of a multicultural ‘Ozzie and Harriett’ world, and that’s the world I was lucky enough to grow up in.”
Like so many mothers during those years, Gilmer’s mother was a home-maker. His father was a civil engineer who had attended The University of Texas in Austin for a year after serving in World War II, and then transferred back to his home town of El Paso to finish up at the former Texas College of Mines, which had just been re-named Texas Western College. In 1967, Texas Western became part of The University of Texas System, and was renamed The University of Texas at El Paso, or UTEP.
As fortune would have it, Gilmer’s father, after earning his civil engineering degree, got a job in the oil business. “He went to work for El Paso Natural Gas, which was a great employer here in El Paso for many years,” Gilmer said. “He worked as a pipeliner. His first job was to go out to build the Caprock compression station between Tatum and Roswell, NM.
“Dad would tell us, ‘Lord, I didn’t know what I was doing when they sent me out there. Thank God there was a guy that had 30 years experience and no college degree there to help save my butt. Without him, I don’t know what I’d ‘a done.’,” Gilmer said with a laugh. That was a lesson that Gilmer himself would learn early in his own career.
Upon graduating from high school in El Paso, Gilmer found himself choosing between going to college on the East Coast, or attending Rice University in Houston. As it turned out, his new car made that decision for him.
“I left El Paso to attend Rice University for my undergrad, primarily because my parents said I couldn’t take my brand new, hideous light-green Camaro Berlinetta if I went to the East Coast, which was my other option. You see, I had worked all my high school years to be able to go buy that car.
“It was a truly horrible shade of green, a light green, maybe the only one ever made. Miami Vice was hot at the time — that was my only excuse. All my friends at Rice learned to love it and laugh at it, and I can’t imagine what the road not taken would have been had it not been for that damn car.
“So, I have to say that I am here right now because of a light-green Camaro Berlinetta.”
Gilmer initially entered college with ambitions of becoming a lawyer, but quickly discovered that the process of obtaining a law degree involved having to study all manner of subjects in which he had little interest.
“I took political science, and I took philosophy of the law, and like every good liberal arts major trying to get through their science requirements, I took “rocks for jocks” — geology — because that was kind of the easiest of the introductory sciences,” he began. “What I found was that I hated political science, and I didn’t like philosophy, and I was just lost in all of these kinds of subjective topics. We took a field trip during my freshman year to Inks Lake, and one of my geology professors drank a bottle of Jack Daniels and passed out, and as we were pulling his inert body away from the campfire I thought to myself, ‘I can do this! This is in my wheelhouse,’” he said with a big laugh.
“So I became a geologist, and, you know, geology is the biggest bait and switch major there is, because they sucker you in with fossils and cavemen and dinosaurs and really cool stuff like that, and then they turn around and hit you with optics and physics and stress and strain and all this other stuff you thought you might avoid by going into geology. But it was a fantastic experience, and I met lots of great people who are still friends to this day.”
When Gilmer entered college at Rice in 1979, the entry-level degree for a geologist coming into the oil and gas industry was a bachelor of science degree, and the industry was burning hot. But by the time he finished his undergraduate work, a master’s degree had become the standard, and the industry had cooled considerably. So, he packed his things into his infamous car and drove home to El Paso, where he would seek his master’s degree at UTEP.
“As far as I can tell, gold mines are a hell of a lot of work.”
In keeping with what would become a life-long pattern, Gilmer chose to study at UTEP because he wanted to more fully understand the full systems of how things worked, and he wanted to have as much control as possible over his own destiny.
“The reason I chose UT El Paso was not so much because it was my home town,” he said. “I knew from the start that I wanted to go into the oil business, but I also wanted to understand things better. I wanted to understand mining, and I wanted to understand the economic resources.
“One of the frustrating things to me at Rice was, we would go out onto our field trips, and here we’d be in Nevada or somewhere else in the Western United States, and there would be a tunnel that was dug by somebody 100 years ago into the side of a mountain with no clear reason why they did that. You’re looking at that thinking, wow, that was a major amount of work. I remember going home and telling my Dad, don’t ever tell me that something can be a ‘gold mine’ because as far as I can tell, gold mines are a hell of a lot of work.
“So, I didn’t understand all of that, and I really wanted to understand it. I wanted to understand the systems. I had a basic understanding of petroleum systems and mineral systems, and that has served me well over the years because a lot of the things we’re talking about today are fungible. You know, if we’re going to make the foolish decisions to not use oil and gas, then we’re going to have to go mine other strategic minerals, and there’s no getting around these things.”
UTEP provided the young Gilmer with a better opportunity to be in greater control of gaining this full, systemic understanding and allowed him to be largely self-directed in choosing his projects. Gilmer gives a large part of his ability to ensure that his graduate school experience would set him up to succeed in the business world to one of his key professors.
“My professor was a British gentleman who went to “uni” at Durham, and who everyone was afraid to have as a teacher. He was a dot the i and cross the t guy,” Gilmer said. “And I really needed that discipline, so I sought him out as my thesis advisor. He’s a fantastic man. His name is Dr. Kenneth Clark. He’s still alive and retired, and he was an amazing mentor for me in graduate school, in forcing me to be much more disciplined than I was. He was working heavily in Mexico, and has been a huge contributor to the understanding of the economic geology of Mexico.
“I went to UTEP in part because I wanted to work in Mexico,” Gilmer continued. “It was interesting because we didn’t have a lot of funding in that university. You had to go find your own project, you had to figure out how to get it partially funded by various different groups.
“Alternatively, if I had gone to, say, UT-Austin or Arizona or Stanford, all of which had amazing funding for the projects they did, as a master’s student I would have had a very limited scope of work under a big project that the professor was heading up, and which had several PhDs working on the bigger, ‘funner’ stuff, and it would have been much more side-boarded and constrained.
“Some people are much more comfortable in that kind of a situation, and with the fact that it was all paid for. I ended up having to figure out how to pay for every bit of my subject project, but then it didn’t have any constraints around it. It allowed me to go out there and take on something that was probably much more interesting and fulfilling for me than what most people look for when getting a master’s degree.
“I found out right away that you’d better be doing things that other people value.”
“I spread the annoyance around broadly enough so that I became sort of lovable.”
When Gilmer obtained his master’s degree from UTEP in 1986, the oil industry was in a deep depression, and companies were more focused on downsizing their existing workforces than they were in hiring any new graduates. As a result, Gilmer and his fellow graduates that year found it virtually impossible to even get an interview, much less an actual job offer.
“I sent out 500 letters, and my diabolical deal at the end of each of them was to close by saying, ‘I’m going to call you next week to set up a mutually-agreeable appointment for me to come by and interview,’” Gilmer said, “which was an audacious thing to say since I couldn’t even get to Houston at that time. I didn’t have gas money.”
But two companies, Marathon and Conoco, responded back to the audacious new graduate, so he was forced to figure out a way to get himself to Houston, where both companies had major offices. Luckily, both companies agreed to conduct his interviews on consecutive days and agreed to share his travel costs.
“This was a very tough time to interview,” Gilmer remembered. “The day I interviewed at Conoco was the day after they had just had a layoff, so there was a very ‘interesting’ dynamic in this interview. They had actually just forgotten to reschedule me, so it was a memorable day. The first interviewer asked me ‘what makes you think you can come in and take the job of a good geologist?’ I thought it must be some sort of interview methodology. After the day was done, the secretary apologized for having me in on that day and told me what had happened.” That day didn’t ultimately result in a job offer, which of course was the expectation going in.
But the next day, as Gilmer recalled, was different in several ways. “The next day was at Marathon, and my last interview was with the VP of International Exploration who told me categorically that they weren’t hiring anyone that year, and he didn’t understand why I was in there interviewing, but now that we had 45 minutes cut out, what did I want to talk about? So, I said, ‘I want to talk about your career, and tell me how you got into it, and what it’s been like,’ and we just had a really wonderful conversation about his career.
“The next morning, I was getting ready to get back on the bus to El Paso, when I got a phone call at my motel saying that they were going to make me an offer,” Gilmer said. “There were only two of us that year. They had taken people who were strong in math, and they were going to see if they could make geophysicists out of geologists who had a strong math background. The other fellow who got hired that year was a fellow named Woody Pace, who ended up with an incredible career at Marathon and later, I think, at Talisman.”
Gilmer began his career at Marathon at the company’s research lab in Denver as a processing geophysicist for difficult seismic areas. “When you went out there to process seismic data and the commercial shops couldn’t do it right, this group would process it,” Gilmer said. “Thankfully, I was the only newbie in that group, because that way I could bother all these really smart guys and girls who worked there just enough so that they didn’t hate me individually. I spread the annoyance around broadly enough so that I became sort of lovable.” (laughing)
“It was an incredible place staffed by incredibly smart people: Bob Wylie, who is now at U of H, was over there; Wayne Pennington, who is now the Dean of Sciences at Michigan Tech; My boss, Damon Simmons, just recently retired from Marathon. The people that were there, across the board, were just hugely decent people and just scary smart. And that was where I spent my first two years.”
Gilmer described his next assignment at Marathon, in the Seismic Acquisition Group (SAG), as “the job every young, single geophysicist wanted to get.” The group was only two or three people, and the folks in it at that time were Bill Howieson, Jeff Sposato and Mike Melon. All of them have had great careers in the business.
Gilmer’s early work in the SAG focused primarily on South America where Marathon was in the early exploration phase of leases it had acquired in Argentina and Bolivia. “I learned a lot about how you got things done,” he said. “You know, things are pretty simple when you’re sitting at a desk and everything gets delivered to you after all this work and conditioning is done and collected. But to be on the front end gave me a huge appreciation for the supply chain, and what had to take place.
“One of the things the seismic business really taught me was that you got no credit for having a fantastic degree or being top of your class at Colorado School of Mines or wherever,” he continued. “You had to get the job done, and you had to get it done quickly, and you had to do it right. Because time was essential — it was so much money.
“So, the people that I met in that business who were running seismic operations, oftentimes these guys didn’t have college educations. I met several certifiable geniuses that had never had the opportunity to go to college. They were just the guys that could get it done. That was just a huge filter for me.”
Ultimately, his time at Marathon provided a learning ground that helped prepare Gilmer to go into business for himself at a very surprising time in the industry.
“I still remember very clearly my exit interview – they just couldn’t get their head around it.”
It was the early 1990s, another period of shaking out in the oil and gas industry. The world was once again awash in crude oil, and demand for natural gas in the U.S. was depressed; as a result, prices for both commodities had once again collapsed as they had in 1985-86. Companies large and small were in the midst of reducing staff and cutting costs in any way they could find.
It was at this time, when most everyone in the business was doing all they could to hang onto the jobs they were lucky to have, that Gilmer did something completely unexpected: He quit.
“Marathon, like every other company at that time, was going through one of their periodic layoffs,” he recalled, “and the people I saw getting laid off were in a lot of cases guys in their 50s, had kids in college, and their lives were being completely upended in ways I’m not sure they had planned for. In fact, I know they hadn’t planned for. And no one was hiring.”
He paused before continuing. “I just didn’t want somebody to have that kind of power over my career. So, I started thinking about what do I know, and what could I do, and one of the things that I knew was seismic. I knew seismic data, how to collect it, how to process it and how to interpret it.
“So, I thought about quitting for about a year, year-and-a-half, thinking about what I might do. And I decided I would go be a consultant in helping people put together 3-D seismic surveys, and take a royalty as compensation rather than cash.
“So, I quit Marathon. I was the first person to quit there in years — they didn’t believe I was not going to work for somebody else, that I was, in fact, leaving to go be an independent. I still remember very clearly my exit interview — they just couldn’t get their head around it,” he said with a chuckle.
Gilmer recalled that Marathon treated him very well during the process of his departure, and in fact, later became one of his new company’s clients. But as is the case with any new venture in this industry, the road to ultimate success was filled with pitfalls and complications.
It all started with his initial business plan, which Gilmer described as being “completely messed up.” It turned out that everybody wanted a 3-D seismic survey, but nobody actually wanted to pay for one. Certainly, nobody was willing to give me a royalty interest for putting one together for them.
“So, I suckered my friend Jeff Spoisato and Jamie Kieley into leaving the security of Marathon and going out with me to start up a seismic company, in which we would shoot 3-D seismic surveys in exchange for working interests — we never could get anyone to give us a royalty for them. And a working interest is its own fun experience.
“It was really stupid,” he said with another big laugh. “I’d look at the working interest percentage and think, man, that’s a lot bigger number than the royalty interest is. This is great. I didn’t really fully grasp the bills that came with working interests after all the “carry” was gone. An old geologist friend told me when I described what we were doing, ‘Oh, Allen, a working interest is not for the working man.’” (laughing)
But ultimately, he and his partners got the business going; and, like everything else done in his career, it became a success…of a sort. “We were ultimately successful, but the road to that success was arduous,” Gilmer said. “I was running all the time. All of us had maxed-out credit cards and beat-to-hell trucks and some stories that I’m going to save for a rainy day when I need the extra cash. We can make movies out of those,” he said with another laugh.
All of these life experiences and others ultimately led to the creation of Drillinginfo, a company that began as a data-accumulator service targeting small independent producers, which has now grown into one of the largest and most diverse service providers in the business.
“The opportunities that come from these kinds of complex systems moving around are immense.”
As time has gone on, and Drillinginfo/Enverus has evolved and diversified as a company, the focus has been increasingly on helping clients to identify the inherent value in a property or planned project.
“That’s all driven by the business plan,” Gilmer said. “If you think about value in the oil and gas industry, where does value come from? Everybody knows how to go run a decline curve on a well, right? But then, how do you value a piece of land? That piece of land doesn’t have a discrete value — even the well itself doesn’t have that because there’s so much fuzziness involved in getting to that. So, that’s why we started looking at things like probabilistic analysis, where you say the well has a 50% chance of producing this, a 30% chance of producing this, a 5% chance of producing this, and so on.
“When you start looking at the front end of the process, at the land and minerals, you talk about fuzzy — there’s all sorts of fuzziness there. It’s largely driven by speculative value and the people having cash to go do that. So, you start with places where you can go buy stuff cheaply, but then the cost starts to elevate and there’s nothing you can tie it to other than a speculative frenzy. Hopefully, at some point, the fundamentals catch up, and that piece of land and minerals becomes worth a financeable amount.
“So, we saw this, all these separate piles of information, all these silos of value that were unconnected or loosely connected, as an opportunity,” he continued. “We’re sitting there looking at all of that, saying, given how mushy this whole value thing is, and how difficult it is to manage with all these chaotic signals, there’s a lot of opportunity to be built into identifying real value and segregating it out from a lot of the bias that’s out there.
“If you look at what we’ve done with products like Red Dog and Oildex and others, all of a sudden the companies that are using our systems now have a dashboard for being able to identify and manage their costs. So, rather than it just being a tool to go get an invoice approved, it now becomes a dashboard that interacts with all of our other data, and any data the client cares to put into it on a proprietary basis, to help them better manage the cost-side of the equation. With over a quarter of a trillion in spend running through our systems and cutting edge technology in defining the subsurface numerically, we have, by far, the best holistic training sets for Artificial Intelligence applications in the oilpatch.”
As the industry and markets continue to evolve, Enverus is increasingly focused not just on oil and natural gas, but on the various components of molecules in those commodity streams. “Today, the markets are turning to molecular markets. It used to be you’d start at WTI, and the purchaser would offer you a plus or minus off of that depending on the quality of your product. But now, the various different molecules have very different end-member uses, and very different values based off of that. So, you’ll see some molecules have zero value or even negative value, and others have relatively high value.
“It’s all very fascinating, and we no longer have this static market. Over the last couple of years, the United States has become a major exporter, and exporting into a global market of all of these different components is highly important. Where oil used to be a transportation fuel, now that electricity is moving into the transportation side, there are all sorts of fungible markets now competing with one another, and that’s made the whole business highly-complex, and one that’s becoming increasingly data-driven. The opportunities that come from these kinds of complex systems moving around are immense.
As Gilmer looks out to the future, he believes Enverus will continue to diversify along with the industry, as has always been the case. “We see as this industry and its adjacent industries are changing and rapidly evolving, that there’s all sorts of white space to go into in terms of building out tools that people never thought about having,” he said. “Tools that will be necessary to even take advantage of all of that white space. The proudest I’ve been of DrillingInfo is when we have led on that side.”
Gilmer and the company’s management also retain a keen focus on the needs of the clients, which vary widely. “Our client base is like most industrial client bases. We have people that are early adopters, fast-followers and the lagging adopters, and we strive to be sensitive to all of those,” he said. “Our concept is that here is a company that is doing X, and if we can combine that X with some of the other things we are doing over here, then that opens up a brand new opportunity to create value out of things people had never thought about being able to do before. That’s what we call ‘playing in the blue water’ — doing things that people haven’t thought about doing before to create new value.
“When we roll a new offering out, it’s NEVER ‘Hey, we’re going to just charge you a lot more for what you’ve taken in the past.’ We give the client the option to keep taking what they have in the past, or to be able to be a player in this new world.”
But what about that name change? It turns out that the driving factor behind the name change from DrillingInfo to Enverus was the desire by Gilmer and others to ensure the name remained descriptive of the company itself. Drillinginfo was suitable for the company’s original service offerings, but a different name was needed to be descriptive of this vastly more diverse and constantly evolving enterprise.
“People are creatures of habit,” Gilmer began. “I’d always felt like there was this cohort of users of Drillinginfo that really still just looked at us as production data providers. And frankly, a lot of them were using that. It was like using a Ferrari for a flower pot. The challenge for us was to go out there and say, ‘We are happy to be a data provider, because this data is the gasoline of our engine.’ We were glad they were doing that, but sometimes it blocked them off from really seeing everything we were doing.
“Think about some kid you knew in the first grade, and you haven’t seen him in 20 or 30 years. It’s really hard to picture them in any way other than what they looked like in the first grade. That’s sort of like what our members thought about us as we evolved Drillinginfo. Everything they were doing was colored by what they were doing when they first adopted us.”
“What we were also finding was that the clients who were coming in late to Drillinginfo were using it much more broadly and powerfully relative to our early adopters. So, we saw that as a branding problem, and it was a business model problem.”
What Gilmer and his team ultimately came up with was a new name that is descriptive of both the business and its people. “Energy, on the ‘En’ side of it, that had to be there, because we are energy,” Gilmer began. “Then the ‘ver’ part means to ‘see’ in Spanish, and it means ‘veracity,’ or ‘veritas’ in Latin. And I think that really describes us. And then ‘us,’ which meant we’re all in this together. We’re just part and parcel of a larger community that goes to work every day to make the world demonstrably a better place.”
That all makes sense when put into those terms. But, as with any major change, the new name has led to an unforeseen issue: Some have begun to speculate that the switch to Enverus means the company ultimately plans to get out of oil and gas altogether.
When I asked him about that, Gilmer just laughed. “I would just say challenge people to pay attention to what we’re buying and what we’re building. Not only are we developing more tools and ways of looking at and evaluating oil and gas than ever, we are developing them faster and more of them than any other entity on the planet.”
“Bruce Dern makes the best bad guy.”
Several years ago, Gilmer and his wife, Riki were presented with an opportunity to help executive produce a small film about the history of Austin’s iconic Saxon Pub. “I ran into Vince Foster, the Chairman of Main Street Capital in a restaurant in Houston, and he asked if I would go in with him to help executive produce this little Austin film that was about the Saxon Pub. My wife, Riki, is from Austin and I’ve lived there for 22 years, and we both love the Saxon Pub, so I said absolutely we will do that.”
That project worked out very well, as the film won several Festival awards, and as things have worked out, it has led the Gilmers into a long-term relationship with the film community. One new venture in which they’re involved is a documentary, directed by Tara Wood, about the career of respected film director Quinten Tarantino.
“Tara had originally sold the rights to The Weinstein Company, who owned the whole Tarantino catalogue. They hadn’t lived up to their Executive Production obligations and when the scandal broke, Tara asked for the project back. She eventually prevailed in bankruptcy court, but needed help in finishing the project. So we got to play the part of kind and gentle producers. We thought it was a great opportunity to give voice to someone who has much to say on an important subject,” Gilmer said. “As Samuel Jackson says in the movie, ‘I think there’s going to be a lot of stories to come out of this that people are going to really want to hear, and I’m one of them.’
“The name of the film is ‘QT8, the First Eight.’ It’s interviews with a lot of his stars and producers, a lot of stories about what happened in the background, his methodology, and all that stuff. As he told Tara at the Cannes Film Festival, ‘The whole world is waiting to see my movie, and the only movie I’m waiting to see is yours.’”
“QT8, the First Eight” debuted in a one-night national theater engagement on Oct. 21. It will be available in various VOD formats in December.
The Gilmers are involved in another project that is near and dear to Allen’s heart. “We are also in the midst of filming a full-length feature film here in El Paso that stars the brother of Enverus’ very own Andy Godboldt. Andy’s our Domestic Sales Manager, who has been with Enverus for several years, a really fantastic young man.
“His brother, Ronnie Gene Blevins, is a hard-working character actor in L.A., and his best friend and former roommate Scott Windhauser is a working screenwriter. So, what this movie is going to be is giving a couple of guys who have been in L.A. a long time — one is an actor, the other is a director — give them their Rocky Balboa moment. Along with Ronnie as the lead, Bruce Dern is in it. He’s going to be a bad guy, and Bruce Dern makes the best bad guy,” he said with a laugh. “The other actors of note are John Ashton, ‘Detective Taggart’ in the original Beverly Hills Cop, Lara Flynn Boyle, and Stephen Lang, from Avatar.
“Plus, it’s set in my home town, so that was something close to me, and I want to make sure the tone is right.”
Anyone who knows Allen Gilmer and has seen what he has achieved in his life and how he has gone about doing it will have no doubt at all that the tone and everything else about this particular film will come out just right. Because Allen Gilmer is one of those guys who knows how to get things done.