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Forerunner Growing In Surge Accelerator

Having already secured funding from the world’s leading seed-stage venture fund for energy technology, Gordon McArthur is now focused on impressing more investors in energy-related tech next month.

McArthur is the CEO of Forerunner Research, a Dartmouth company whose technology detects and measures soil gases. In February, the company was one of eight companies accepted into the fourth cohort of the accelerator operated by Surge Ventures of Houston, a funding and mentoring organization specializing in energy technology.

At the end of the three-month cohort, Forerunner Research will make a presentation at the closing event, which is attended by the venture arms of major energy companies.

Whereas Surge makes early-stage investments, these funds are better suited to providing growth capital to developing companies like Forerunner. It’s a big deal given that the graduates of the Surge accelerator program are averaging US$1 million once they leave the course.

“Everything we’re doing now points to the May 19 showcase with the venture capital arms of the world’s major energy companies,” said McArthur in a phone interview from Houston last week.

Forerunner Research has developed a range of products that measure the flux and concentration of gas in soils. They have been used to assess ground gas levels around the world, including projects above the Arctic Circle and below the Antarctic Circle.

The applications include helping oil and gas companies test to make sure carbon capture and storage facilities are operating as they should. They also include helping researchers test whether the permafrost is releasing more carbon dioxide as the climate changes.

Forerunner’s technology was developed at a St. Francis Xavier University lab run by David Risk, and is gaining traction mainly with researchers but also with energy companies. The company’s clients include University of California at Berkeley, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

So far, researchers have been the leading client base of the company, but the largest industrial users are in the energy industry. And that is why the relationship with Surge has proven so valuable.

Over the last winter, Forerunner was one of about 1,000 energy-related companies that applied to the Surge accelerator program. On being accepted, the startup received a US$50,000 investment from Surge Ventures, which capped off the company’s $400,000 funding round.

But McArthur said the funding is only part of what Surge has brought to the company. Surge is well connected within the global energy industry and the Forerunner team has made invaluable connections while wintering in Texas.

“In the time we’ve been here, we’ve had meetings with some of the world’s largest energy companies,” he said.

McArthur and his partners Nick Nickerson and Chance Creelman have now developed Forerunner into an eight-person company. St. F.X. has transferred the intellectual property for the products to the company to help it along, and it has struck international partnerships, including one with California gas measurement company Picarro.