History of Venturetech
Larry Keast started Venturetech in his garage to design and manufacture new "ventures" in "tech"nical equipment. (cute, huh?) Read Larry's bio. Within the first two years, he discovered power swivels and saw this as an interesting and exciting business niche that needed competition and development. But with 3 small children, no shop or equipment, and no money for such an undertaking, he had to postpone designing his own power swivel for almost 20 years. (He tells young entrepreneurs that only the first 20 years are the hardest...) So he started offering parts and service for all brands of power swivels, buying and refurbishing old ones, and building hydraulic power units for power swivels. During these slow years, Larry built a parts and service business and earned a reputation as a power swivel expert. But it was a very small business and the family had no extra money. HIs wife went to college while keeping the books, raising the children, and feeding the family. Larry was always dreaming of manufacturing his own power swivels.
Every fortunate entrepreneur has a story of an event that leap-frogged him to the next level. Here is mine. Weatherford always transferred their unwanted equipment from their nationwide locations to their Alvin, Texas yard. We knew they had 25 or so old power swivels there, because occasionally they would have us do repair work. But times were bad so nothing from them at the moment. While on the phone with a customer, he said he heard I was buying all those power swivels in the Alvin yard but I had no idea about it so I said, "We're talking." I hung up the phone and called Andy, the yard manager and said, "Andy, I understand you're ready to sell those power swivels." He said, "Yeah, Larry, you need to come down here and make us an offer." The very next morning I was down there taking photos and making notes about each one. In 2 days, I submitted an offer of $110,000, including Weatherford doing the trucking. I had no money and no idea where I was going to get $110,000. But here's the deal: If you are an antique expert and you stop by a yard sale where granny wants $25 for a table you know it's worth $300, you give her $25 and you're both happy. This was my position so I knew I had to do this deal, no matter what. Then two days after I submitted my offer, Andy called and said, "Larry, where do you want those swivels?" I said, Andy, I don't have the money deal done with your office and he said, "I didn't ask you that!" The swivels started showing up 2 or 3 at a time, swamping the parking lot of my lease space. Landlord NOT HAPPY! At this time the oilfield was down or Weatherford wouldn't have been selling them, so I knew we couldn't sell them either. But we worked on them part time for the next 2-3 years, and in the 3 years after that, we sold them all! We cleared more than $700K, huge money for my little company. So it was DECISION TIME! I decided to hire my first Autocad designer and start designing my own power swivels, and I decided to buy a 20,000 sqft building from Frito-Lay with 2 acres of concrete. Big changes began!
We used this military truck in daily service for years. Drivers reported salutes as they passed. It was in numerous parades.
Engineering designer Jim Strickland. I hired him when he was 70 and he worked for us 17 years!
Early shop boss John Jordan leaving for a camping trip in front of our first XK-90 power swivel.
Leader team 10 years ago.
After several years of engineering, Venturetech proudly introduced the XK-90 and XK-150 power swivels. We had 8 employees at this time.
We started hiring America's "unemployables", including ex-offenders and people in recovery from drugs & alcohol, and this began the exciting transformation of our team.
We moved into our 21,000 square foot manufacturing facility with a 10-ton bridge crane and two-acre concrete yard. Our well organized shop and production control "war room" allowed us to serve customers efficiently, and we began to grow as sales of our power swivels began. 15 people by now.
Power swivel business growing. Founded non-profit America in Recovery to help America's small businesses replicate our hiring success. See www.americainrecovery.org . Up to 20 people.
Introduced the XK-250 power swivel which became the top drive in automated Super Singles rigs. 26 people.
Bought four acres next door and flew the Texas Longhorn flag in honor of the University of Texas football national championship. 35 people.
Bought another 1-1/2 acres to allow future shop expansion straight back. Big backlog and growing fast. 47 people.
We were awarded the Fast 100 Enterprise Champion Award by the Houston Business Journal for rapid growth, patriotism, and community service. See this nice article with Adobe Reader. 52 people.
SDtarted building test rig. Working hard toward certification of API Q1 Quality Control System. Sales and production continue to increase - four month backlog. 96 machines shipped this year. 55 people.
Economy crashed, sales stopped. Laid off 30 good teammates. Used the year to reorganize, reevaluate, and start engineering on our top drive. Completed our test rig which Larry’s wife launched with champagne. Began testing every power swivel on test rig before shipment.
Top drive engineering underway and first prototype parts being tested. Started major addition to building. Sales are strong and we’re hiring again.
2011 – 2013
Achieved API certification! Completed 20,000 sqft addition to shop. Now own 11½ acres including landscaped and stocked retention pond. Built a separate shop for Larry’s fun cars and hopefullt for developing non-oilfield products. Took the first top drive team picture on Larry’s 70th birthday. Up to 11 top drive patents, more pending.
Biggest year yet. First top drive prototype being field tested. Now 14 patents on top drive, three more pending. Planning to double shop size again.
35th Anniversary! Big party! Oil price crashed to $35/bbl but we still had a big backlog so good year. 19 patents issued for top drive by now.
Slowest year ever, no backlog. Oil $25/bbl at lowest point. Reduced to small crew. Welders, mechanics, & machinists patching concrete in parking lot and painting forklifts. Grateful that parts & service business allowed us to break even. Engineering designer Jim Strickland died at 87 after working for us 17 years! Jim is a great story of doing what you enjoy.
Oil back to high 50's, phone ringing again. Launched new patented power swivel tilt feature. 22 patents by now.
Introduced our patented 10,000 psi washpipe seal assembly required by long reach horizontal wells. Unlike anything on the market, our seal life is far more than competition and we are continuing development. 23 patents issued. Business is OK at "new normal" oil price $50-60/bbl.
Excited to be developing the Super Handler, a major addition to our product line ! Expected it to be ready for sale midyear 2020. Customers in line to buy first ones.
Covid 19 global pandemic and worst oilfield crash in history! We avoided layoffs by investing in repairs, improvements, and additions throughout the business. Thankfully, we worked the whole year and none of our people got covid. Stopped Super Handler development and put engineering to work completing our automotive AIRTORQ driver-adjustable height air suspension kit for our other company Torque Engineering, LP. Exciting product if you're an offroad Jeep person. See www.torq1.com.
Back on Super Handler engineering, ready to take orders. Business picking up. Oil above $70/bbl and rig count increasing.
LARRY G. KEAST BIO
Larry Keast earned a BSME from the University of Texas and is a registered professional engineer. While at UT, he joined the Army National Guard, went to OCS and airborne training, and completed a 6-year reserve obligation.
His first job was with Cameron where he gained experience in engineering, offshore service, and manufacturing of blowout preventers and subsea equipment. This was outstanding and diverse experience in a well-led large global company.
After nine years with Cameron, Larry joined World Wide Oil Tools in 1976 as Vice President & General Manager. Almost a startup and in complete disarray, he built this little company into a respected international manufacturer of the pipe testing equipment. Directing the development of four new product lines, Larry received three patents in the process. He also traveled worldwide selling and training, and he learned to love startup manufacturing companies.
In 1980, Larry started Venturetech in his garage. Venturetech now leads the field with his power swivels which are working on oil and gas wells worldwide. In 2007, Venturetech was honored as one of Houston’s Fastest Growing Businesses by the Houston Business Journal, along with their Enterprise Champion award for doing good work in the community above and beyond financial performance. Larry continues to direct Venturetech's development, and is excited to be launching new top drive and pipe handling product lines. 24 patents so far, more pending.
For fun, Larry is building a car collection including a 34 Ford pickup, a 62 Corvette, several Jeeps, a 46 Dodge Power Wagon, a 1923 Ford T-bucket roadster, and a couple of Bonneville Salt Flats race cars. To fund this enterprise and create jobs, he started Torque Engineering, LP and is beginning manufacture of AIRTORQ, a driver-controlled air suspension kit which allows offroad Jeep drivers an 8” up-down-tilt adjustment on-the-fly. See www.torq1.com.
He also learned to fly in the last few years and he rides his bicycle to work 10 miles twice a week. He loves having a lot going on and does not understand retirement.
Giving back to the community is an important part of Larry’s life. He learned the power of support groups in the substance abuse programs Insight and Lifeway, and was an advisory board member of Cornerstone Recovery. After his wife was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 1996, a killer disease at the time, Larry joined the Texas Liver Coalition board as Director of Support Groups. Under Larry’s direction, the Coalition developed 32 support groups in Texas cities which helped thousands of people each year. Larry also served on Mayor Bill White’s Task Force for Hepatitis C. Thankfully, his wife’s treatment was completely successful and today's medications cure Hep C easily.
Mr. Keast has enjoyed mentoring and speaking to engineering and entrepreneurship students at the University of Texas and the University of Houston. He has served on the Business Advisory Council of Goodwill Industries and the Advisory Board of Houston-Galveston Institute. Larry has also served as President of the Dover Club, a support organization of business owners, and as a board member of his church, Unity of Houston. Larry is a member of Nomads since 1980, and has enjoyed membership in TAB - The Alternative Board, a business owners' roundtable group. In 2012, he was honored by Dickinson High School as Alumni of the Year, and also served on the board of their education foundation. Larry is a member of AESC, IADC, SAE, AOPA, EAA, and is a Certified Fluid Power Engineer.
In 2000, Venturetech began hiring people who deserve a second chance including ex-offenders, people in recovery, and older folks. Returning these Americans to the workforce has long proven to increase company morale and productivity and this practice continues today. In 2004 Larry began spreading the word among other small business owners and founded America in Recovery, a 501(c)3 non-profit which encourages hiring people who deserve a second chance, www.americainrecovery.org. America in Recovery’s mission is to encourage companies to find good jobs for re-entering Americans deserving a second chance.
Married for 53 years, Larry and Zandra have three children and six grandchildren living in Austin, Corpus Christi, Los Angeles, Berlin, and Budapest.