History of Venturetech
Larry Keast started Venturetech in his garage to design and manufacture new venture s 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 his own power swivel dream for 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 new hydraulic power units for them. During the ensuing years, while always dreaming of manufacturing his own power swivels, Larry built a parts and service business and earned a worldwide reputation as a power swivel expert. Venturetech grew slowly through oilfield ups and downs.
Every fortunate entrepreneur has a story of some event that leap-frogged him to the next level. Here is mine. Weatherford always collected their old equipment from their yards nationwide in their Alvin, Texas yard. We knew they had 25 or so old power swivels in that yard, because occasionally they would have us do repair work. But times were bad and nothing was going on. A customer said he heard I was buying all those power swivels in the Alvin yard but I had no idea, 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 next morning I was down there taking photos and 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 is worth $300, you give her $25 and you're both happy. This was my position and I knew I had to do this deal, no matter what. Well, in 2 more days, Andy called and said, "Larry, where do you want them 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! Now times were bad or Weatherford would not 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! Maybe we cleared $700K, huge money for my little company. 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 with 2 acres of concrete.
Some of our crew with our cute little 5-ton pickup (CAT 3208-powered). This military truck is in daily service doing our heavy hauls around town. Drivers report salutes as they pass by. The truck has been in numerous parades.
Engineering designer Jim Strickland kayaking on Armand Bayou.
Operations manager John Jordan leaving for a camping trip.
Like our owner, our people are a bunch of motor heads who love cars, trucks, Jeeps, and motorcycles. This enthusiasm translates very well to our power swivel machinery with its diesel engines, technical hydraulics, and air controls. Down to the last detail, we pay attention to quality, simplicity, and reliability, and we all feel a great sense of pride when a new unit is ready to ship. We run a squared away organization and are proud to lead our field.
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 SuperSingles 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.
Our test rig is now being built. Working hard toward certification of API/ISO 9001 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 unit before shipment.
Top drive engineering underway and first prototype parts being tested. Started major addition to building. Sales are strong again and we’re hiring.
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 building and maintaining Larry’s dream vehicles and developing non-oilfield products. Took the first Top Drive team picture on Larry’s 70th birthday. Up to 11 top drive patents, more in application.
Biggest year yet. First Top Drive prototype shipped to the field for testing. Now 14 patents on Top Drive, three more in application. Planning to double shop size again.
35th Anniversary! Big party! Oil went to $35/bbl but we still had a fair backlog. 19 patents issued for top drive by now.
Slowest year ever, no backlog. Oil $25/bbl at lowest point. Parts & service business sufficient to break even with small crew. Welders, mechanics, & machinists are pouring concrete in parking lot and painting forklifts. Our senior engineering designer Jim Strickland died at 87 after working for us 17 years! 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.
We introduced our patented 10,000 psi washpipe seal assembly required by long reach horizontal wells. Unlike anything on the market, our seal life is already 500 hours and we are continuing development toward 1000 hours. 23 patents issued. Business OK at "new normal" oil price $50-60/bbl.
Excited to be developing a major optional addition to our power swivel product line. Wait and see! You will want to include this in your 2020 budget for power swivels !
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 Texas Army National Guard and became a jump-qualified MP officer. His first job was nine years with Cameron where he gained experience in engineering, offshore service, sales, and manufacturing of blowout preventers and subsea equipment.
Larry left Cameron in 1976 to become Vice President & General Manager of World Wide Oil Tools. Virtually a startup, he built this new company into a respected manufacturer in the pipe testing business. Larry directed the development of four new product lines, receiving three patents in the process. He also traveled worldwide selling, training, and establishing sales agents, and he learned to love startup manufacturing companies.
In 1980, Larry started Venturetech in his garage. Venturetech is today leading the competition with his power swivels which are at work on oil and gas wells around the world. Larry continues to direct Venturetech's development, and is excited to be launching a new top drive product line with other new products in the works. He has 24 patents issued so far at Venturetech, all related to simplification and reliability. See www.venturetechnet.com.
For fun, Larry is building a car collection including a 34 Ford pickup, a 62 Corvette, a few Jeeps, a 46 Dodge Power Wagon, and a couple of Bonneville Salt Flats race cars. To fund this enterprise, he is about to begin manufacturing and selling AirTorq, a driver-controlled air lift kit for off-road Jeeps allowing 7” height adjustment on the fly. He rides his bicycle 10 miles to work twice a week and learned to fly in the last few years. Larry enjoys genealogy and is a Son of the American Revolution, a Son of the Republic of Texas, and a Son of the Union Veterans of the Civil War. He loves having a lot going on and does not understand the word "retirement".
Married for 51 years, Larry and Zandra have three children and six grandchildren.
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, Larry joined the Texas Liver Coalition as Director of Support Groups. Under Larry’s direction, they 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 successful.
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 The Alternative Board, a business owners' roundtable group. In 2012, he was honored by Dickinson High School as an Alumni of the Year, and also served on the board of their education foundation. Professionally, Larry is a member of AESC, IADC, SAE, and is a Certified Fluid Power Engineer.
In 2000, Venturetech began hiring people who deserve a second chance including ex-convicts, people in recovery, and older folks. Hiring these “unemployables" proved to increase company morale and productivity. Larry began spreading the word among other small business owners and founded America in Recovery, a 501c3 non-profit to encourage hiring people who deserve a second chance. www.americainrecovery.org.
In 2014, we added high school students in underserved communities to our mission. Our goal is to help promising students break out of their surroundings and take charge of their future. We offer them a first chance so they won’t need a second chance. We help them get excited about having a career path instead of following the path of drugs and incarceration.
We are now exploring ways to make a bigger difference. We want to provide a pathway toward apprenticeship and employment in the skilled trades market. Since Venturetech employs tradesmen including welders, machinists, mechanics and warehouse workers, we are focusing on students in these areas and we will expand from there.