Kirk Coburn

Founder & Managing Director - SURGE

Kirk is an entrepreneur and start-up advocate who has founded and run three companies. A seventh-generation Texan, he spent his earlier business and entrepreneurial career in Austin and the East Coast before relocating back to Houston to lead and join the SURGE project.

Prior to leading SURGE, Kirk created and was the CEO of Chief Outsiders (acq. 2010), a Houston-based company with offices in Texas, Florida, Georgia, and New York. Preceding Chief Outsiders, he launched the PGA TOUR Network on Sirius XM (acq. by SIRI) and founded Pure Golf, a leading provider of golf, tennis, and outdoor programming to the satellite radio industry. Kirk started and was managing partner of BLUSH Marketing, an experiential and promotions agency that connects consumers with technology at major events including the NFL, PGA TOUR, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, and U.S. Open.

Kirk received his MBA and BBA in finance and accounting from the University of Texas at Austin. He was a runner-up in UT’s Moot Corp Business Plan competition, which birthed his first venture.

He is active in the community serving as an ambassador to the Texas Children’s Hospital, a supporter of the Rice Alliance, and sponsor of the Houston Technology Center. He is an ultra-endurance runner, open-water swimmer, and competitive golfer.

In August 2010, Kirk finished his first 100 mile run, the Leadville Trail 100.

We asked Kirk:

The OGM: What does sustainability mean to you?

Kirk: Consistent ongoing progress. Sustainability as a concept is certainly pervasive in the ecospace, but it is applicable in all areas of business. Every day, business leaders should ask themselves if the business decisions that result in quick-wins today result in positive returns tomorrow and beyond.

The OGM: Have you had a mentor?

Kirk: My father taught me humility and leadership. There were myriad other mentors that I met with and admire who are incredible husbands and fathers, leaders, entrepreneurs, industry experts, and visionaries.

The OGM: What does success mean to you?

Kirk: Knowing and living my calling in life, my “sweet spot.” Loving others well. And currently, helping solve the world’s energy problems using software!

The OGM: If you were to describe your career in three words what would they be?

Kirk: Exciting, evolving, enduring.

The OGM: What advice would you give to someone looking for a career in the Energy Industry?

Kirk: Learn from the amazing forefathers who have been here in the best of times and the worst of times and back again. Be honest about working in this business, only if you have passion for it, and be courageous to make decisions with integrity.

The OGM: Describe a milestone in your career?

Kirk: Launching SURGE Accelerator, it brought me back home to Houston and placed me in a space for which I’ve always had passion.

The OGM: Describe a challenge you faced in your career?

Kirk: Convincing people that the Silicone Valley Accelerator model was relevant, timely, and appropriate for the energy industry.

The OGM: What impact does Technology have on your career?

Kirk: Every day, I am searching for the leading edge in technology for the industry. I am constantly looking for ways to grow, invest in and commercialize the best ideas in the business.

The OGM: What do the next 5 years look like in your career?

Kirk: Over the next five years, SURGEaccelerator.com will develop over 50 companies that are positioned to change the way people develop and deliver energy resources. And I will be there to grow with each of them.

The OGM: Were you always interested in a career in Energy?

Kirk: I am a Houston native, and my family has been in energy for generations, but my career focus has consistently been around technology business development and entrepreneurial acceleration. SURGE Accelerator perfectly combines all three.

The OGM: What interests you to sustain a career in the Energy industry?

Kirk: The global impact of the problem. The challenge and ever-changing, fast-paced climate.

The OGM: Do you have a role model you look up to?

Kirk: Jeff Sandefer is a former successful energy entrepreneur and currently the founder of the Acton School of Business, a truly unique MBA program in entrepreneurship in Austin, Texas, taught by successful, practicing entrepreneurs. Offering only a full-time program, the school is based on experiential learning. Students analyze over 300 business case studies and participate in simulations, such as building real assembly lines and selling products door to door. His pragmatic approach to entrepreneurship gets results.

The OGM: What does Energy mean to you?

Kirk: Literally: the ability to do work.

The OGM: What is your favorite APP on your phone?


The OGM: What impact will the Millennial Generation have on the Energy industry?

Kirk: I expect millennials to lead the way in using technology to solve the biggest problems fearlessly. Many don’t know a world without Facebook, and they demand ease of use. I expect them to raise the bar on user experience in our very technical industry.

The OGM: What’s your take on Social Media and our ever changing digital world?

Kirk: Social media has a very real place in this industry because relationships and communications are crucial pillars of the business. Again, another example of how millennials will improve efficiencies.

The OGM: What Social Medium do you use on a daily basis?

Kirk: LinkedIn, Twitter.

The OGM: Do you use Social Media for work?

Kirk: We recruited our SURGE companies with a variety of social media tools. It absolutely works.

The OGM: What do you think of Social Recruiting?

Kirk: I think social recruiting is a great idea. Many people, youth, especially, are unaware of the opportunities in this industry and other industries. It is a great medium to convey information to a group that may not otherwise be reached.

The OGM: Why do you love what you do?

Every day, I work with brilliant people that believe their ideas will change the world. These entrepreneurs are the ones that change the world with their ideas, and they build hope by providing jobs that give people purpose. Over the past 30 years, all of the net job growth in the U.S. came from companies less than five years old. These people are awesome.

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