#NEXTFounderChats: Dudon Wai

Dudon Wai is a NextAI entrepreneur and Co-founder of Unsist.

Tell us about you and your venture! What was your inspiration for creating Unsist?

I joined Shell as an engineer during the boom in 2013. It was a period of fast-paced growth where we made decisions based on speed and not necessarily what was best. But then in 2014, the oil price tanked. In the bust, layoffs and budget constraints meant we had to make decisions based on what was cheapest, and not necessarily the best . So, whether it was the boom or the bust, we weren’t making the best decisions. And that’s why Roi and I started Unsist. Boom or bust, with data science, Oil & Gas companies can make better decisions, faster, lowering the cost of energy and bringing back a vibrant industry.

What are some words of wisdom you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

When developing skill sets, I learned that you need both breadth and depth. As a mechanical engineer I developed a very broad skill set, and then as a drilling engineer at Shell I built a deep skill set. Some people say that you need to find that one thing and be the best at it, not to be a “Jack of All Trades, King of None”. I found creativity comes from breadth, and good execution comes from depth.

What do you know today that you wish you knew when you became an entrepreneur?

I read a lot about entrepreneurship before I started, but it didn’t really stick until I experienced it. I wish I knew the importance of routine and balance when I became an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship truly is a marathon, not a race, and you need take care of yourself to keep doing what you’re doing. Entrepreneurship is not an individual’s journey, and you need to have good support and to remember your friends and family are on the very same journey together with you. On a similar note, team is so important. Don’t do everything yourself, it’s handy to be able to do everything yourself sometimes, but you need to find people smarter than you and trust them to take care of it. Also, there are are lots of things to be scared about in entrepreneurship, and one that held me back from making the jump was the fear of not knowing enough. I wish I knew that you don’t need to know everything or be absolutely prepared before diving in.

Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?

I don’t think there’s any particular winning combination. Success is defined differently for everyone, but I found it’s important to address team, vision and align values early and on an on-going basis.

What popular entrepreneurial advice do you agree/disagree with? Why?

There’s a lot of extremely encouraging advice out there to quit your job and take the plunge, that you’re never too young or too old to start a startup. Entrepreneurship comes in all shapes and sizes — you can make an impact and feel fulfilled in a lot of different ways, and each person is different. Entrepreneurship is often over-romanticized so I encourage everyone to think critically about what’s right for them.

Are there any missed opportunities that you wish to have leveraged in the past?

Yes and no. Paul Graham writes this essay about how life is a meandering river. Instead of taking a direct path to the ocean, a river follows gravity and the path of least resistance, taking twists and turns across the terrain. Similarly, life isn’t straightforward. For me, getting to this point was a journey, and I needed to go through certain stages of life to get here. In life you don’t have perfect information so you make decisions based on what you have and I think at that time I made the best decisions I could. If there was one thing I wish I had more information about was the opportunity to pursue an “E-coop” (entrepreneurial co-op term) while I was studying at Waterloo to gain more experience earlier on.

What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?

What other people view as a sacrifice may not be the same thing to you. Personally, I don’t see anything as a sacrifice. At any point in time, we have access to many opportunities and we’re always faced with a decision to pursue some of them and it’s a choice not to pursue the rest. When I worked at Shell, I had several opportunities to stay directly in industry, but I approached it from another angle using technology — which ultimately led to starting Unsist.

How do you believe technology will impact your industry over the next decade?

I see the energy industry over the next decade in terms of sustaining tech and disrupting tech. Sustaining tech lowers the cost of energy gradually over time, like applying data science and machine learning to decision-making, or to drill horizontal wells. Disruptive tech is like shifting from one energy source to another. Now, you can read headlines for and against Oil & Gas or renewables — everyone has a perspective and no one knows the truth. What I see is right now our infrastructure relies on oil, and in the next decade I see global demand transitioning to natural gas first. Beyond this decade, I see an eventual shift to primarily renewables like solar and I’m excited to be part of an effort to make this come sooner rather than later.

UNSIST Co-founders Dudon Wai and Roi Shabshin at Venture Preview Night.

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