The building blocks of growth

Energy Voice - Maria Laura Martinez - Director of Covalent. Pictured at home.
Energy Voice - Maria Laura Martinez - Director of Covalent. Pictured at home.

The founder of a new data analytics firm believes she holds the key to helping smaller oil and gas companies make a better fist of “selling themselves”.

Maria Laura Martinez, 31, has observed that many of these businesses are harvesting huge amounts of data and tucking it away in silos.

But the Venezuelan says too few are converting that data into knowledge that could help them make better decisions and boost their profits.

Not enough of them are using that information to “articulate their value proposition”, either.

Her Aberdeen-based start-up, Covalent, will attempt to fill part of that gap in the market.

Ms Martinez, who has spent the last seven years in the Granite City, claims her approach can release the power of data by giving it a “commercial twist”, leading to growth.

“With data you can demonstrate your value,” said the entrepreneur, whose background is in corporate finance, private equity and the oil and gas industry.

“You can use it for tenders, pricing strategy, or to help managers understand their businesses better.

“Covalent is about using data analytics to grow businesses and/or enhance profits.” The businesswoman – whose former employers include Simmons and Company

International and Aberdeenshire-based container business Ferguson Group, now Hoover Ferguson – illustrates her point about ineffective data utilisation with a quirky Lego analogy.

“When you buy bucket of Lego, it’s useless if you just put it in your wardrobe,” said Ms Martinez, who holds an MSc in oil and gas enterprise management from Aberdeen University.

“It’s the same with data. If you generate data and put it away you’re not going to do much with it.

“But you can do something useful with this data.

“You can sort it into different colours, for example, into marketing or operations data.

“Some companies are doing this to an extent, but they’re still not building anything with it.

“What I plan to do is create real value.

“Imagine you want to build something – a bridge, for example.

“You have to mix the colours so it’s as strong as possible, but you don’t need to use all of them.”

She intends to develop strong bonds with her clients, planting herself in their offices and getting to know their businesses inside-out.

The choice of name for Ms Martinez’s company reflects her belief in the importance of close working relationships and her knowledge of chemistry.

Covalent bonds are a key reason why carbon atoms become diamonds instead of graphite, according to Ms Martinez, a graduate in chemical and process engineering from Newcastle University.

Earlier in her career, Ms Martinez formed the opinion that big consultancies sometimes fall short when it comes to properly engaging with clients at ground level.

She believes Covalent can do better in that respect and become known for having a fresher, more hands-on, human approach.

“A lot of people are scared of what to do with data,” she said. “There are a lot of numbers, so it’s about making it simple.

“What I use depends on what companies have.

“I can be very flexible. Some don’t have good software and they use spreadsheets. Others might have something (more modern).

“If the information is from a spreadsheet or sophisticated software, then it will be a different
process, but it will still be about adding value to the company.

“The important thing for me is understanding how the business works – understanding what’s important for the client and their vision and where they sit in their market.

“If you know the business, the vision and the market then you can join the dots between the data and put forward a value proposition.”

Her ambition is to build a company which can handle 20-30 projects annually and to create jobs.

She intends to target customers beyond the oil and gas industry, for example, in food and drink, who could be less averse to change.

But Ms Martinez’s background and contacts book means oil and gas is the most natural place to start.

She built up a strong network during her spell at Simmons where, between 2011 and 2014, she worked as an analyst supporting transactions.

Some promising meetings with company managing directors strengthened her conviction that there is a need for what Covalent has to offer.

Ms Martinez is glowing with praise for the Aberdeen business community and the support she has received.

“After seven years here people are recommending me,” she said. “They know me and the quality of the work I’ve done in the past.

“When I tell people about my idea, even when it’s not a sales pitch, they say, ‘you should speak to this person or that person’.

“I’m moved by how great people are here.”

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