Three years ago, our founder and CTO, Jude Shao, was finally allowed to return to the United States after being wrongfully imprisoned in China for 10 years. It would be another five years, before the Chinese government would let him return to the U.S. Fifteen years before this occurred, Jude, a naturalized American citizen and graduate of Stanford business school was an example of the American dream. However, his adherence to his ethical principles and his American citizenship ultimately resulted in him becoming a political prisoner in China, when he refused to bribe somebody close to the party. After 15 years of political wrangling between Beijing and Washington, Jude was finally freed.
Jude landed in San Francisco on May 8, 2013 and was greeted by a Stanford Business School classmate who drove him to the house of another classmate in Palo Alto. A group of his supporters held a small celebration and a classmate offered him a place to stay for as long as he needed. Living in a small poolside shed behind the garage, he spent the next six months readjusting himself to the exciting entrepreneurial life of Silicon Valley, learning all the new things that he had missed during his 15 years of absence, while searching for a new venture to start his life again.
The great American shale gas boom was just beginning to show signs of revolutionary impact on the global oil and gas industry. The natural gas price in the U.S. had been dropping steadily for some time and by the end of 2013, it dropped below OPEC’s price, which meant the U.S. was no longer a net importer of natural gas after more than forty years of buying from the Middle East.
U.S. produced natural gas products, such as propane and butane, quoted in the Wall Street Journal every day, were trading at about 65% of the world price level, while only a few months before, the U.S. prices had been at least 130% of the world price level. In that, he found an interesting business opportunity.
With the gas price being so low in the U.S, it didn’t make sense for us to import those butane gas canisters from Asia any more. Upon careful research and analysis, Jude discovered that it would cost less to manufacture butane fuel canisters in the U.S. to supply for the North America, South America and European markets.
So Jude developed a business plan and raised initial capital from classmates to embark on a new venture of becoming the first manufacturer of butane canisters in the United States. After 18 months of tedious hard work, constant struggling, overcoming numerous challenges and difficulties, Jude and our team built a factory in Houston, Texas and began producing the first U.S. made butane canisters, filling them with American natural gas. Sky Blue canisters can now be found in stores all over Texas and the U.S.A