The WhiteStar Story: A Passion for Mapping
By Robert C. White, Jr.
It all started in a hot tub on New Year’s Day 1990, which we still celebrate as WhiteStar Founders Day. I’d inherited a small consulting group of clients from a previous company and was mulling over ways I could create a new firm to serve their needs. The next day, I filed papers with the Colorado Secretary of State to form WhiteStar, and thus continued a proud family tradition of involvement in the geosciences.
My family has a long history in geology. My grandfather, Alfred Gary White, was an expert at the Bureau of Mines under the Warren G. Harding administration. My father, Robert C. White, was a Dartmouth and Cal-Tech geologist who taught at Occidental College in Los Angeles. He later taught Physical Geology and Air Photo Interpretation at Red Rocks Community College here in Denver.
My father discouraged me from following his career path, but geology became our family lifestyle growing up, and I loved it. I remember a road trip to Yellowstone National Park. Dad was delivering commentary on the Muddy Gap Anticline, and as we drove by, he turned to my mother and said, “Did you see the anticline?” When she answered that she had not, he executed an immediate U-turn and went back to make sure she did! Such was our life growing up.
I ended up following in my Dad’s footsteps to Dartmouth and earned an undergraduate degree in Geology. My interest focused on the applications of computer technology in the field of geological science, a precursor to the formation of WhiteStar.
In 1990, the first WhiteStar project involved helping Texaco Trading and Transportation load different kinds of data into a newly selected mapping program, “PC ARC/Info.” Data included wells, pipelines, land grid, and some custom digitized layers. These data sets were stored in many different coordinate systems and needed to be pulled together onto one map. The map later won an award at Texaco for its innovation.
For the next year, I ran WhiteStar out of my parent’s basement in Southeast Denver where a couple of employees and I worked to digitize maps on old style digitizing tables. My good friend and fellow geologist Harvey Young talked me into renting office space adjacent to him in the Englewood Bank and Trust buildling on Hampden Avenue. This proved to be a great move as it gave the company solidity and credibility. We operated there for the next nine years.
In 1994, I met Steve Pickett, an account manager for NCR and Wang Laboratories, who took over the sales side of WhiteStar while I continued to develop the technical products. My other partner, Louise White Eshelman, joined us that year too. Both Louise and Steve remain partners in the company to this day.
From 1994 to 1999, we developed new clients and built coverage of our land grid information. We specialized in converting data from one format into another for use in a variety of software systems. Development of this technology is still crucial to what we do today.
In 1999 we obtained venture funding from the Altira Group, LLC, to purchase Platte River Digital Cartography, which had digitized a good portion of the Public Land Survey from USGS 7.5 minute topographic maps. Mike Schiewe, our current Operations Manager joined us at this time. With this investment, we were able to complete the national database over the next several years and begin creating a well header and culture database.
In the early 2000s, the energy industry began to trend towards subscription-oriented products and services. This model allowed a group of subscribers to share in the value of multi-million dollar databases rather than licensing pieces of them for large sums. We developed a 1:100,000 scale map product known as DataStar and offered it through Landmark GeoGraphics. In 2004, we standardized on the WhiteStar Grid as the basis for calculating well spots. This made WhiteStar Grid an industry standard product. At the end of 2006, WhiteStar offered a national land grid subscription for the first time.
Today, WhiteStar focuses on finding new ways to deliver map data directly to your projects via web technologies such as WMS and WFS. Introduced in 2010, Streaming Imagery is our first product in this new line. You can expect future WhiteStar products and services focused on faster and more effective ways of bringing data to your mapping environment.