year in review
5 most-read startup feature stories of 2023
Editor's note: As the year comes to a close, InnovationMap is looking back at the year's top stories in Houston innovation. This past year, InnovationMap featured profiles on dozens of these Houston startups — from health tech to drone companies. Here are five Houston startup features that stood out to readers this year — be sure to click through to read the full story.
Houston-based Milkify will pitch their freeze-drying breast milk concept on Shark Tank this Friday. Photo courtesy of Milkify
A Houston startup is competing in the "Super Bowl of Business," as founder Pedro Silva calls it, and you can watch the action later this week.
Milkify will appear on ABC’s “Shark Tank” this Friday, April 7. Silva, co-founder and CEO, created Milkify along with his wife, Berkley Luck, PhD, in 2019. Today, Luck is a mom, COO, and a molecular biologist, but she had the idea for the company back in grad school. A coworker was struggling with pumping breast milk “lugging the pump back to work,” as Luck puts it.
Luck was studying probiotics at the time and was using a freeze-dryer in her work. The problem inspired her to create a process of freeze-drying breast milk that is now patent pending. The trademarked process is centered around SafeDry, special freeze-drying pouches.
“The breast milk never makes contact with our equipment,” Luck explains. The powdered milk is transferred directly from the bag in which it’s freeze-dried to the final packaging under sterile conditions. The result is not only shelf-stable, but keeps for at least three years, exponentially longer than frozen milk.
HIVE 3D is bringing science fiction to reality with this Texas project. Photo courtesy of HIVE 3D
While it may be true that the mother of invention is necessity, in today’s startup market, a more important factor is disruption. That’s where HIVE 3D, a Texas-based leader in constructing eco-friendly 3D printed homes, flourishes.
HIVE 3D was already revolutionizing the home-builder industry with its lightweight gantry system and mobile robotic arm system to 3D print its homes, but it took a giant leap further with its partnership with Utah-based Eco Material Technologies, North America’s leading producer of sustainable cement alternatives.
Together, they are building the world’s first near-zero-carbon, 3D-printed homes. Using Eco Material’s cement mixture called PozzoCEM Vite, which has 92 percent lower emissions than traditional concrete that can set in just a few minutes, they are focusing on providing a sustainable, cost-efficient and affordable housing solution.
“We want our homes to last 1,000 years,” Timothy Lankau, CEO, Hive 3D CEO, tells InnovationMap. “We want archaeologists to dig them up and wonder what they were. I mean, you go to the Parthenon in Rome, and it looks similar today to how it did 2,000 years ago because the materials are so stable.
A new innovation out of the Texas Medical Center's Biodesign Program is enhancing efficacy of a life-saving aortic aneurysm rupture procedure. Photo via Getty Images
Yes, you can die of a broken heart — although it's not in the hyperbolic way you might be thinking. Fewer than 20 percent of people who have an aortic aneurysm rupture survive the event. But aortic aneurysms can be treated if they’re caught before they burst. A new Houston company is devoted to a novel solution to helping patients with abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA).
That company is Taurus Vascular. As part of the current class of the TMC Innovation Biodesign Program, fellows Matthew Kuhn and Melanie Lowther were tasked with creating a biomedical company in a year. The founders started their journey last August. At the end of this month, they'll be kicked out of the nest, Kuhn tells InnovationMap. Taurus is also in Rice University's 2023 cohort of OwlSpark, an ongoing summer program for startups founders from the Rice community.
Kuhn is a biomedical engineer who just scored his forty-fifth patent. The CEO says that he hit it off quickly with his co-founder and COO, Lowther, former director entrepreneurship and innovation at Texas Children’s Hospital.
A Houston-founded company is targeting mothers and daughters with their teletherapy app. Photo courtesy of Passport Journeys
When Lacey Tezino’s mother died of cancer she vowed to help other mothers and daughters find their own ways to bond in beautiful, nurturing ways.
Tezino turned that vow into a mission that is now available for others to embark on with an online therapy app tailored specifically for the mother-daughter dynamic Passport Journeys.
The Houston-based company is billed as the first mother-daughter teletherapy application that stands out in a crowded market place on online therapy like Better Help. Tezino, the founder and CEO, partnered with seven Houston-based licensed behavioral health clinics to make the dream a reality.
Ty Audronis founded Tempest Droneworx to put drone data to work. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx
Ty Audronis quite literally grew up in Paradise. But the Northern California town was destroyed by wildfire in 2018, including Audronis’ childhood home.
“That’s why it’s called the Campfire Region,” says the founder, who explains that the flames were started by a spark off a 97-year-old transmission line.
But Audronis, who has literally written the book on designing purpose-built drones — actually, more than one — wasn’t going to sit back and let it happen again. Currently, wildfire prevention is limited to the “medieval technology” of using towers miles apart to check for smoke signals.
“By the time you see smoke signals, you’ve already got a big problem,” Audronis says.
His idea? To replace that system with real-time, three-dimensional, multi-spectral mapping, which exactly where his company, Tempest Droneworx, comes in.