Sports Talk

Inaugural panel discussion dives deep into emerging tech partnerships

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On March 24, more than 100 guests gathered at alliantgroup's head-turning conference center in the Galleria area for an exciting discussion on the sportstech industry, co-sponsored by InnovationMap. The panelists included Houston-based thought leaders, founders, and investors who shared their insights while discussing how the city of Houston can emerge as a leader in sports technology.

With the backdrop of Houston’s skyline, the event began with an hour of networking, drinks, and light bites. Then alliantgroup’s CEO, Dhaval Jadav, kicked off the discussion by sharing his enthusiasm for the inaugural Future Focus series and introduced David Gow as the moderator for the night’s topic.

Gow is the CEO of Gow Media and the CEO of a SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Corp) that has raised $115 million to invest in sportstech. He explained how “technology is transforming the sports industry, creating new billion-dollar industries seemingly overnight.”

He defined sportstech within four categories: health and performance, fan engagement, e-sports, and fantasy and gambling. Across these categories, technology is enabling interconnectedness through social interaction, new communities, improved health, subscriber-based business models, software as a service, and new revenue streams.

And this doesn’t even do justice to all the changes happening with NIL, NFTs and Web3.

The panel included an all-star cast, with two from academia, an executive from the Houston Astros, and two sportstech entrepreneurs:

  • Beena George, chief innovation officer and professor of management at University of St. Thomas
  • Tom Stallings, professor of sports management at Rice University
  • Jimmy Comerota, director of strategic partnerships for the Houston Astros
  • Dez, co-creator of Apollo Houston
  • Jorge Ortiz, CEO of VarsityHype

Future Focus sportstech

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Gow began by asking the panelists “which innovation intrigues you the most?” and responses ranged from wearables to enhance wellness to new training equipment to the rise of e-sports and the metaverse, the latter of which Ortiz displayed particular enthusiasm about. He has already made a bet on the future — last year he bought a tavern in the metaverse, naming it “Isla,” after his newborn.

Gow cited Houston-based company nVenue as being well positioned for the future of sports betting.

“The company will profit from microbetting, which is rapid bets on individual moments within a game, e.g. a bet on whether a batter will get on base, etc," said Gow. "It takes raw, historical data, such as a batting average, and turns it into betting odds real-time, pitch by pitch.”

George noted that University of St. Thomas now has an e-sports team. “The young demo in e-sports suggests a high-growth future,” she shared.

The panel agreed that we are already seeing the impacts on the merging of sports and technology and how it’s shaping our engagement here in Houston.

"Everyone that knows me knows that I am a sports fanatic, and I was absolutely blown away by the panel and their discussion on what’s on the horizon for the fan experience," said Jadav. "I was riveted by the discussion and they covered so many exciting topics. I am also super excited about how Web3 and the metaverse will change how we interact with athletes and creatives and create a more immersive experience for all. I can’t wait for the next event.”

Future Focus: Sportstech was the first of many planned discussions that alliantgroup and InnovationMap are hosting. The series was created as a way for industry leaders and burgeoning startups to exchange ideas and talk about what the future of technology looks like for all of us.

The next event will focus on spacetech and is scheduled for May 5. It will be moderated by alliantgroup chairman of robotics and artificial intelligence Dr. Robert Ambrose, who recently retired from NASA, where he served as the chief of software, robotics, and simulation division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The panel will include Dr. Seth Shotak, senior astronomer and director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute in California.

These Future Focus panels are free to attend, though registration is encouraged.

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Building Houston

 
 

Cemvita reported a successful pilot program on its gold hydrogen project in the Permian Basin. Photo courtesy of Cemvita

Houston-based cleantech startup Cemvita Factory is kicking things into high gear with its Gold Hydrogen product.

After successfully completing a pilot test of Gold Hydrogen in the oil-rich Permian Basin of West Texas, Cemvita has raised an undisclosed amount of funding through its new Gold H2 LLC spin-out. The lead investors are Georgia-based equipment manufacturer Chart Industries and 8090 Industries, an investment consortium with offices in New York City and Los Angeles.

Gold Hydrogen provides carbon-neutral hydrogen obtained from depleted oil and gas wells. This is achieved through bioengineering subsurface microbes in the wells to consume carbon and generate clean hydrogen.

Cemvita says it set up Gold H2 to commercialize the business via licensing, joint ventures, and outright ownership of hydrogen assets.

“We have incredible conviction in next-generation clean hydrogen production methods that leverage the vast and sprawling existing infrastructure and know-how of the oil and gas industry,” Rayyan Islam, co-founder and general partner of 8090 Industries, says in a news release.

Traditional methods of producing hydrogen without greenhouse gas emissions include electrolysis powered by renewable sources like wind, solar or water, according to Cemvita. However, production of green hydrogen through normal avenues eats up a lot of energy and money, the startup says.

By contrast, Cemvita relies on depleted oil and gas wells to cheaply produce carbon-free hydrogen.

“The commercialization and economics of the hydrogen economy will require technologies that produce the hydrogen molecule at a meaningful scale with no carbon emissions. Gold H2 is leading the charge … ,” says Jill Evanko, president and CEO of Chart Industries.

Investors in Cemvita include Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based Occidental Petroleum, as well as BHP Group, Mitsubishi, and United Airlines Ventures.

Oxy Low Carbon Ventures and United Airlines Ventures are financing Cemvita’s work on sustainable jet fuel. United Airlines operates a hub at George Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston.

Founded by brother-and-sister team Moji and Tara Karimi in 2017, Cemvita uses synthetic biology to turn carbon dioxide into chemicals and alternative fuels.

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