who's who

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Allie Danziger of Ampersand Professionals, Pete O'Heeron of Fibrobiologics, and Brandy Guidry of The Cannon. Courtesy photos

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from health innovation to job training technology — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Allie Danziger, founder and CEO of Ampersand Professionals

After working with thousands of interns, Allie Danziger of Ampersand Professionals says she's now got a product to upskill and train new hires for employers. Photo courtesy of Ampersand

Allie Danziger is taking the workforce development programming she's created for training and matching interns with businesses to a whole new level. The new offering gives companies an opportunity to streamline their onboarding process with Ampersand's plug-and-play programming.

Danziger says usually new hires need the most experienced mentor or manager, but they don't usually get that support — especially when it comes to businesses that don't have their own built-out mentorship or training program.

"Ampersand’s new training product fills that gap — it gives employers of any size any easy solution to provide basic job readiness training to employees, access to our team of dedicated coaches, and a detailed report at the end of their training summarizing how their new hire did in the training and any trends recognized and tips for managing this employee based on what the platform uncovered," she says. "Businesses can also sign up for additional coaching sessions and customize training materials, as an add-on if interested." Click here to read more.

Pete O'Heeron, CEO and chairman of FibroBiologics

Pete O'Heeron leads FibroBiologics as CEO and chairman. Photo via Fibrobiologics.com

Fibroblasts have so much potential for a wide range of cell therapy treatments — the opportunities are endless, according to Pete O’Heeron, CEO, founder, and chairman of FiberBiologics, a Houston-based company that’s using fibroblast cell technology to treat a variety of chronic diseases.

With over 150 patents issued or pending, O'Heeron's team has the most intellectual property surrounding fibroblasts in the world and, while there is a lot of activity in the stem cell space, they are the leader when it comes to fibroblasts, he says. FiberBiologics is the name of the entity O'Heeron is hoping to take public by the end of the year, but the business originated as SpinalCyte, specializing in spinal treatment, before evolving into FibroGenesis as the technology began treating more parts of the body.

"With fibroblasts being the most common cell in the human body, you have to assume its involved in every process of the human body," O'Heeron says on last week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "There's literally not biological process in the body where fibroblasts are not involved." Click here to listen to the episode and read more.

​Brandy Guidry, Pearland navigator at The Cannon

The Pearland Innovation Hub celebrates its launch this month. Photo via pearlandinnovationhub.com

The Pearland Economic Development Corp. has launched the Pearland Innovation Hub, aimed at connecting small businesses with programs and services that are designed to contribute to their success.

The Pearland Innovation Hub is managed through a partnership between the Pearland Economic Development Corp. and The Cannon, a Houston-area business networking community for entrepreneurs, investors, and corporate innovators. For now, the hub does not officially have a physical space. The Cannon hired Brandy Guidry to run the Pearland hub. She has more than 17 years of experience in business operations; engineering; technical marketing; innovation; and strategic planning, project, and program management.

“The Pearland Innovation Hub is a groundbreaking initiative to support existing and aspiring small business owners,” Guidry adds. Click here to read more.


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Building Houston

 
 

Rice University and Houston Methodist have teamed up to fund life science research — and more Houston innovation news you need to know. Image courtesy of Rice

Houston startup news has still been full speed ahead, despite the year coming to a close, and there might be some headlines you may have missed.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston startups and tech, a climatetech leader steps down, two digital health companies have been recognized internationally, and more.

Two Houston startups land on most-promising health tech list

Houston has some representation on this year's Digital Health 150. Image via CB Insights

CB Insights released The Digital Health 150, an annual ranking of the 150 most promising digital health startups in the world, last week and two Houston companies made the cut. Houston-based companies Koda Health and Starling Medical were two of the eight Texas startups on the list.

Founded in 2020, Koda Health is a B2B Enterprise SaaS solution that guides patients through the process of proactive healthcare planning and document authentication. The company has been expanding its service across the country this year following a seed round of funding in February.

"Each year, 150 winners are selected from a pool of over 13,000 companies," Koda's CEO and Co-Founder Tatiana Fofanova tells InnovationMap. "Honorees have quickly become industry titans and household names, so we were honored — and frankly, surprised! — to be recognized in this year's group of honorees.

"I've personally taken inspiration from the Digital Health 150 for years now ± these are people and companies we've emulated and aspired to — so to see the Koda Health logo on there was incredibly affirming," she continues.

Starling Medical is using AI and telehealth enabled medical devices to enable millions with bladder dysfunctions to be able to urinate safely and conveniently again. The company has been named most promising by the Rice Alliance as well, and a top 10 company by MassChallenge.

This is the fourth annual Digital Health 150, and this new cohort has already raised approximately $5.6 billion in aggregate funding across 378 deals since 2017, according to CB Insights.

Houston startup snags win at the 'Oscars' of energy industry

Syzygy Plasmonics was recognized for being an outstanding energy transition company. Photo via LinkedIn

At the 24th annual Platts Global Energy Awards gala, S&P Global Commodity Insights honored industry excellence across 19 categories. Described as the "Oscars" of energy, the program "recognizes corporate and individual innovation, leadership, and performance in the energy and petrochemicals industry," according to a news release.

"We are proud to recognize the leadership and innovation of this year's finalists and winners of the Platts Global Energy Awards," says Saugata Saha, president of S&P Global Commodity Insights, in the release. "These companies have demonstrated a commitment to excellence while serving customers and enabling a balanced energy transition, a key area of focus for the industry and our teams at S&P Global Commodity Insights."

Houston-based alternative energy company, Syzygy Plasmonics, took home a win for the "Energy Transition Technology of the Year Award." Syzygy, which recently raised a $76 million series C round, has a technology that harnesses the power of light to energize chemical reactions — rather than the traditional process that is fueled by heat. The Syzygy approach reduces feedstock waste and produces fewer emissions when powered by renewable electricity.

Greentown Labs CEO steps down

In her capacity as Greentown Labs CEO, Emily Reichert cut the ribbon on Greentown Houston over a year and a half ago. Photo by Lee Bond/Greentown Labs

The leader of Somerville, Massachusetts-based Greentown Labs, which has its only other location in Houston, has stepped down after a decade at the helm of the climatetech incubator.

In an email to the Greentown Labs community, Emily Reichert confirmed that she has stepped down as CEO and will remain involved as "CEO Emeritus." The organization's CFO, Kevin Taylor, has picked up more leadership responsibilities in the interim.

"As I hand the baton off to the next leader of Greentown Labs, I’m confident in our community’s ability to continue making an enormous impact deploying climatetech solutions and our team’s ability to continue growing Greentown to be an ever-more-impactful space for climatetech entrepreneurs and collaborators," Reichert says in the email.

Rice backs new research collaborations with Houston Methodist

Rice University and Houston Methodist have again teamed up to support life science research. Photo via rice.edu

Two Houston organizations — Rice University and the Houston Methodist Academic Institute — have created a seed grant program and awarded grants for research in robotics, imaging, cardiovascular bioengineering, and more. Twenty multi-year projects will be supported by both Houston Methodist and Rice, according to a news release.

It's the third collaborative program between the two organizations in less than two years.

“Our collaborations with Houston Methodist will impact human health and wellness, foster new research opportunities and advance our understanding of diseases," says Rice Provost Amy Dittmar in a news release.

The projects within the nursing category have not been announced, but the awards for the other categories have been named online.

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