money moves

These are the 2 Houston startups that joined the unicorn club in 2021

In total, Texas saw seven companies reach unicorn status in 2021. Image via Getty Images

Houston welcomed a duo of unicorns in 2021, according to a new report. But these unicorns aren’t those mythical multicolored creatures. Rather, they’re startups valued at $1 billion or more.

As of December 2021, there were more than 900 unicorns around the world, according to market research company CB Insights. Former unicorns include Airbnb, Facebook, and Google.

Joining the unicorn club in 2021 were two startups based in the Houston area:

  • Solugen, currently valued at $1.8 billion, according to the company, which uses corn syrup to produce chemicals.
  • Axiom Space, valued at more than $1 billion as of February. The startup is developing the world’s first space station for commercial purposes.

Houston's other unicorn is fintech company, HighRadius, which reached the $1 billion valuation mark in January of 2020.

The Lone Star State added a few other companies to its unicorn herd. Austin had four companies claim the prestigious status — the most newly minted unicorns in Texas — and now has a total of six unicorns. Dallas added one new unicorn to its economy, making a total of three Dallas area-based unicorns, according to CB Insights.

Here are the other 2021 unicorns in Texas:

  • Austin-based Iodine Software, valued at more than $1 billion as of December. The company’s artificial intelligence offering aims to help healthcare organizations improve their operations.
  • Austin-based ZenBusiness, valued at $1.7 billion as of November. ZenBusiness provides an online platform designed to help entrepreneurs start, run, and grow their small businesses.
  • Cedar Park-based Firefly Aerospace, valued at more than $1 billion as of May. The startup makes rockets and commercial spacecraft.
  • Austin-based The Zebra, valued at more than $1 billion as of April. The Zebra runs an online marketplace that enables consumers to compare insurance quotes.
  • Irving-based Caris Life Sciences is valued at a whopping $7.83 billion as of May. Caris employs artificial intelligence to come up with targeted cancer treatments.

Startups, particularly those in the tech space, increasingly are drawn to Austin. In 2020, CompTIA, a trade group for the tech industry, placed Austin atop its Tech Town USA index. The organization cited Austin as a “favorable alternative” to the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City for startups and other companies.

Joshua Baer, founder and CEO of Austin-based Capital Factory, an accelerator for startups, told Texas Monthly in April that Austin’s status as a business magnet has risen recently.

“Suddenly, we’ve gone from us having to beat our chest and tell everybody else how great Austin and Texas are to everybody showing up here, telling us why it’s so great, and why they moved here,” Baer says.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Business and government leaders in the Houston area hope the region can become a hub for CCS activity. Photo via Getty Images

Three big businesses — Air Liquide, BASF, and Shell — have added their firepower to the effort to promote large-scale carbon capture and storage for the Houston area’s industrial ecosystem.

These companies join 11 others that in 2021 threw their support behind the initiative. Participants are evaluating how to use safe carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology at Houston-area facilities that provide energy, power generation, and advanced manufacturing for plastics, motor fuels, and packaging.

Other companies backing the CCS project are Calpine, Chevron, Dow, ExxonMobil, INEOS, Linde, LyondellBasell, Marathon Petroleum, NRG Energy, Phillips 66, and Valero.

Business and government leaders in the Houston area hope the region can become a hub for CCS activity.

“Large-scale carbon capture and storage in the Houston region will be a cornerstone for the world’s energy transition, and these companies’ efforts are crucial toward advancing CCS development to achieve broad scale commercial impact,” Charles McConnell, director of University of Houston’s Center for Carbon Management in Energy, says in a news release.

McConnell and others say CCS could help Houston and the rest of the U.S. net-zero goals while generating new jobs and protecting current jobs.

CCS involves capturing carbon dioxide from industrial activities that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and then injecting it into deep underground geologic formations for secure and permanent storage. Carbon dioxide from industrial users in the Houston area could be stored in nearby onshore and offshore storage sites.

An analysis of U.S Department of Energy estimates shows the storage capacity along the Gulf Coast is large enough to store about 500 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to more than 130 years’ worth of industrial and power generation emissions in the United States, based on 2018 data.

“Carbon capture and storage is not a single technology, but rather a series of technologies and scientific breakthroughs that work in concert to achieve a profound outcome, one that will play a significant role in the future of energy and our planet,” says Gretchen Watkins, U.S. president of Shell. “In that spirit, it’s fitting this consortium combines CCS blueprints and ambitions to crystalize Houston’s reputation as the energy capital of the world while contributing to local and U.S. plans to help achieve net-zero emissions.”

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