HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 54

Houston innovator is putting female health tech entrepreneurs on center stage

Ayse McCracken joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss women in health care and Ignite Madness. Photo courtesy of Ignite

When COVID-19 hit, Ayse McCracken realized that women in health care were going to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic and social isolation. As the founder and board chair of Ignite Healthcare Network, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting and promoting female health tech entrepreneurs, McCracken jumped to provide a virtual way to connect her members.

"With COVID, it has only escalated the importance of our work, so we've elevated our voices through our webinar series," McCracken says on this week's Houston Innovators Podcast.

The webinars featured prominent women in health care discussing leaderships, the effect of the pandemic, and more. Now, Ignite has introduced an entirely new virtual event series focused on startups and, something slightly unexpected: basketball. Ignite Madness begins tomorrow, October 22, and will feature 35 startups. The startups will be narrowed down to seven finalists, who will then pitch at the finals next Thursday, October 29. Click here to register.

"We wanted to do something that was kind of fun and engaging for people while showcasing great entrepreneurs. We didn't want it to just be a pitch event," McCracken says. "When you look at basketball, the similarities were very interesting."

Women make up a significant portion of the fan base for basketball, McCracken says she discovered, and she had the idea of featuring female coaches into the pitch competition. Seven college basketball coaches will be involved in the event as mentors, sharing their own stories.

McCracken says she was strategic when organizing the pitch competition and made sure the competing companies were representative of both the industry's innovation and of diversity. The startups from 13 states across the United States and six other countries — 43 percent of the founders pitching are women of color.

"When we say women, we mean women of all colors and ethnicities," McCracken says. "We have made sure that our leadership team is diverse and inclusive. Everything we do, you'll see women in a very inclusive way."

While you'll have to watch the pitches yourself, McCracken says, the startups are focusing on novel medical devices, cancer detection, and nanotech-based treatment selection platforms, mental health platforms, telehealth solutions, digital solutions for women's health issues like fertility, and so much more.

McCracken shares more about what viewers can expect from the event as well as the important role women in health care play and the evolution of the industry in Houston on the podcast. You can listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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Building Houston

 
 

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Thomas Vassiliades of BiVACOR, Katie Mehnert of ALLY Energy, and Don Whaley of OhmConnect Texas. Courtesy photos

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know — the first of this new year — I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from health care innovation to energy — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.


Thomas Vassiliades, CEO of BiVACOR

BiVACOR named Thomas Vassiliades as CEO effective immediately. Photo courtesy of BiVACOR

Thomas Vassiliades has been named CEO of BiVACOR, and he replaces the company's founder, Daniel Timms, in the position. BiVACOR is on track to head toward human clinical trials and commercialization, and Vassiliades is tasked with leading the way.

Vassiliades has over 30 years of experience within the medical device industry as well as cardiothoracic surgery. He was most recently the general manager of the surgery and heart failure business at Abiomed and held several leadership roles at Medtronic. Dr. Vassiliades received his MD from the University of North Carolina, and his MBA was achieved with distinction at Emory University.

“I am excited and honored to join the BiVACOR team, working closely with Daniel and the entire team as we look forward to bringing this life-changing technology to the market,” says Dr. Vassiliades in the release. “Throughout my career, I’ve been guided by the goal of bringing innovative cardiovascular therapies to the market to improve patient care and outcomes – providing solutions for those that don’t have one. BiVACOR is uniquely well-positioned to provide long-term therapy for patients with severe biventricular heart failure.” Click here to read more.

Katie Mehnert, CEO and founder of ALLY Energy

Katie Mehnert joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss the future of energy amid a pandemic, climate change, the Great Resignation, and more. Photo via Katie Mehnert

Katie Mehnert started ALLY Energy — originally founded as Pink Petro — to move forward DEI initiatives, and she says she started with building an audience first and foremost, but now the technology part of the platform has fallen into place too. Last summer, ALLY Energy acquired Clean Energy Social, which meant doubling its community while also onboarding new technology. On the episode, Mehnert reveals that this new website and platform is now up and running.

"We launched the integrated product a few weeks back," Mehnert says. "The whole goal was to move away from technology that wasn't serving us."

Now, moving into the new year, Mehnert is building the team the company needs. She says she hopes to grow ALLY from two employees to 10 by the end of the year and is looking for personnel within customer support, product developers, and sales and service. While ALLY is revenue generating, she also hopes to fundraise to further support scaling. Click here to read more.

Don Whaley, president at OhmConnect Texas

Texas is about a month away from the anniversary of Winter Storm Uri — would the state fair better if it saw a repeat in 2022? Photo courtesy

The state of Texas is about a month away from the one year anniversary of Winter Storm Uri — but is the state better prepared this winter season? Don Whaley, president at OhmConnect Texas, looked at where the state is now versus then in a guest column for InnovationMap.

"Governor Abbott has gone on record guaranteeing that the lights will stay on this winter, and I am inclined to agree. With the reinforcement of our fuel systems being mandated by the Railroad Commission, 2023 to 2025 should receive the same guarantee," he writes. "Beyond that, as the demand for electricity in Texas continues to grow, we will need to rely on the initiatives under consideration by the PUCT to attract investment and innovation in new, dispatchable generation and flexible demand solutions to ensure long-term stability in the ERCOT market.

Whaley has worked for over 40 years in the natural gas, electricity, and renewables industries, with specific experience in deregulated markets across the U.S. and Canada. He founded Direct Energy Texas and served as its president during the early years of deregulation. Click here to read more.

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