2021 in review

Editor's Picks: 7 favorite Houston interviews of 2021

The ultimate who's who of 2021 — favorite Houston Innovators Podcast guests of last year. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: In 2021, I recorded 50 episodes of the Houston Innovators Podcast — a weekly discussion with a Houston innovator. While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each and every conversation I’ve had this year, I picked a few of my favorites based on a few parameters. Maybe I learned something new or got to break a developing story — or maybe I just really loved chatting with someone. Whatever the reason, I’ve rounded up these seven podcast episodes I really liked, and explained why I selected each episode as a favorite on the last episode for the year.




To stream each episode in its entirety, see below or find the Houston Innovators Podcast wherever you stream your podcasts.

Ashley DeWalt of DivInc, Episode 79

Ashley DeWalt, managing director of DivInc, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss diversity and inclusion, sports tech, and all things Houston. Photo courtesy of DivInc

Ashley DeWalt is the managing director of DivInc, a diversity-focused startup development nonprofit that expanded to Houston officially this year. He has a huge passion for his hometown of Houston and a long career in supporting innovators — particularly within diversity as well as sports tech. In the episode, he discussed both his passions and why Houston is on the path to being a hub for sports innovation.

Deeanna Zhang of Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co., episode 69

Deeanna Zhang of Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. on the energy crisis that occured in 2020. Photo courtesy of TPH

Deeana Zhang, director of energy technology at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co., joined the show to look back on the effect 2020 had on energy tech in Houston, which took a double whammy of a hit between the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented drop in oil prices. The combo was a shock to the system and the industry, which Houston is home to a significant portion of. Deeanna shared that, while the hit to the economy was devastating, it positively affected the need to focus on the energy transition.

Gaurav Khandelwal of Velostics, episode 99

Velostics is a growing logistics software solution. Photo courtesy of Velostics

Houston has several startups solving complex problems within the logistics industry, and Gaurav Khandelwal is at the helm of one called Velostics. Also the founder of ChaiOne, another Houston software startup, Khandelwal explains a specific part of trucking logistics that is ripe for optimization. This middle mile represents a $700 billion market, and Velostics is ready to make an impact in that space.

Allison Post of the Texas Heart Institute, episode 80

Allison Post joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to share what she's focused on in cardiac innovation. Photo courtesy of THI

The Texas Medical Center is home to over a dozen member organizations all treating thousands and thousands of patients who need care now — as well as supporting research and student health care professionals. And when it comes to innovation within these organizations, the past few years have made for remarkable evolution. Allison Post joined the Texas Heart Institute in October of 2020 in a newly created position of manager of innovation partnerships, and it's her one and only goal to keep THI an innovative force.

Aaron Knape of sEATz, episode 109

Houston-based sEATz is expanding. Photo courtesy of sEATz

Growing Houston startup sEATz, a company that works with vendors in entertainment venues to provide food and drinks directly to fans in their seats. Aaron Knape, CEO and co-founder, joined the show in November to discuss how the pandemic affected his business and the new exciting vertical they were expanding into, which is health care.

Emily Cisek of The Postage, episode 95

Emily Cisek started her company after losing two family members back to back. Photo courtesy of The Postage

Entrepreneurs possess both their ability to recognize a gap in the market as well as the initiative to develop a solution. On episode 95 of the podcast, Emily Cisek discussed her new company, The Postage. She came up with the idea to help families navigate end of life decision making based off a personal experience she had. Now she’s growing and expanding her brand and capabilities while changing the way we discuss death.

Kevin Coker of Proxima Clinical Research, episode 82

Proxima Clinical Research is a contract research organization. Photo courtesy of Proxima

It’s been a trying time for health care innovation, and no one understands that more than Kevin Coker, CEO of Proxima Clinical Research, a Houston-based contract research organization focused on supporting life science startups as they grow and scale. On episode 82 of the show, Coker discussed the effects the pandemic had on life science innovation and shared how in sync with Houston his organization is.

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Building Houston

 
 

Zimri T. Hinshaw, CEO of BUCHA BIO, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss how he's planning to scale his biomaterials startup to reduce plastic waste. Photo courtesy of BUCHA BIO

After raising a seed round of funding, an alternative materials startup is gearing up to move into its new facility.

BUCHA BIO, a climatetech company that's creating sustainable materials to replace plastics and leather for the fashion industry and beyond, closed its most recent round of funding at $1.1 million in September. Now, the company is full speed ahead getting ready to move into a larger office and lab space this month while hiring within technical roles, supply chain, quality control scientists, and more to make sure BUCHA BIO is ready to scale.

"That's the biggest deployment of capital — making sure we have the team that can scale this and so we can set up the logistics needed," CEO Zimri T. Hinshaw says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It's not all fun innovative materials — it's also really fun international supply chain logistics. Some of these things we don't always talk about are equally important to make sure we are creating a product that has the potential to displace plastic and leather at scale."

Hinshaw shares on the podcast how his technology takes the raw material from bacterial and plant-based ingredients — basically a thick malleable substance — and turns it into a durable sheet of material that can be used in fashion, but also automotive and energy-adjacent industries.

BUCHA BIO was founded in New York City in 2020, but after the company participated in SOSV's IndieBio program, Hinshaw shares how he started looking for a new headquarters for the company — one that was more affordable, had a solid talent pool, and offered a better quality of life for employees.

"Manhattan is a notoriously difficult place to live and work — and to grow a company like this. It just came to a point where we couldn't afford to give the talent a high quality of life, and that's important to me as a leader," Hinshaw says. "We couldn't afford the space. ... That was the tipping point for us."

Hinshaw says he looked at over 20 cities closely — Austin; Akron, Ohio; Dallas; Miami; and more. He narrowed it down to San Diego and Houston, before ultimately deciding on the Bayou City.

Since officially relocating, Hinshaw says he's fully committed to the city's innovation ecosystem. BUCHA BIO has a presence at the University of Houston, Greentown Labs, and the East End Maker Hub — where the startup is building out a new space to fit the growing team.

"By the end of this month, our laboratories will be up and running, we'll have office space adjacent, as well as chemical storage," Hinshaw says. "We aren't manufacturing onsite — we're prototyping and improving manufacturing onsite."

The technology BUCHA BIO uses to produce its materials is called an extruder, and the company has its own smaller scale model within its facilities. Hinshaw says the process includes outsourcing the larger scale process at existing facilities.

After fully moving in and hiring the new team members the company needs at this phase of scaling, Hinshaw says he'll execute on his current plan to raise more funding from investors.

"As of right now, we are looking to catch up to the competition and to be a major player," Hinshaw says, adding that, as of now, he's aiming for a $10 million series A round. "We're breaking out, and this next round is going to prove that."

Hinshaw shares more about his game plan for BUCHA BIO and his passion for helping to make Houston a leader within the sustainability space on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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