Best of the Best

Houston energy leader earns spot among America's 50 best workplaces

ConocoPhillips is one of America's best employers. Photo courtesy of ConocoPhillips

A major Houston energy player is raking in the awards. Austin-based Indeed recently revealed its list of the top 50 workplaces in the U.S., and Houston-based ConocoPhillips is joined by two other Texas companies.

To identify these top-rated workplaces, Indeed's data team mined the 100 million employee reviews on its own website and analyzed those from companies also featured on this year's Fortune 500 list.

ConocoPhillips has been exploring and producing oil and natural gas since 1875 and maintains its secret to success lies in the mantra "it's not just what we do — it's how we do it." It lands at No. 35, with employees praising the work-life balance and noting how they feel valued and respected.

Coming in at No. 3, Southwest earned raves for its supportive and fun environment, competitive pay, flexible work schedule, and enviable benefits (including free travel). Founded in 1967, the world's largest low-cost carrier also ranked No. 11 on Fortune's list of world's most admired companies for 2019.

Once based in Aliso Viejo, California, construction and engineering giant Fluor Corp. moved its headquarters to Irving in 2006. It takes the No. 17 spot on Indeed's list, and also resides on the Fortune 500 list with a 2018 revenue of $19.2 billion and more than 53,000 employees worldwide.

California clinches the rest of the top five, with Adobe (San Jose), Facebook (Menlo Park), Live Nation (Beverly Hills), and Intuit (Mountain View) demonstrating how tech and entertainment continue to remain popular industries for eager employees.

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.com.

Syzygy Plasmonics, which is creating a cleaner energy source that runs on hydrogen, closed a $5.8 million round. Photo via plasmonics.tech

A Houston technology company is doing something that, for many decades, wasn't thought to be possible. Syzygy Plasmonics is creating a hydrogen fuel cell technology that produces a cheaper source of energy that releases fewer carbon emissions.

The hydrogen-fueled technology originated out of research done over two decades by two Rice University professors, Naomi Halas and Peter Nordlander.

"There are rules in chemical engineering, and you can't break them, but we follow them in a different way," CEO Trevor Best tells InnovationMap. "What we're doing is fundamentally different. We're using light instead of heat to drive chemical reactions."

Syzygy's technology is structured more like a battery than that of a combustion engine. Inside the technology, there are cells, lights, and mirrors making as bright as possible, which then spurs a reaction that creates energy. It has the potential to be cheaper — it's made with cheaper materials — and, of course, cleaner than traditional fueling technology with fewer carbon emissions released.

This new photocatalytic chemical reactor has the potential to shake up the industrial gas, chemical, and energy industries — something that hasn't gone unnoticed by investors. Syzygy just closed a $5.8 million Series A round led by MIT's The Engine and Houston-based The GOOSE Society of Texas. Evok Innovations, a previous investor in the company, and angel investors from the Creative Destruction Lab also contributed to the round.

The funds will allow for Syzygy to continue to develop its technology and grow its team. Best tells InnovationMap that he expects to launch a full-size pilot by the end of 2020 and is already in talks with potential clients who are interested in the technology for industrial purposes.

"We're starting to solidify relationships and get customers ready," Best says.

Earlier this year, the company also received funding from the Department of Energy and from the National Science Foundation SBIR Program. The DOE tasked Syzygy with creating a reactor that transforms ammonia into hydrogen for fueling purposes. For the SBIR Program, the company is creating a reactor that processes carbon dioxide.