who's who

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Dan Purvis of Velentium, Tony Sanchez of OneNexus Environmental, and Kevin Doffing of Energy Capital of the Future. 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 medical device development to fintech — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Dan Purvis, CEO and founder Velentium

Dan Purvis joined the Houston Innovators Podcast to share how he is leading his growing company with culture in mind. Photo courtesy of Velentium

Technology is constantly evolving, and it affects every industry's ability to innovate new solutions. For Dan Purvis, he wanted to support innovators within medical device innovation amidst this revolving door of new technologies. So, that's what he did when he founded Velentium almost a decade ago.

"Our dream from day one was to create a one-stop shop here in Houston where new startups with IP can come to us and know that start to finish they would have their commercial device ready for approval with the FDA and that we were going to handle everything," Purvis explains on the most recent episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast.

On the podcast, Purvis explains how he's set up his company with a culture-forward focus to keep up with the industry. Click here to read more and stream the episode.

Tony Sanchez, founder of OneNexus Environmental

This new Houston startup is tackling the increasingly dangerous problem of methane-emitting inactive oil and gas wells. Photo courtesy of OneNexus

Tony Sanchez, a veteran of the energy business, has launched OneNexus Environmental, a new fintech company that aims to help oil and gas exploration and production operators decommission orphaned wells and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. It's "the equivalent of a universal life insurance policy for their oil & gas wells," according to a statement.

Through OneNexus's model, operators will be able to transfer the title of their wells over to OneNexus, thus absolving all Asset Retirement Obligations (AROs) related to decommissioning inactive wells that are known to release dangerous levels of methane. OneNexus will then assume the financial and operation obligations around properly plugging the wells in a safe, reliable, and cost-effective manner.

"The drastic decline in energy demand that arose from the pandemic forced many operators to walk away from their wells," Sanchez said in a statement. "When orphaned wells started multiplying around the world overnight, what was previously the so-called elephant in the oilfield could no longer be ignored."

Kevin Doffing, president of Energy Capital of the Future

Houston has the the second largest veteran community in America — and the energy industry is vets' top employer. Photo courtesy

Kevin Doffing is passionate about getting the word out about Houston's large population of veterans — and the impact they are making on the city's economy.

"Many people living in Houston don't realize that the veteran community is taking an increasing leadership role in the energy transition," writes Doffing in a guest column for InnovationMap. "The greater Houston area is the second largest veteran community in America with over 5,500 new veterans and their families coming to Houston annually. We are the fastest growing city in America for veterans as well." Click here to read more.


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Building Houston

 
 

Veronica Wu, founder of First Bight Ventures, recently announced new team members and her hopes for making Houston a leader in synthetic biology. Photo courtesy of First Bight Ventures

Since launching earlier this year, a Houston-based venture capital firm dedicated to investing in synthetic biology companies has made some big moves.

First Bight Ventures, founded by Veronica Wu, announced its growing team and plans to stand up a foundry and accelerator for its portfolio companies and other synthetic biology startups in Houston. The firm hopes to make Houston an international leader in synthetic biology.

“We have a moment in time where we can make Houston the global epicenter of synthetic biology and the bio economy," Wu says to a group of stakeholders last week at First Bight's Rocketing into the Bioeconomy event. "Whether its energy, semiconductor, space exploration, or winning the World Series — Houstonians lead. It’s in our DNA. While others look to the stars, we launch people into space.”

At First Bight's event, Wu introduced the company's new team members. Angela Wilkins, executive director of the Ken Kennedy Institute at Rice University, joined First Bight as partner, and Serafina Lalany, former executive director of Houston Exponential, was named entrepreneur in residence. Carlos Estrada, who has held leadership positions within WeWork in Houston, also joins the team as entrepreneur in residence and will oversee the company's foundry and accelerator that will be established to support synthetic biology startups, Wu says.

“First Bight is investing to bring the best and the brightest — and most promising — synthetic biology startups from around the country to Houston," Wu continues.

First Bighthas one seed-staged company announced in its portfolio. San Diego-based Persephone Biosciences was founded in 2017 by synthetic and metabolic engineering pioneers, Stephanie Culler and Steve Van Dien. The company is working on developing microbial products that impact patient and infant health.

Wu, who worked at Apple before the launch of the iPhone and Tesla before Elon Musk was a household name, says she saw what was happening in Houston after her brother moved to town. She first invested in Houston's synthetic biology ecosystem when she contributed to one of Solugen's fundraising rounds. The alternative plastics company is now a unicorn valued at over $1 billion.

“I founded First Bight because of what I see is the next great wave of technology innovation," she says at the event. "I founded it in Houston because the pieces are right here.”

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