who's who

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Emily Keeton of Loeb.nyc, Steve Kean of GHP, and Lacey Tezino of Passport Journeys. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from investing to mental health — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Emily Keeton, operating partner and investor of Loeb.nyc

Emily Keeton has worn a lot of hats in Houston's innovation ecosystem and beyond. She shares on the Houston Innovators Podcast how she's engaging with companies these days, what the future holds for Houston, and more. Photo courtesy

Emily Keeton has had a front-row seat as the Houston innovation ecosystem developed — first hands on as a co-founder of Station Houston, and later from outside looking in from New York. As she shared on the Houston Innovators Podcast, she's hopeful about the future of the community.

"I am very optimistic about the future of Houston. It's a long game, and I think people need to keep showing up," she says on the show.

Now based in Houston, her latest endeavor is working with Michael Loeb on Loeb.nyc, a New York-based investment firm with shared services — marketing, design, etc. — with his portfolio. Read more.

Steve Kean, incoming president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership

Steve Kean will transition from leading Kinder Morgan to assuming the role of president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership later this year. Photo courtesy of the GHP

Steve Kean, who currently serves as the CEO of Kinder Morgan Inc., has been announced as the next president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership. He's expected to transition from CEO to board of directors member at Kinder Morgan on August 1. Kean will then assume his new position at GHP no later than Dec. 1.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve our region in this role," he says. "I look forward to building on what Bob, the Board, members, and staff of the Partnership have accomplished. I know first-hand the opportunities that a vibrant business sector can create for people and communities. I look forward to expanding those opportunities further.”

The GHP's outgoing president and CEO, Bob Harvey, announced his retirement earlier this year, and will remain in his position until Kean is onboarded. Read more.

A Houston-founded company is targeting mothers and daughters with their teletherapy app. Photo courtesy of Passport Journeys

When Lacey Tezino’s mother died of cancer she vowed to help other mothers and daughters find their own ways to bond in beautiful, nurturing ways. She turned that vow into a mission that is now available for others to embark on with an online therapy app tailored specifically for the mother-daughter dynamic Passport Journeys.

The app, which launched aptly on Mother's Day, can be downloaded via Apple or Google Play, and includes video therapy sessions, journal opportunities, interactive worksheets, and help those who need access to this form of mental health help with ease.

“Outside of our target audience being mother-daughter, we are also the first teletherapy app to find prescribed activities,“ Tezino tells InnovationMap. “We are the first ones that are actually having the therapist in between their video sessions assign the mother-daughter pair intentional bonding activities. It is meant for them to spend quality time on where they are at in their relationship…there aren’t any other apps that are doing that.” Read more.

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Nai-Hui Chia, an assistant professor of computer science at Rice, was recognized for his research on Hamiltonian simulations, a method for representing the motion of moving particles. Photo via Rice.edu

A Rice University quantum computer scientist was one of 78 global professors to be presented with a 2023 Google Scholar award, the university announced this month.

Nai-Hui Chia, an assistant professor of computer science at Rice, was recognized for his research on Hamiltonian simulations, a method for representing the motion of moving particles. Chia aims to understand if quantum computers or machines can simulate a "Hamiltonian matrix" with a shorter evolution time.

"We call this fast-forwarding for a Hamiltonian simulation,” Chia says in a statement.

Chia aims to use the funds from Google to discover Hamiltonians that can be fast-forwarded using parallelism or classical computation, according to Rice. He will present his current work on Hamiltonians and their connection to cryptology in July at the 2023 Computational Complexity Conference in Warwick, UK.

The Google Research Scholar program grants funds of up to $60,000 to support professors' research around the world. This year's cohort works in fields ranging from algorithms and optimization to natural language processing to health research.

Three other Texas researchers were awarded funds in the 2023 cohort.

The University of Texas at Austin's Jon Tamir was awarded for his work in applied sciences. Atlas Wang, also from UT, was awarded in the machine learning and data mining category. Shenglong Xu, from Texas A&M University, joined Chia in the quantum computing category.

Tech behemoth Google has awarded funds to several Houston innovators in recent years.

Last summer the company named AnswerBite, Boxes and Ease to its inaugural cohort of the Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund. Selected companies received an equity-free $100,000 investment, as well as programming and support from Google.

In September 2022, ChurchSpace and Enrichly were named part of the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund. The companies also received $100,000 non-dilutive awards along with mentoring and support.

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