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Exclusive: Houston startup names new CEO to lead industrial growth

Jay Manouchehri (left) is now CEO of Fluence Analytics, and co-founder Alex Reed has transitioned to president and chief commercial officer. Photo courtesy of Fluence Analytics

Teamwork makes the dream work, and a Houston-based tech startup is one step closer to its dream team, according to the company's leadership.

Fluence Analytics, which moved its headquarters to the Houston area from New Orleans last year, has named Jay Manouchehri as the company's CEO. Manouchehri has worked in leadership roles within difital transformation at ABB and Honeywell all around the world, as well as in consulting and private equity.

"As you (can see) from Jay's background he is exactly the type of person we need to help take our company the next level," says co-founder Alex Reed. "I think he's gonna be critical as we did this Houston move and go to this next phase of growth and eventually drive to an exit."

Reed has transitioned from CEO to chief commercial officer, but Manouchehri tells InnovationMap the two really lead the company together and balance each other out. Reed says he's focused on commercial product strategy and Manouchehri is leading industrial growth.

“The next step for Fluence is really that we are industrializing our product and getting it into the industrial market," Manouchehri says. "That's exactly why we moved to Houston — it's where a lot of our clients are. We're building up and structure the company in such a manner that it could scale, get the right partnerships, and hire a team to take us to the next level and deliver the technology."

Fluence's technology is changing the game within the polymer space. The industrial and laboratory monitoring solutions — a combination of software and hardware — track and report key data in real time allowing industrial polymer producers to improve process control.

"When I saw what Alex is doing, it wasn't like it's a startup looking for a problem to solve. It's a startup trying to crack a nut that a lot of people in this industry have be in trying for 20 or 30 years and haven't been able to do so," Manouchehri says.

The move to Houston has allowed the company access to new and existing customers within the industry, but also potential acquirers and the company says an exit could be possible over the next few years. Additionally, Houston provides an opportunity to expand into the biomedical space. Recently, Fluence hired a Houston employee to build out this vertical.

"MRNAs and DNAs are all polymers. So, we use the same IP and same technology and do analysis, sensing, and data analytics for the biopharma industry," Manouchehri says. "We actually are pushing that quite strongly. Our client base is growing rapidly."

Another avenue Fluence is excited about is chemical recycling or polymerization recycling. Reed says they are closely watching the traction within the circular economy.

"Imagine taking plastic bottles and being able to recycle them back to the original molecule and then reprocess them into a bottle again," Reed says. "Mechanical recycling is more typical now and has a lot of disadvantages because of the additives and the properties that you get when you melt down all the different types of plastics. (Chemical recycling) would actually allow you to make new plastic from the old plastic, just by taking the original molecule out."

Fluence Analytics, which raised a $7.5 million round led by Energy Innovation Capital last summer, has its headquarters in Stafford, just southwest of Houston.

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Building Houston

 
 

This Houston-based SPAC has announced the tech company it plans to merge with. Photo courtesy of Gow Media

A Houston SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company, has announced the company it plans to merge with in the new year.

Beaumont-based Infrared Cameras Holdings Inc., a provider of thermal imaging platforms, and Houston-based SportsMap Tech Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: SMAP), a publicly-traded SPAC with $117 million held in trust, announced their agreement for ICI to IPO via SPAC.

Originally announced in the fall of last year, the blank-check company is led by David Gow, CEO and chairman. Gow is also chairman and CEO of Gow Media, which owns digital media outlets SportsMap, CultureMap, and InnovationMap, as well as the SportsMap Radio Network, ESPN 97.5 and 92.5.

The deal will close in the first half of 2023, according to a news release, and the combined company will be renamed Infrared Cameras Holdings Inc. and will be listed on NASDAQ under a new ticker symbol.

“ICI is extremely excited to partner with David Gow and SportsMap as we continue to deliver our innovative software and hardware solutions," says Gary Strahan, founder and CEO of ICI, in the release. "We believe our software and sensor technology can change the way companies across industries perform predictive maintenance to ensure reliability, environmental integrity, and safety through AI and machine learning.”

Strahan will continue to serve as CEO of the combined company, and Gow will become chairman of the board. The transaction values the combined company at a pre-money equity valuation of $100 million, according to the release, and existing ICI shareholders will roll 100 percent of their equity into the combined company as part of the transaction.

“We believe ICI is poised for strong growth," Gow says in the release. "The company has a strong value proposition, detecting the overheating of equipment in industrial settings. ICI also has assembled a strong management team to execute on the opportunity. We are delighted to combine our SPAC with ICI.”

Founded in 1995, ICI provides infrared and imaging technology — as well as service, training, and equipment repairs — to various businesses and individuals across industries.

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