seeing green

Cleantech startup incubator announces new location in Houston

Greentown Labs has announced its second location will be opened in Houston next spring. Getty Images

A Massachusetts-based startup incubator focused on clean energy technology has announced its plans to open a new location in Houston.

The Greater Houston Partnership and Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that Greentown Labs will open its Houston location in Spring 2021. Greentown Houston, according to a press release, falls in line with the city's Climate Action Plan.

"Opening Greentown Labs' second location in Houston — the energy capital of the world — is the best place to broaden our impact and help accelerate the energy transition through cleantech entrepreneurship, in partnership with the nation's fourth largest city and the world-leading energy organizations headquartered there," says Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs, in the release.

Reichert adds that Houston's access to talent and corporate energy partners made the Bayou City especially alluring as a new market.

Greentown Labs launched in 2011 as community of climatetech and cleantech innovators bringing together startups, corporates, investors, policymakers, and more to focus on scaling climate solutions. Greentown Labs' first location is 100,000 square feet and located just outside of Boston in Somerville, Massachusetts. Currently, it's home to more than 100 startups and has supported more than 280 startups since the incubator's founding. According to the release, these startups have created more than 6,500 jobs and raised over $850 million in funding.

The organization will be establishing a 30,000-square-foot prototyping lab and office space that will be able to accomodate about 50 startups. More details of this office are forthcoming.

"Climate change cannot be solved from the coasts — we need all hands on deck at this time," Reichert continues. "Houston has the opportunity to be the energy transition capital of the world and we believe bringing Greentown Labs to Houston will accelerate the shift in this direction."

Along with the mayor's office and the GHP, Greentown Houston will bring together key stakeholders from entrepreneurs and educators to corporates and investors.

"Reducing Houston's emissions and leading a global transition is a community-wide effort and will require action from residents and the business community," says Mayor Turner in the release. "This is why it's more important than ever to have partners and organizations like Greentown Labs, whose mission is to solve the climate crisis through entrepreneurship and collaboration."

Greentown Houston's network of founding partners includes the likes of Chevron, Shell, NRG Energy Inc., Sunnova Energy, BHP, Vinson & Elkins, and more. Ahead of the spring 2021 launch, Greentown Houston is seeking more strategic partners and interested startups. More information can be found online.

"We are thrilled to welcome North America's largest cleantech incubator to Houston, which comes at a time of great momentum for Houston's innovation ecosystem and further positions the region to lead the transition to a cleaner, more efficient and more sustainable, lower carbon world," says Bob Harvey, president and CEO at GHP. "As the home to major corporate energy R&D centers, corporate venture arms, and VC-backed energy startups, Houston is already leading the way in digitization, renewable forms of energy, and the development of carbon capture management technology."

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Self-driving pizza delivery goes live in Houston

Domino's and Nuro announced their partnership in 2019 — and now the robots are hitting the roads. Photo courtesy of Nuro

After announcing their partnership to work on pizza deliveries via self-driving robots in 2019, Dominos and Nuro have officially rolled out their technology to one part of town.

Beginning this week, if you place a prepaid order from Domino's in Woodland Heights (3209 Houston Ave.), you might have the option to have one of Nuro's R2 robot come to your door. This vehicle is the first do deliver completely autonomously without occupants with a regulatory approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to a news release.

"We're excited to continue innovating the delivery experience for Domino's customers by testing autonomous delivery with Nuro in Houston," says Dennis Maloney, Domino's senior vice president and chief innovation officer, in the release. "There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space. This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations."

Orders placed at select dates and times will have the option to be delivered autonomously. Photo courtesy of Nuro

The Nuro deliveries will be available on select days and times, and users will be able to opt for the autonomous deliveries when they make their prepaid orders online. They will then receive a code via text message to use on the robot to open the hatch to retrieve their order.

"Nuro's mission is to better everyday life through robotics. Now, for the first time, we're launching real world, autonomous deliveries with R2 and Domino's," says Dave Ferguson, Nuro co-founder and president, in the release. "We're excited to introduce our autonomous delivery bots to a select set of Domino's customers in Houston. We can't wait to see what they think."

California-based Nuro has launched a few delivery pilots in Houston over the past few years, including the first Nuro pilot program with Kroger in March 2019, grocery delivery from Walmart that was revealed in December 2019, and pharmacy delivery that launched last summer.

From being located in a state open to rolling out new AV regulations to Houston's diversity — both in its inhabitants to its roadways, the Bayou City stood out to Nuro, says Sola Lawal, product operations manager at Nuro.

"As a company, we tried to find a city that would allow us to test a number of different things to figure out what really works and who it works for," Lawal says on an episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It's hard to find cities that are better than Houston at enabling that level of testing."

Steam the episode here.

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