Short stories

Halliburton company raises $10M, gBETA opens apps, Houston coworking space expands, and more innovation news

SheSpace announces its expansion — and more Houston innovation news you may have missed. Photo courtesy of SheSpace

It's been a busy summer for the Houston innovation ecosystem, and for this reason, local startup and tech news may have fallen through some of the cracks.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston innovation, a Halliburton Labs member company raises a series A, SheSpace is growing, gBETA is looking for its next cohort, and more.

Halliburton company raises $10 million

Halliburton Labs opens next round of applications

A Halliburton Labs company has raised fresh funding. Photo courtesy of Halliburton

Enexor Energy, one of Houston-based Halliburton Labs' participant companies, secured a $10 million investment from BorgWarner. The energy transition startup provides on-site, renewable energy, and carbon conversion solutions to help solve the world's organic waste and plastic waste problems.

"At Enexor, we all share a mutual passion for technological innovation and leaving a lasting legacy that betters humanity for generations long after we are gone," says Lee Jestings, founder and CEO of Enexor BioEnergy, in a news release. "We are thrilled to have a company like BorgWarner, that shares the same passion and is driven by a similar mission, invest so heavily in our company. I imagine this partnership will be fruitful for both of our companies and, more importantly, the world."

Enexor joined Halliburton Labs in February.

SheSpace announces expansion

For women by women: New coworking space to open in Houston

SheSpace is expanding its coworking spot. Image via shespacehtx.com

SheSpace is adding 1,500 square feet for a total of 7,500 square feet in the same spot it opened in November of last year (2799 Katy Freeway). The expansion will add supplementary event areas and 13 single and duo offices to its existing facilities, which includes 12 private offices, two event spaces, conference rooms, a fitness space, and a podcast studio.

"When our members succeed, we succeed," says founder Stephanie Tsuru, in a news release. "SheSpace grows because our members are growing and expanding in their respective businesses, and our expansion is a win for not only our members but all females."

According to the release, SheSpace's current facilities are at 100 percent capacity.

gBETA opens latest cohort applications

Early-stage startup accelerator names latest Houston cohort

Apps are open for gBETA. Photo courtesy of gBETA

Applications are open for gBETA's latest cohort. The early-stage program, which is a part of the nationally ranked startup accelerator gener8tor, is a free, seven-week accelerator for companies with local roots. Each program is capped at five teams, and requires no fees and no equity.

The deadline to apply is September 17, and the program will run from October 18 to December 17. Here is a direct link to view the application and apply.

Houston company joins Austin-based accelerator

Lodgeur

Lodgeur was accepted into Sputnik ATX. Photo courtesy of Lodguer

Houston-based Lodgeur has been selected for Austin-based accelerator Sputnik's summer 2021 cohort. Only five companies comprise the cohort — paired down from over 750 applications.

Lodgeur, co-founded by Brooke Bornick and Sebastien Long, allows apartment owners a chance to maximize rental income by providing turnkey flexible living service. Earlier this year, the company was named a MassChallenge - Houston finalist, as well as a semi-finalist in the Venture Houston 2021 Pitch Competition.

The five companies will go through three months of training and $100,000 in seed funding.

"What sets our program apart is the amount and caliber of mentoring our companies receive," says Dr. Oksana Malysheva, CEO and managing partner of Sputnik ATX, in a news release. "Sputnik ATX invests in the future; putting financial resources to work, training and advising founders who are skating to where the puck will be and helping them reach their full potential. Our newest cohort will change the food we eat, modernize how we find a place to live, expand a new type of lodging, help returning citizens maintain access to critical health care, and provide everyone the opportunity to be their best emotional and physical self."

SBA doles out $130 million in grants

moneyHouston ranks No. 3 on list of cities with the most people in financial distress amid COVID-19

SBA is doling out millions to hard-hit businesses. Photo via Getty Images

Earlier this month, the U.S. Small Business Administration awarded over $7.5 billion in Shuttered Venue Operators Grants (SVOG) to more than 10,000 small businesses, nonprofits, and venues. In Houston alone, over 120 businesses received more than $130 million in grant funding.

"Houston is one of only a few U.S. cities with permanent professional opera, ballet, music, and theater organizations— all considered world-class— as well as many highly rated museums, cinemas and entertainment venues," says district director, Tim Jeffcoat. "Through SBA's SVOG program, we have supplied important lifeline funding to organizations from all of these performing arts categories to rapidly restore operations and bring top-level entertainment back to Houston."

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Building Houston

 
 

Kelly Avant, investment associate at Houston-based Mercury Fund, shares how and why she made her way into the venture capital arena. Photo courtesy of Mercury

Kelly Avant didn't exactly pave a linear career path for herself. After majoring in gender studies, volunteering in the Peace Corps, and even attending law school — she identified a way to make a bigger impact: venture capital.

"VC is an awesome way to shape the future in a more positive way because you literally get to wire money to the most innovative thinkers, who are building solutions to the world’s problems," Avant tells InnovationMap.

Avant joined the Mercury Fund team last year as an MBA associate before joining full time as investment associate. Now, after completing her MBA from Rice University this month, Avant tells InnovationMap why she's excited about this new career in investment in a Q&A.

InnovationMap: From law school and the peace corps, what drew you to start a career in the VC world?

Kelly Avant: I graduated from Rice University with an MBA, starting scouting for an investment firm in my first year, and by the summer after my first year I was essentially working full-time interning with Mercury. But, I like to tell people about my undergraduate degree in gender studies and rhetoric from a little ski college in Colorado. If you meet someone else in venture capital with a degree in gender studies, please connect us, but I think I might be the only one. I’ll spare you what I used to think — and say — about business students, but I have really come full circle.

I always thought I would work in a nonprofit space, but after serving in Cambodia with the Peace Corps, working for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and briefly attending Emory Law School with the intention of becoming a civil rights lawyer.I found that time and time again the root of the problem was a lack of resources. The world’s problems were not going to be solved with my idealism alone.

The problem with operating as a nonprofit in a capitalism is you basically always pandering to the interests of the donors. The NFL was a key sponsor of The National Domestic Violence Hotline. The United States has a complicated, to put it lightly, relationship with Cambodia and Vietnam. It became pretty clear that the donor/nonprofit relationship was oftentimes putting the wrong party in the driver’s seat. I was, and still am, very interested in alternative financing for nonprofits. I became convinced that the most exciting businesses were building solutions to the world’s problems while also turning a profit, which allows them to survive to have a sustainable positive impact.

VC is an awesome way to shape the future in a more positive way because you literally get to wire money to the most innovative thinkers, who are building solutions to the world’s problems.

IM: What are some companies you’re excited about?

KA: There are a couple super interesting founders I’ve met directly engaging with . To name a few: CiviTech, DonateStock, and Polco.

I’m very proud to work on mercury investments like Houston’s own, Topl, which has built an extremely lightweight and energy efficient Blockchain that enables tracking of ethical supply chains from the initial interaction.
I’m also excited about mercury’s investment in Zirtue, which enables relationship based peer to peer lending to solve the massive problem of predatory payday loans.

We have so many awesome founders in our portfolio. The best part about working in VC is meeting passionate innovators every day. I get excited to go to work everyday and help them to build better solutions.

IM: Why are you so passionate about bringing diversity and inclusion into Mercury?

KA: I love working with exciting, highly capable, super smart people. That category includes so many people who have been historically excluded. As an investment team member at Mercury, I do have a voice, and I have an obligation to use that voice to speak highly of the best people in rooms of influence.

IM: With your new role, what are you most focused on?

KA: In my new role, I am identifying and researching high potential investments. We’re building out a Mercury educational series to lift the veil of VC. We want to facilitate a series that gives all founders the basic skills to pass VC due diligence and have the opportunity to build the next innovative companies. My goal is ultimately to produce the best returns possible for our investors, and we can’t accomplish that goal unless we’re building out resources to meet the best founders and help them grow.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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