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5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week

Amazon tapping a Texas grocery store for smart carts — and other trending news from the week. Courtesy of Whole Foods

Editor's note:Another week has come and gone, and it's time to round up the top headlines from the past few days. Trending Houston tech and startup news on InnovationMap included innovators to know, smart carts in Texas, energy transition leadership in Houston, and more.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Richard Seline of the Resilience Innovation Hub, Joy Jones of Code Wiz, and Joseph Powell of the University of Houston. Photos courtesy

In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from energy transition to resiliency — recently making headlines in Houston innovation. Read more.

Smart carts roll into Texas grocery store

Amazon Dash Cart is now available at a Whole Foods in Texas. Courtesy Amazon

If being more efficient with your time is one of your new year's goals, a faster way to shop is on the horizon in 2023.

Amazon Dash Cart just arrived at one local San Antonio Whole Foods Market, allowing shoppers to skip the checkout line altogether. Located at 18403 Blanco Road, the Vineyard Whole Foods Market store is one of the first three locations in the country to make Amazon Dash Carts available to customers.

The smart grocery carts lets you scan items as you go, place them directly into your grocery bags, and head straight to the car when you're done shopping. Shoppers log in through a QR code in the Whole Foods Market app, which prompts a quick sign in process before you can begin using the cart. Read more.

Houston-based battery innovators receive $4M in federal funding

Houston-based Zeta Energy has fresh funding from the government. Image via Zeta Energy

Houston-based Zeta Energy announced this week that it was selected to receive $4 million in federal funding for the development of efficient electric vehicle batteries.

The funds come from the U.S. Department of Energy's ARPA-E Electric Vehicles for American Low-Carbon Living, or EVs4ALL, program, which aims to increase the number of EVs on the roads by boosting the country’s supply chain of affordable, convenient, reliable and safe batteries.

Zeta Energy is one of 12 groups in the U.S. to receive funding from the program, which awarded $42 million in total. Read more.

Houston has responsibility and opportunity to lead the energy transition, say local leaders

Mayor Sylvester Turner and other local leaders joined the stage for the Ten Across summit in Houston this week. Photo by Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

Houston has an integral role to play in the energy transition, and that role was thoroughly discussed at a recent conference taking place in the Bayou City.

This week, Houston hosted the 10X Summit: The Future Is Here, an event by Ten Across — an organization that focuses on social, economic, and climate change issues across the region around Interstate 10 from Los Angeles to Jacksonville. The three-day conference featured guest speakers who spoke to resiliency, water, the future of energy, and more.

Among these speakers included a handful of Houston researchers, political figures, and innovators — and much of their conversations overlapped related topics and themes, from Hurricane Harvey's legacy and impact on the business community to the role the city will play in the energy transition. Read more.

Texas ranks among best states to start a business

Texas, once again, has been named a top city for starting a business. Photo via Getty Images

For years, Texas has been lauded for its business climate being welcoming for new businesses and startups. This year's study shows that the Lone Star State has yet again made the list.

Texas ranked as the third best state to start a business in personal finance website WalletHub's recent list, 2023's Best & Worst States to Start a Business, with a score of 56.85 points. Texas ranked behind Utah, No. 1, and Florida, No. 2, and just ahead of Colorado. Idaho, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, and California make up the rest of the top 10, respectively. Read more.

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Building Houston

 
 

Ben Jawdat, CEO and founder of Revterra, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via LinkedIn

With more and more electric vehicles on the road, existing electrical grid infrastructure needs to be able to keep up. Houston-based Revterra has the technology to help.

"One of the challenges with electric vehicle adoption is we're going to need a lot of charging stations to quickly charge electric cars," Ben Jawdat, CEO and founder of Revterra, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "People are familiar with filling their gas tank in a few minutes, so an experience similar to that is what people are looking for."

To charge an EV in ten minutes is about 350 kilowatts of power, and, as Jawdat explains, if several of these charges are happening at the same time, it puts a tremendous strain on the electric grid. Building the infrastructure needed to support this type of charging would be a huge project, but Jawdat says he thought of a more turnkey solution.

Revterra created a kinetic energy storage system that enables rapid EV charging. The technology pulls from the grid, but at a slower, more manageable pace. Revterra's battery acts as an intermediary to store that energy until the consumer is ready to charge.

"It's an energy accumulator and a high-power energy discharger," Jawdat says, explaining that compared to an electrical chemical battery, which could be used to store energy for EVs, kinetic energy can be used more frequently and for faster charging.

Jawdat, who is a trained physicist with a PhD from the University of Houston and worked as a researcher at Rice University, says some of his challenges were receiving early funding and identifying customers willing to deploy his technology.

Last year, Revterra raised $6 million in a series A funding round. Norway’s Equinor Ventures led the round, with participation from Houston-based SCF Ventures. Previously, Revterra raised nearly $500,000 through a combination of angel investments and a National Science Foundation grant.

The funding has gone toward growing Revterra's team, including onboarding three new engineers with some jobs still open, Jawdat says. Additionally, Revterra is building out its new lab space and launching new pilot programs.

Ultimately, Revterra, an inaugural member of Greentown Houston, hopes to be a major player within the energy transition.

"We really want to be an enabling technology in the renewable energy transition," Jawdat says. "One part of that is facilitating the development of large-scale, high-power, fast-charging networks. But, beyond that, we see this technology as a potential solution in other areas related to the clean energy transition."

He shares more about what's next for Revterra on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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