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5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week

Top news from Houston's innovation ecosystem included the announcement of the 2022 Houston Innovation Awards finalists, two cohorts revealed, and more. Photo via Pexels

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, the finalists for the 2022 Houston Innovation Awards, and more.


3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Craig Ceccanti of T-Minus Solutions, Katie Eick of Rockin' Pets, Rollin' Vets, and Blair Garrou of Mercury. Photos courtesy

In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from venture capital to software — recently making headlines in Houston innovation. Continue reading.

Finalists named ahead of 2022 Houston Innovation Awards Gala

Here's what Houston startups and innovators will be honored at the Houston Innovation Awards Gala on November 9. Graphic via Gow Media

The Houston Innovation Awards Gala is just a few weeks away — and now the city knows who all it will be celebrating on November 9.

Eight judges evaluated over 150 companies and individuals across 11 categories for the 2022 Houston Innovation Awards. The event is a collaboration between InnovationMap and Houston Exponential to showcase the best of technology and innovation in the Bayou City.

This year's judges included Carolyn Rodz, founder and CEO of Hello Alice; Wogbe Ofori, founder of Wrx Companies; Scott Gale, executive director of Halliburton Labs; Ashley Danna, senior manager of regional economic development of Greater Houston Partnership; Kelly McCormick, professor at the University of Houston; Paul Cherukuri, vice president of innovation at Rice University; Lawson Gow, CEO of Houston Exponential; and Natalie Harms, editor of InnovationMap.

All 43 of the finalists will be honored at the gala on November 9, and winners will be named in each category. Additionally, the event will honor the 2022 Trailblazer Award recipient, Blair Garrou of Mercury, who was announced earlier this month. Continue reading,

Early-stage startup accelerator names latest Houston cohort

The latest Houston cohort for gBETA has been announced. Photo courtesy of gBETA

The sixth Houston cohort for global startup accelerator and investor gener8tor's gBETA program is underway, and five Houston early-stage companies have joined the program.

The no-equity program, which is based out of the Downtown Launchpad, kicked off in September and lasts seven weeks. In that time, the startups are connected to a national network of mentors, customers, corporate partners, and investors.

“This gener8tor Houston cohort is among our strongest yet,” says Robert Pieroni, director of Economic Development at Central Houston Inc., in the news release. “We are excited about the caliber of entrepreneurs the Downtown Launchpad is attracting and the entrepreneurial ecosystem being created.” Continue reading.

6 startups join Houston sports tech program

These sports innovation companies have joined Pokatok. Photo via Getty Images

A Houston-based organization focused on advancing sports tech startups has named its latest cohort.

Pokatok Labs announced the addition of six companies to its portfolio as the program — focused on seed and series A startups across health tech, gaming, fan experience, and more — kicks off. Lasting nine weeks and held twice a year, Pokatok's inaugural cohort was announced in May. Participating companies receive access to a network of organizations, advisors, investors, and subject matter experts within sports tech.

"We are pumped to launch our second cohort of all-star companies. If it's possible, this collection of startups may be even more outstanding than the last group," says Lawson Gow, Pokatok's co-founder. "We are eager to immerse them into the Texas market and to otherwise support their growth in any way that we can." Continue reading.

Exclusive: Houston Exponential names new CEO to lead strategy at the evolving organization

Meet Natara Branch — the new CEO of HX. Photo courtesy of Natara Branch

There's a new leader at the helm of an organization dedicated to advancing Houston's innovation ecosystem.

Natara Branch has been named as CEO of Houston Exponential. She started the new role earlier this month and replaces Lawson Gow, who temporarily held the responsibility when his company, Gow Companies, acquired the entity and transitioned it from a nonprofit into a for-profit. While Gow Cos. remains the parent company of HX, the organization will be led independently by its own set of leadership and board, which is in the process of being formed.

In her new role, Branch is focused on establishing the strategy of the evolved organization as well as strengthening and establishing key partnerships within Houston and beyond. Continue reading,

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Building Houston

 
 

Juliana Garaizar is now the chief development and investment officer at Greentown Labs, as well as continuing to be head of the Houston incubator. Image courtesy of Greentown

The new year has brought some big news from Greentown Labs.

The Somerville, Massachusetts-based climatetech incubator with its second location at Greentown Houston named a new member to its C-suite, is seeking new Houston team members, and has officially finished its transition into a nonprofit.

Juliana Garaizar, who originally joined Greentown as launch director ahead of the Houston opening in 2021, has been promoted from vice president of innovation to chief development and investment officer.

"I'm refocusing on the Greentown Labs level in a development role, which means fundraising for both locations and potentially new ones," Garaizar tells InnovationMap. "My role is not only development, but also investment. That's something I'm very glad to be pursuing with my investment hat. Access to capital is key for all our members, and I'm going to be in charge of refining and upgrading our investment program."

While she will also maintain her role as head of the Houston incubator, Greentown Houston is also hiring a general manager position to oversee day-to-day and internal operations of the hub. Garaizar says this role will take some of the internal-facing responsibilities off of her plate.

"Now that we are more than 80 members, we need more internal coordination," she explains. "Considering that the goal for Greentown is to grow to more locations, there's going to be more coordination and, I'd say, more autonomy for the Houston campus."

The promotion follows a recent announcement that Emily Reichert, who served as CEO for the company for a decade, has stepped back to become CEO emeritus. Greentown is searching for its next leader and CFO Kevin Taylor is currently serving as interim CEO. Garaizar says the transition is representative of Greentown's future as it grows to more locations and a larger organization.

"Emily's transition was planned — but, of course, in stealth mode," Garaizar says, adding that Reichert is on the committee that's finding the new CEO. "She thinks scaling is a different animal from putting (Greentown) together, which she did really beautifully."

Garaizar says her new role will include overseeing Greentown's new nonprofit status. She tells InnovationMap that the organization originally was founded as a nonprofit, but converted to a for-profit in order to receive a loan at its first location. Now, with the mission focus Greentown has and the opportunities for grants and funding, it was time to convert back to a nonprofit, Garaizar says.

"When we started fundraising for Houston, everyone was asking why we weren't a nonprofit. That opened the discussion again," she says. "The past year we have been going through that process and we can finally say it has been completed.

"I think it's going to open the door to a lot more collaboration and potential grants," she adds.

Greentown is continuing to grow its team ahead of planned expansion. The organization hasn't yet announced its next location — Garaizar says the primary focus is filling the CEO position first. In Houston, the hub is also looking for an events manager to ensure the incubator is providing key programming for its members, as well as the Houston innovation community as a whole.

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