ready, set, grow

These are the 5 fastest-growing companies in Houston, according to a recent report

Inc. magazine has identified the fastest-growing companies in Houston. Nick Bee/Pexels

Bellaire-based startup Instafuel is pumping up its revenue in a big way.

Among the 250 fastest-growing companies in Texas identified by Inc. magazine, Instafuel tops the group of businesses based in the Houston metro area and ranks fifth statewide. Houston-based companies make up 68 of the state's fast-growing companies — eight Houston companies make up the top 25 list.

Instafuel, whose official corporate name is Fuel Husky LLC, provides mobile refueling services to B2B clients. The Inc. ranking, released March 13, shows Instafuel posted revenue growth of 1,353 percent from 2016 to 2018.

According to a November 2019 article published by CSP magazine, Instafuel has expanded to 30 trucks that have dispensed nearly 10 million gallons of fuel to more than 150 B2B clients in major Texas metro markets like Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Austin. CSP covers the convenience and petroleum retailing industry.

"We've been bootstrapping … in stealth mode for the last four years, just trying to grow this business one [client] by one, trying to truly understand what it means to be a mobile refueler, or what we call a compact mobile refueler, and trying to target and understand the business model for small- to medium-sized business fleets," Nour Baki, vice president and co-founder of Instafuel, told the magazine.

Ranked second in the Houston area and sixth statewide by Inc. is Spring-based Bellatorum Resources LLC, whose revenue shot up 1,261 percent from 2016 to 2018. Bellatorum, a veteran-owned and veteran-operated investment company, specializes in mineral rights and oil royalty acquisitions.

"I think our work ethic and customer service is what makes us different from our competitors," Chris Bentley, president and CEO of Bellatorum Resources, told the Oil & Gas Council in July 2018.

"Based on the feedback I consistently receive from mineral owners, they tell me that many of our competitors fail to return phone calls and emails, and sometimes even fail to treat them with common courtesy and respect during their business dealings," Bentley added. "We believe in putting the mineral owner first, which always pays off for us."

At No. 3 in the Houston area and No. 8 statewide is Houston-based Sarvicus LLC. Sarvicus, an IT services and utilities provider, grew revenue by 1,048 percent from 2016 to 2018.

"Whether it's a process, piece of equipment, or a tool, we try to optimize its efficiency. When we are successful, that often translates to benefits for our customers," Sarvicus co-founder and CEO Marc Packard told CIOReview magazine.

Houston-based SIA Solutions LLC appears at No. 4 among Houston-area companies and No. 9 among Texas companies. From 2016 to 2018, revenue at the professional services engineering and consulting firm soared 1,030 percent.

"Because of our client-first philosophy, we're willing to take on tough challenges and deliver. It's in our culture. It's natural to us," CEO Srini Neralla told the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University's Mays Business School in November 2019. We put together strong teams comprising of firms our size or larger, including universities, in order to deliver what our clients want."

With a 2016-18 growth rate of 824 percent, Houston-based Zahroof Valves Inc. nails down the No. 5 spot among Houston-area companies and No. 14 among Texas companies. Zahroof Values makes and markets specialized valves for reciprocating gas compressors. Its investors include Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures LLC, the investment arm of oil giant Saudi Aramco.

In an August 2019 release, Zahroof Valves CEO Tony Gioffredi said: "Our commitment to driving positive change [in] the oil and gas industry is shown through our innovative products … ."

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Building Houston

 
 

Koda Health, Houston, uses AI to help guide difficult conversations in health care, starting with end-of-life care planning. Image via kodahealthcare.com

A new Houston-based digital advanced care planning company is streamlining some of the most difficult conversations in the health care industry around palliative care.

Founded by Tatiana Fafanova, Dr. Desh Mohan, and Katelin Cherry, Koda Health uses AI to help patients create advance medical care directives and documents—such as a living will—through an easy to use web-based interface.

Koda Health uses a conversational platform where users can enter information about their values, living situations, quality of life wishes, and more while learning about different care options at their own speed. It also uses a proprietary machine learning approach that personalizes audio-video guided dialogue based on the patient's individual and cultural preferences.

The app then autogenerates legal and medical documents, which patients can notarize or electronically witness the forms through the app or on their own.

According to Fafanova, who earned her PhD in in Molecular Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and now acts as the company's CEO, what historically has been a time consuming and expensive process, through Koda Health, takes an average of 17 minutes and is completely free of charge to the end user.

"We hope to reduce any outstanding barriers to access that might exist," Fafanova says. "It is very frequently the oldest and the poorest that are the highest utilizers of health care that don't have access to these solutions."

The app is also projected to save health care systems roughly $9,500 per patient per year, as it allows for hospitals and organizations to better plan for what their patient population is seeking in end-of-life-care.

The B2B platform was born out of the TMC's Biodesign Fellowship, which tasked Koda's founding members with finding solutions to issues surrounding geriatric care in the medical center. In March 2020, Koda incorporated. Not long after ICU beds began to fill with COVID-19 patients, "galvanizing" the team's mission, Fafanova says.

"It was no longer this conceptual thing that we needed to address and write a report on. Now it was that people were winding up in the hospital at alarming rates and none of those individuals had advanced care planning in place," she says.

After accelerating the development of the product, Koda Health is now being used by health care systems in Houston, Texas, and Virginia.

The company recently received a Phase I grant of $256,000 from the National Science Foundation, which will allow Koda to deploy the platform at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and test it against phone conversations with 900 patients. Fafanova says the company will also use the funds to continue to develop personalization algorithms to improve Kona's interface for users.

"We want to make this a platform that mimics a high quality conversation," she says.

After Koda completes the Phase I pilot program it will then be eligible to apply for a Phase II award of up to $1 million in about a year.

Koda Health was founded by Tatiana Fafanova, Dr. Desh Mohan, and Katelin Cherry. Photos via kodahealthcare.com

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