ready to grow

Ion selects 4 Houston startups to join new program

The four companies will work out of the Ion's coworking space. Rendering courtesy of Common Desk

A new program has tapped four Houston startups and invited them to work out of the Ion surrounded and supported by fellow tech entrepreneurs.

The Ion's Onramp program, launched in July of this year, selects a handful of startups to operate out of the innovation hub's coworking space operated by Common Desk. Patenteer, Sensytec, Bridge Energy Solutions, and Stratos Perception will begin the program in January, according to a release from the Ion.

"These startups were selected due to the strength of their focus on leading digital transformation and leveraging technology to solve challenges that affect numerous industries in Houston," says Jan E. Odegard, executive director of the Ion, in the release. "Solving these challenges—which include commercializing research from Houston's academic institutions, developing resilient and robust infrastructure, leading the clean and sustainable energy transition, and propelling future aerospace advancements—is integral to Houston's success."

It's the second round of the program, and these four companies will be joining the first cohort, which includes Roxie Health, SpeakHaus, SUNN, and Justli. While not an accelerator, the eight companies receive up to 18 months of discounted shared desk membership, pitch practice, access to weekly programming, and one-on-one mentorship from Christine Galib, senior director of entrepreneurship and innovation.

"Selected startups in the first and second cohorts not only feature amazing startups but also represent Houston's diversity," says Odegard in the release. "We still have work to do, but we are making strides as we add the startups in the second cohort to the program.

"In the first six months, Cohort One startups have achieved notable accomplishments, including acquiring new clients and driving business development, designing revamped dashboards and prototypes, raising five-figure sums, taking first place at a national pitch competition, and securing selection into DivInc's first Women in Tech Accelerator," he continues.

The program intends to have a new cohort every six months and is looking for startups currently or planning to raise a pre-seed, seed, or series round of funding.

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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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