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Ion names latest partner, Houston startup raises more funding, and more local innovation news

The Ion has announced its latest corporate partner — and more Houston innovation news. Photo courtesy of the Ion

As Houston ramps up for fall, the city's innovation news has followed suit, and there might be some headlines you may have missed.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston startups and tech, Houston investors announce new deals in sports and energy tech, veterans can apply for new grant program, and more.

The Ion announces latest partner

The Ion has named its latest partner. Image courtesy of the Ion

The Ion Houston announced that Switzerland Transocean has joined on as an affiliate partner. The oil and gas company joins other corporate partners — including Chevron, Baker Botts, Microsoft, and more — in providing programming and resources for the Ion community and taking a seat at the Ion’s Roundtable.

Transocean's Houston office is in the Energy Corridor.

Houston-based Codenotary has expanded its series B fundraising round

Codenotary's software enables tools for notarization and verification of the software development life cycle. Photo via Getty Images

A Houston software startup that raised $12.5 million earlier this year has announced additional funding of $6 million. Codenotary, whose technology helps secure software supply chains, closed its series B round in January. The fresh funding brings the company's total investment raised to $24 million — thanks to investors Bluwat and Elaia.leaders and following a series A round that was announced in 2020.

Codenotary, formerly known as vChain, was founded in 2018 by CEO Moshe Bar and CTO Dennis Zimmer. The additional capital, which will go towards scaling up sales in the U.S. and Europe as well as entering the Asian market, was raised as an extension of the series B round.

“Software supply chains are under constant attack and so every enterprise is looking for effective ways to protect their valuable software assets,” says Bar in a news release. “The additional capital will help us expand faster – increasing our ability to roll out additional features and build out our worldwide sales efforts that includes our partner network. Not every startup company is able to do that right now but we’re fortunate to have good growth and the right investors behind us.”

Houston-based energy investor announces latest portfolio company

Here's Energy Transition Ventures' latest investment. Image via Getty Images

Energy Transition Ventures, a Houston-based investment firm, has announced its latest investment. ETV led Rutgers University-spinout RenewCO2's $2 million seed round.The startup has created a "novel catalyst technology to convert carbon from hard-to-abate sectors and transform it into a feedstock for carbon-negative, plastic monomers at a fraction of the cost of plastics derived from fossil sources," per a news release.

Including this latest seed round, the New Jersey-based cleantech company has raised $10 million in grants and investment. RenewCO2 hops to start supplying its eCUT electrolysis systems to customers by 2025.

"Converting CO2 directly into negative carbon products is a game changer for the climate. With low-cost renewable power, combined falling costs and advancements in electrolysis, the RenewCO2 has the opportunity to be world-changing," says Neal Dikeman, co-founder and partner of Energy Transition Ventures. "They are completely rewriting how we make plastic and chemical products and how these industries will handle carbon emissions, regardless of the price of carbon or credits. We are excited about power to chemicals and working to use renewable energy to make CO2 the low-cost chemicals feedstock of the future, not the present pollutant."

Grants open for veterans

Veteran-owned businesses can apply for this grant. ​Photo via Getty Images

National nonprofit Founders First CDC, which exists to empower expansion in diverse founder-led, revenue-generating businesses, has announced that applications are open online for qualified individuals to apply to its 2022 Stephen L. Tadlock Fund – a grant program to support U.S. veteran small business owners. Twenty-five veterans will receive a $1,000 grant.

To be eligible, the company’s founder must be a U.S. military veteran, have an active U.S.-based business, and employ between 2 and 50 employees, per a news release. Applications are open through October 18, and recipients will be announced on Veterans Day, November 11, 2022.

“Given the current state of our economy, small business owners are feeling the brunt of the rising cost of living, inflation and the challenges to provide goods and services for their customers,” says Shaylon Scott, executive director of Founders First, in the news release. “As our founder, Kim Folsom has strong ties to the military through her brother’s service in the U.S. Navy, this particular grant is incredibly special to Founders First, as we’re able to help veteran business owners by investing in their businesses during uncertain economic times. Grants such as these, no matter how large or small of an investment, are a vital and impactful way to help sustain businesses and provide growth opportunities, and we are incredibly proud to support veterans throughout the country during this critical time.”

The judging committee for the Stephen L. Tadlock Grant includes a panel of distinguished veterans, representing multiple branches of service.

Local investment group focuses next fund on sports tech

UCN is focused on sports tech. Image via UCN

The Urban Capital Network — a Houston-based organization focused on democratizing startup investment — has focused its most recent fund on sports tech. The fund, which will raise $500,000 to $1 million, will focus on sports tech businesses, including the first two investments in National Cycling League and Screen Skinz. The National Cycling League is innovating cycling with real and virtual interaction. Screen Skinz has created a new kind of screen protector and has been licensed by several sports entities. UCN investors can be a part of the fund for as little as $5,000.

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Building Houston

 
 

This Houston staffing firm has tapped into tech to support the growing gig economy workforce. Photo via Getty Images

As the independent workforce continues to grow, a Houston-based company is aiming to connect these workers with companies that match their specific needs with a new digital platform.

FlexTek, a 14-year old recruiting and staffing company, launched a first gig site tailored to the needs of the individual worker. The platform, Workz360, is built to be able to manage projects, maintain quality control, and manage billing and year-end financial reporting.The company is also working to expanding the platform to provide infrastructure to assist independent workers with education, access to savings programs, tax compliance through vetted third-party CPA firms, and hopes in the future to assist with access to liability and medical insurance.

With a younger workforce and a shifting economy, the “gig economy,” which is another way to describe how people can earn a living as a 1099 worker, offers an alternative option to the corporate grind in a post-pandemic workscape. Chief Marketing Officer Bill Penczak of Workz360 calls this era “Gig 2.0,” and attributes the success of this type of workforce to how during the COVID-19 pandemic people learned how to work, and thrive in non-traditional work environments. The site also boasts the fact it won’t take a bite out of the worker’s pay, which could be an attractive sell for many since other sites can take up to 65 percent of profit.

“In the past few years, with the advent of gig job platforms, the Independent workers have been squeezed by gig work platforms taking a disproportionate amount of the workers’ income,” said FlexTek CEO and founder Stephen Morel in a news release. “As a result, there has been what we refer to as ‘pay padding,’ a phenomenon in which workers are raising their hourly or project rates to compensate for the bite taken by other platforms.

"Workz360 is designed to promote greater transparency, and we believe the net result will be for workers to thrive and companies to save money by using the platform,” he continues.

As the workforce has continued to change over the years, a third of the current U.S. workforce are independent workers according to FlexTek, workers have gained the ability to have more freedom where and how they work. Workz360 aims to cater to this workforce by believing in a simple mantra of treating your workers well.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about this, but we like the Southwest Airlines model,” Penczak tells InnovationMap. “Southwest Airlines treats their people very well, and as a result those employees treat the passengers really well. We believe the same thing holds true. If we can provide resources, and transparency, and not take a bite out of what the gig worker is charging, then we will get the best and the brightest people since they feel like they won’t be taken advantage of. We think there is an opportunity to be a little different and put the people first.”

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