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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

 
 

A Houston expert outlines what startups and small business need to know about their communications strategy. Photo via Getty Images

Startup founders often focus on outward victories. However, if they look inward and get internal communications right, this can prioritize, inspire, and retain talent, which is the heart of the company.

Consistent internal communication helps employees to understand the company's core values and mission and the evolving internal policies and procedures — health care benefits, reorganizations, remote work — that accompany a young business. Investing in internal communications also supports external public relations efforts because the best company storytellers are well-informed employees.

Consider these tactics for effective internal communications.

Prioritize messaging

In any startup, internal procedures evolve as the company grows. Take control of the narrative while easing employees' minds by prioritizing internal messaging.

Whether transitioning to a more flexible work schedule, updating healthcare benefits, or rolling out a performance review process, planning messages in advance can help team members understand the change, the impact, and how they can contribute positively to the development.

Well-informed employees help mitigate uneasiness and tend to achieve business goals more quickly. Make sure to allow the employees time to reflect and react.

Support managers

Leaders and mid-level managers play an integral role in internal communications by cascading information throughout the organization. They regularly engage with their employees, so it is important that managers feel confident and supported in their communication skills.

Managers can benefit from a common company language, talking points, or communications training for more effective and productive conversations. By identifying, clarifying, and reinforcing common goals and key objectives for managers, companies can strengthen productivity and eliminate confusion, especially if the company changes teams' roles and responsibilities.

Be consistent

Make sure that the drumbeat remains steady, whether this includes a monthly town hall meeting or weekly CEO emails. Since communication is not necessarily one-size-fits-all, use a communication approach tailored to the workforce.

For example, there might be more effective communication methods than email for employees not behind a desk. As a smaller company, take that time to connect with the team directly because as the company swells, that one-on-one experience will become increasingly difficult to manage.

Listen to employees

Delivering top-down messaging that resonates with the workforce remains critical. However, internal communication is a two-way street.

Allow team members to give valuable feedback. Encourage team members to share their thoughts about the company, concerns, and how to improve communications. Issue internal surveys or hold face-to-face meetings to gain useful insight.

Understanding these critical proof points will enable more effective communication and quick action on any issues.

Be a human

Keep humanity at the heart of internal communications. Amid the company's transition, maintain transparency and recognize the emotional toll some changes can have on teammates. The best talent will remain when they feel connected, informed and listened to.

Greater employee engagement can help build a strong company culture of accountability, authenticity and communication, setting up the business for bigger success.

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Melanie Taplett is a communications and public relations consultant for the technology, energy, and manufacturing industries.

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