Money moves

Kinder Institute expands its urban data initiatives following $2.25M of fresh funds from the Houston Endowment

The funds will go toward the Kinder Institute's civic data initiatives. Photo via news.rice.edu

The Houston Endowment has renewed its support of Rice University's Kinder Institute for Urban Research with a $2.25 million three-year grant to expand its services relating to urban data collection and use.

"We are immensely grateful to Houston Endowment for its continued support of Rice and the Kinder Institute," Rice President David Leebron says in a release. "This renewed funding will allow the institute to continue its critical data-driven work to better understand the challenges that Houston and other cities are facing and create lasting solutions. Contributing to our home city and others in this way is central to Rice's mission and its strategic plan, and we are extremely appreciative of this generous support."

In addition to supporting the Kinder Institute's data tools, the funding will contribute to the Houston Urban Data Project 2.0. The institute is involved in the project as is the Houston Community Data Connections, or HCDC. According to the release, the UDP will work to align and enhance urban and community data initiatives, develop training and research support for a larger user base, and raise awareness of the institute's research through outreach.

The HCDC, which was established in September of 2017, is already equipped to analyze 143 areas in Harris County with over 9,000 users, almost 16,000 site sessions, and over 45,000 page views, per the release. The program has seen 120 research and data requests since launch. Meanwhile, the UDP has 200 datasets in Houston and has 400 users who have accessed the site 6,000 times since it launched in the Spring of 2018

"The UDP and HCDC have laid the foundation for a shift in how data is used and decisions are made in the public, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, and this funding will allow the Kinder Institute to build on this work," says Bill Fulton, director of the institute, in the release. "This project will help drive effective, data-driven decision-making for the region and will make the Kinder Institute the data hub for the entire region and a model for other cities around the world."

The purpose of the program will be two initiatives: Building Better Cities, which will focus on government efficiency and urban systems, and Building Better Lives, geared at quality of life and urban disparity among Houston residents.

"At Houston Endowment, our vision is a vibrant region where all have the opportunity to thrive," says Ann B. Stern, president and CEO of Houston Endowment, in the release. "We believe that making good data available to the public leads to better-informed decision-making on the part of our public officials and allows residents to more effectively advocate for their communities' needs. This is why the UDP and HCDC are so important for the future of our region."

The Kinder Institute, founded in 2010, is a research and advocate organization for urban development in Houston, and the Houston Endowment, established by Jesse H. and Mary Gibbs Jones in 1937, has assets of $1.8 billion and contributes around $70 million annually.

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Building Houston

 
 

Here's what companies are in the latest cohort for gBETA. Photo courtesy of gBETA

An early-stage accelerator has picked its latest cohort of five Houston companies.

The Fall 2020 cohort of gBETA Houston includes:

  • AllIDoIsCook is founded by Tobi Smith and focused on exposing the world to Africa's cuisine by manufacturing gourmet food products delivered directly to customer doors and available at grocers. Since launching, AllIDoIsCook has built out a manufacturing facility, shipped over 8,000 boxes and generated $1.1 million in revenue all without outside funding.
  • Chasing Watts makes it easy for cyclists to coordinate or find rides with fellow riders in their area with its web-based and native application. The company has over 3,000 users and grew 135 percent from Q2 to Q3 in new ride views.
  • DanceKard, founded by Erica Sinner, is a new dating platform that connects individuals and groups with one another by bringing the date to the forefront of the conversation and making scheduling faster and easier with special promotions featuring local establishments. Since launching in August of 2021, DanceKard has over 170 users on the platform.
  • Dollarito is a digital lending platform that helps the low-income Hispanic population with no credit history or low FICO score access fair credit. Founded by Carmen Roman, Dollarito applies AI into banking, transactional and behavioral data to evaluate the repayment capability more accurately than using FICO scores. The company has1,000 users on their waitlist and plans to beta test with 100 or more customers in early 2022.
  • SeekerPitch, founded by Samantha Hepler, operates with the idea that jobseekers' past job titles and resumes are not always indicative of their true capabilities. Launched last month, SeekerPitch empowers companies to see who jobseekers are as people, and get to know them through comprehensive profiles and virtual speed interviews, and the company already has 215 jobseekers and 20 companies on the platform, with one pilot at University of Houston and three more in the pipeline.

The companies kicked off their cohort in person on October 18, and the program concludes on December 14 with the gBETA Houston Fall 2021 Pitch Night. At this event, each company will present their five-minute pitch to an audience of mentors, investors, and community members.

"The five founding teams selected for our gBETA Houston Fall 2021 cohort are tackling unique problems they have each experienced personally, from finding access to cultural foods, fitness communities and authentic dating experiences to challenges with non-inclusive financing and hiring practices," says Kate Evinger, director of gBETA Houston, in the release. "The grit and passion these individuals bring to their roles as founders will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact in the Houston community and beyond."

The accelerator has supported 15 Houston startups since it launched in Houston in early 2020. The program, which is free and hosted out of the Downtown Launchpad, is under the umbrella of Madison, Wisconsin-based international accelerator, gener8tor.

"Downtown Launchpad is an innovation hub like no other, and I am so proud of what it is already and what it will become," says Robert Pieroni, director of economic development at Central Houston Inc., in the release. "The five startups selected for the gBETA Houston Fall 2021 cohort are exploring new challenges that can become high-impact Houston businesses."

gBETA announced its plan to launch in Houston in September 2019. The program's inaugural cohort premiered in May and conducted the first program this summer completely virtually. The second cohort took place last fall, and the third ran earlier this year.

"These founders are building their companies and benefiting from the resources Downtown Launchpad provides," Pieroni continues, "and the proof is in the data – companies in these programs are creating jobs, growing their revenues and exponentially increasing their funding, which means these small starts up of today, working in Downtown Launchpad, are growing into the successful companies of tomorrow."

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