Houston innovators podcast episode 12

Meet the Houston entrepreneur revolutionizing maritime shipping with software and data analysis

Houston-based Voyager, co-founded by Matthew Costello, has created a software solution for inefficient communication practices of the maritime shipping industry. Photo courtesy of Voyager

While in business school, Matthew Costello could not kick the thought of all the inefficiencies within the maritime shipping industry. He asked a friend, Bret Smart, to help him look into some of the logistical communications issues within the industry. The two co-founders of Houston-based Voyager started asking some questions for all the different parties involved in shipping across seas.

"The data we got back was pretty alarming," Costello says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It basically showed that whoever you speak to in the maritime industry, people are spending about 40 percent of their day on what we would consider low-value, low-complexity tasks."

Some of these tasks included copying and pasting information from spreadsheets, forwarding materials to the right person, and countless emails — sometimes even 10,000 emails for just one large shipment.

The duo created Voyager, a software-as-a-service company that connects the various entities involved in a shipment, to solve this massive communications problem.

"It essentially works very similar to a project management tool," Costello, who is the CEO of the company, says. "When you think of a voyage where you have a large oil and gas company shipping 100,000 barrels from Houston to Singapore, right now, that voyage will involve 10 different companies located all around the world with 50 to 100 different users.

"With Voyager, what it allows companies to do is essentially have all of those counter parties working together in a shared environment to manage the voyage together — entirely email free," Costello says, adding that their software is also able to automate parts of the process as well as collect data for analysis.

In August, Voyager closed a $1.5 million seed round of funding and has eight clients working with the software. In the last episode of the podcast for 2019, Costello shares his international fundraising story, what he has lined up for Voyager in 2020, and more. Stream the episode below and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.



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Building Houston

 
 

Five research teams are studying space radiation's effect on human tissue. Photo via NASA/Josh Valcarcel

A Houston-based organization has named five research projects to advance the understanding of space radiation using human tissue. Two of the five projects are based in Houston.

The Translational Research Institute for Space Health, or TRISH, is based at Baylor College of Medicine and funds health research and tech for astronauts during space missions. The astronauts who are headed to the moon or further will be exposed to high Galactic Cosmic Radiation levels, and TRISH wants to learn more about the effects of GCR.

"With this solicitation, TRISH was looking for novel human-based approaches to understand better Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR) hazards, in addition to safe and effective countermeasures," says Kristin Fabre, TRISH's chief scientist, in a news release. "More than that, we sought interdisciplinary teams of scientists to carry these ideas forward. These five projects embody TRISH's approach to cutting-edge science."

The five projects are:

  • Michael Weil, PhD, of Colorado State University, Colorado — Effects of chronic high LET radiation on the human heart
  • Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, PhD of Columbia University, New York — Human multi-tissue platform to study effects of space radiation and countermeasures
  • Sharon Gerecht, PhD of Johns Hopkins University, Maryland — Using human stem-cell derived vascular, neural and cardiac 3D tissues to determine countermeasures for radiation
  • Sarah Blutt, PhD of Baylor College of Medicine, Texas — Use of Microbial Based Countermeasures to Mitigate Radiation Induced Intestinal Damage
  • Mirjana Maletic-Savatic, PhD of Baylor College of Medicine, Texas — Counteracting space radiation by targeting neurogenesis in a human brain organoid model

The researchers are tasked with simulating radiation exposure to human tissues in order to study new ways to protect astronauts from the radiation once in deep space. According to the release, the tissue and organ models will be derived from blood donated by the astronaut in order to provide him or her with customized protection that will reduce the risk to their health.

TRISH is funded by a partnership between NASA and Baylor College of Medicine, which also includes consortium partners Caltech and MIT. The organization is also a partner to NASA's Human Research Program.

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