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.



The NASA-backed Translational Research Institute for Space Health is innovating the future of life in space. Libby Neder Photography

For Dorit Donoviel, innovation means risk — and there's not a lot that's riskier than traveling to and living in outer space. As director of Houston-based TRISH — the Translational Research Institute for Space Health — Donoviel is tasked by NASA to take some risks in order to innovate.

"Everyone tosses the word 'innovation' around, but that means, to us, taking risks in science. Health care, in particular, is very risk averse, but the space industry is taking risks every single day when they put people in a rocket and hurl them into space," Donoviel says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "If we're going to mars, for example, we are going to put people at risk.

"For us to take risks in order to reduce risk is a really amazing opportunity."

TRISH works hand in hand with NASA's Human Research Program to identify the program's biggest concerns, and then tap into professors, researchers, and scientists from Baylor College of Medicine, California Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, and other partners in order to innovate solutions.

Some of the issues TRISH is working to provide solutions for range from protecting from radiation exposure on the moon and mars to personal health care — astronauts have to be a doctor to themselves when they are on the space station.

"That's a totally new model for health care, so we have to solve all those problems and invest in them," Donoviel says.

In a lot of ways, TRISH connects the dots of modern space research, explains Donoviel. The organization taps into its researcher network, as well as into startups and companies with innovative technologies, in order to deliver the best space innovations to NASA.

Donoviel goes into more details on how TRISH interacts with entrepreneurs as well as what new technologies the organization has seen success with in the episode. Stream the podcast below, and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.