who's who

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Melanie Johnson of Collaborative for Children, Aditya Mohite of Rice University, Lani Doyle of Cart.com. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a nonprofit leader introducing new technologies, a solar tech-focused Rice University professor, and a new hire for a Houston fast-growing startup.

Melanie Johnson, president and CEO of Collaborative for Children

Collaborative for Children is focused on utilizing social-emotional learning robots and coding tech toys. Photo courtesy

Generally, when children are under the age of five, educators believe that they are best suited for and interested in learning, because those are the years in which there is the strongest opportunity to build a broad and solid foundation for lifelong literacy and well-being.

That sentiment is deeply held by Collaborative for Children, the Houston-based nonprofit organization with the mission to meaningfully improve the quality of early childhood education and provide access to cutting-edge technology through its Centers of Excellence to all children, especially those in low-income and marginalized communities.

“The reason the organization was started about 40 years ago is that a group of philanthropists in the greater Houston area suggested that this was so important because 90 percent of the brain develops or grows in the time frame between ages zero to five years of age,” Melanie Johnson, president and CEO of Collaborative for Children, tells InnovationMap. Read more.

Aditya Mohite, director of Rice Engineering Initiative for Energy Transition and Sustainability

The new process developed by Rice University researchers makes solar cells that are about 10 times more durable than traditional methods. Photo courtesy

Presented on the cover of a June issue of Science, a study from Rice University engineer Aditya Mohite's lab uncovered a method to synthesize a high-efficiency perovskite solar cell, known as formamidinium lead iodide (FAPbI3), converting them into ultrastable high-quality photovoltaic films, according to a statement from Rice. Photovoltaic films convert sunlight into electricity.

The new process makes solar cells that are about 10 times more durable than traditional methods.

“Right now, we think that this is state of the art in terms of stability,” Mohite said in a statement. “Perovskite solar cells have the potential to revolutionize energy production, but achieving long-duration stability has been a significant challenge.” Read more.

Lani Doyle, chief people officer at Cart.com

Fast-growing Cart.com has named its new chief people officer. Photo courtesy of Cart.com

Houston-based e-commerce software and services company Cart.com has hired a former Shopify executive as its chief people officer.

Before joining Cart.com, Lani Doyle was chief HR officer at Strategic Solutions Group, a provider of health care software. Previously, she was vice president of HR and people operations at 6 River Systems, a provider of software and robotics for warehouses. Prior to that, Doyle was head of talent development and operations at Shopify, an e-commerce platform for businesses that posted revenue of $7.1 billion in 2023.

“Cart.com is one of the fastest-growing companies in commerce today, and I’m excited to partner with our teams to help drive growth and scalability,” Doyle says in a news release. “I am eager to contribute to shaping our culture and developing programming that supports and elevates high-performing teams, ensuring we achieve our ambitious goals.” Read more.

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