who's who

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Mitra Miller of Houston Angel Network, Richard Baraniuk of OpenStax, and Carlos Estrada of BioWell. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to three Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a podcast with an angel investment evangelist, an academic-turned-startup-founder celebrating a big win, and a leader of a brand new accelerator.

Mitra Miller, vice president and board member of the Houston Angel Network

Mitra Miller, vice president and board member of the Houston Angel Network, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to share her passion for growing angel investors in Houston. Photo via LinkedIn

One of the biggest components of a well-functioning startup ecosystem is inarguably access to capital, and Mitra Miller is dedicated to enhancing education around investment and growing Houston's investor base.

As vice president and board member of the Houston Angel Network, the oldest angel network in Texas and one of the most active angel networks in the country, Miller strives to provide guidance to new and emerging angel investors as well as founders seeking to raise money from them.

"Most founders have no idea or understanding of how investors think — we are not an ATM," Miller says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "We are really partners you are getting married to for the next 5, 8, 10 years — sometimes longer. We need to bring your allies in every sense of the word." Continue reading.

Richard Baraniuk, Rice University professor and founder of OpenStax

At an event at the Ion, OpenStax and Rice University announced a $90 million NSF-backed initiative. Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice

An educational technology company based out of Rice University has received $90 million to create and lead a research and development hub for inclusive learning and education research. It's the largest research award in the history of the university.

OpenStax received the grant funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation for a five-year project create the R&D hub called SafeInsights. Richard Baraniuk, who founded OpenStax and is a Rice professor, will lead SafeInsights. He says he hopes the initiative will allow progress to be made for students learning in various contexts.

“Learning is complex," Baraniuk says in the release. "Research can tackle this complexity and help get the right tools into the hands of educators and students, but to do so, we need reliable information on how students learn. Just as progress in health care research sparked stunning advances in personalized medicine, we need similar precision in education to support all students, particularly those from underrepresented and low-income backgrounds.” Continue reading.

Carlos Estrada, head of venture acceleration at BioWell

Calling all biotechnology startups. Photo via LinkedIn

A Houston organization — freshly funded by a $700,000 U.S. Economic Development Administration’s “Build to Scale” grant — is seeking its first accelerator cohort of industrial biology startups.

Founded by Houston-based First Bight Ventures, the BioWell has launched a virtual accelerator program that will provide programming, networking, mentorship, and financial resources to its inaugural cohort of 10 bioindustrial startups. The selected companies will also have access to specialized pilot bioproduction infrastructure throughout the nine-month program.

“BioWell equips startups with more than just capital. We provide a foundation for breakthrough innovations by combining access to cutting-edge bioproduction facilities with expertise that nurtures scalability. This comprehensive support is crucial for transforming pioneering ideas into market-ready solutions that can address pressing global challenges,” Carlos Estrada, head of venture acceleration at BioWell, says in a news release. Continue reading.

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