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Digital turned reality

Texas-based Bumble launches Houston meet-up hubs for safe and productive interactions

BumbleSpot launched in Houston at all three Nourish Juice Bar locations. Courtesy of Nourish

Turning digital connections into real-life associations can be a little nerve wracking, no matter the context. Austin-based Bumble, a dating app that's expanded to become a networking resource, is trying to make that first face-to-face meeting a little safer and smoother.

"The idea for BumbleSpot is to create a network of physical locations across the US and Canada that support our mission to end misogyny and empower women in their relationships across all aspects of life," Andee Olson, director of partnerships at Bumble, says in a press release.

Over 80 BumbleSpots have been named — with more promised to announce over the next year. While Houston wasn't among the roll-out cities, it officially has three BumbleSpots to choose from, as all three Nourish Juice Bar locations have signed on as partners.

Jessica Huffman opened the first Nourish Juice Bar in the summer of 2015 in Montrose, and her Rice Village and Heights locations followed suit. She says when Bumble reached out to her, she jumped onboard since she has mutual friends with Bumble's founder and CEO, Whitney Wolfe Herd.

To be a BumbleSpot, the establishment must agree to uphold the mission and values of Bumble, which prioritizes safety, kindness, respect, equality, accountability, and growth, according to a Bumble spokesperson.

Huffman says Nourish is perfect for Bumble with its focus on healthy foods and a friendly environment.

"When you're in Nourish, you're probably going to see me or my brother or one of our employees who's worked there for a while," Huffman says. "We talk to everyone all the time and always try to make people feel comfortable."

A spokesperson says more Houston partners are coming, as local business have expressed interest following the launch of BumbleSpot.

Bumble premiered in 2014 as a female-first dating app, and moved its headquarters to Austin in 2017. In March of 2016, it launched BumbleBFF focused on creating friendships. Then, just a few months later, it launched BumbleBizz focusing on making business connections.

In August, the company launched Bumble Fund — an early-stage investment fund focused on female-led companies. The fund's first five benefactors were named as BeautyCon, Cleo Capital, Female Founders Fund, Mahmee, and Sofia Los Angeles.

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Building Houston

 
 

Seven startups walked away with cash prizes from this year's MassChallenge accelerator program in Houston. Photo via Getty Images

MassChallenge named its winners of its 2020 accelerator at a virtual event on October 22. The program awarded a total of $200,000 in equity-free prizes across seven startups from its second Houston cohort.

This year's program took place completely virtually due to the pandemic. Already, the 56 startups involved in the cohort have raised $44.4 million funding, generated $24 million in revenue, and created 297 jobs, says Jon Nordby, managing director of MassChallenge Texas in Houston, in a news release.

"This has been a year full of change, to say the least," he says. "But startups thrive in uncertain times — because they can move fast and remain agile, they are able quickly meet each new need that arises. I'm extremely proud of the startups in our 2020 cohort — during the course of the program, they've pivoted, adjusted, and evolved in order to grow their businesses."

The startups that won across the Houston cohort included Houston-based PATH EX Inc., which won the $100,000 Diamond Award, is focused on the rapid diagnosis and treatment of sepsis through an unique pathogen extraction platform.

Four companies won $25,000 Gold Awards:

  • Healium, based in Columbia, Missouri, is an extended reality device created for self-management of anxiety.
  • Ozark Integrated Circuits Inc., based in Fayetteville, Arkansas, specializes in problem solving using technology and software in the harshest environments – from jet engines to earth orbit.
  • PREEMIEr Diagnostics, based in Southfield, Michigan, created a way to identify which premature infants need an adjustment to their glucose levels to prevent them from losing vision.
  • Scout Inc., based in Alexandria, Virginia, is developing the first commercial in-space satellite inspection service.

Two companies won the Sidecar Awards, securing each a $25,000 Innospark Artificial Intelligence Prize.

  • Articulate Labs, based in Dallas, makes mobile, adaptive devices to help knee osteoarthritis and knee replacement patients rehabilitate on the go during everyday activity.
  • Houston-based Starling Medical has tapped into tech to optimize urinary catheter for patients with neurogenic bladder dysfunction.
The Houston Angel Network awarded Ozark Integrated Circuits their prize of $50,000.
"The progress these entrepreneurs made in just a few months has all of the hope, drama, anticipation, and optimism of seeing dawn break after a particularly difficult night," says Wogbe Ofori, Principal at 360Approach and a MassChallenge mentor, in the release. "It's fulfilling, actually, and makes me proud to be a MassChallenge mentor."
The seven startups were awarded alongside 27 other startups from this year's Austin, Boston, and Rhode Island accelerators at the virtual event. The event was hosted by Chris Denson of Innovation Crush, and featured a fireside chat between Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, and Linda Pizzuti Henry, managing director at the Boston Globe.
Earlier this fall, MassChallenge named its 10 startup finalists, whittled down from 56 from 13 countries and 13 states to its first-ever virtual accelerator, which began in June.

"In the face of great uncertainty, MassChallenge Texas in Houston charged forward and did exactly what they ask their startups to do: love the problem," says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in the release. "The successful pivot to virtual is a testament to the strength of their global community and the motivation of the Houston ecosystem to get behind new ideas and create businesses that will set roots and grow here.

"As one of the most innovative cities, Houston is a place where startups can thrive – even in the midst of a pandemic. Programs like MassChallenge provide the best practices and networks to ensure startups get the access they need to create sustainable businesses and lasting change."

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