houston innovators podcast episode 122

Climate tech investor says Houston has a multifaceted role to play in the energy transition

Eric Rubenstein of New Climate Ventures joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss the future of Houston as a clean energy hub. Photo courtesy of NCV

If the city of Houston wants to maintain its moniker of Energy Capital of the World, it has make strides within the energy transition — and that needs to be accomplished in a myriad of ways.

"Houston's role (within the energy transition) is multifaceted," says Eric Rubenstein, founding managing partner of New Climate Ventures, on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast.

Rubenstein founded New Climate Ventures to fund startups within the sustainability and climate tech space — which includes technologies that address circular economy, sustainably made materials, clean energy, and more.

"We have a talent pool here that fits pretty well in climate tech, alternative materials, and other spaces," he continues. "We have a customer base here that is going to adopt these new technologies."

The fact that Houston's major energy companies — of which there are many in town — will be the customers of emerging clean energy technologies positions the city as a hub for attracting innovative startups. Just last week, Bucha Bio, one of NCV's portfolio companies expanded into Houston. The New-York founded startup creates in textiles and composite materials made from bacterial nanocellulose, a much more sustainable materials production, that can be used instead of animal leather, polyurethane, latex, vinyl, epoxy, and more.

Rubenstein says Bucha Bio narrowed down its options to San Diego and Houston, before ultimately deciding on the Bayou City for its talent pool. The company, which is a member of Greentown Houston, is now based out of the East End Maker Hub.

"As these technologies are being spun out of labs, Houston has become a destination for these companies," Rubenstein says. "Bucha Bio isn't an irregular occurrence these days."

The missing piece of the puzzle is still venture dollars — and Rubenstein is on a mission to move that needle. This year, NCV is focused on closing its fund and deploying capital into early-staged climate tech companies.

"Our goal is really to watch for transformational change in the industries we're investing in," he says. "We're really excited about the technologies in the space and will continue looking for what's to come."

Rubenstein shares more about New Climate Ventures and the trend that is impact investing on the podcast. Listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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Building Houston

 
 

A new report says Houston “is poised for further growth” in life sciences. Photo via Getty Images

Houston is receiving more kudos for its robust life sciences sector.

Bayou City lands at No. 13 in JLL’s 2022 ranking of the country’s top 15 metro areas for life sciences. JLL says Houston “is poised for further growth” in life sciences.

Here’s how Houston fares in each of the ranking’s three categories:

  • No. 12 for supply of life sciences-oriented commercial real estate
  • No. 14 for access to life sciences talent
  • No. 15 for life sciences grant funding and venture capital

Earlier this year, Houston scored a 13th-place ranking on a list released by JLL competitor CBRE of the country’s top 25 life sciences markets. Meanwhile, commercial real estate platform CommercialCafe recently placed Houston at No. 10 among the top U.S. metros for life sciences.

JLL applauds Houston for strong growth in the amount of life sciences talent along with “an impressive base of research institutions and medical centers.” But it faults Houston for limited VC interest in life sciences startups and a small inventory of lab space.

“Houston is getting a boost [in life sciences] from the growing Texas Medical Center and an influx of venture capital earmarked for life sciences research,” the Greater Houston Partnership recently noted.

Boston appears at No. 1 in this year’s JLL ranking, followed by the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, Washington, D.C./Baltimore, and Philadelphia.

Last year’s JLL list included only 10 life sciences markets; Houston wasn’t among them.

“The long-term potential of the sector remains materially unchanged since 2021,” Travis McCready, head of life sciences for JLL’s Americas markets, says in a news release.

“Innovation is happening at a more rapid pace than ever before, the fruits of research into cell and gene therapy are just now being harvested, and revenue growth has taken off in the past five years as the sector becomes larger, an atypical growth track.”

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