ones to watch

Investors name most promising energy tech startups at annual Houston event

The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship handed out awards to the founders of the most promising companies that pitched. Photo courtesy of Slyworks Photography/Rice Alliance

Nearly 100 energy tech startups pitched at the 19th annual Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum this week — and over a third of those companies are based in the Houston area.

At the conclusion of the event — which took place on Thursday, September 15, at Rice University, and included a day full of company pitches, panels, and thought leadership — 10 startups were deemed the most promising among their peers. The group was voted on by investors attending office hours ahead of the event.

The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship facilitated nearly 700 meetings between 70 investor groups and 90 ventures, according to the organization. The group of presenting companies included participants from Rice's Clean Energy Accelerator's first two cohorts.

Here are 10 of the energy tech industry's most promising companies — and the technology they are working on that's set to disrupt the status quo.

Arolytics

Based in Calgary and founded in 2018, Arolytics is a software company that specializes in emissions management, ESG performance, and regulatory compliance. The company's platform is able to save its users up to 40 percent of their associated measurement costs and emissions management.

Atargis Energy

Atargis Energy is based in Pueblo, Colorado, and is a a member of Rice's second cohort of its Clean Energy Accelerator. The company has developed a twin hydrofoil-based wave energy converter that creates electric power from ocean waves. The technology is paired with real-time sensors and machine learning to optimize power conversion.

Compact Membrane Systems

Based in Delaware, Compact Membrane Systems, is pioneering membrane systems for decarbonizing hard-to-abate chemical manufacturing and industrial carbon capturing. The technology has the potential to revolutionize the chemicals industry.

Dimensional Energy

Dimensional Energy, based in Ithaca, New York, is transforming carbon dioxide into sustainable aviation fuels and products at market competitive prices. The technology integrates carbon capture, electrolysis, and Fischer Tropsch synthesis.

Kanin Energy

Headquartered in Houston, Kanin Energy works with heavy Industry to turn their waste heat into a clean baseload power source. The platform also provides tools such as project development, financing, and operations.

Orbital Sidekick

Orbital Sidekick, based in San Francisco, is an intelligence and analytics company that specializes in remote detection of environmental hazards by way of hyperspectral satellites. The technology provides actionable insights for its customers.

Power to Hydrogen

Based in Columbus, Ohio, Power to Hydrogen has developed an AEM-based electrolysis technology that produces high pressure, high efficiency hydrogen at low cost via water and renewable energy.

Quino Energy

Another Clean Energy Accelerator Class 2 member, Quino Energy produces flow battery systems with over eight hours of energy storage. The batteries are cheaper than lithium-ion alternatives, as well as being safer and easier to scale.

STARS Technology

Based in Richland, Washington, STARS Technology Corp. is commercializing advanced micro-channel chemical process technology that originally was designed for NASA and the Department of Energy. The company's reactors and heat exchangers are compact, energy-efficient, and more.

Syzygy Plasmonics

Houston-based Syzygy Plasmonics is commercializing its light-reacting energy, which would greatly reduce carbon emissions in the chemical industry. The technology originated out of Rice University.

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It's undeniable that businesses are facing economic uncertainty in 2023. Here's what marketing tools to tap into to navigate the challenges ahead. Photo via Getty Images

All indications point to a fair amount of economic uncertainty in the coming months. I think a lot of B-to-B companies, across many industries, are going to retrench in their spending, and deals will likely be harder to close because more approvals will be required. Still, there are going to be those companies who will continue to grow because they are using the right go to market strategies and tactics.

Here are some of the things for high growth company management teams to consider doing.

Invest in a CRM tool — and the time to set it up

A customer relations management, or CRM, tool is an essential component of data measurement — and every company needs to closely track those key performance indicators towards revenue and growth goals.

A CRM tool doesn’t have to be expensive. There are many low initial investment options such as Hubspot, SharpSpring, and others. The investment then becomes the staff or consultant time to set it up correctly so that it meets a company’s needs and to continue to monitor it.

How much time is spent depends on what you want the system to do. Some companies run their website out of a CRM platform, or send automated emails, or do their other social media through it. Others only use it to track their contacts and sales.

Data may show desired progress — or it may show stagnation — and a team needs to be able to analyze information expediently to reformulate a plan, or pivot to a new one, if needed.

Prioritize the digital toolkit

While companies have a lot of different digital marketing tools at their disposal, there are five basic elements to consider optimizing. If the resources aren’t available to tackle them all at once, the management team needs to determine their top priorities.

Website design and content: Think about this as a company’s virtual lobby. A well-designed website with relevant content is essential for attracting new business. Ranking well in organic web searches — SEO — is also a very important component.

Social media: LinkedIn, with its business focus, is a great place to start. Companies can share their story, interact with potential investors, and build relationships with potential clients.

Email marketing: An email marketing newsletter is the logical step after developing a compelling company website. The content should benefit the reader. What can you do for them?

Content marketing: Blog posts, videos and ebooks are just some of the value added content you can share with potential investors and clients. What makes your company different from your competitors?

Paid advertising: Companies can use paid advertising to target potential new customers through online channels such as search engines and social media. The nice thing about paid advertising is that the attribution is there — companies can pinpoint exactly what messaging resonated with a potential client.

Let goals drive strategy

SEO and digital ads are not the solution for every company. Some companies need to make only a handful of deals each year to reach revenue goals. Broad-based digital marketing is not the best strategy for these players. What is? Often content.

The internet has given potential customers unparalleled ability to comparison shop. They want to know what a company does differently than its competitors. Whether a service or product is cheaper or faster or easier to work with. So tell them.

In addition to web content, speaking opportunities at conferences are a powerful way for companies to position themselves as differentiated in a given marketplace.

On the flip side, high volume players who require a lot of smaller deals would do very well with a far-reaching digital outreach approach.

Listen to experts

No one is an expert in all areas. And they shouldn’t try to be. Whether that is financial analysis or digital marketing, hiring the right people to fill in any deficiencies is the smart move.

Trying to wing it through effort and good intentions is often frustrating for everyone. With digital marketing and lead generation, a lack of expertise can sometimes result in implementing a product or service that’s not really going to generate the expected results.

If a company spends big money on a digital marketing tactic, and it fails to land new business, then the assumption might be that digital marketing doesn’t work. That’s often not the case. It was simply the wrong tool for the job. An expert would help pinpoint the correct one.

Measure success first by revenue

Digital marketing should primarily be responsible for moving potential customers down the sales funnel. And sales revenue is the best evidence that the marketing was effective.

There has always been that push and pull with sales and marketing about what actions actually contribute to closing a deal but a good CRM tool will help.

There are other ways to measure the success of any campaign:

  • The number of visitors to a company’s website or social media page
  • The level of engagement a campaign generates or the amount of time a prospect engages with content
  • The number of leads generated, along with the quality of that lead
  • The return on investment

Continued growth starts with goal setting and coming up with a marketing and business development strategy that fits the unique needs of a business. This works most effectively when a company’s management team ensures that marketing and sales are working in lockstep. They are two sides of the same coin and need to see themselves that way to maximize results and therefore profit.

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Libby Covington is partner at Houston-based The Craig Group, a strategic digital marketing solutions consulting firm. Her specialty is in understanding how sales and marketing work together effectively.

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