short stories

Houston health startups make most promising list, clean energy co. wins award, and more news

Rice University and Houston Methodist have teamed up to fund life science research — and more Houston innovation news you need to know. Image courtesy of Rice

Houston startup news has still been full speed ahead, despite the year coming to a close, and there might be some headlines you may have missed.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston startups and tech, a climatetech leader steps down, two digital health companies have been recognized internationally, and more.

Two Houston startups land on most-promising health tech list

Houston has some representation on this year's Digital Health 150. Image via CB Insights

CB Insights released The Digital Health 150, an annual ranking of the 150 most promising digital health startups in the world, last week and two Houston companies made the cut. Houston-based companies Koda Health and Starling Medical were two of the eight Texas startups on the list.

Founded in 2020, Koda Health is a B2B Enterprise SaaS solution that guides patients through the process of proactive healthcare planning and document authentication. The company has been expanding its service across the country this year following a seed round of funding in February.

"Each year, 150 winners are selected from a pool of over 13,000 companies," Koda's CEO and Co-Founder Tatiana Fofanova tells InnovationMap. "Honorees have quickly become industry titans and household names, so we were honored — and frankly, surprised! — to be recognized in this year's group of honorees.

"I've personally taken inspiration from the Digital Health 150 for years now ± these are people and companies we've emulated and aspired to — so to see the Koda Health logo on there was incredibly affirming," she continues.

Starling Medical is using AI and telehealth enabled medical devices to enable millions with bladder dysfunctions to be able to urinate safely and conveniently again. The company has been named most promising by the Rice Alliance as well, and a top 10 company by MassChallenge.

Optellum, a United Kingdom-based company focused on lung cancer diagnostics, also made the list. They have their United States-based operations in Houston. Additionally, seven startups on the list — Babyscripts, Cerebriu, Iterative Health, Kintsugi, Mindtrace, Redox, and Lightbeam — have ties to TMC.

This is the fourth annual Digital Health 150, and this new cohort has already raised approximately $5.6 billion in aggregate funding across 378 deals since 2017, according to CB Insights.

Houston startup snags win at the 'Oscars' of energy industry

Syzygy Plasmonics was recognized for being an outstanding energy transition company. Photo via LinkedIn

At the 24th annual Platts Global Energy Awards gala, S&P Global Commodity Insights honored industry excellence across 19 categories. Described as the "Oscars" of energy, the program "recognizes corporate and individual innovation, leadership, and performance in the energy and petrochemicals industry," according to a news release.

"We are proud to recognize the leadership and innovation of this year's finalists and winners of the Platts Global Energy Awards," says Saugata Saha, president of S&P Global Commodity Insights, in the release. "These companies have demonstrated a commitment to excellence while serving customers and enabling a balanced energy transition, a key area of focus for the industry and our teams at S&P Global Commodity Insights."

Houston-based alternative energy company, Syzygy Plasmonics, took home a win for the "Energy Transition Technology of the Year Award." Syzygy, which recently raised a $76 million series C round, has a technology that harnesses the power of light to energize chemical reactions — rather than the traditional process that is fueled by heat. The Syzygy approach reduces feedstock waste and produces fewer emissions when powered by renewable electricity.

Greentown Labs CEO steps down

In her capacity as Greentown Labs CEO, Emily Reichert cut the ribbon on Greentown Houston over a year and a half ago. Photo by Lee Bond/Greentown Labs

The leader of Somerville, Massachusetts-based Greentown Labs, which has its only other location in Houston, has stepped down after a decade at the helm of the climatetech incubator.

In an email to the Greentown Labs community, Emily Reichert confirmed that she has stepped down as CEO and will remain involved as "CEO Emeritus." The organization's CFO, Kevin Taylor, has picked up more leadership responsibilities in the interim.

"As I hand the baton off to the next leader of Greentown Labs, I’m confident in our community’s ability to continue making an enormous impact deploying climatetech solutions and our team’s ability to continue growing Greentown to be an ever-more-impactful space for climatetech entrepreneurs and collaborators," Reichert says in the email.

Rice backs new research collaborations with Houston Methodist

Rice University and Houston Methodist have again teamed up to support life science research. Photo via rice.edu

Two Houston organizations — Rice University and the Houston Methodist Academic Institute — have created a seed grant program and awarded grants for research in robotics, imaging, cardiovascular bioengineering, and more. Twenty multi-year projects will be supported by both Houston Methodist and Rice, according to a news release.

It's the third collaborative program between the two organizations in less than two years.

“Our collaborations with Houston Methodist will impact human health and wellness, foster new research opportunities and advance our understanding of diseases," says Rice Provost Amy Dittmar in a news release.

The projects within the nursing category have not been announced, but the awards for the other categories have been named online.

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Building Houston

 
 

Ben Jawdat, CEO and founder of Revterra, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via LinkedIn

With more and more electric vehicles on the road, existing electrical grid infrastructure needs to be able to keep up. Houston-based Revterra has the technology to help.

"One of the challenges with electric vehicle adoption is we're going to need a lot of charging stations to quickly charge electric cars," Ben Jawdat, CEO and founder of Revterra, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "People are familiar with filling their gas tank in a few minutes, so an experience similar to that is what people are looking for."

To charge an EV in ten minutes is about 350 kilowatts of power, and, as Jawdat explains, if several of these charges are happening at the same time, it puts a tremendous strain on the electric grid. Building the infrastructure needed to support this type of charging would be a huge project, but Jawdat says he thought of a more turnkey solution.

Revterra created a kinetic energy storage system that enables rapid EV charging. The technology pulls from the grid, but at a slower, more manageable pace. Revterra's battery acts as an intermediary to store that energy until the consumer is ready to charge.

"It's an energy accumulator and a high-power energy discharger," Jawdat says, explaining that compared to an electrical chemical battery, which could be used to store energy for EVs, kinetic energy can be used more frequently and for faster charging.

Jawdat, who is a trained physicist with a PhD from the University of Houston and worked as a researcher at Rice University, says some of his challenges were receiving early funding and identifying customers willing to deploy his technology.

Last year, Revterra raised $6 million in a series A funding round. Norway’s Equinor Ventures led the round, with participation from Houston-based SCF Ventures. Previously, Revterra raised nearly $500,000 through a combination of angel investments and a National Science Foundation grant.

The funding has gone toward growing Revterra's team, including onboarding three new engineers with some jobs still open, Jawdat says. Additionally, Revterra is building out its new lab space and launching new pilot programs.

Ultimately, Revterra, an inaugural member of Greentown Houston, hopes to be a major player within the energy transition.

"We really want to be an enabling technology in the renewable energy transition," Jawdat says. "One part of that is facilitating the development of large-scale, high-power, fast-charging networks. But, beyond that, we see this technology as a potential solution in other areas related to the clean energy transition."

He shares more about what's next for Revterra on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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