WHO'S WHO

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Sarah "Sassie" Duggleby of Venus Aerospace, Youngro Lee of Brassica, and Le Dam of myAvos. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from rocket science to fintech — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Sarah "Sassie" Duggleby, CEO and co-founder of Venus Aerospace

Sarah "Sassie" Duggleby of Venus Aerospace joins the Houston Innovators Podcast this week. Photo courtesy of Venus

Sarah "Sassie" Duggleby and her husband were living in Japan and considering a trip back to Texas and wishing there was a faster option than a full day of international travel — with their kids, no less. That's when Andrew Duggleby told Sassie that there actually might be an engine that could do that.

Flash forward a few years, and the husband-wife team has built a company around that idea. Venus Aerospace, originally founded in California, relocated to Houston in 2021 to establish their company in an ecosystem with the tools to advance their tech — and give their employees a good work-life balance, Sassie Duggleby explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

"We knew we had to find a location where we could test our engine and still be home for dinner," she says on the show. "Our company vision is 'home for dinner.' We want to fly you across the globe and have you home for dinner. And, if you work for us, we want you home for dinner." Read more.

Youngro Lee has announced funding for his latest fintech endeavor. Photo courtesy

Youngro Lee is no stranger to shaking up the finance world with a new tech-based way of doing business. One of the founders of NextSeed, Lee's newest mission is providing "investment infrastructure as a service" with his company, Brassica, which just raised $8 million in seed funding.

“The future of finance will depend on the ability of trustworthy institutions to provide secure and seamless transitions between traditional financial services and web3 innovations while complying with strict regulations and still providing great customer experience,” says Lee in the news release.

Houston-based Mercury Fund led the round with several other investors participating. Read more.

Le Dam, CEO and founder of OptiChroniX

Le Dam moved from California to Houston to build her company. Photo via LinkedIn

After years on the West Coast, Le Dam has returned to her adopted hometown of Houston — just in time to launch a new app dedicated to providing health resources and information to its users.

“I always knew that I wanted to build my business in Houston,” Dam says, mentioning the assets of the world’s largest medical center, a thriving startup community, and diverse population for whom she wants to build her technology.

myAvos pairs with a user’s smart watch and harnesses their health information such as physical activity and hours slept. The user can also input additional information such as blood test results and meals eaten. The app analyzes the information provided and assesses the user’s risk for chronic illness later in life. Read more.

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Building Houston

 
 

In its role as a “Terawatt Partner,” Aramco Americas will gain access to activities within Greentown’s industry and entrepreneurial network. Photo via greentownlabs.com

Houston-based Aramco Americas, an arm of the Saudi Arabian energy giant, has joined climatetech incubator Greentown Labs as a top-tier partner.

“Aramco is committed to advancing technology solutions to lower carbon emissions. This partnership with Greentown Labs will deepen our ongoing engagement with climatetech innovators and startups,” Nabeel AlAfaleg, president and CEO of Aramco Americas, says in a news release.

In its role as a “Terawatt Partner,” Aramco Americas will gain access to activities within Greentown’s industry and entrepreneurial network. In addition, Aramco Americas will participate in Greentown’s Industry Leadership Council, an advisory group. Jim Sledzik, managing director of Aramco Ventures North America, will serve on the council.

Aramco’s partnership with Greentown Labs comes on the heels of last year’s announcement of the company’s $1.5 billion fund to invest in technology that supports the ongoing energy transition. Managed by Aramco Ventures, the VC arm of Aramco, the fund focuses on carbon capture and storage, greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency, nature-based climate solutions, digital sustainability, hydrogen, ammonia, and synthetic fuels.

To date, Aramco Ventures has invested in 22 startups and high-growth companies involved in the sustainability sector.

“Aramco Americas and Aramco Ventures have already exemplified what we look for in a partner: support of our entrepreneurs through investment and pilot opportunities, and engaging with our communities in Houston and Boston in the spirit of sustainability and climate action,” says Kevin Taylor, interim CEO and chief financial officer of Greentown Labs.

Greentown operates climatetech incubators in Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts.

Jim Sledzik, North American managing director of Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures, will serve on Greentown’s Industry Leadership Council. Photo via Aramco

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