Short Stories

Shell commits to $10M carbon initiative with Rice University, Houston startup acquired by Honeywell, and more innovation news

A new hub on Rice University campus, Houston receives national rankings, and more local innovation news. Photo courtesy of Rice University

Even toward the end of the year and amid the holiday season, Houston's innovation news can be a lot to keep up with. Here are seven short stories of Houston innovation — from an exit for a Houston startup and a multimillion-dollar clean energy commitment from Shell to new national recognitions for Houston and 2020 plans unveiled for MassChallenge in Houston.

Shell commits $10 million to new Carbon Hub at Rice University

Matteo Pasquali will lead the new hub at Rice University. Courtesy of Rice University

Rice University has introduced its Shell-backed Carbon Hub — a research initiative to innovate zero-emissions technologies. According to a news release, Shell has committed to a $10 million arrangement for the hub.

"Trying to address climate change is like playing whack-a-mole; you think you're making something better, and you realize that made something else get worse," says Carbon Hub director, Matteo Pasquali, in the release. "For example, you make cars more fuel efficient by removing weight, and then realize you've increased CO2 emissions by using more aluminum and carbon fibers. Or you try to fix CO2 into a useful product, and you realize you now need much more energy than you had gotten by making the CO2 in the first place."

The plan is to "fundamentally change how the world uses hydrocarbons," reads the release. Rather than burning hydrocarbons for fuel, creating carbon dioxide, the hydrocarbons "will be split to make clean-burning hydrogen fuel and solid carbon materials that can be used to make buildings, cars, clothing and more."

Through the partnership with Shell — and other potential partners — the hub will help fund and lead $100 million of science and engineering initiatives. The inaugural meeting for the hub is expected to be early next year and will be hosted by The Center for Energy Studies at Rice's Baker Institute for Public Policy.

"Providing energy to the world's population in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner is the global energy challenge," says Ken Medlock, senior director of the Center for Energy Studies, in the release. "In part, this will require new technologies and forward-looking, creative thinking, which is exactly what Carbon Hub offers."

Houston-based Rebellion Photonics acquired by Honeywell

Photo via rebellionphotonics.com

Innovative gas monitoring technology company, Rebellion Photonics, founded by Allison Sawyer and Robert Kester in Houston in 2009, has been acquired by Honeywell for an undisclosed amount.

The business will be rolled into Honeywell's Safety and Productivity Solutions business, as well as through Honeywell's Performance Materials and Technologies business, according to a press release.

"Honeywell is an amazing company and a recognized leader in our industry. We are excited to be part of their world-class family," Kester, who serves as CEO of Rebellion Photonics, says in the release. "Automated visual monitoring is the future of gas leak detection. Combining our products with Honeywell's platform will make this the new industry standard for safety and environmental monitoring globally."

MassChallenge to announce details of its second Houston cohort

Photo courtesy of MassChallenge

MassChallenge Texas has released new details of its second cohort in Houston. The zero equity startup accelerator based in downtown will run its second cohort from June to September of next year. Up to 100 startups will be selected for the Houston program, and another cohort of up to 100 startups will run along the same timeline in Austin.

On the line for prizes this year is six months of free office space, experts and mentors, the MassChallenge curriculum, access to top corporate leaders, as well as cash prizes and in-kind support — valued at over $500,000.

Both Austin and Houston will celebrate the launch of the two programs on January 29 — Houston's event will take place at the Four Seasons Hotel (1300 Lamar St.) from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.

MassChallenge recently announced its new home in The Cannon's Downtown Launch Pad in partnership with Amegy Bank.

Houston named in Inc.'s top 50 cities to start a business

houston skyline

Getty Images

Houston just made it onto the list of the top 50 cities to start a business, according to Surge Cities index, Inc., and Startup Genome. Coming in at No. 45, the Bayou City ranked behind Austin (No. 1) and Dallas (No. 29).

"Houston wants to be known as the Third Coast, a place that is both a business and cultural hub," the blurb on Inc. reads. "A place where people want to be. And this city, one of the most diverse in the country, is well on its way."

The report highlights Houston's historic hold on the oil and gas industry, the Texas Medical Center's established presence, and the space innovation happening at NASA. Roger Griesmeyer, a partner at Hunton Andrews Kurth, says in the article that Houston has low regulations and taxes coupled with "a highly educated populace, great weather, and a bunch of money."

"There's such diversity and a confluence of talent and opportunity in one place," says Griesmeyer in the article. "Houston is selling a lifestyle brand with all the resources to bear."

Houston was ranked highly on three factors:

  • No. 23 for job creation
  • No. 20 for wage growth
  • No. 25 for population growth

Accenture announces finalists for Houston-based competition

Courtesy of Accenture

In February, Accenture's Houston innovation hub will host the fourth annual Accenture HealthTech Innovation Challenge. Eleven companies have been named finalists and are headed to Houston in the new year.

"This annual HealthTech challenges creates an exciting opportunity to connect healthcare incumbents with emerging businesses to drive health system evolution focused on improving the lives of consumers and clinicians by enhancing access, affordability, quality and experience," says Brian Kalis, managing director of digital health and innovation services at Accenture, in the news release. "We are all looking forward to the final round and awards ceremony on February 6, 2020 in Houston when the finalists will present to an exclusive panel of healthcare executive judges."

No Texas companies were selected as finalists. The 11 selected startups are: New York-based Capital Rx, Minneapolis-based Carrot Health, San Francisco-based Cleo, Boston-based DynamiCare Health, San Francisco-based InsightRX, United Kingdom-based Lantum, Washington, D.C.-based Mira, Denver-based Orderly Health, New York City-based Paloma Health, St. Louis-based TCARE, and Seattle-based Xealth.

Houston area ranked the 18th best-paying city for software developers

Chart via heytutor.com

According to a new report from HeyTutor.com, the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metroplex is the 18th best-paying city for software developers. The report factored in salary and employment statistics for Houston and other U.S. metropolitan areas using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics.

Houston's mean adjusted software developer salary is $107,672 annually, according to the report. Here are some other interesting statistics regarding the Houston area from the data:

  • Mean software developer salary (adjusted): $107,672
  • Mean software developer salary (unadjusted): $109,503 — compared to $109,914 nationally
  • Mean salary across all occupations (unadjusted): $54,290 — compared to $51,960 nationally
  • Number of software developer jobs: 20,400 — compared to $51,960 nationally
  • Median home price: $205,600 — compared to $226,800 nationally

Business idea competition calls for applications

Photo courtesy of LILIE

The Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has announced the applications for the 2020 H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge business idea competition, which will take place on March 25. On the line is $60,000 in prize money to the teams, and the applications are open to Rice-affiliated teams until 11:59 pm on January 20.

To apply, click here.

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Building Houston

 
 

Fourteen companies are joining the spring cohort of the Softeq Venture Studio. Photo courtesy of Softeq

A Houston tech company has announced the latest cohort of its accelerator program, bringing the total number of startups supported by the company to 63.

Softeq Development Corp., a technology services development company, named 14 new startups joining its three-month spring Softeq Venture Studio cohort.

“We are so proud of the success we have had with the Softeq Venture Studio, helping to support and secure funding for 63 startups to date through the Softeq Venture Fund," says Christopher A. Howard, founder and CEO of Softeq. "With 23 of 89 founders coming from outside of the U.S., we demonstrate Houston’s growing influence as a startup hub where entrepreneurs can find a welcoming innovation community, a strong talent base, and world-class research facilities."

The spring 2023 cohort for Softeq includes:

  • Houston-based AIM7, data intelligence platform that unlocks wearable and mHealth data to provide customized and predictive wellness solutions.
  • Avendly, based in Providence, Rhode Island, makes robotic automation for restaurants to help, not supplant humans. Its first of many products is Mixibot, an integrated back-bar cocktail vending system.
  • Founded in Austin, ClioVis, is meeting today’s content-creator students where they are and how they learn. The company provides unique experiential learning tools designed for today’s content-creator students who learn by doing, not lectures.
  • Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, Flometrica, is a digital health solution featuring "use anywhere" devices to remotely monitor and diagnose various urinary tract problems through analysis of different urine parameters.
  • Gophr, from Lake Charles, Louisiana, is a technology-driven logistics company that provides tailored and efficient delivery solutions for various industries, individuals, and businesses of all sizes.
  • Chicago-based KarChing puts cash in teens’ hands for safe driving. The only app built for parents, teens, and insurance companies that rewards drivers for phone- and distraction-free behavior behind the wheel.
  • Houston-founded Meander collects travel customer satisfaction micro-surveys as people go about their trips. The research platform rewards travelers for sharing their pics, videos, and insights.
  • MEedia, based in Sacramento, California, puts a professional press conference event in your pocket. Individuals can create broadcast-worthy interactive shareable content with just their phone.
  • MeterLeader, from Huntington Beach, California, gamifies saving energy in homes by using real-time utility data and behavioral science. We're like a Fitbit challenge for your home, but instead of steps we measure kWh, therm, and CO2 reductions.
  • Houston-based PayOnDelivery, integrates secure payment with delivery for markets like Craigslist and Facebook. It’s low-hassle, fraud-free buying and selling for peer-to-peer marketplaces.
  • Another Lake Charles business, Picasso Analytics has a platform that can reduce delays and save oil refiners and petrochem owners 10 to 15 percent on multi-million dollar turnaround events by providing a single source of truth integrating the schedule, time entry, and shop status.
  • Sarasota, Florida-based Toivoa develops software-based therapies for people with disabilities who experience mental health disorders. On track for FDA approval, the platform is prescription-based, clinically validated, and delivered on your phone.
  • UpBrainery Technologies, founded in Houston, helps students explore careers through digital experiences. AI guides their interests in career paths and credentials their achievements for employers and colleges.
  • Also from Houston, WellWorth (https://wellworthapp.com/), is a financial modeling SaaS platform that helps upstream oil and gas finance leaders improve their decision-making around raising, managing, and deploying capital.

Softeq Venture Studio launched over a year ago with its inaugural cohort in 2021, and the fund was launched last year. Since launch, Softeq has raised 80 percent of its inaugural $40 million Softeq Venture Fund and made investments in 63 startups. Softeq has also reformatted its accelerator program to include two cohort classes per year, allowing for more time to be spent with the Venture Studio and its cohort startups.

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