Short stories

Houston unicorn raises $200M series D, startup snags national award, and more innovation news

Here's your latest roundup of innovation news you may have missed. Photo via Getty Images

It's been a busy month so far with plenty of Houston startup news, major ecosystem events, and more — and there might be some headlines you may have missed.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston startups and tech, Solugen raises another mega round of funding, CorInnova snags a prestigious award, applications are open for two programs, and more.

Houston unicorn chemicals company raises $200M series D

Solugen closed its Series d funding round at $200 million. Photo via Getty Images

Houston-based Solugen has announced its latest round of investment to the tune of $200 million. The company, which reached unicorn status after its $357 million series C round last year, uses its patented Bioforge processes to produce "green" chemicals from bio-based feedstocks.

"Solugen is reimagining the chemistry of everyday life with enzymes found in nature. We make chemicals better, faster, cheaper, and without fossil fuels from right here in Houston, Texas. Whether you care about the climate, local competitiveness, or just plain old profits, we have good news: it's working," the company states in its news release.

"Our first Bioforge has been operating for a year and Solugen is running a nearly nine figure business with high margins selling commodity and specialty chemicals," the statement continues. "We have established ourselves with top tier customers for our existing solutions and fortune 100 technology partners to build a robust pipeline of future molecules that will help us achieve our goal of 10 mil tons of CO2 removed from the atmosphere."

According to the company, this latest raise has increased Solugen's valuation to over $2 billion. The round was led by investors Kennivik, Lowercarbon Capital, and Refactor Capital.

Houston health tech company wins funding from national organization

CorInnova has won a prestigious award. Photo via corinnova.com

Houston-based CorInnova was named one of five awardees from the National Capital Consortium for Pediatric Device Innovation's “Make Your Medical Device Pitch for Kids!” competition. Each honoree received a share of $150,000 in grant funding from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The awards ranged from $20,000 to $50,000 to support the advancement of pediatric medical devices.

CorInnova has designed a minimally invasive biventricular non-blood contacting cardiac assist device to treat heart failure.

The 2022 competition was moderated by California-based MedTech Innovator. The other four pediatric device innovation awardees included:

  • Innovation Lab, from La Palma, California, created a mechanical elbow brace stabilizes tremors for pediatric ataxic cerebral palsy to improve the performance of Activities of Daily Living.
  • Prapela, based in Biddeford, Maine, created the first innovation to improve the treatment of apnea of prematurity in over twenty years.
  • Tympanogen, from Richmond, Virginia, replaces surgical eardrum repair with a nonsurgical clinic procedure
  • Xpan, based in Concord, Ontario, has created a universal trocar enables safest and most dynamic access and effortless upsizing in conventional/mini/robotic procedures.

"We are delighted to recognize these five innovations with critical NCC-PDI funding that will support their journey to commercialization. Improving pediatric healthcare is not possible without forward-thinking companies that seek to address the most dire unmet needs in children’s health,” says Kolaleh Eskandanian, vice president and chief innovation officer at Children’s National Hospital and principal investigator of NCC-PDI, in a news release. "We know all too well how challenging it is to bring pediatric medical devices to market, which is why we have created this rich ecosystem to identify promising medical device technologies and incentivize investment. We congratulate this year’s winning innovators and applaud their efforts to help bridge these important care gaps that are impacting children.”

Houston real estate tech scores funding from Amazon entity

DOSS is a real estate tech company. Photo via Getty Images

Houston-based DOSS, which was chosen this summer for the inaugural Black Founders Build with Alexa cohort, has received funding from the Amazon Alexa Fund. The startups in the program were selected based on their ability to innovate with Alexa and build the next generation of voice, artificial intelligence, and ambient experiences technology.

DOSS is a digital brokerage that uses tech to make homeownership more affordable, and the company has developed a technology where customers are able to ask for real-estate advice and tips, search for home listings, get neighborhood information, and recent sales data, according to a news release from the company. They will also eventually be able to request to be connected with home service providers that serve their respective area.

CEO Bobby Bryant and COO Chris Norton founded DOSS in 2016. Last year, the company participated in the Google for Startups Black Founders program, receiving $100,000 from the fund.

TMC Innovation's Biodesign program applications open

Applications are open through the end of the year. Photo via tmc.edu

Applications are now open for the 2023 TMCi Biodesign program at the Texas Medical Center's Innovation Factory. TMC is looking for candidates with relevant backgrounds for starting a digital health or medical device company, such as: engineering, medicine, hospital administration, R&D (prototyping), software development, finance, legal, regulatory, reimbursement, or technical. Candidates must have at least 1 to 2 years of industry work experience or have prior startup history. It is preferred that applicants have earned an advanced degree.

The position is an in-person, full-time requirement that will begin August 2023 and will span nine months with an opportunity to extend for up to two months.

Applications close on December 31. Candidates will undergo a series of interviews in January and then will be extended offers in the spring.

HX Venture Fund calls for startups to meet visiting VC

Calling all Houston tech startups. Image via Screenshot

HX Venture Fund, a fund-of-funds that encourages and enables non Houston-based VCs to tap into the local innovation ecosystem, is hosting Creighton Hicks, partner at Austin-based LiveOak Venture Partners, later this month.

The organization is looking for Houston startups that are building a tech or tech-enabled services company raising a seed to series B round now or in the next six months. Startups have until November 18 to submit their interest via an online form.

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Building Houston

 
 

TMC's bootcamp companies have been announced. The 12 startups get to interact with Houston's health tech ecosystem and potentially join TMCi for its next accelerator cohort. Photo via TMC

The Texas Medical Center's Innovation Factory has brought in 12 life science startups to immerse them in the Houston innovation ecosystem, learn more about their businesses, and select its next cohort for its semiannual accelerator.

Twice a year, the TMC Innovation Factory hosts its HealthTech Accelerator Bootcamp. It a time to see if both sides of the table — TMC and the startups — are a fit for further acceleration. The 12 startups hail from three continents, represent a wide spectrum of specialties, and were widdle down from over 100 applicants.

“These startups are tackling significant challenges facing our health care ecosystem not only locally, but also globally. We are delighted to bring together solutions in the areas of maternal health, enabling care at home, nursing support and education, oncology and neurology, to name a few,” says Devin Dunn, head of the HealthTech Accelerator, in a news release.

Newly appointed entrepreneur in residence, Zaffer Syed, will help in supporting and guiding the cohort. Zaffer has experience as a medtech entrepreneur and has brought health care innovations to market.

“Participation in the Accelerator can certainly fast-track growth for early stage startups,” says Syed in the release. “I am eager to work with the caliber of companies entering bootcamp and to watch what they will achieve with the dedicated support of the TMCi team.”

The 12 companies that were invited to TMCi's bootcamp are as follows, according to TMC.

  • Avia Vascular, from Salt Lake City, Utah, creates Ally, a needle-free blood collection device intended to reduce the need for venipuncture when obtaining blood samples in patients with an established peripheral IV catheter.
  • Queenstown, Singapore-based Biorithm aims to reverse the poor maternal outcomes curve with its remote monitoring system to bring data-driven, accessible, and personalized care to every mother and baby.
  • CranioSense, founded in Bedford, Massachusetts, unlocks the hidden parameters of brain health across the neurological care spectrum with its development of a non-invasive way of assessing and monitoring intracranial pressure.
  • Milwaukee-based Debtle focuses on the patient portion of billing and uses its centralized communications and payment hub to save Revenue Cycle time, improve patient retention, and enable clients to easily resolve their overdue balances.
  • EmpNia Inc., from Minneapolis, enables precision imaging and radiation therapy for all cancer patients by providing an accurate, universal, easy-to-use, and cost-effective respiratory motion management solution.
  • Austin-based Highnote is a generative AI-powered mentor in the nurse’s pocket that build skills and confidence through just-in-time bits of information to make nurses feel supported and better equipped, to provide better patient care, and to improve retention rates.
  • LeQuest, from Rotterdam, Netherlands, aids health care professionals’ skills and knowledge advancement through online stimulation training with its comprehensive remote education solution, resulting in reduced cost of education, increased utilization and better patient outcomes.
  • Lucid Lane, founded in Los Altos, California, provides data-driven digital health solutions to empower both chronic and surgery pain patients, to prevent dependence on prescribed addictive medications and reduces persistent opioid use.
  • RizLab Health Inc., a Princeton, New Jersey company, brings blood cell analysis to patients’ fingertips with its Cytotracker portable device that measures white blood cell counts with a drop of blood to minimize infections from venipuncture in cancer patients.
  • Rose Health, based in Centennial, Colorado, connects occupational therapists and home remodeling service companies to households in need of accessible home modifications to enable homes to age with dignity.
  • Los Angeles-based Spark Neuro offers objective and accessible AI technology for the diagnosis and monitoring of brain health conditions.
  • Vitala, from Stockholm, Sweden, is a digital platform, enables health care providers to prescribe, monitor, and manage diagnoses-specific medical exercises for patients with chronic health conditions.

After the bootcamp, TMCi will decide which of the companies will move on to the six-month accelerator that's slated to start later this year. TMCi recently announced a new accelerator with Denmark, previously announced its spring cohorts.

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