This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Albert Huang of Allotrope Medical, Janice Tran of Kanin Energy, and Thomas Vassiliades of BiVACOR. 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 medical device to energy transition — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Albert Huang, founder of Allotrope Medical

Allotrope Medical was founded in 2016 by Dr. Albert Huang. Image via LinkedIn

Illinois-based Northgate Technologies Inc. announced the acquisition of Houston-founded Allotrope Medical earlier this month. Founded in 2016 by Dr. Albert Huang, the startup has designed an electrosurgical ureter identification system for optimizing surgery for both robotic and non-robotic laparoscopic surgical procedures. Huang, according to his LinkedIn, is now chief medical officer for NTI.

"To have taken this from idea to exit has been a true honor," Huang writes in a post on LinkedIn. "To all those that have generously given me their time, their input, their investment, and even more importantly, those that believed in me and this technology, thank you." Read more.

Janice Tran, CEO of Kanin Energy

Kanin Energy set up shop in Greentown Labs last year to grow its impact on the energy transition. Photo via LinkedIn

Last year, Janice Tran, CEO of Kanin Energy, a waste-heat-to-power concept that uses a technology called organic rankine cycle, moved from Calgary, Canada, to Houston to continue growing as a company.

“We’re hiring and building our team office out of Greentown. It’s been really great for us,” she says, adding that becoming part of the Houston energy ecosystem has been invaluable for Kanin.

The investments being made in climate tech and in energy transition make Space City the right place for the company. Read more.

Thomas Vassiliades, CEO of BiVACOR

Thomas Vassiliades, CEO of BiVACOR, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo courtesy of BiVACOR

Though most of the BiVACOR team works on the West Coast and even Australia, the medical device company has its headquarters in Houston because it's the "center of the universe when it comes to blood pumps," says Dr. Thomas Vassiliades, CEO of BiVACOR.

The company has designed a unique device that can both fully replace the human heart and last the rest of the patient's life, something neither artificial on transplanted hearts can do.

"The device is suspended by magnets — it's not touching anything," he says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "So, theoretically, the device has no wear and can last as long as the patient can possibly live. That's new to the field." Read more.

A TMC-founded medical device startup has made a grand exit. Image via TMC.edu

Houston health tech startup acquired by medical device company

exit strategy

A Houston health tech business that has created a medical device to enhance and improve surgery has been acquired.

Illinois-based Northgate Technologies Inc. announced the acquisition of Allotrope Medical earlier this month. The Houston startup has designed an electrosurgical ureter identification system for optimizing surgery for both robotic and non-robotic laparoscopic surgical procedures. The StimSite technology is a hand-held device used by general and OBGYN surgeons and has received a Safer Technologies Program designation from the FDA.

“By bringing the StimSite product platform into NTI’s existing portfolio of innovative insufflation and smoke removal products, we have taken a significant step in fulfilling our vision to optimize the surgical environment for minimally invasive surgery,” says Dave McDonough, vice president and general manager at NTI.

NTI, an affiliate of the Trudell Medical Limited group of companies, develops and manufactures innovative tools for surgery that improve patient outcomes. The company has distribution in over 100 countries.

Allotrope Medical was founded in 2016 by Dr. Albert Huang and has raised over $5 million in venture capital investment, with contribution from Y Combinator, Texas Halo Fund, and more. Huang, according to his LinkedIn, is now chief medical officer for NTI.

"To have taken this from idea to exit has been a true honor," Huang writes in a post on LinkedIn. "To all those that have generously given me their time, their input, their investment, and even more importantly, those that believed in me and this technology, thank you."

Huang was a general surgery resident and innovation fellow at Houston Methodist before serving as innovation strategist at Texas Medical Center Innovation while growing his company and developing his technology. Allotrope Medical was housed out of TMC Innovation and was a member of TMC's third medical device accelerator cohort.

"For now, the focus is the transition and ensuring that the new sales team learns everything about StimSite, and gets the technology into more surgeon hands as we continue to drive it towards becoming part of the standard of care," the post reads.

Allotrope Medical was founded in 2016 by Dr. Albert Huang. Image via LinkedIn

The four finalists in the BIPOC-Founded Business category for the inaugural InnovationMap Awards share their best advice for their fellow founders. Photos courtesy

Overheard: 4 Houston BIPOC startup founders share their advice ahead of InnovationMap Awards

eavesdropping in Houston

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Want to work for one of the top startups in Houston? These ones are hiring. Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

Here's which of the InnovationMap Awards finalists are hiring

growing biz

After scouring Houston for the best of the Houston innovation ecosystem and evaluating dozens of companies, InnovationMap has announced the finalists in its inaugural awards. But which of these companies are growing their teams?

Turns out, almost all of them have open positions — some planning to double their teams over the next year. In fact, the 28 companies that make up our cohort of finalists are looking for over 250 new employees — some have these positions open now and others are seeking these new team members over the next 12 months.

Let's look at how many new hires these top startups are looking for.

Biggest gains

The InnovationMap Awards finalist with the loftiest hiring goal is Liongard, which is a finalist in the People's Choice: Startup of the Year category. Liongard — a platform that helps IT companies automatically discover, document, and audit their customers' IT systems — is looking to fill 70 positions over the next year. The company, founded in 2015, has just over 100 employees now.

The startup finalist with the second highest hiring goals is Nanotech, a material science company with a mission to fireproof the world and reduce energy consumption. Nanotech is looking to hire over 40 new employees in the next 12 months, which would almost triple its current staff of 15. Founded in 2019 by Mike Francis, the company is a finalist in both the Energy Transition and People's Choice categories.

Another People's Choice finalist, GoCo, and its all-in-one employee management platform, is currently looking to grow its team by adding 20 new employees to its staff of 53. The company was founded in 2015 and has since raised over $12 million in VC funding.

Also looking to grow their team by 20 new hires is Hello Alice — a small business owner's passport through entrepreneurship that helps with networking, raising capital, and accessing growth tools. The company, co-founded by Carolyn Rodz, is up for an award in the BIPOC-Founded, Female-Founded, and People's Choice categories.

GoExpedi, whose founder and CEO Timothy Neal is a finalist in the Top Founder Under 40 category, currently has 17 positions open at the moment and is looking to add those new hires into its team of over 150 employees. The e-commerce, supply chain, and analytics company is streamlining procurement for industrial and energy MRO (maintenance, repair and operations).

While Female-Founded Business finalist RingOn — a wearable GPS tracker that is also a panic button that's designed for school kids and with an impact-driven mission of ending child trafficking — is only currently looking for six new hires, the company is expecting to hiring another 15 new employees next year. Right now, the company's employee count is at three.

Steady growth

A few of the awards finalists are sporting hiring goals in the seven to 12 new staffers range. Space Tech finalist NANCO Aero, which is developing package- and person-carrying air vehicles, is hiring a dozen new employees — a big goal considering the company currently has just four employees.

Enercross LLC, automation software for the energy industry, is a finalist in the Energy Transition category and is looking to add 11 new people to its team of 42. Meanwhile Sports Tech finalist sEATz — a mobile ordering and delivery platform for food, drinks, and merchandise at large events — is looking to about double its team of 10 over the few months.

Health Tech finalist Medical Informatics Corp. is the creator of Sickbay, which features web-based applications that transform data into actionable information to help care teams make better, faster decisions. The company has seven open positions to grow its team of 36.

Seeking selectively

The following InnovationMap Awards finalists are looking to grow their teams with between two and six new hires:

  • Allotrope Medical — creator of StimSite, a device that improves surgical safety and efficiency in millions of operations performed every year.
  • CaseCTRL — using artificial intelligence and automation to streamline surgical scheduling.
  • Cemvita Factory — engineering microbes that eat CO2 and produce valuable chemicals.
  • Cheers Health — creating products that are designed to support your liver and help you feel better after consuming alcohol.
  • Cognitive Space — providing a scalable satellite constellation management solution to the space industry.
  • Data Gumbo — creator of an interconnected industrial smart contract network secured and powered by blockchain.
  • DonateStock — simplifying the process of donating stock and helping nonprofits solicit, process, and manage stock donations.
  • FitLift — a wearable device and mobile platform that tracks motion and gives real-time feedback on lifting technique, allowing trainers, and athletes to drive results.
  • LAMIK Beauty — a tech-enabled clean color cosmetics company focusing on women of all diverse backgrounds
  • Molecule Software — creator of a leading cloud-native energy trading software.
  • re:3D Inc. — producer of large, affordable industrial 3D printers, and services that can print with new or recycled filament, pellets, or flake.
  • Saranas — creator of the Early Bird, the first and only FDA-approved bleed detection system for endovascular procedures.
  • Starling Medical — using AI and telehealth enabled medical devices to enable millions with bladder dysfunctions to be able to urinate safely and conveniently again.
  • Topl — impact monetization engine that enables digital and sustainable transformation across value chains and empowers the monetization of impact verified on the Topl Blockchain.
  • Zibrio Inc. — a fall prevention solution that empowers both clinicians and patients for better outcomes.

Find out which of these employers take home the win at the September 8 event at The Cannon - West Houston. Honorees, sponsors, judges, and their guests will celebrate in person, and the rest of the innovation community is invited to tune in to the livestream. Click here to RSVP.

Sponsorships are still available! If you are interested in partnering with InnovationMap as a sponsor of this event, send an email to awards@innovationmap.com.

And the finalists for the inaugural InnovationMap Awards are... Graphic via Gow Media

InnovationMap names 28 Houston startup finalists for inaugural awards

who will take home the win?

Who are Houston's rising stars across energy transition, sports tech, health, and more? InnovationMap set out on a quest to discover that for its inaugural awards. Ahead of the September 8 event, we're revealing the finalists across all categories.

Eight judges evaluated over 100 applications across eight categories for the 2021 InnovationMap Awards presented by Techwave. This year's judges included: JulianaGaraizar, head of the Houston incubator and vice president of innovation at Greentown Labs; Alex Gras, managing director at The Cannon; Rajasekhar Gummadapu, co-founder and CEO of Techwave; Natalie Harms, editor of InnovationMap; Serafina Lalany, interim president at Houston Exponential; Jon Nordby, managing director at MassChallenge; Emily Reiser, senior manager of innovation community engagement at the Texas Medical Center; and Grace Rodriguez, CEO and executive director of Impact Hub Houston.

The winners will be announced and celebrated — along with this year's previously announced Trailblazer Award recipient, Barbara Burger of Chevron Technology Ventures — at the September 8 event at The Cannon - West Houston. Honorees, sponsors, judges, and their guests will celebrate in person, and the rest of the innovation community is invited to tune in to the livestream. Click here to RSVP.

Sponsorships are still available! If you are interested in partnering with InnovationMap as a sponsor of this event, send an email to awards@innovationmap.com.

Without further adieu, here are this year's finalists:

BIPOC-Founded Business Finalists

The finalists for the BIPOC-Founded Business Award category, honoring innovative tech companies founded or co-founded by BIPOC representation, are:

  • Allotrope Medical — creator of StimSite, a device that improves surgical safety and efficiency in millions of operations performed every year.
  • Hello Alice — a small business owner's passport through entrepreneurship that helps with networking, raising capital, and accessing growth tools.
  • LAMIK Beauty — a tech-enabled clean color cosmetics company focusing on women of all diverse backgrounds
  • Molecule Software — creator of a leading cloud-native energy trading software.

Female-Founded Business Finalists

The finalists for the Female-Founded Business Award category presented by Veritex Community Bank, honoring innovative tech companies founded or co-founded by women, include:

  • DonateStock — simplifying the process of donating stock and helping nonprofits solicit, process, and manage stock donations.
  • Hello Alice — a small business owner's passport through entrepreneurship that helps with networking, raising capital, and accessing growth tools.
  • re:3D Inc. — producer of large, affordable industrial 3D printers, and services that can print with new or recycled filament, pellets, or flake.
  • RingOn — wearable GPS tracker that is also a panic button that's designed for school kids and with an impact-driven mission of ending child trafficking.
  • Topl — impact monetization engine that enables digital and sustainable transformation across value chains and empowers the monetization of impact verified on the Topl Blockchain.
  • Zibrio Inc. — a fall prevention solution that empowers both clinicians and patients for better outcomes.

Health Care Business Finalists

The finalists for the Health Care Business Award category presented by Gray Reed, which honors health care businesses with an innovative solution within life sciences, include:

  • Allotrope Medical — creator of StimSite, a device that improves surgical safety and efficiency in millions of operations performed every year.
  • Medical Informatics Corp. — creator of Sickbay, which features web-based applications that transform data into actionable information to help care teams make better, faster decisions.
  • Saranas — creator of the Early Bird, the first and only FDA-approved bleed detection system for endovascular procedures.
  • Starling Medical — using AI and telehealth enabled medical devices to enable millions with bladder dysfunctions to be able to urinate safely and conveniently again.

Energy Transition Business Finalists

The finalists for the Energy Transition Business category, which honors energy business with innovative solutions within renewables, climatetech, clean energy, and beyond, are:

  • Cemvita Factory — engineering microbes that eat CO2 and produce valuable chemicals.
  • Data Gumbo — creator of an interconnected industrial smart contract network secured and powered by blockchain.
  • Enercross LLC — automation software for the energy industry.
  • Nanotech — a material science company with a mission to fireproof the world and reduce energy consumption.
  • re:3D Inc. — producer of large, affordable industrial 3D printers, and services that can print with new or recycled filament, pellets, or flake.
  • Renewell Energy — converting idle oil and gas wells into flexible energy storage.

Sports Tech Business Finalists

The finalists for the Sports Tech Business category, which is honoring a sports tech business with an innovative solution within sports are:

  • FitLift — a wearable device and mobile platform that tracks motion and gives real-time feedback on lifting technique, allowing trainers, and athletes to drive results.
  • Mainline — an esports tournament management system, tournament organizer, and event production company.
  • sEATz — a mobile ordering and delivery platform for food, drinks, and merchandise at large events.

Space Tech Business Finalists

The finalists for the Space Tech Business category, which is honoring an aerospace business with an innovative solution within space exploration. are:

  • Cemvita Factory — engineering microbes that eat CO2 and produce valuable chemicals.
  • Cognitive Space — providing a scalable satellite constellation management solution to the space industry.
  • NANCO Aero — developing package- and person-carrying air vehicles.

Top Founder Under 40 Finalists

The finalists for the Top Founder Under 40 category, which honors an innovative founder younger than 40 by Sept. 8, 2021, are:

  • Pamela Singh of CaseCTRL — using artificial intelligence and automation to streamline surgical scheduling.
  • Timothy Neal of GoExpedi — an e-commerce, supply chain, and analytics company that is streamlining procurement for industrial and energy MRO (maintenance, repair and operations).
  • Kim Roxie of LAMIK Beauty — a tech-enabled clean color cosmetics company focusing on women of all diverse backgrounds.
  • Emma Fauss of Medical Informatics Corp. — creator of Sickbay, which features web-based applications that transform data into actionable information to help care teams make better, faster decisions.
  • Emily Cisek of The Postage — a legacy planning platform using tech to make afterlife decision making easier.

People’s Choice: Startup of the Year Finalists

The finalists for the People's Choice: Startup of the Year category, which will each present a 60-second live elevator pitch at the event on September 8, are:

    • Cheers Health — creating products that are designed to support your liver and help you feel better after consuming alcohol.
    • GoCo — all-in-one employee management platform.
    • Hello Alice — a small business owner's passport through entrepreneurship that helps with networking, raising capital, and accessing growth tools.
    • Liongard — a platform that helps Information Technology companies automatically discover, document, and audit their customers' IT systems.
    • Nanotech — a material science company with a mission to fireproof the world and reduce energy consumption.
    • re:3D Inc. — producer of large, affordable industrial 3D printers, and services that can print with new or recycled filament, pellets, or flake.
    • Topl — impact monetization engine that enables digital and sustainable transformation across value chains and empowers the monetization of impact verified on the Topl Blockchain.

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    Houston family's $20M donation drives neurodegeneration research

    big impact

    Neurodegeneration is one of the cruelest ways to age, but one Houston family is sharing its wealth to invigorate research with the goal of eradicating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

    This month, Laurence Belfer announced that his family, led by oil tycoon Robert Belfer, had donated an additional $20 million to the Belfer Neurodegeneration Consortium, a multi-institutional initiative that targets the study and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

    This latest sum brings the family’s donations to BNDC to $53.5 million over a little more than a decade. The Belfer family’s recent donation will be matched by institutional philanthropic efforts, meaning BNDC will actually be $40 million richer.

    BNDC was formed in 2012 to help scientists gain stronger awareness of neurodegenerative disease biology and its potential treatments. It incorporates not only The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, but also Baylor College of Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

    It is the BNDC’s lofty objective to develop five new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders over the next 10 years, with two treatments to demonstrate clinical efficacy.

    “Our goal is ambitious, but having access to the vast clinical trial expertise at MD Anderson ensures our therapeutics can improve the lives of patients everywhere,” BNDC Executive Director Jim Ray says in a press release. “The key elements for success are in place: a powerful research model, a winning collaborative team and a robust translational pipeline, all in the right place at the right time.”

    It may seem out of place that this research is happening at MD Anderson, but scientists are delving into the intersection between cancer and neurological disease through the hospital’s Cancer Neuroscience Program.

    “Since the consortium was formed, we have made tremendous progress in our understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of neurodegenerative diseases and in translating those findings into effective targeted drugs and diagnostics for patients,” Ray continues. “Yet, we still have more work to do. Alzheimer's disease is already the most expensive disease in the United States. As our population continues to age, addressing quality-of-life issues and other challenges of treating and living with age-associated diseases must become a priority.”

    And for the magnanimous Belfer family, it already is.

    3 Houston innovators to know this week

    who's who

    Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a podcast with the founder of a new venture firm, a former astronaut and recent award recipient, and a health care innovator with fresh funding.

    Zach Ellis, founder and managing partner of South Loop Ventures

    Zach Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that South Loop Ventures plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale. Photo via LinkedIn

    Houston has a lot of the right ingredients for commercialization and scaling up companies, so when Zach Ellis moved to town to stand up a venture capital firm that made investments in diverse founders, he decided to go about it in an innovative way.

    South Loop Ventures, which Ellis launched two years ago, invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups across health care, climatetech, aerospace, sports, and fintech. While the first handful of investments, which have already been made, are into Houston-based companies, Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that the firm plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale.

    "Any investor wants to feel like they are looking at the best possible investment opportunities in which to deploy capital," Ellis says on the show. "So that's reason No. 1 to cast your net as widely as possible.

    "At the same time, you want to give any investment that you make greatest chances of success," he continues. "The biggest factor of success outside of the team and the capital you give them, is the customers that they can call upon. In bringing targeted companies to Houston or connecting them with Houston, you introduce the opportunity for them to achieve rapid scale and work with world-class partners very efficiently." Read more.


    Toby R. Hamilton, founder and CEO of Hamilton Health Box

    Dr. Toby Hamilton has secured $10 million to grow his company. Photo via tmc.edu

    A Houston company that is working on a value-based model for primary care has fresh funding to support its mission.

    Hamilton Health Box announced the completion of a $10 million series A funding round led by 1588 Ventures with participation from Memorial Hermann Health System, Impact Ventures by Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the Sullivan Brothers.

    The company, founded in 2019 by Dr. Toby R. Hamilton, will use the funding to fuel its expansion into rural areas to help assist those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs. Read more.

    Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and center director at the NASA's Johnson Space Center

    Ellen Ochoa was recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and for being the first Hispanic woman in space. Photo via NASA

    Two astronauts recently received Presidential Medals of Freedom from President Joe Biden for their leadership in space.

    Ellen Ochoa, the former center director and astronaut at the NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Jane Rigby, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, were honored at the White House on May 3.

    Ochoa spent 30 years with NASA, which included being the 11th director of JSC, deputy center director of JSC, and director of Flight Crew Operations. She served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993, and became the first Hispanic woman in space. She flew four more times to space with STS-66, STS-96, STS-110, and more.

    “I’m so grateful for all my amazing NASA colleagues who shared my career journey with me,” Ochoa says in a NASA news release. Read more.

    Houston health care institutions receive $22M to attract top recruits

    coming to Hou

    Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine has received a total of $12 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas to attract two prominent researchers.

    The two grants, which are $6 million each, are earmarked for recruitment of Thomas Milner and Radek Skoda. The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced the grants May 14.

    Milner, an expert in photomedicine for surgery and diagnostics, is a professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine and the university’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

    In 2013, Milner was named Inventor of the Year by the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, he was a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. One of his major achievements is co-development of the MasSpec Pen, a handheld device that identifies cancerous tissue within 10 seconds during surgical procedures.

    Skoda is a professor of molecular medicine in the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel, both in Switzerland. He specializes in developing treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are a group of blood diseases including leukemia.

    Other recruitment grants provided by the institute to Houston-area organizations are:

    • $4 million for recruitment of Susan Bullman to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was an assistant professor at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, where she studied the connection between microbes and cancer.
    • $4 million for recruitment of Oren Rom to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Rom is an assistant professor of pathology and translational pathobiology at Louisiana State University Shreveport.
    • Nearly $2 million for recruitment of Lauren Hagler to conduct RNA cancer biology at Texas A&M University. She is a postdoctoral scholar in biochemistry at Stanford University.

    The institute also awarded grants to five companies in the Houston area:

    • $4.7 million to 7 Hills Pharma for development of immunotherapies to treat cancer and prevent infectious diseases.
    • $4.5 million to Indapta Therapeutics for the Phase 1 trial of a cell therapy for treatment of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
    • $2.75 million to Bectas Therapeutics for development of antibodies and biomarkers to overcome a type of resistance T-cell checkpoint therapy.
    • $2.69 million to MS Pen Technologies for development of technology that differentiates between normal tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery.
    • $2.58 million to Crossbridge Bio for development of an antibody-drug combination to treat certain solid tumors.