Houston-based Archaea Energy's RNG facilities capture waste emissions and convert them into low-carbon fuel. Photo via archaeaenergy.com

BP’s proposed $4.1 billion acquisition of Houston-based Archaea Energy promises to dramatically boost the energy giant’s presence in the biogas market.

Publicly traded Archaea is one of the largest producers of renewable natural gas, or RNG, in the U.S. Its RNG facilities capture waste emissions and convert them into low-carbon fuel. Biogas is produced through the conversion of organic matter like animal manure, trash, plant material, food waste, and sewage.

Through the cash-and-debt deal, BP will gain ownership of 50 RNG and landfill gas-to-energy facilities across the U.S. Once the deal is wrapped up, BP anticipates a 50 percent increase in biogas volumes.

Archaea's development pipeline of more than 80 projects holds the potential for a fivefold increase in RNG volumes at BP by 2030. The pipeline includes 40 RNG projects that Archaea plans to develop with Republic Services, a solid waste disposal company based in Phoenix. Republic Services is a rival of Houston-based Waste Management.

BP expects Archaea to double its biogas-driven EBITDA to about $2 billion within the next eight years. Allied Market Research predicts the global market for waste-derived biogas will jump from $52.9 billion in 2020 to $126.2 by 2030.

The Archaea acquisition is set to close later this year. Once the deal is completed, Archaea will operate as subsidiary of BP, whose U.S. headquarters is in Houston. Archaea relocated its headquarters from Pittsburgh to Houston last year.

“Archaea was founded with a mission to build the world’s leading RNG development company to reduce global emissions and make multigenerational sustainability impacts,” Nick Stork, co-founder and CEO of Archaea, says in a news release. “In a very short period of time, we have rapidly become a leading RNG platform in the U.S., and [the BP acquisition] will further enable this business to realize its full potential.”

BP notes that the demand for biogas is rising thanks to the growth of renewable hydrogen, electric-vehicle charging, and other emerging segments of the energy sector.

“Our biogas team is already one of the leading suppliers of renewable natural gas in North America,” Dave Lawler, chairman and president of BP America, says in a news release. “This deal accelerates our ability to deliver cleaner energy, generate significant earnings in a fast-growing sector, and help reduce emissions. This could help BP take a significant stride toward our net-zero ambition.”

BP America employs nearly 4,000 full-time workers in Houston.

More than half of non-Texans think the Lone Star State is great for business. Photo via Getty Images

Here's what non-Texans think about the Lone Star State's business economy

yeehaw

As Houston and the rest of Texas continue to welcome out-of-state businesses, there’s some affirming news from a new poll. More than half of non-Texans believe the Lone Star State is a good place to launch a business.

The survey, conducted earlier this summer by Austin-based Crosswinds Media & Public Relations and Asbury Park, New Jersey-based Rasmussen Reports, a conservative-leaning polling company, found 53 percent of non-Texans had a positive perception of Texas as a place to do business. Only 23 percent of adults outside Texas had a “bad” or “very bad” view of the state’s business environment, while 24 percent said they were unsure.

The survey questioned 845 American adults who don’t live in Texas.

Thomas Graham, president and CEO of Crosswinds, says the survey results demonstrate that “the brand of the Lone Star State remains strong.”

In recent years, a number of out-of-state companies have been lured by that brand as well as the business climate in Houston. Notable examples include Hewlett Packard Enterprise, NRG Energy, and Axiom Space.

Just this year, several companies based outside Texas have revealed headquarters moves to the Houston area. Among them are:

  • Archaea Energy, which was based in Pittsburgh. The company produces renewable natural gas.
  • CDI Engineering Solutions, which was based in Philadelphia. The company provides engineering and architecture services.
  • DarkPulse, which was based in New York City. The company develops fiber-sensor technology.
  • Noodoe EV, which was based in Irvine, California. The company’s cloud-based platform manages charging stations for electric vehicles.

Jennifer Chang, CEO of Noodoe, says her company relocated its headquarters from Southern California to Texas to take advantage of Houston’s central location.

“Houston has the port and airport capacity we need to efficiently meet the unprecedented demand for EV charging stations,” Chang said in a January news release. “Houston has long been the Energy Capital of the World, mostly because of oil and gas extraction. Noodoe will help the city continue its energy legacy, only this time without fossil fuels.”

The poll from Crosswinds and Rasmussen was completed around the same time that CNBC released its ranking of the best states for doing business. Texas landed in fifth place, down one notch from its perch in CNBC’s 2021 study. A day later, CNBC put out a list of the worst states to live, with Texas appearing at No. 2 behind Arizona.

CNBC notes that skilled workers are flooding Texas, even though the quality of life here raises questions. The new arrivals “are finding limited childcare options, a stressed health care system with the highest rate of uninsured, new curbs on voting rights, and few protections against discrimination,” the cable TV network declares.

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Houston investors back new platform for retail traders looking to follow financial influencers

making a splash

As anyone who witnessed the impact Gamestop's meme stock had on the country already realizes, influential investors can drive momentum within the financial sector. And one company with fresh funding from a Houston firm is betting on that exactly.

CashPool is a new mobile platform that gives everyday investors the opportunity to derive influence from the investment strategies and trades made by trusted and influential stock traders who have built substantial followings on social media platforms. By allowing retail traders the chance to join social media influencers’ various “pools” on its platform, CashPool is primed to change the way the masses acquire wealth.

This is the kind of algorithmic trading aimed at a new generation of investors that gets the attention of early-stage venture capital funds like Houston-based Ten X Labs, a pre-seed angel fund that recently invested in CashPool to help the trading platform continue its mission of transforming the investment landscape.

"We are thrilled to receive funding from Ten X Labs, as it validates our innovative approach to trading and investing," CashPool Founder and CEO Averett Barksdale says in a news release. "This investment will enable us to further enhance our platform, expand our user base and continue to revolutionize the industry. We believe that everyone should have transparent, governed access to profitable trading and investment opportunities, and through CashPool we are making that vision a reality."

Connecting the dots

CashPool is broker agnostic connector, allowing its users to keep their current brokers like Robinhood, Coinbase, Charles Schwab, Acorns, Fidelity, ETRADE, Stash, Sofi and Betterment and creates a seamless investment experience.

“We are that middle piece,” says Barksdale. “So your money stays on whatever brokerage you’ve connected to the platform, and we just execute the trades on your brokerage for you.”

Considering that users’ money remains with their original brokerage, how does CashPool monetize its platform?

“We don’t charge users to execute trades,” says Barksdale. “We charge per pool you join. So, on our platform, strategies are called pools and a user can join as many strategies as they want.”

Financial influencers set the strategies. These are profitable traders who have become influencers on various social media platforms and built-up followings comprised of people who are or are desiring to be retail traders themselves.

“There are a ton of people out there who actually are profitable traders,” says Barksdale. “Same as what we saw happen with GameStop and the whole Reddit situation. That was a financial influencer, right? It just so happens that he had a strategy that he thought would work and it turned out for a while it did work, right?

“We want to not only empower the retail trader, but empower these financial influencers who are profitable as well. Just because it's a whole marketplace out there for it. But a lot of times the retail trader doesn't quite understand who to go with. On our platform, you could see the results of these financial influencers right before your eyes on our platform. So you can see if they're profitable or not, or if someone's just on Instagram or whatever, social media platform posting screenshots but aren’t actually executing those trades.”

Increasing transparency

With trading, past success can be an arbiter for future performance, so with CashPool, users can choose to join the pools of influencers who have documented success as a trader on the platform.

“On our platform you can't hide,” says Barksdale. “We're connected to their brokerage account, so we see what trades they're making in real time. We also see their performance in real time, and we display that on the platform. That's something that you really can't get around. So if someone on Instagram says they traded this stock, then I made X amount of dollars and had this percentage of return, then you go to the platform and look at your pool and see they didn't do that and were lying the whole time, it’s literally just putting everything out there in the open. We have the kind of transparency that doesn't exist currently right now in the space.”

Broadcasting one’s successes is easy, but what about the losses?

“I thought it was going to be a lot more difficult just thinking, do people really want to show what they're doing?” says Barksdale. “But the thing that I've seen is a lot of these traders are a whole lot more competitive. And the traders who are doing it, they're constantly talking out against people who aren't actually doing it in real life.

“A lot of the traders who are actually profitable, they do live trades every day. But how do users if they should pay to get into a specific trader’s live trading session? Like, how do they know they're profitable already?

“On CashPool, users can see an actual influencer's win rate and say, 'Okay, 86 percent of the time they are profitable, and I could see how many trades they've made in total.' From that standpoint, users can make an educated decision on what pools to join and pay for.”

CashPool users can join as many pools as they see fit, but the cost of each pool’s membership may vary due to the popularity or success percentage rate of the financial influencer.

“You can join as many pools as you want, but what we suggest is you start by joining the pools of influencers that you already follow and trust, that you're already following like on Twitter or YouTube or Instagram or whatever it may be,” says Barksdale. “We are suggesting that you follow them first and you join their pools first. What we do is on the monetization side is we allow the creators on our platform who are the influencers to set their own price for their pool.”

Building a secure network

Outside of who or what to follow, information security is likely a concern for potential users. Financial influencers’ trade information is readily available (win percentages and number of trades, not dollar amounts), but users’ won’t be able to see other users’ information on the platform.

“Currently, we have a list of 10 brokerages who are on board, and then we're working to onboard more as we keep going on,” says Barksdale. “So, we have like your Interactive brokerages, and we also have a few other ones that are UK specific and Canada specific. We would love to have every single brokerage on the platform, but unfortunately, there are a couple that are still kind of playing hard to get, so to speak.”

The first rollout of CashPool is set, but version two will likely include content creation from the financial influencers.

Barksdale, who has a background in product development and experience working at companies like Charles Schwab and Fidelity, is mostly excited about the prospect of CashPool unlocking expert financial strategies for everyone, not just the financial advisors behind the closed doors of Wall Street.

“Yes, my philosophy is that financial health and financial growth should be accessible for all,” says Barksdale. “The thing that gets me is it needs to be responsible. So, for example, RobinHood is a platform that doesn't necessarily care if you are making responsible decisions, they just care that you're trading on that platform.

“Our platform is strictly focused on actually being the place where these retail traders can make responsible decisions centered around investing and trading.”

Tech companies contribute to recovery fund for those affected by Houston storm

helping hands

The past month in Houston has been marked by severe flooding and a sudden storm that left nearly a million residents without power. The Houston Disaster Alliance has established the Severe Weather and Derecho Recovery Fund to help those impacted by the weather.

“The Greater Houston Disaster Alliance was formed so that in times of crisis, there is a swift and efficient response to help those severely impacted begin the process of recovery,” said Stephen Maislin, president and CEO, Greater Houston Community Foundation. “When disaster strikes, it requires a collaborative and coordinated response from the nonprofit, for-profit, public sector, and philanthropic community to ensure the most vulnerable in our region get the help they need to start the recovery and rebuilding process.”

At least a million dollars has been donated to the fund, courtesy of $500,000 from the CenterPoint Energy Foundation and another $500,000 from Comcast. With Houston now a federally declared disaster area by President Joe Biden, impacted residents are able to apply for various grants and aid.

Those still struggling from the weather events should call the 211 Texas/United Way HELPLINE. Assistance is available for housing, utilities, food, elder assistance, and other areas. Crisis counseling is also available.

“Outside of times of disaster, we know that 14 percent of households in our region are struggling on income below the federal poverty line and 31 percent of households in our region are working hard but struggling to make ends meet. It’s these neighbors who are disproportionately impacted when disaster strikes,” said Amanda McMillian, president and CEO, United Way of Greater Houston. “This fund allows us to lift up the most vulnerable who have been impacted by recent weather events to ensure they can not only recover from the immediate crisis, but also prepare themselves for future disasters.”

The derecho storm that hit Houston on Thursday, May 16 had wind gusts up to 100mph. Nearly a million people in the Houston area were left without power, and as of Wednesday CenterPoint was still working to restore electricity to more than 60,000 people. Photos showed that the storm toppled massive power pylons, took down trees, and even ripped the sides off buildings. Miniature tornadoes touched down in parts of the city, adding to the devastation.

The Houston Disaster Alliance was launched in 2023 as a joint effort between the Greater Houston Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Houston to help mitigate the damage of weather crises year-round. This has become increasingly necessary as Houston's weather has become more unpredictable than ever.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.