Eight Houston entrepreneurs are among 16 recipients of EOY’s Gulf South Award, which recognizes leaders of high-growth companies in Central Texas, South Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Photo via Getty Images

Eight Houston-area entrepreneurs have been named regional winners in Ernst & Young’s 2024 Entrepreneur Of The Year program.

The eight entrepreneurs are among 16 recipients of EOY’s Gulf South Award, which recognizes leaders of high-growth companies in Central Texas, South Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

A panel of judges chose the winners based on factors such as:

  • Creation of long-term value through entrepreneurship.
  • Commitment to the purpose of their business.
  • Demonstration of growth and “substantial impact.”

“The 2024 Entrepreneur Of The Year Gulf South Award winners are exceptional business leaders fueling innovation within their industries and growth within their companies,” says Anna Horndahl, an EY partner who is co-director of EOY’s Gulf South program.

The Houston area’s Gulf South winners for 2024 are:

  • Hal Brumfield of Tachus Fiber Internet, a provider of fiber-to-the-home internet service based in The Woodlands.
  • Stuart Hinchen and Peter Jenkins of QuVa Pharma, a Sugar Land-based provider of ready-to-administer injectables.
  • Andrew Levy of Avelo Airlines, a low-cost airline based in Houston.
  • Derek Maetzold of Castle Biosciences, a Friendswood-based provider of diagnostic tests.
  • Shannon Payne of Allied Fire Protection, a Pearland-based provider of fire prevention products and services.
  • John Poindexter of JB Poindexter & Co., a Houston-based provider of automotive and manufacturing goods and services.
  • Ting Qiao of Wan Bridge, a Houston-based developer and operator of build-to-rent communities.

“These entrepreneurs are shining examples of how to lead a scaling business and also care for their employees, customers and communities,” says Travis Garms, an EY partner who is co-director of EOY’s Gulf South program.

The regional winners now qualify for consideration in the EOY national awards program. The national awards are scheduled to be presented in November.

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

Female leaders from NASA receive presidential awards

space medals

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 was recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and for being the first Hispanic woman in space. Rigby was honored for her work on leading NASA’s transformational space telescope.

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.

Rigby has published 160 peer-reviewed publications. She has been recognized with various awards like NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, the Fred Kavli Prize Plenary Lecture from the American Astronomical Society (AAS), and the 2022 LGBTQ+ Scientist of the Year from Out to Innovate. Currently, she is an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Part of Rigby’s Medal of Freedom honor is due to her role in the success of NASA’s Webb mission. Webb is considered the most powerful space telescope, which launched on Dec. 25, 2021.

“I am proud Ellen and Jane are recognized for their incredible roles in NASA missions, for sharing the power of science with humanity, and inspiring the Artemis Generation to look to the stars,” says NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in the release. “Among her many accomplishments as a veteran astronaut and leader, Ellen served as the second female director of Johnson, flew in space four times, and logged nearly 1,000 hours in orbit. Jane is one of the many wizards at NASA who work every day to make the impossible possible. The James Webb Space Telescope represents the very best of scientific discovery that will continue to unfold the secrets of our universe. We appreciate Ellen and Jane for their service to NASA, and our country.”

Do you think you know the best of Houston's innovation community? Now's your chance to shine the spotlight on a deserving innovator. Photo via Getty Images

Deadline extended: Nominations open for InnovationMap's 2023 Houston Innovation Awards

call for submissions

InnovationMap has extended the nomination deadline to September 22 at midnight. The original article appears below.

We're looking to highlight the best in Houston innovation — do you think you know who has what it takes?

For the third year, InnovationMap is hosting an awards program that will recognize the best of the rest in Houston's innovation ecosystem. Again collaborating with Houston Exponential, the awards program will be on Wednesday, November 8, at Silver Street Studios.

The nomination period — which includes submitting nominations on behalf of yourself or others — will close September 19. Nominees will be sent an application, which will be due October 4. A panel of judges will review the applications and finalists will be announced and notified ahead of the event.

This year's categories include a few new awards — as well as the return of some crowd favorites. Nominees can be submitted to multiple categories.The 2023 Houston Innovation Awards include:

  • BIPOC-Owned Business, honoring an innovative company founded or co-founded by BIPOC representation
  • Female-Owned Business, honoring an innovative company founded or co-founded by a woman
  • Hardtech Business, honoring an innovative company developing and commercializing a physical technology
  • Digital Solutions Business, honoring an innovative company developing and programming a digital solution to a problem in an industry
  • Social Impact Business, honoring an innovative company providing a solution that would enhance humanity or society in a significant way
  • Sustainability Business, honoring an innovative company providing a solution within renewables, climatetech, clean energy, alternative materials, circular economy, and beyond
  • Life Science Business, honoring an innovative company within the health and medical industries designing a treatment or technology
  • Corporate of the Year, honoring a corporation that supports startups and/or the Houston innovation community
  • DEI Champion, honoring an individual who is leading impactful diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and progress within Houston and their organization
  • Ecosystem Builder, honoring an individual who has acted as a leader in developing Houston’s startup ecosystem
  • Mentor of the Year, honoring an individual who dedicates their time and expertise to guide and support to budding entrepreneurs
  • People's Choice: Startup of the Year, selected via an interactive voting portal during the event

Additionally, the awards gala will honor an innovator who's made a lasting impact on the Houston innovation community. While you may nominate an individual for the Trailblazer Award via the online form, the judging committee will not require applications or nominations for this category and will be considering potential honorees from the ecosystem at large.

If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities, please reach out to misti@gowmedia.com.

Click here to submit a nomination or see form below.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

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 an innovation leader from Rice University, the CEO of a tech recycling company, and a startup founder with fresh funding.

Taylor Anne Adams, head of venture acceleration at Lilie

Taylor Anne Adams is working to support Rice University's most ambitious entrepreneurs. Photo courtesy of Lilie

Rice University can barely keep up with the interest of students in entrepreneurial classes and programming — even in the summer.

The university's Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship offers around 30 classes a year and over a dozen co-curricular programs — all focused on supporting student entrepreneurs.

"There is a huge desire for this across the campus," Taylor Anne Adams, head of venture acceleration at Lilie, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Our class enrollment has just continued to skyrocket, and we've had to add on more classes and programs and that still seems to not be enough." Continue reading.

Kelly Hess, CEO of CompuCycle

Kelly Hess leads CompuCycle, a Houston-based company focused on electronics recycling. Courtesy of CompuCycle

An innovative Houston company focused on sustainable tech recycling has expanded.

CompuCycle describes its unique Plastics Recycling System as the first and only certified, single solution e-waste recycling business. The company's unique process can now break down discarded technology products into single polymers that can then be reused in the manufacturing process.

“Properly managing all components of electronics is a cornerstone of sustainability and environmental responsibility,” Kelly Adels Hess, CEO of CompuCycle, says in a news release. “Making single polymer plastics that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can reuse to produce new electronics or other products, while adhering to international recycling standards, is a gamechanger for domestic companies and those that need their plastics shipped globally.” Continue reading.

Tatiana Fofanova, co-founder and CEO of Koda Health

Tatiana Fofanova, co-founder and CEO of Koda, joined the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss her company's growth. Image via LinkedIn

Koda Health achieved a successful oversubscription of additional seed round funding thanks to the participation of AARP, Memorial Hermann Health System, and the Texas Medical Center Venture Fund. The total amount raised was undisclosed, and the round was led by Austin-based Ecliptic Capital.

The tech platform improves planning for serious illness treatment and end-of-life care using a cloud-based advance care planning, or ACP, platform that pairs with in-house support. Essentially, it allows patients to do their planning ahead and make sure that their wishes are actually put into action. According to Koda Health, this results in an average of $9,500 saved per-patient, as well as improved health outcomes.

"If we’re looking at speed of market adoption, it’s clear that Koda Health is at the forefront of a crucial transformation in Advance Care Planning," says Tatiana Fofanova, PhD, CEO of Koda Health, in a press release. “In just a few years, we’ve built out a product that now serves well over 700,000 patients nationwide for industry giants like Cigna, Privia and Houston Methodist.” Continue reading.

Houston digital health platform raises additional seed funding from fresh investors

money moves

A Houston-born digital advance care planning company, has secured new funding from some big names.

Koda Health achieved a successful oversubscription of additional seed round funding thanks to the participation of AARP, Memorial Hermann Health System, and the Texas Medical Center Venture Fund. The total amount raised was undisclosed, and the round was led by Austin-based Ecliptic Capital.

The tech platform improves planning for serious illness treatment and end-of-life care using a cloud-based advance care planning, or ACP, platform that pairs with in-house support. Essentially, it allows patients to do their planning ahead and make sure that their wishes are actually put into action. According to Koda Health, this results in an average of $9,500 saved per-patient, as well as improved health outcomes.

"If we’re looking at speed of market adoption, it’s clear that Koda Health is at the forefront of a crucial transformation in Advance Care Planning," says Tatiana Fofanova, PhD, CEO of Koda Health, in a press release. “In just a few years, we’ve built out a product that now serves well over 700,000 patients nationwide for industry giants like Cigna, Privia and Houston Methodist.”

Dr. Desh Mohan, the chief medical officer for Koda Health says that it was important to the company to create strategic partnerships with its investors. In fact, Memorial Hermann isn’t just helping with funding. The hospital system is also collaborating with Koda on a new pilot project.

“Koda is uniquely positioned to serve payers, providers and patients,” adds William McKeon, president and CEO of Texas Medical Center. “We rarely see a company that provides value to all three stakeholders. Seeing Koda launch from our TMCi BioDesign program to the progress they've made with our member institutions and players in the value chain is incredible.”

Beyond the TMC, Koda’s collaboration with AARP goes through the latter’s AgeTech Collaborative. That ecosystem unites founders in the realm of longevity tech to make meaningful change in their field.

"AARP research shows that there is a willingness among older adults in the U.S. to prepare for the end of their lives," says Amelia Hay, VP of Startup Programming and Investments at AgeTech Collaborative. "This indicates a need for more programs and services geared towards ensuring adults take the necessary steps, and AARP is pleased to invest in Koda Health to help address that need."

Koda raised its first seed funding in 2022, a round that totaled $3.5 million. The new round close means that Koda can accelerate its efforts to modernize ACP.

3 affordable Houston neighbors rank among America's 10 safest cities

HIGH PRAISE FOR THE 'BURBS

Crime may be a concern for some Houstonians, but life is a little more relaxed just beyond the city limits.

Three Houston-area suburbs – League City, Sugar Land, and Pearland – were just crowned among the top 10 safest and most affordable cities to live in the U.S., as declared in a new report by GoBankingRates.

The study, "50 Safest and Most Affordable US Cities To Live In," ranked the largest U.S. cities by population based on their cost of living and crime rate averages. Crime rates were determined based on the number of crimes per 1,000 city residents from the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer in 2022, the year with the most recent available data.

League City proudly landed in the No. 4 spot nationally, thanks to its low property and violent crime rates as well as a high median household income. Sugar Land and Pearland weren't too far behind in the top 10, ranking No. 6 and No. 7, respectively. The report emphasized these suburbs all offer "vibrant cultural scenes" and strong job markets for adults, along with great schools and abundant recreational activities for families to enjoy.

A League City household makes a median income of $117,316 annually, with an average mortgage cost of $2,216 per month, the report found. The total monthly cost of living in the family friendly city adds up to $4,157.

There were a total of 1,497 property crimes reported in the city in 2022, and 126 total violent crimes. For context, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the population in League City spans more than 116,000 residents in 2023. That means the city's rate for violent crimes is 1.08 per 1,000 residents, and the property crime rate is 12.85 per 1,000 residents, according to the findings.

Sugar Land's median household income is much higher than League City's, at $132,247 per year. However, so were the average mortgage costs ($2,715 per month) and total monthly cost of living ($4,852).

There were 1,745 property crimes and 97 violent crimes reported in Sugar Land in 2022. That would place Sugar Land's property crime rate at 16.16 per 1,000 city residents, and 0.90 violent crimes per 1,000 residents.

Here's how the report breaks down Pearland's cost of living and crime rate statistics:

  • Median household income: $111,123
  • Household average mortgage cost: $2,257
  • Total monthly cost of living: $4,352
  • Property crimes (reported in 2022): 2,152
  • Property crime per 1,000 residents: 17.09
  • Violent crimes (reported in 2022): 117
  • Violent crime per 1,000 residents: .93

Large Texas cities, such as Houston proper, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio, were all noticeably absent in the ranking. This is likely because – as most Texans are aware – bigger cities often have higher crime rates and higher costs of living than their outlying suburbs.

"Choosing a family-friendly place to live is a significant decision that involves a balancing act between safety and affordability in any big city," the report said. "Whether you’re a young professional, a growing family or a retiree, finding real estate where you feel comfortable — both physically and financially — is crucial for a high quality of life."

Other Texas cities that were ranked in the top 25 safest and most affordable places to live include El Paso (No. 11), McKinney (No. 15), Frisco (No. 16), Laredo (No. 18), Grand Prairie (No. 21), Plano (No. 22), Carrollton (No. 23), and McAllen (No. 24).

The top 10 safest and most affordable U.S. cities to live in are:

  • No. 1 – Elgin, Illinois
  • No. 2 – Cary, North Carolina
  • No. 3 – Gilbert, Arizona
  • No. 4 – League City, Texas
  • No. 5 – Rochester, Minnesota
  • No. 6 – Sugar Land, Texas
  • No. 7 – Pearland, Texas
  • No. 8 – Meridian, Idaho
  • No. 9 – Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
  • No. 10 – Olathe, Kansas
The full report and its methodology can be found on gobankingrates.com

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.