This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Adrianne Stone of Bayou City Startups, Sarma Velamuri of Luminare, and Curtis Jackson of G-Unity Foundation. 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 health tech to nonprofit — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Adrianne Stone, founder of Bayou City Startups

Every month, Adrianne Stone of Bayou City Startups hosts a happy hour for startup founders to create a safe space to network, collaborate, commensurate, and more. Photo courtesy of Adrianne Stone

Adrianne Stone knows firsthand how lonely the startup founder journey is, so she set out to help create a community for founders when she started Bayou City Startups last year. Now, Stone shares on the Houston Innovators Podcast that her monthly happy hours attract over 50 attendees on average.

"Being the venture associate with Capital Factory in Houston, I'd seen what the Houston ecosystem had to offer. There were events — happy hours, coffee meet-ups, all these things," Stone says on the show. "But it was not just a casual networking event usually. I wanted a consistent community where I could show up and say, 'guys, I had the worst week,' to people who got where I was coming from and who could commensurate or lean in and help."

The next opportunity to network with Bayou City Startups is Tuesday, July 18, from 5 to 7 pm at Kirby Ice House. Read more.

Sarma Velamuri, co-founder and CEO of Luminare

Sepsis has been the No. 1 killer hospitals, but this Houston startup has a tech to help mitigate the risk. Photo via Getty Images

When he was an internal medicine physician, Sarma Velamuri watched helplessly as a friend’s 22-year-old daughter lost her life to sepsis. He had to tell his friend that she would not be coming home.

“There are 300,000-plus people a year who die of sepsis,” says Velamuri. “It’s important that people understand it’s not just those who are most susceptible to infections.”

This fact is not only unfortunate, but preventable. And that’s why Velamuri, who describes himself as “a recovering hospitalist,” co-founded Luminare in 2014. A full-time CEO since 2017, Velamuri, who runs the company with co-founder and CTO Marcus Rydberg, is based in the TMC Innovation Factory. Read more.

Curtis Jackson, founder of the G-Unity Foundation

For the second year, Curtis Jackson's program supported Houston student entrepreneurs. Photo courtesy of G-Unity

Chances are, you've heard of 50 Cent — his 2003 album "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" was a soundtrack to many. But Curtis James Jackson III, 50 Cent's real name, has done a lot since gracing your radios. He moved to Houston in 2021 and founded the G-Unity Foundation. In May, he wrapped on the second year of the G-Unity Business Labs, a business development incubator for Houston Independent School District high schoolers.

"I’ve spent years donating my time and energy to communities in need. I started G-Unity to do the same—to give back to kids so they have it a little easier than I did," Jackson writes on the website. "Team building and entrepreneurship are skills I learned along the way, but they are so important to develop early. I look forward to G-Unity supporting programs that are doing the crucial work of teaching kids to excel at life."

Around 150 students participated, and the winners are splitting a $500,000 investment. Read more.

Every month, Adrianne Stone of Bayou City Startups hosts a happy hour for startup founders to create a safe space to network, collaborate, commensurate, and more. Photo courtesy of Adrianne Stone

Houston innovator dedicated to fostering community within local founders

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 194

Starting a company can be daunting and lonely, but entrepreneurs — at least those who call Houston home — have a monthly opportunity to connect with fellow founders thanks to Adrianne Stone.

Stone, who's had a varied career from getting her PhD in Translational Biology & Molecular Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and joining the 23andMe team as a scientist to supporting founders at Capital Factory, launched Bayou City Startups last year to help connect Houston founders over beers. Now, Stone shares on the Houston Innovators Podcast that her monthly Bayou City Startups meetups attract over 50 attendees on average.

"Being the venture associate with Capital Factory in Houston, I'd seen what the Houston ecosystem had to offer. There were events — happy hours, coffee meet-ups, all these things," Stone says. "But it was not just a casual networking event usually. I wanted a consistent community where I could show up and say, 'guys, I had the worst week,' to people who got where I was coming from and who could commensurate or lean in and help."

Stone observes a need for that type of community more in Houston than Silicon Valley, where she worked when she was at 23andMe. The Bayou City has less of a concentrated startup scene.

"Houston and the Bay Area could not be more different in a lot of ways," she explains. "Everybody I met had a startup in California — it didn't matter if they worked somewhere else, they had a startup.

"I would love to see more of that here in Houston," Stone continues. "Our founders in Houston are super scrappy. They do so much with so little, and we just do not have the amount of capital floating around this ecosystem that you do in SF. I'd love to see more of that here too."

The next opportunity to network with Bayou City Startups is Tuesday, July 18, from 5 to 7 pm at Kirby Ice House. Stone says she picks different types of bars all over the city to meet people where they are and to offer a variety of locations. She adds that she's always up for co-hosts and partners.

Part of what makes Stone, who consults with startups in a professional capacity, an interesting point of view is her "zig-zagging" career. She's held a wide range of roles at an even wider range of professions before she made it to tech startups.

“The through line for me is following my curiosity,” she says on the show. “I was interested in politics, so I did a White House internship. I had a background in science, so I wanted to do something with it, so I went into teaching. Through teaching, I got interested in web development and blogging, so that's how I made the transition into the digital space.”

Her advice to fellow zig-zaggers? Knowing when to say no to things.

"You can overcommit yourself and you're going to burnout or drop the ball or end up disappointing people," she says, admitting she's had to get better at this herself. "Practice saying no. Make it your default. Founders tend to say yes first."

Stone shares more about her career and her observations on Houston's startup ecosystem on the show. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

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Houston chemist lands $2M NIH grant for cancer treatment research

future of cellular health

A Rice University chemist has landed a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Health for his work that aims to reprogram the genetic code and explore the role certain cells play in causing diseases like cancer and neurological disorders.

The funds were awarded to Han Xiao, the Norman Hackerman-Welch Young Investigator, associate professor of chemistry, from the NIH's Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program, which supports medically focused laboratories.

Xiao will use the five-year grant to develop noncanonical amino acids (ncAAs) with diverse properties to help build proteins, according to a statement from Rice. He and his team will then use the ncAAs to explore the vivo sensors for enzymes involved in posttranslational modifications (PTMs), which play a role in the development of cancers and neurological disorders. Additionally, the team will look to develop a way to detect these enzymes in living organisms in real-time rather than in a lab.

“This innovative approach could revolutionize how we understand and control cellular functions,” Xiao said in the statement.

According to Rice, these developments could have major implications for the way diseases are treated, specifically for epigenetic inhibitors that are used to treat cancer.

Xiao helped lead the charge to launch Rice's new Synthesis X Center this spring. The center, which was born out of informal meetings between Xio's lab and others from the Baylor College of Medicine’s Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Baylor College of Medicine, aims to improve cancer outcomes by turning fundamental research into clinical applications.

They will build upon annual retreats, in which investigators can share unpublished findings, and also plan to host a national conference, the first slated for this fall titled "Synthetic Innovations Towards a Cure for Cancer.”

Houston neighbor ranks as one of America's most livable small cities

mo city

Some Houston suburbs stick out from the rest thanks to their affluent residents, and now Missouri City is getting time in the spotlight, thanks to its new ranking as the No. 77 most livable small city in the country.

The tiny but mighty Houston neighbor, located less than 20 miles southwest of Houston, was among six Texas cities that earned a top-100 ranking in SmartAsset's 2024 " Most Livable Small Cities" report. It compared 281 U.S. cities with populations between 65,000 and 100,000 residents across eight metrics, such as a resident's housing costs as a percentage of household income, the city's average commute times, and the proportions of entertainment, food service, and healthcare establishments.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Missouri City has an estimated population of over 76,000 residents, whose median household income comes out to $97,211. SmartAsset calculated that a Missouri City household's annual housing costs only take up 19.4 percent of that household's income. Additionally, the study found only six percent of the town's population live below the poverty level.

Here's how Missouri City performed in two other metrics in the study:

  • 1.4 percent – The proportion of arts, entertainment, and recreation businesses as a percentage of all businesses
  • 29.9 minutes – Worker's average commute time

But income and housing aren't the only things that make Missouri City one of the most livable small cities in Texas. Residents benefit from its proximity from central Houston, but the town mainly prides itself on its spacious park system, playgrounds, and other recreational activities.

Missouri City, Texas

Missouri City residents have plenty of parkland to enjoy. www.missouricitytx.gov

The Missouri City Parks and Recreation Departmen meticulously maintains 21 parks spanning just over 515 acres of land, an additional 500 acres of undeveloped parkland, and 14.4 miles of trails throughout the town, according to the city's website."Small cities may offer cost benefits for residents looking to stretch their income while enjoying a comfortable – and more spacious – lifestyle," the report's author wrote. "While livability is a subjective concept that may take on different definitions for different people, some elements of a community can come close to being universally beneficial."

Missouri City is also home to Fort Bend Town Square, a massive mixed-use development at the intersection of TX 6 and the Fort Bend Parkway. It offers apartments, shopping, and restaurants, including a rumored location of Trill Burgers.

Other Houston-area cities that earned a spot in the report include

Spring (No. 227) and Baytown (No. 254).The five remaining Texas cities that were among the top 100 most livable small cities in the U.S. include Flower Mound (No. 29), Leander (No. 60), Mansfield (No. 69), Pflugerville (No. 78), and Cedar Park (No. 85).

The top 10 most livable small cities in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – Troy, Michigan
  • No. 2 – Rochester Hills, Michigan
  • No. 3 – Eau Claire, Wisconsin
  • No. 4 – Franklin, Tennessee
  • No. 5 – Redmond, Washington
  • No. 6 – Appleton, Wisconsin
  • No. 7 – Apex, North Carolina
  • No. 8 – Plymouth, Minnesota
  • No. 9 – Livonia, Michigan
  • No. 10 – Oshkosh, Wisconsin

The report examined data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2022 1-year American Community Survey and the 2021 County Business Patterns Survey to determine its rankings.The report and its methodology can be found on

smartasset.com

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.