Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from travel to analytics— recently making headlines in Houston innovation.
Sarah Groen, founder of Bell and Bly Travel
Sarah Groen, travel entrepreneur and longtime Houston tech ecosystem member, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo courtesy of Bell and Bly Travel
It's been a scary time for travel-related businesses, and Sarah Groen has had to get innovative to maintain her business as a travel adviser. Lucky for Groen, who has a long career in tech and innovation, she had all the right pivots, including offering digital travel packages, launching a new podcast, and more.
"During COVID, a lot of businesses either shutdown or took a pause, but we accelerated," Groen says.
Groen her career on the Houston Innovators Podcast. She also gives some strategic advice for founders — like trusting your gut and reading the signs when it comes to product-market fit — on the podcast. Click here to read more and stream the episode.
Alex Reed, co-founder and CEO of Fluence Analytics
Alex Reed joined InnovationMap for a Q&A on the company's move to Houston and its growth plans. Photo courtesy of Fluence Analytics
Alex Reed watched his father work in the labs on his research as he grew up, but he realized his future wasn't in the lab. Instead, he launched a career in taking that research and turning it into a company.
Founded in 2012 in New Orleans, Fluence Analytics has entered its next phase of growth by moving its headquarters to Houston following a $7.5 million venture capital raise.
We're working with the Houston of today, but also the Houston of tomorrow," Reed tells InnovationMap in a Q&A. Click here to read more.
Bettina Beech, chief population health officer at the University of Houston
Bettina Beech is a newly named AIM-AHEAD coordinating center team member. Photo via UH.edu
The University of Houston has joined in on a national initiative to increase the diversity of artificial intelligence researchers, according to a news release from the school. Unfortunately, AI — designed by humans — mimics human decision making through its choice of algorithms. This means that the same biases humans deal with have made it into the AI decision making too. These gaps can lead to continued disparities and inequities for underrepresented communities especially in regards to health care, job hiring, and more.
"Beyond health care, AI has been used in areas from facial recognition to self-driving cars and beyond, but there is an extreme lack of diversity among the developers of AI/ML tools. Many studies have shown that flawed AI systems and algorithms perpetuate gender and racial biases and have resulted in untoward outcomes," says Bettina Beech, chief population health officer at the University of Houston and newly named AIM-AHEAD coordinating center team member.
The initiative will bring together collaborators and experts across AI and machine learning, health equity research, data science training, data infrastructure and more. The other universities involved include: University of Colorado-Anschutz Medical Center in Aurora; University of California, Los Angeles; Meharry Medical College in Nashville; Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta; Johns Hopkins University, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Click here to read more.