Breaker19 is an Uber-like truck booking platform founded by two Houstonians. Photo via Getty Images

In a world where ”the customer is always right," two Houston founders have followed that rule right to their next venture.

Breaker19 — a groundbreaking mobile application built in late 2023 to be an efficient oilfield trucking and hotshot marketplace — was co-founded by Rodney Giles and Tyler Cherry. The native Houstonians also co-founded BidOut, a leading Oil & Gas procurement platform in 2021.

“About a year ago, one of our BidOut clients, a large operator, came to us and basically said that the biggest problem they have in the oil field is ordering trucks,” remembers Giles. “From there, they asked would we be willing to build something similar to Uber, but for oilfield logistics and trucking? So, we built Breaker19.”

After their customer presented a challenge, Giles and Cherry got to work. They envisioned the technical architecture almost immediately and assembled a team of software engineers to build an in-house application in less than a year.

“We launched Breaker19 in November 2023, and my goodness, it has taken off like crazy,” says Giles. “It is growing incredibly fast. We’re doing hundreds of truckloads a day now, all throughout West Texas, South Texas, North Dakota, really all over the U.S.”

Now, armed with such large publicly traded companies as British Petroleum, Breakout19 has a network of more than 1,500 trucks similar to transportation companies like Uber, where drivers make themselves available to be dispatched according to their health, safety and environmental requirements.

Breaker19 is doing so well, in fact, that it’s sped past Giles and Cherry’s original collaboration, BidOut.

“Breaker 19's probably, you know, growing ten times of where BidOut even was in its early days,” says Giles. “So, we'll always explore options that make sense for our shareholders. Fortunately, my co-founder and I have previous companies that we built and sold and have experience in scaling and have experiences in multiple departments, whether it be finance or sales or marketing or operations.

“So, currently, we do operate BidOut and Breaker19 separately, but they are, you know, through common operating structures. And, you know, we're able to maintain the scale and maintain the growth right now. And right now, the company is doing great financially and has cash flow positives. So, for us, you know, our goal is just to continue. I feel like we've kind of solved an archaic problem and did it in a really simple way, and it's working out pretty well.”

And it all started with a simple question from a customer — "Hey, can you guys come up with something like this?"

“It all came together just by listening to our customer’s needs,” says Giles. “And we always try to go into our clients and help them with a lot of what they do. But we always want to know about what their other pain points are. You know, there's still people, you know, that are operating with very archaic processes, very, you know, manual back-office processes. And our job is to speed them up with software. And so Breaker19 was able to do that.”

Practically speaking, Breaker19 is more than a software solution. It also closes the gap between qualified drivers and end clients by vetting participants for the platform in an efficient and pragmatic fashion.

“We have a very rigorous vetting process for the drivers,” Giles explains. “I mean, that's really what makes the oil and gas trucking industry so unique. Insurance requirements have to be significantly higher than most carriers. They have to go through very well-funded safety trainings where they are familiar with the oil field. And then number three, these drivers have to have personal protective equipment. They have to have flame-retardant clothing, they have to have slo-mo boots and they have to have hard hats.”

Procedure is important, but professionalism is equally important to Breaker19.

“You know, we do not allow the carrier to show up on a customer's locations in shorts and flip-flops or Crocs and, you know, be protected,” says Giles. “And so, for what we're dealing with is very mission critical, but also very, you know, very high-risk.

“For example, we are checking insurance statuses four times a day. If a carrier were to cancel their insurance, we're aware of it immediately because we want to make sure that we always have active insurance in place. So, we have a process that these carriers go through. Again, we've got over 1,500 of them now that are well-vetted and well-qualified.”

As Breaker19 continues to scale, Giles and Cherry hope their burgeoning app becomes the go-to ordering platform for the entire oil and gas industry for all of their trucking, hot shot and transportation needs.

“We're bringing on some significant, large enterprise clients right now that make up 10% of the U.S. market share for each customer,” says Giles “So I think when we start to compound those, I think we easily see the trajectory there as really being something that's taking off pretty fast. So, I think at the end of the day, we just hope to keep delivering a great experience for our clients, make their ordering process easy.”

With both BidOut and Breaker19 doing great financially, proud Klein Oak High School alums Giles and Cherry have purchased a steer to support Texas youth and agricultural causes. Additionally, moving forward, the duo pledges to give away a full steer each month to a customer of their Breaker19 platform.

"We are passionate about giving back to our community and nurturing the next generation of leaders in Texas," says Cherry. "Having personally experienced the transformative impact of FFA, we saw this initiative as a meaningful way to both support local agriculture and provide our clients with a taste of authentic Texas beef.”

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Houston family's $20M donation drives neurodegeneration research

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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.