This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Youngro Lee of Brassica, Anu Puvvada of KPMG Studio, and Brock Murphy of Parent ProTech. 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 corporate innovation to fintech — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Youngro Lee, founder of Brassica

Youngro Lee joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss his latest endeavor on his mission to democratize investing. Photo courtesy

Brassica Technologies, a fintech infrastructure company that's providing a platform for alternative assets, is just the next step in his career in using tech to democratize finance. The idea came from Lee's experience as a startup founder and fintech exec — first at NextSeed and then at Republic, which acquired NextSeed two years ago.

"The reason why I thought this was what I wanted to focus on next was exactly because it was an issue I struggled with as a founder of NextSeed," Lee says on the show. "The backend was always an issue. There's not one single vendor that we felt really understood our business, was doing it efficiently, or enabled us to deliver those services to our end clients."

Lee shares more about the future of Brassica, including the challenges he's facing within regulation and the state of fintech as a whole, on the podcast. He also weighs in on how he's seen the Houston innovation ecosystem grow and develop alongside his own entrepreneurial journey. Read more.

Anu Puvvada, KPMG Studio leader

Anu Puvvada, KPMG Studio leader, shares how her team is advancing software solutions while navigating hype cycles and solving billion-dollar-problems. Photo courtesy of KPMG

In 2021, KPMG, a New York-based global audit, accounting, and advisory service provider, formed a new entity to play in the innovation space. The Houston-based team finds innovative software that benefit KPMG's clients across industries.

In an interview with InnovationMap, Anu Puvvada, leader of KPMG Studio, shares more about the program, its first spin out, and why she's passionate about leading this initiative from Houston.

"When you think about innovation as a whole, it's mired with risk and uncertainty," she says. "You never know if something's going to work or not. And part of what we have to do with any idea that we're building in the studio or anything that our clients are doing around innovation, we have to do as much as we can to mitigate that risk and uncertainty. And that's kind of what KPMG's wheelhouse is." Read more.

Brock Murphy, Parent ProTech co-founder

Brock Murphy launched Parent ProTech last fall. Photo via

Houston-based Parent ProTech is a one-stop shop for parental education on technology and applications that their kids use.

“Our goal is to make everyone the best digital parent possible,” Brock Murphy, Parent ProTech co-founder, tells InnovationMap. “We understand technology and the role it plays in influencing the next generation. So we help parents when it comes to understanding the platforms, how to use them and how to unlock the parental controls that can be hidden, deeper into these platforms.”

Murphy — with co-founder Drew Wooten and creative director Joshua Adams — launched the platform in September 2022. Since then, Parent ProTech has made its mark through partnerships with schools in Texas. Read more.

Parent ProTech allows for parents to learn about the platforms their kids are active on — and how to protect them from potential danger. Photo via Canva and

Houston startup develops tech to protect children from online threats

imapct-driven innovation

Worry is an unavoidable part of the job description for any parent with children that continuously explore social media and other online applications and networks.

It seems as if with each passing day, a litany of horror stories centered around online bullying and online predators come to light replete with children who were approached and violated online and parents that had virtually no idea what their kids were up against.

But imagine a world where parents are able to not only monitor a child’s online activity, but are able to finally understand it, control it, and restrict it.

It’s a lofty task, but the team behind Parent ProTech, the one-stop shop for parental education on technology and applications that their kids use, are not only equipped to tackle it, they are passionate about finally giving parents the guide to parenting in the digital age.

“Our goal is to make everyone the best digital parent possible,” Brock Murphy, Parent ProTech co-founder, tells InnovationMap. “We understand technology and the role it plays in influencing the next generation. So we help parents when it comes to understanding the platforms, how to use them and how to unlock the parental controls that can be hidden, deeper into these platforms.”

Growing the tech platform

Murphy — with co-founder Drew Wooten and creative director Joshua Adams — launched the platform in September 2022. Since then, Parent ProTech has made its mark through partnerships with schools in Texas.

“Currently we’re at over 20,000 users and last week I closed a big deal with a national charter school, so they’re looking to launch in their Texas schools starting in August, which will pull us to 56,000 users signed up,” says Murphy. “The easiest way to get this important research into as many hands as possible was going to the schools.

“In Texas they have the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS, requirement, and so we’re filling some of the void when it comes to social and emotional learning when it comes to interacting with technology and others online, preventing violence and cyberbullying and different computer applications requirements that the state passes down to schools to teach to children.”

Brock Murphy launched Parent ProTech last fall. Photo via

Murphy realized that there was a dearth in online protection when it comes to children when he first started looking at the data coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on the data, it was evident that children from ages 11 to 14 years old spent over nine hours in front of a screen per day and, according to FBI reports, have the potential to encounter some 500,000 online predators during that time.

“We’re highlighting the good, the bad and the ugly,” says Murphy. “And then we’re monitoring the different platforms, so when Snapchat added a new feature, for example, and inappropriate content was popping up on my entire teams’ Snapchat, we definitely wanted to flag the families.

“We alerted them about the new feature and the inappropriate content popping up and informed them about what to look out for and how they can do to combat it. These platforms are constantly changing, and parents are busy, so we’re taking this off their plate. We’ll monitor it and let them know when there’s something major that happens that could put their child at risk.”

For convenience, Parent ProTech is web-based and mobile compatible, but with an update planned in the next few months, it will be more personalized based on the age of the child and the parent’s philosophy on social media and screen time.

Mission-driven origin with constant updates

Murphy founded the company without an application development background. Before creating Parent ProTech, Murphy took a very interesting path that brought him to the Houston area. First, he interned at the White House, then worked for SpaceX in Brownsville, Texas. After that, he was lured away to a company headquartered in Paris, France. That company, eventually sent him to Houston to open up a local branch office.

Murphy says he's routinely been asked by parents, teachers, administrators, and families about technology and how to keep their family safe online. That curiosity was the seed planted in early 2021 that sprouted into Parent ProTech and laid the foundation for the team’s mission to help parents understand technology and the role it plays in influencing the next generation.

So for those parents that have no idea what Discord or YikYak is or are still shaking their heads at the popularity of TikTok, with all of its sometimes disturbing viral challenges, Parent ProTech has it covered.

“Essentially what we’ve built is a database for families and schools to dive into the different platforms and understand them,” says Murphy. “We’re diving deep into these platforms so parents can quickly get what they need to put parental controls in place. This way, they can rest a little easier knowing that their children will see the content they want them to see and not be exposed to inappropriate content.”

Additionally, Parent ProTech wants to be able to equip parents with the tools to keep their children from talking to strangers online.

Parents, of course, love the idea for Parent ProTech, but it wasn’t as attractive to the kids on the business end of the restrictions and monitoring.

“It’s not an easy conversation because parents are scared of pushing their children away,” says the Texas A&M alum. “Kids don’t want their mom to know when they’re posting on TikTok. And that push/pull can sometimes put parents in a position where they are overwhelmed and can cause a paralysis state where they don’t do anything at all.

“I met with some sophomores in high school, and they weren’t keen on what we do, but then I told them the story about the family in San Diego where the oldest of three sons was approached by a pill pusher on Snapchat because the Snapchat map was turned on and there was Xanax delivered to the mailbox and it was laced with fentanyl and the son passed away," he continues. "Those are the kinds of stories that get the kids to listen to what we’re saying and the importance of monitoring the activity on these platforms.”

Involving the experts

The Parent ProTech team doesn’t just rely on real news fodder, though, it also regularly consults with therapists and developmental professionals for the best results.

“We talk to child psychologists and therapists on how we would recommend parents talk about the restrictions and the changes they make when they deep dive into these platforms,” says Murphy. “And what we’ve found is the education of the parents on what the platforms actually are is really important. That helps with conversation starters and plans like if a parent wants to limit their child’s screentime to 15 minutes a day.”

Parent ProTech isn’t just providing technology knowledge and parental controls, it’s also helping families monitor their digital footprint.

“What you post today could come back and haunt you when you apply to medical school or that dream job,” says Murphy. “So we focus on that and how we can promote safety and well-being of our interactions with each other online.”

Moving forward, one of Parent ProTech’s biggest goals, outside of being that one stop shop for families/parents when it comes to safely navigating technology, is also being pro technology and promoting the tools and excitement that all of this advancement has on kids and the positive activity that can come out of it.

“We also want parents and kids to realize the potential there is with all of this advancement and continue pushing that message,” says Murphy. “We’d also like to develop some AI tools to help with bullying and inappropriate content to help prevent scammers from taking advantage of kids and elderly.”

Murphy also wants to put his time on Capitol Hill to good use by helping to advocate for various policy changes in Washington D.C. and state capitals that will help protect children online.

“We have to build this army of parents that want more priority of safety when it comes to children online and part of that is parents being more engaged in what their kids are doing and we’re here to help foster that.”

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Health tech startup launches Houston study improve stroke patients recovery

now enrolling

A Houston-born company is enrolling patients in a study to test the efficacy of nerve stimulation to improve outcomes for stroke survivors.

Dr. Kirt Gill and Joe Upchurch founded NeuraStasis in 2021 as part of the TMC Biodesign fellowship program.

“The idea for the company manifested during that year because both Joe and I had experiences with stroke survivors in our own lives,” Gill tells InnovationMap. It began for Gill when his former college roommate had a stroke in his twenties.

“It’s a very unpredictable, sudden disease with ramifications not just for my best friend but for everyone in his life. I saw what it did to his family and caregivers and it's one of those things that doesn't have as many solutions for people to continue recovery and to prevent damage and that's an area that I wanted to focus myself on in my career,” Gill explains.

Gill and Upchurch arrived at the trigeminal and vagus nerves as a potential key to helping stroke patients. Gill says that there is a growing amount of academic literature that talks about the efficacy of stimulating those nerves. The co-founders met Dr. Sean Savitz, the director of the UTHealth Institute for Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases, during their fellowship. He is now their principal investigator for their clinical feasibility study, located at his facility.

The treatment is targeted for patients who have suffered an ischemic stroke, meaning that it’s caused by a blockage of blood flow to the brain.

“Rehabilitation after a stroke is intended to help the brain develop new networks to compensate for permanently damaged areas,” Gill says. “But the recovery process typically slows to essentially a standstill or plateau by three to six months after that stroke. The result is that the majority of stroke survivors, around 7.6 million in the US alone, live with a form of disability that prevents complete independence afterwards.”

NeuraStasis’ technology is intended to help patients who are past that window. They accomplish that with a non-invasive brain-stimulation device that targets the trigeminal and vagus nerves.

“Think of it kind of like a wearable headset that enables stimulation to be delivered, paired to survivors going through rehabilitation action. So the goal here is to help reinforce and rewire networks as they're performing specific tasks that they're looking to improve upon,” Gill explains.

The study, which hopes to enroll around 25 subjects, is intended to help people with residual arm and hand deficits six months or more after their ischemic stroke. The patients enrolled will receive nerve stimulation three times a week for six weeks. It’s in this window that Gill says he hopes to see meaningful improvement in patients’ upper extremity deficits.

Though NeuraStasis currently boasts just its two co-founders as full-time employees, the company is seeing healthy growth. It was selected for a $1.1 million award from the National Institutes of Health through its Blueprint MedTech program. The award was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The funding furthers NeuraStasis’ work for two years, and supports product development for work on acute stroke and for another product that will aid in emergency situations.

Gill says that he believes “Houston has been tailor-made for medical healthcare-focused innovation.”

NeuraStasis, he continues, has benefited greatly from its advisors and mentors from throughout the TMC, as well as the engineering talent from Rice, University of Houston and Texas A&M. And the entrepreneur says that he hopes that Houston will benefit as much from NeuraStasis’ technology as the company has from its hometown.

“I know that there are people within the community that could benefit from our device,” he says.

Texas Space Commission launches, Houston execs named to leadership

future of space

Governor Greg Abbott announced the Texas Space Commission, naming its inaugural board of directors and Texas Aerospace Research and Space Economy Consortium Executive Committee.

The announcement came at NASA's Johnson Space Center, and the governor was joined by Speaker Dade Phelan, Representative Greg Bonnen, Representative Dennis Paul, NASA's Johnson Space Center Director Vanessa Wyche, and various aerospace industry leaders.

According to a news release, the Texas Space Commission will aim to strengthen commercial, civil, and military aerospace activity by promoting innovation in space exploration and commercial aerospace opportunities, which will include the integration of space, aeronautics, and aviation industries as part of the Texas economy.

The Commission will be governed by a nine-member board of directors. The board will also administer the legislatively created Space Exploration and Aeronautics Research Fund to provide grants to eligible entities.

“Texas is home to trailblazers and innovators, and we have a rich history of traversing the final frontier: space,” Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick says in a news release. “Texas is and will continue to be the epicenter for the space industry across the globe, and I have total confidence that my appointees to the Texas Space Commission Board of Directors and the Texas Aerospace Research and Space Economy Consortium Executive Committee will ensure the Texas space industry remains an international powerhouse for cutting-edge space innovation.”

TARSEC will independently identify research opportunities that will assist the state’s position in aeronautics research and development, astronautics, space commercialization, and space flight infrastructure. It also plans to fuel the integration of space, aeronautics, astronautics, and aviation industries into the Texas economy. TARSEC will be governed by an executive committee and will be composed of representatives of each higher education institution in the state.

“Since its very inception, NASA’s Johnson Space Center has been home to manned spaceflight, propelling Texas as the national leader in the U.S. space program,” Abbott says during the announcement. “It was at Rice University where President John F. Kennedy announced that the U.S. would put a man on the moon—not because it was easy, but because it was hard.

"Now, with the Texas Space Commission, our great state will have a group that is responsible for dreaming and achieving the next generation of human exploration in space," he continues. "Texas is the launchpad for Mars, innovating the technology that will colonize humanity’s first new planet. As we look into the future of space, one thing is clear: those who reach for the stars do so from the great state of Texas. I look forward to working with the Texas Space Commission, and I thank the Texas Legislature for partnering with industry and higher education institutions to secure the future of Texas' robust space industry."

The Houston-area board of directors appointees included:

  • Gwen Griffin, chief executive officer of the Griffin Communications Group
  • John Shannon, vice president of Exploration Systems at the Boeing Company
  • Sarah "Sassie" Duggleby, co-founder and CEO of Venus Aerospace
  • Kirk Shireman, vice president of Lunar Exploration Campaigns at Lockheed Martin
  • Dr. Nancy Currie-Gregg, director of the Texas A&M Space Institute

Additionally, a few Houstonians were named to the TARSEC committee, including:

  • Stephanie Murphy, CEO and executive chairman of Aegis Aerospace
  • Matt Ondler, president and former chief technology officer at Axiom Space
  • Jack “2fish” Fischer, vice president of production and operations at Intuitive Machines
  • Brian Freedman, president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership and vice chairman of Wellby Financial
  • David Alexander, professor of physics and astronomy and director of the Rice Space Institute at Rice University

To see the full list of appointed board and committee members, along with their extended bios, click here.