The seven selected startups will have year-long curated curriculum, incubation at Greentown's two locations, a non-dilutive $25,000 grant, and access to mentors, corporates, and more from both Greentown and BGS's networks. Photo via GreentownLabs.com

Two organizations have named the seven startup participants for their accelerator that works to advance BIPOC-led startups in the climatetech space.

Greentown Labs and Browning the Green Space named the newest accelerator for the Advancing Climatetech and Clean Energy Leaders Program, or ACCEL. The seven selected startups will have year-long curated curriculum, incubation at Greentown's two locations, a non-dilutive $25,000 grant, and access to mentors, corporates, and more from both Greentown and BGS's networks.

"Building on the momentum and success of our inaugural year, Greentown Labs is proud to welcome this incredible cohort of BIPOC-led startups to Year 2 of ACCEL," Greentown Labs CEO and President Kevin Knobloch says in a news release. "These founders and their teams are developing a dynamic array of much-needed climatetech solutions, and we're privileged to support them on their startup journeys as they advance their technologies and grow their teams."

The 2024 cohort includes:

  • AtmoSpark Technologies, based in Houston, is an atmospheric water generation company with a patented electro-condensation technology, which has a lower energy footprint than that of current water-generation methods.
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Aquasaic is harnessing biology to clean water for planetary and human health.
  • Houston-based Axis Sky Renewablescreates innovative wind solutions, specializing in vertical-axis wind turbines that are less expensive to produce, deploy, and maintain than traditional wind turbines.
  • Carbon Negative Solutions, from Rock Hill, New York, is creating smart-city-ready, carbon-negative concrete products.
  • NYC-based Cellsense develops interactive bio-embellishments that create new possibilities for designers while eliminating microplastics and replacing fossil-fuel-based material at scale.
  • EcoForge, headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, is a building-material technology company developing affordable, high-performance building materials from local agricultural residues, replacing energy-intensive, fossil-based materials.
  • Boston-based Sankofa Dynamics creates low-cost, eco-friendly solutions for water, air, and energy problems.

The program is supported by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center,Microsoft's Climate Innovation Fund, Equinor, Barr Foundation.

"These BIPOC-led startups are developing climate technologies that will lead us to a more equitable and sustainable future," MassCEC CEO Dr. Emily Reichert, the former CEO of Greentown, says in the release. "We want ALL climatetech innovators and entrepreneurs to thrive here in Massachusetts. We are proud to support the ACCEL accelerator, created and led by Greentown Labs and Browning the Green Space. The ACCEL program is helping us build a more diverse innovation ecosystem by breaking down barriers and expanding opportunities."

ACCEL was announced in 2022, and the first cohort featured six climatetech startups — two based in Houston.

"Our second year of ACCEL brings together an inspirational and diverse cohort of seven BIPOC-led startups developing tech to accelerate the distribution of climate solutions that address community needs," Browning the Green Space President and Executive Director Kerry Bowie adds. "We are thrilled to continue to strengthen our partnership with Greentown Labs and VentureWell and build on the learnings from the pilot cohort to provide critical support infrastructure for entrepreneurs of color."

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Two climatetech startups are joining a new program from Greentown Labs and Browning the Green Space. Photo via greentownlabs.com

2 Houston startups tapped for inaugural BIPOC-focused accelerator cohort

seeing green

A new accelerator focused on BIPOC-led energy tech startups named its inaugural cohort, and two Houston-based companies made the cut.

The new program — Advancing Climatetech and Clean Energy Leaders Program, or ACCEL — is an initiative led by Greentown Labs and Browning the Green Space that was originally announced in November. The program was established to provide access to funding, networking connections, resources, and more to BIPOC-led startups working on a climatetech solution.

The program is supported by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, or MassCEC, a state economic development agency, and the Boston-based Barr Foundation, a Boston-based foundation. Each of the selected startups will receive a $25,000 grant, incubation at Greentown, mentorship from Greentown and BGS’s networks, and access to a curriculum curated by VentureWell, a nonprofit with deep expertise in the climatetech space.

“We are thrilled and eager to support this exceptional cohort of startup leaders as they tackle some of our world’s biggest climate challenges,” says Kevin T. Taylor, CFO and interim CEO at Greentown Labs, in a news release. “Through partnerships with Browning the Green Space and VentureWell—and with the support from MassCEC and the Barr Foundation—we look forward to offering intentional mentorship, training, and networking opportunities to help these BIPOC-led startups thrive.”

The co-located program will host startups at each of the two Greentown Labs locations in the Houston and Boston areas. The inaugural cohort includes:

  • Active Surfaces, based in Salem, Massachusetts, unlocks dual land-use applications through its ultra-thin-film, flexible solar technology. Its co-founders are Shivam Bhakta and Richard Swartwout.
  • Houston-based DrinKicks is a sneaker-themed consumer-products company that is focused on repurposing food waste and recycled materials into sustainable goods such as shoes, sports equipment, and clothing, all while educating consumers on the power of the circular economy. The company was co-founded by Kristeen Reynolds, Michael Fletcher, and Kristen Lee.
  • EarthBond, headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, leverages group financing and carbon accounting to lower costs and risk in the energy transition of Nigeria's $14B fuel-based, off-grid generator market. Chidalu Onyenso founded the business.
  • Amherst, Massachusetts-based florrent is a bio-based materials and energy storage company providing solutions to address critical bottlenecks to the global decarbonization and electrification of utilities, transportation, and buildings. Its co-founders are Jose LaSalle, Joe Hastry, and Alexander Nichols. florrent is a current Greentown member.
  • frakktal, founded in Houston by Jhana Porter, is a B2B materials company developing bio-based polymer processes for the replacement of fossil-fuel-based feedstocks across industries. The company is a current Greentown member.
  • SpadXTech from Worcester, Massachusetts, is contributing to the reduction of CO2 emissions impacting several industries such as packaging, textiles, transportation, filtration, and construction through the manufacturing of its core and versatile material platform technology. Its co-founders are Lina M. González and Connor Crawford.

“We are inspired by and excited to support the wealth of innovation and fresh perspectives on climate solutions offered by our inaugural ACCEL cohort of startup leaders,” said Kerry Bowie, executive director and president of Browning the Green Space. “Through this partnership with Greentown Labs we are able to build critical support infrastructure for entrepreneurs of color and accelerate the equitable development and distribution of climate solutions across all communities.”

The program will officially kick off at an event on February 23 at Greentown’s Boston location.

Greentown Labs announced its latest accelerator program — this one is focused on DEI in clean energy innovation. Photo via GreentownLabs.com

Greentown Houston announces co-located accelerator for energy innovators of color

browning the green space

Greentown Labs has announced its latest accelerator program that will be co-located in both its Houston and Boston-area spaces.

In partnership with Browning the Green Space, Greentown Labs has officially launched the Advancing Climatetech and Clean Energy Leaders Program, or ACCEL, and is seeking applications from climatetech entrepreneurs who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color.

The startups accepted into the year-long program will receive a curated curriculum, incubation at one of the Greentown locations, and mentorship from its large network of energy professionals. Each participant will also receive a non-dilutive $25,000 grant. Applications for ACCEL are open now and are due by Dec. 23

“We need all hands on deck to solve the climate crisis and foster a just energy transition,” says Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs, in a news release. “We are proud to partner with Browning the Green Space on this important program, and are eager to support more underrepresented founders through ACCEL to help build a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable climatetech industry.”

BGS is a nonprofit that is focused on making clean energy other climate-related fields more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. The organization is headquartered in Boston.

“We are excited to work in partnership with Greentown Labs to build critical support infrastructure for entrepreneurs of color and accelerate the equitable development and distribution of climate solutions across all communities,” says Kerry Bowie, executive director and president of Browning the Green Space, in the release. “ACCEL will help us move closer to where we all should be collectively, and create the opportunity to change the face of clean energy as we know it.”

The new program is also supported the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, a state economic development agency dedicated to accelerating the growth of the clean energy sector across the Commonwealth, and then Boston-based Barr Foundation, a foundation with a regional focus, working in partnership with partners to elevate the arts, advance solutions for climate change, and connect all students to success in high school and beyond, per the news please.

“The Barr Foundation’s climate program has made a commitment to centering racial equity in the energy transition,” says Kathryn Wright, senior program officer of Clean Energy at The Barr Foundation, in the release. “We are excited to support this crucial opportunity to provide education and mentorship for underrepresented climate entrepreneurs in our region. We look forward to seeing the impact of the ACCEL program in the coming years.”

The curriculum for ACCEL will be led by Hadley, Massachusetts-based VentureWell, a nonprofit that funds and trains innovators to create successful, socially beneficial businesses. Applicants may be based anywhere in the world, but will be expected to attend in-person elements of the program at either Greentown Boston or Greentown Houston.

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Clean energy nonprofit CEO to step down, search for replacement to begin

moving on

Greentown Labs, which is co-located in the Boston and Houston areas, has announced its current CEO is stepping down after less than a year in the position.

The nonprofit's CEO and President Kevin Knobloch announced that he will be stepping down at the end of July 2024. Knobloch assumed his role last September, previously serving as chief of staff of the United States Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s second term.

“It has been an honor to lead this incredible team and organization, and a true privilege to get to know many of our brilliant startup founders," Knobloch says in the news release. “Greentown is a proven leader in supporting early-stage climatetech companies and I can’t wait to see all that it will accomplish in the coming years.”

The news of Knobloch's departure comes just over a month after the organization announced that it was eliminating 30 percent of its staff, which affected 12 roles in Boston and six in Houston.

According the Greentown, its board of directors is expected to launch a national search for its next CEO.

“On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I want to thank Kevin for his efforts to strengthen the foundation of Greentown Labs and for charting the next chapter for the organization through a strategic refresh process,” says Dawn James, Greentown Labs Board Chair, in the release. “His thoughtful leadership will leave a lasting impact on the team and community for years to come.”

Knobloch reportedly shifted Greentown's sponsorship relationships with oil companies, sparking "friction within the organization," according to the Houston Chronicle, which also reported that Knobloch said he intends to return to his clean energy consulting firm.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Houston college lands $5M NASA grant to launch new aerospace research center

to infinity and beyond

The University of Houston was one of seven minority-serving institutions to receive a nearly $5 million grant this month to support aerospace research focused on extending human presence on the moon and Mars.

The $4,996,136 grant over five years is funded by the NASA Office of STEM Engagement Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO) program. It will go toward creating the NASA MIRO Inflatable Deployable Environments and Adaptive Space Systems (IDEAS2) Center at UH, according to a statement from the university.

“The vision of the IDEAS2 Center is to become a premier national innovation hub that propels NASA-centric, state-of-the-art research and promotes 21st-century aerospace education,” Karolos Grigoriadis, Moores Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of aerospace engineering at UH, said in a statement.

Another goal of the grant is to develop the next generation of aerospace professionals.

Graduate, undergraduate and even middle and high school students will conduct research out of IDEAS2 and work closely with the Johnson Space Center, located in the Houston area.

The center will collaborate with Texas A&M University, Houston Community College, San Jacinto College and Stanford University.

Grigoriadis will lead the center. Dimitris Lagoudas, from Texas A&M University, and Olga Bannova, UH's research professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Space Architecture graduate program, will serve as associate directors.

"Our mission is to establish a sustainable nexus of excellence in aerospace engineering research and education supported by targeted multi-institutional collaborations, strategic partnerships and diverse educational initiatives,” Grigoriadis said.

Industrial partners include Boeing, Axiom Space, Bastion Technologies and Lockheed Martin, according to UH.

UH is part of 21 higher-education institutions to receive about $45 million through NASA MUREP grants.

According to NASA, the six other universities to received about $5 million MIRO grants over five years and their projects includes:

  • Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage: Alaska Pacific University Microplastics Research and Education Center
  • California State University in Fullerton: SpaceIgnite Center for Advanced Research-Education in Combustion
  • City University of New York, Hunter College in New York: NASA-Hunter College Center for Advanced Energy Storage for Space
  • Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee: Integrative Space Additive Manufacturing: Opportunities for Workforce-Development in NASA Related Materials Research and Education
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark:AI Powered Solar Eruption Center of Excellence in Research and Education
  • University of Illinois in Chicago: Center for In-Space Manufacturing: Recycling and Regolith Processing

Fourteen other institutions will receive up to $750,000 each over the course of a three-year period. Those include:

  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge
  • West Virginia University in Morgantown
  • University of Puerto Rico in San Juan
  • Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada
  • Oklahoma State University in Stillwater
  • Iowa State University in Ames
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks in Fairbanks
  • University of the Virgin Islands in Charlotte Amalie
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu
  • University of Idaho in Moscow
  • University of Arkansas in Little Rock
  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City
  • Satellite Datastreams

NASA's MUREP hosted its annual "Space Tank" pitch event at Space Center Houston last month. Teams from across the country — including three Texas teams — pitched business plans based on NASA-originated technology. Click here to learn more about the seven finalists.

Booming Houston suburb, other Texas towns among the fastest-growing U.S. cities in 2023

by the numbers

One Houston suburb experienced one of the most rapid growth spurts in the country last year: Fulshear, whose population grew by 25.6 percent, more than 51 times that of the nation’s growth rate of 0.5 percent. The city's population was 42,616 as of July 1, 2023.

According to U.S. Census Bureau's Vintage 2023 Population Estimates, released Thursday, May 16, Fulshear — which lies west of Katy in northwest Fort Bend County - ranked No. 2 on the list of fastest-growing cities with a population of 20,000 or more. It's no wonder iconic Houston restaurants like Molina's Cantina see opportunities there.

The South still dominates the nation's growth, even as America’s Northeast and Midwest cities are rebounding slightly from years of population drops. The census estimates showed 13 of the 15 fastest-growing cities in the U.S. were in the South — eight in Texas alone.

The Texas cities joining Fulshear on the fastest-growing-cities list are:

  • Celina (No. 1) with 26.6 percent growth (42,616 total population)
  • Princeton (No. 3) with 22.3 percent growth (28,027 total population)
  • Anna (No. 4) with 16.9 percent growth (27,501 total population)
  • Georgetown (No. 8) with 10.6 percent growth (96,312 total population)
  • Prosper (No. 9) with 10.5 percent growth (41,660 total population)
  • Forney (No. 10) with 10.4 percent growth (35,470 total population)
  • Kyle (No. 11) with 9 percent growth (62,548 total population)

Texas trends
San Antonio saw the biggest growth spurt in the United States last year, numbers-wise. The Alamo City added about 22,000 residents. San Antonio now has nearly 1.5 million people, making it the the seventh largest city in the U.S. and second largest in Texas.

Its population boom was followed by those of other Southern cities, including Fort Worth; Charlotte, North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; and Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Fast-growing Fort Worth (978,000) surpassed San Jose, California (970,000) to become the 12th most populous city in the country.

Meanwhile, population slowed in the Austin area. Jacksonville, Florida (986,000), outpaced Austin (980,000), pushing the Texas capital to 11th largest city in the U.S. (barely ahead of Fort Worth).

Population growth in Georgetown, outside Austin, slowed by more than one-fourth its population growth in 2022, the report says, from 14.4 percent to 10.6 percent. It's the same story in the Central Texas city of Kyle, whose population growth decreased by nearly 2 percent to 9 percent in 2023.

Most populated cities
New York City with nearly 8.3 million people remained the nation's largest city in population as of July 1, 2023. Los Angeles was second at close to 4 million residents, while Chicago was third at 2.7 million and Houston was fourth at 2.3 million residents.

The 15 populous U.S. cities in 2023 were:

  1. New York, New York (8.3 million)
  2. Los Angeles, California (4 million)
  3. Chicago, Illinois (2.7 million)
  4. Houston, Texas (2.3 million)
  5. Phoenix, Arizona (1.7 million)
  6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1.6 million)
  7. San Antonio (1.5 million)
  8. San Diego, California (1.4 million)
  9. Dallas (1.3 million)
  10. Jacksonville, Florida (986,000)
  11. Austin (980,000)
  12. Fort Worth (978,000)
  13. San Jose (970,000)
  14. Columbus, Ohio (913,000)
  15. Charlotte, North Carolina (911,000)

Modest reversals of population declines were seen last year in large cities in the nation's Northeast and Midwest. Detroit, for example, which grew for the first time in decades, had seen an exodus of people since the 1950s. Yet the estimates released Thursday show the population of Michigan’s largest city rose by just 1,852 people from 631,366 in 2022 to 633,218 last year.

It's a milestone for Detroit, which had 1.8 million residents in the 1950s only to see its population dwindle and then plummet through suburban white flight, a 1967 race riot, the migration to the suburbs by many of the Black middle class and the national economic downturn that foreshadowed the city's 2013 bankruptcy filing.

Three of the largest cities in the U.S. that had been bleeding residents this decade staunched those departures somewhat. New York City, which has lost almost 550,000 residents this decade so far, saw a drop of only 77,000 residents last year, about three-fifths the numbers from the previous year.

Los Angeles lost only 1,800 people last year, following a decline in the 2020s of almost 78,000 residents. Chicago, which has lost almost 82,000 people this decade, only had a population drop of 8,200 residents last year.

And San Francisco, which has lost a greater share of residents this decade than any other big city — almost 7.5 percent — actually grew by more than 1,200 residents last year.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.