The Cannon, a coworking community with locations across Houston, and nstAI, a newly launched suite of services for founders, announced a new partnership. Photo courtesy of The Cannon

A new Houston company has launched to provide a new platform of resources for entrepreneurs powered by artificial intelligence, and the new business already has its first partner.

The Cannon, a coworking community with locations across Houston, and nstAI, a newly launched suite of services for founders, announced a new partnership.

“The opportunity for The Cannon to partner with nstAI to bring a value-driven service offering to growth stage startup organizations is huge for our community. We are constantly looking for areas where we can support every startup, no matter where they are in their journey,” Jon Lambert, The Cannon’s CEO, says in a statement. “The nstAI offering, delivered through The Cannon's platform, will bring tremendous value to emerging companies who are in perhaps the most critical stage of their journey, garnering true market presence and customer share.”

Founded by seasoned entrepreneurs, nstAI's support is targeted aid startup founders during the early phases of business development, including securing non-dilutive funding, creating pitch decks and other materials, as well as making meaningful connections with mentors and potential customers.

"The journey from post-Seed funding to Series B funding is often one of the most challenging phases for founders," John Cooper, a founding partner at nstAI, adds. "We've designed nstAI to be a trusted resource in that process, offering hands-on guidance, leveraging AI-powered tools, and providing access to an unmatched global network of experts and investors."

The nstAI platform will be integrated into The Cannon's digital platform, Cannon Connect, for its members.

"nstAI is more than just a service provider; we're a community of successful entrepreneurs dedicated to supporting each other's growth and success," Mark Voytek, founding partner at nstAI, says in the release.

With seven locations across the Houston area, The Cannon's digital technology allows its members a streamlined connection. Photo courtesy of The Cannon

Houston coworking company acquires digital community platform

M&A moves

After collaborating over the years, The Cannon has acquired a Houston startup's digital platform technology to become a "physical-digital hybrid" community.

Village Insights, a Houston startup, worked with The Cannon to create and launch its digital community platform Cannon Connect. Now, The Cannon has officially acquired the business. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“The combined commitment to support innovation communities—large and small—is evident,” Andrew Ramirez, who served as CEO for Village Insights ahead of the acquisition, says in a news release. “Village Insights and The Cannon merged to align efforts and cultivate local, regional and global innovation communities. Combining our value propositions represents a significant leap forward for the populations that we serve.”

With seven locations across the Houston area, The Cannon's digital technology allows its members a streamlined connection.

“The Cannon’s hub network stretches from The Woodlands to Galveston and across the 13-county region, with a membership base of more than 900 companies and 3,000 employees,” Jon Lambert, CEO of The Cannon, adds. “The digital extension of our physical footprint brings comprehensive innovation and business development support to communities that need it the most. Cannon Connect’s virtual- connection capabilities stand to remarkably expand our universe of ecosystem opportunities.”

Village Insights was founded in 2020. According to the release, the acquisition began in December, and members of the Village Insights core leadership team have rolled onto new roles at The Cannon.

“The integration of a world-class onsite member experience and Cannon Connect’s superior virtual resource network creates a seamless, streamlined environment for member organizations,” Clemmie Martin, The Cannon’s newly appointed chief of staff, says in the release. “Cannon Connect and this acquisition have paved new pathways to access and success for all.”

The Cannon has opened a new location — and expanded north of Houston for the first time. Photo courtesy of The Cannon

Photos: Houston coworking company expands with new location

open for biz

Calling all coworkers north of Houston — there's a new spot in town to set up shop.

The Cannon, a coworking company with locations in Houston and Galveston, has expanded north of Houston for the first time. A new Cannon workspace opened at The Park at Fish Creek retail center (618 Fish Creek Thoroughfare) in Montgomery last month. On February 1 at 4 pm, the new community is holding an open house to tour the space.

“The Cannon is a Houston innovation institution, and we meet demand where innovators and entrepreneurs live—in this case, Montgomery County,” says Jon Lambert, CEO of The Cannon, in a news release. “The goal is to grow The Cannon community – and entrepreneurship overall – regionally, via the Fish Creek brick-and mortar space, and to also expand utilization of our digital community platform, Cannon Connect.”

With 8,100 square feet of space, the facility has 19 private offices, three conference rooms, and several gathering and working areas. Memberships — from assigned desks and private space to day passes — are now available. All Fish Creek members receive access to Cannon Connect, a global, digital community platform that provides resources, networking and building blocks for business growth.

Photo courtesy of The Cannon

Jon Lambert, CEO of The Cannon, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss Cannon Connect and the growth of The Cannon. Photo courtesy of The Cannon

Houston entrepreneurial hub plans to scale with new virtual platform

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 49

When Jon Lambert joined The Cannon as CEO about a year ago, he was preparing to grow the coworking company across Houston and beyond. However, In March, when COVID-19 turned into a pandemic and forced the closure of The Cannon's three campuses, Lambert's goals instead shifted to how to keep a company so focused on fostering an in-person community going.

"Nothing prepares you for this kind of situation," Lambert says on the Houston Innovators Podcast about how COVID-19 has affected the organization.

But The Cannon had something they were working on up their sleeves. Cannon Connect — an online platform for community tools like a resource center, forums, calendar, and more — launched a few weeks ago in order to help connect The Cannon community virtually. The plans for Cannon Connect, as Lambert says, were actually concocted prior to the pandemic as a way to connect the coworking company's multiple locations as it continued to expand.

"We pretty quickly identified that our vision and our desire to provide value to the entrepreneurial ecosystem went well beyond what we had the ability to do in the physical spaces we had," Lambert says. "We started thinking through the need to have a digital experience that was aligned with the physical experience."

Lambert says the pandemic — as well as the launch of this platform — has adjusted the expansion track The Cannon was on. Prior to the coronavirus, The Cannon's team had conversations with about 30 different cities around the world that wanted to explore the process of getting their very own coworking hub. Now, instead of entering into these places with a physical space first, it might make more sense to begin with the digital product first.

"[We can] bring the players of the ecosystem together inside the digital component so that we can then use those connections and that dialogue to then determine the right time and place to do the physical hub development," Lambert says, adding that the these pre-pandemic conversations have picked up again. "That's where we are right now."

Lambert shares more on where he plans to lead The Cannon and other challenges his team has overcame this year in the podcast episode. You can listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

The Cannon launched Cannon Connect — an online platform that takes its community of entrepreneurs, investors, and more online — amid the pandemic and plans for growth. Photo courtesy of The Cannon

Exclusive: Houston entrepreneurial hub launches 'future-proofed' online platform

Cannon Connect

When the team at The Cannon — a Houston coworking company with three locations across town — was planning an online platform that would connect members across their properties in January, they didn't see a global pandemic enroute to upend how Houstonians work. It did, however, make the need for an online platform all the more relevant.

Now, Cannon Connect has launched to its members — and it comes equipped with virtual networking, job hunting, resources, and more. The whole goal of the platform is to democratize the programming, resources, and culture The Cannon has created.

"Our recognition was that we have a lot of value we can deliver," says Jon Lambert, CEO of The Cannon. "We want to provide the value that we have to entrepreneurs anywhere and everywhere — we don't want to preclude entrepreneurs, investors, advisers, and service providers from being part of what The Cannon is trying to build just because you're not close to one of our facilities."

Cannon Connect acts as a virtual hub for networking, resources, and more. Photo courtesy of The Cannon

A pivot toward a virtual platform isn't a novel idea, Lambert admits, and other Houston organizations have rolled out their platforms — like Houston Exponential's HTX TechList and Sesh Coworking's Inner Circle. However, The Cannon's main goal is replicating the community it has in its locations and creating an online space for that.

"Having a portal is one thing — creating an environment and an experience where people want to spend their time is another," Lambert says, comparing Cannon Connect to social media platforms and how people use them regularly to stay connected to what's going on.

Another differentiating factor is The Cannon is planning to have its platform used by more than just the Houston ecosystem. Lambert says that over the past year, he's talked to around 30 cities from around the world who are interested in The Cannon's concept. The "future-proofed" virtual platform will enable connectivity and consistency as the company grows.

Current members have access to the portal, and new members can opt in for $30 a month. Image courtesy of The Cannon

"If we're really going to create and grow this community, there's not a building that's big enough for every entrepreneur out there, but certainly in a digital environment, we have the ability to pull those folks in," Lambert tells InnovationMap.

While the conversations on physical spaces in these cities has stalled, Lambert says entering into new markets with a digital-first plan has become the new priority.

The online community is made up of a forum section, jobs board, knowledge center, and more. In the future, The Cannon, which recently acquired Houston crowdfunding platform LetsLaunch, will add in a crowdfunding capability to the site. Live streaming events is another tool that's in the works.

Cannon Connect is available to all Cannon coworking members, and online-only registration is $30 a month or $300 a year. The Cannon team is also working on creating a student membership option, which should be available in the near future.

Learn more in The Cannon's promotional video below:

The Cannon is an Entrepreneurial Ecosystemwww.youtube.com

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston-based sustainable chemical manufacturing secures $213.6M to support new facility

scaling up

Houston-based Solugen has secured financing from the U.S. Department of Energy's Loan Programs Office to support its mission of producing clean chemicals.

The LPO's $213.6 million loan guarantee will go toward the construction of the company's 500,000-square-foot Bioforge Marshall facility in Southwest Minnesota, which broke ground in April and will produce bio-based chemical products to be used in wastewater treatment, construction, agriculture, and the energy sector. According to Solugen, the facility is expected to reduce annual carbon emissions by up to 18 million kilograms.

"American manufacturing is at a turning point, and we are proud to have the opportunity to work with the DOE in bringing critical chemical production capabilities onshore to communities like Marshall," Gaurab Chakrabarti, CEO of Solugen, says in a news release. "By scaling cutting-edge technologies, we are meeting domestic demand for innovative solutions and setting global standards for sustainable biomanufacturing."

The new facility, originally announced last year, is expected to go online in the fall of 2025 and will create up to 100 temporary construction jobs as well as 56 full-time manufacturing jobs once the facility is up and running.

"Today’s announcement reflects President Biden’s commitment to building a thriving bioeconomy that benefits all Americans and ensures the United States leads the world in emerging biomass industries," the DOE writes in its announcement.

Bioforge Marshall is a scaled-up version of the company's first project, Bioforge Houston, which has been operating since 2021 and will continue to act as Solugen's research and development and innovation center.

"Scaling our Bioforge platform is not only a technological advancement, but a strategic move to fortify the domestic supply chain for critical chemicals," adds Sean Hunt, CTO of Solugen. "This project will serve as a model for how innovative technologies can revive American industries and maintain our competitive edge on a global scale."

Solugen will be required to meet certain DOE standards to move forward with the financing. Additionally, the company has created partnerships with regional educational and workforce development organizations for training and recruiting.

Founded in 2016, the Houston company has raised over $600 million, per Crunchbase, and clinched unicorn status with a $1 billion valuation in 2021. Last month, Solugen ranked at No. 36 on CNBC’s annual Disruptor 50 list, and in 2023, Chakrabarti and Hunt were named winners at the EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards.

Houston university awards grant to Texas accelerator to support sports tech

game on

Rice University awarded DivInc. an $800,000 grant this month to support its work in sports technology.

The Texas-based company, which operates numerous accelerators, focuses on BIPOC and female founders working toward social and economic equity through entrepreneurship. The grant from Rice is part of "several financial commitments" the university is making to support inclusivity at the Ion District.

DivInc runs its Sports Tech Accelerator out of The Ion, which recently named its latest cohort for the 2024 Sports Tech Accelerator.

“We’ve been in Houston since 2021, so we’re extremely honored and grateful to partner with Rice University,” Preston James, CEO and founder of DivInc, said in a statement. “Leveraging the top university sports management program in the U.S., Rice’s highly ranked sports medicine and sport analytics programs, we’re providing exceptional value to our portfolio of companies ... Sports tech is a vast and rapidly growing industry that represents a tremendous opportunity for diverse founders.”

Among the 10 companies selected for DivInc's current 12-week sports accelerator are a cash-back powered marketplace designed for the golf industry, a scouting automation software, an artificial intelligence company that collects real-time biometrics on athletes, and others.

Selected founders can receive up to $100,000 and access to curriculum, as well as mentorship from executives from the Houston Rockets, Houston Astros, San Antonio Spurs, Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, Mercury Fund, The Collectiv, HTX Sports Tech and more.

“We have strategically created one of the nation’s premier accelerator programs in Houston, Texas, dedicated to supporting BIPOC and women founders driving innovation in the sports industry by leveraging best practices and insights from stakeholders within the sports tech ecosystem,” Ashley DeWalt, DivInc’s managing director of startups and programs, said in a statement.

DivInc also launched its first DWeb for Social Impact Accelerator from the Ion last fall. The 12-week intensive hybrid program sponsored by Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web, supported nine companies, all of whom integrate Web3 technologies into their impact entrepreneurship, and each of the companies selected were awarded a non-dilutive $10,000 grant to use during the course of the program.

Houston e-waste recycling business advances sustainability mission with new accreditation

seeing green

An innovative Houston company focused on sustainable tech recycling has expanded.

CompuCycle describes its unique Plastics Recycling System as the first and only certified, single solution e-waste recycling business. The company's unique process can now break down discarded technology products into single polymers that can then be reused in the manufacturing process.

“Properly managing all components of electronics is a cornerstone of sustainability and environmental responsibility,” Kelly Adels Hess, CEO of CompuCycle, says in a news release. “Making single polymer plastics that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can reuse to produce new electronics or other products, while adhering to international recycling standards, is a gamechanger for domestic companies and those that need their plastics shipped globally.”

As of now, CompuCycle reports that it's the only service in the country that can provide a recycling solution for both metals and plastics in-house. The company has met the Environmental Protection Agency’s two accredited certification standards, e-Stewards and R2 certification requirements, per the release.

“We saw an opportunity to solve an industry challenge by creating the first domestic, sustainable, single-solution e-waste plastics program that reduces the amount of plastic negatively impacting the environment, while also making it advantageous for companies to recycle and reuse. It’s truly a win for everyone involved,” adds Clive Hess, president at CompuCycle.

CompuCycle, which has over a 20-year history, added recycling electronics to its toolkit in 2019. While CompuCycle has focused on responsible electronics disposal since Kelly's father-in-law, John Hess, founded the company in 1996, certain recent events have increased the need to recycle more efficiently.

"China is no longer accepting scrap, which is where a lot of materials would go after it was dismantled," Kelly told InnovationMap in 2019. "That's why we've created this solution to be able to responsibly handle it here in the U.S."

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.