DivInc wrapped its inaugural Clean Energy Tech accelerator this month. Photo via LinkedIn

DivInc, a Texas-based accelerator focused on uplifting people of color and women founders, recently concluded their inaugural clean energy cohort, catapulting several early-stage companies to major milestones.

The 12-week intensive Clean Energy Tech accelerator program sponsored by Chevron and Microsoft instructed seven clean energy startup founders at the Ion, through a variety of workshops, mentor sessions, and deep dives with VC professionals. DivInc also gave each startup a non-dilutive $10,000 grant to use during the course of the program.

Cherise Luter, marketing director at DivInc, said the Austin-based development program decided to expand from its previous accelerators — Women in Tech and Sports Tech — into clean energy because it is a newer industry with ample potential.

“Clean energy is an emerging space where founders like ours, women and POC founders, can really get in on the ground floor in a great way so that they are building as well as benefiting from this new space,” Luter tells EnergyCapital.

Luter said corporate partners Chevron and Microsoft were similarly on board with prioritizing diversity in the clean energy sector and together they agreed Houston would be the best place to headquarter the accelerator for its expansive resources, particularly VCs.

“Houston, as the energy capital, the resources, connections, and network are here, and we have found that those are the things that are most important for our founders to be able to really take their companies to the next level,” Luter explains.

The participating startups’ focuses ranged from innovations in solar power to electric vehicle charging stations, but these corporations were all united in aiding the clean energy transition.

“It’s so interesting with this particular cohort, how they are really merging the human part of clean energy – how it’s contributing to a better life for people–with a better situation for our environment and our climate,” Luter says.

The inaugural cohort included one to two entrepreneurs from the following companies:

  • BlackCurrant Inc., based in Chicago, is transforming the hydrogen industry by simplifying OTC transactions and offering a comprehensive platform for businesses to seamlessly obtain equipment, fuel, and services essential for hydrogen adoption.
  • Owanga Solar, founded by two Emory University law students in Georgia, delivers sustainable and affordable solar energy solutions to households and businesses in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Maryland-based Pirl Technology Inc. is building next generation electric vehicle charging stations.
  • Houston-based Quantum New Energy has a software platform, called EnerWisely, that helps those who own assets that reduce carbon emissions, like solar panels, generate high quality, verifiable carbon credits that don’t green wash.
  • SOL roofs, founded by Austinite Daniel Duerto, is creating the next generation of solar roofs through innovating existing technologies.
  • WIP International Services LLC, a Houston-based company, is addressing drinking water scarcity with its atmospheric water generators, which produce fresh drinking water from the humidity in the air.

Tracy Jackson, CEO of WIP International Services LLC, announced on the accelerator’s demo day her Houston-based company that produces atmospheric water generators, which transform humid air into clean drinking water, contracted with several schools in El Salvador for a pilot program to send 40 of their smaller models.

“We’re going to continue on our path and we’re looking forward to signing more international contracts and look forward to having any local opportunities that we can develop as well,” Jackson says.

Since the program ended, Luter shared WIP has also secured a “major international contract in Mexico.”

Luter also shared that accelerator participant Quantum New Energy, a climatech Houston-based company, has pre-launched expansion of EnerWisely, their software that tracks carbon credits, for commercial facilities.

Luter says DivInc plans to eventually host another cohort of their clean energy accelerator and they are continuing to accept applications from founders on a rolling basis.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

A panel of experts discussed decentralized web and Web3 technology — and its potential for impacting communities. Photo courtesy of DivInc

Web3 technology has the potential to bring communities together, say Houston innovators

discussing DWeb

Houston innovators dispelled some of the misconceptions about the decentralized web and Web3 technology at a recent panel, which highlighted the technology’s ability to bring communities together.

DivInc, a Texas-based accelerator focused on helping BIPOC and female founders on their entrepreneurial journeys, hosted a panel to discuss the benefits of transitioning to DWeb for entrepreneurs, personal success stories of using Web3 technology, and promoted its inaugural DWeb for Social Impact Accelerator.

The panelists included Giorgio Villani, founder of Spindletop Digital; Akeel Bernard, community development manager of Impact Hub Houston; and Ayoola John, co-founder and CEO of Astronaut. The discussion was moderated by Cherise Luter, marketing director of DivInc.

With the application for the DWeb 12-week accelerator program live, announced earlier this year, Luter says the panel was initiated to help explain the links between impact entrepreneurship and DWeb, two areas that people may think are very separate.

“This is our first time hosting a social impact accelerator here in Houston and we’re really excited about it. We added this extra piece of Web3, DWeb – how social entrepreneurs are utilizing this new technology to push forward their vision and bring about their startups,’” Luter says.

Villani, a founder of multiple companies that employ Web3 innovation, defined this technology as a tool of decentralization in which users are responsible for their own data and transactions are kept transparent by being publicly accessible. Villani contrasted this setup to the modern internet, known as Web2, in which users entrust third parties with encrypting their personal data, allowing them to mine and profit from this information.

“Web3 is a flipping of the script a little bit – it’s where we’re focusing primarily on the individual, where the individual is being empowered. Everybody manages their own keys and you don’t have to trust a third party to do anything within the system … you don’t have to cede your power to third party entities – it’s really an empowering thing to do,” Villani explains.

Villani addressed the misunderstanding that the decentralized web is too complicated for the average person to use by highlighting his partnership with multimedia Houston artist J. Omar Ochoa. Ochoa is incorporating Web3 technologies like AI and NFTs into an exhibit, allowing him to interact directly with buyers.

“The misconception is that (Web3) is difficult or too technical and it’s really not. There’s some stuff that takes a little bit of work but once you’ve done that the whole world of Web3 opens up in front of you,” Villani says.

For Villani, Web3 technologies are about the opportunity for connection.

“When you look around you, a lot of people these days are lonely and it’s funny because we have these platforms like Facebooks, Instagrams, WhatsApps, Snapchats and they’re all designed to bring us together but if you really look around you we’re not together,” Villani explains. “For me fundamentally, we have to reimagine how we build social networks, how we connect people.”

Web3 technologies are not all inherently about decentralization of the internet so much as rethinking how to rebuild the web to bring people together based on shared interests, adds John, co-founder of a social impact company that uses Web3 to help brands build online communities.

In contrast to much of the tech world, John also says that NFTs and cryptocurrencies, both of which are considered Web3 tools as they operate on blockchains, are not components of DWeb because they are tied up by monopolies. As the majority of NFTs are sold on one website and Bitcoin continues to dominate the cryptocurrency market, John explains they can not qualify as decentralized.

“I believe I can make an argument that crypto at its core is not about decentralization. What I believe crypto is and the Web3 movement is about reimagination,” John shares.

Bernard, who works directly with social impact entrepreneurs at Impact Hub Houston, says he anticipates founders looking to secure investors for their DWeb related companies will struggle, at first, because they must concisely explain the technology and business model at play. Bernard says he previously coached entrepreneurs on how to explain to investors that investing in social impact companies is not charity but a typical investment that will pay returns. Bernard expects DWeb focused companies will face similar uphill battles of getting investors to understand their concepts.

“I think with DWeb because it’s a newer network it’s going to require social impact entrepreneurs to educate investors and also users on the benefits of DWeb,” Bernard explains. “You’re going to have to be able to explain to them in a clear and consistent way especially to the investors, folks that have the means but don’t understand what DWeb is, how it can be utilized for success.”

Photo courtesy of DivInc

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$1M donation to Rice establishes pioneering neuro-policy center in Houston

brainy support

A big donation to Rice University will soon help researchers better understand the workings of the human brain.

Harry Yan and Weiman Gao have bestowed $1 million on the Baker Institute of Public Policy to establish the interdisciplinary Neuro-Policy Program.

Neuro-policy is a newer field that explores how brain health and function can help to fuel economic growth.

“The Neuro-Policy Program is at the forefront of pioneering data analysis, empirical research and policy application,” says Harris Eyre, the lead for the program, as well as a senior fellow in brain health at the Baker Institute, in a news release. “Investing in evidence-based strategies for prevention, diagnosis and treatment can reduce brain and mental health disparities, optimize cognitive development and performance and foster innovation to build more resilient communities.”

Eyre describes the collective value of the human brain as “brain capital.” That’s because brains that are suffering from any number of neurodegenerative or mental health disorders (including depression, anxiety, brain injury and Alzheimer’s disease) have actually taken a toll on the U.S. economy, Eyre explains.

The Neuro-Policy Program seeks to improve brain performance, and consequently enhance economic growth, national security, and our overall standing as a nation of healthy brains. The program’s primary projects include establishing a task force to advise Texas “brain and mind” legislative efforts as well as a Texas Brain Capital Dashboard, collaborating on Texas Forward (Texas Brain Health Plan) with the UT Dallas Center for BrainHealth, thereby working toward U.S. brain capital policy and investment advances. These projects are expected to yield deliverables as early as 2026.

“The Neuro-Policy Program aims to leverage the university’s proximity to the Texas Medical Center and the institute’s strong connections to state and federal policymakers. This is an important yet underrepresented area of research that Houston is poised to lead,” says David Satterfield, the director of the Baker Institute.

Yan and Gao said in a press release that they were inspired to gift the grant funds to Eyre and his research after attending a March 28 Baker Institute event on brain health that featured U.S. Rep. Morgan Luttrell, a co-chair of the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus.

"We are honored to support Dr. Harris Eyre and the Neuro-Policy program he leads. Dr. Eyre’s work has greatly impressed us, highlighting the critical importance of brain health in our society today,” say Yan and Gao. “We hope our contribution can inspire further support and advocacy in the field, helping individuals lead healthier lives through a comprehensive approach to prevention.”

Houston HR software startup rolls out platform at local hospital system

tapping into tech

More than 14,000 nurses at one of the largest nonprofit health care providers in Texas have access to a new skills and competency management software.

Kahuna Workforce Solutions has officially deployed its platform at Memorial Hermann Health System, consisting of 17 hospitals and more than 250 care delivery sites. The platform will streamline onboarding processes and increase transparency and accessibility for staff.

“Kahuna will enhance our clinical competency experience and fully aligns with our nursing strategy to optimize our processes, prioritize innovation and safety, and excel as a top provider of care and clinical advancement for clinicians,” Bryan Sisk, senior vice president and chief nursing executive for Memorial Hermann, says in a news release.

“Memorial Hermann is committed to the Houston community and helping to develop the next generation of nurses,” Sisk continues. “The Kahuna platform will help improve the transparency, autonomy and efficiency of our competency management and development processes for our nurses to better support them in their roles, while also ensuring we provide high-quality care for our patients.”

The rollout comes six months after the software-as-a-service company raised a $21 million series B round of funding.

“We are thrilled to work with Memorial Hermann as they enrich all aspects of their clinical competency management practices with Kahuna’s skills management software,” adds Jai Shah, CEO of Kahuna Workforce Solutions. “This collaboration unites two Houston-based organizations and demonstrates a joint commitment to enhancing the standard of health care through digitized competency management in our Houston community and far beyond.”