Since expanding to Houston, this innovative European company has saved nearly 30,000 meals from being wasted. Photo via toogoodtogo.com

Since expanding into Houston just over two months ago, an app that combats food waste has saved over 28,000 meals.

By partnering with locally owned vendors like the Village Bakery, as well as larger chains like Tiff’s Treats, Too Good To Go offers Houstonians a variety of discounted goodies. Users can browse a range of stores and sign up for a “surprise bag,” an assemblage of surplus food that typically costs $5.

The free mobile app now connects savvy shoppers to 130 Houston area stores, allowing them to enjoy food that would otherwise be thrown away. Based in Denmark, Too Good To Go previously launched in Texas in Austin in 2021, before its statewide expansion into Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio in July.

"We are excited to expand our app across Texas to partner with the dynamic food scene and culture," says Chris MacAulay, Too Good To Go US Country Director, in a press release. "In partnership with the incredible local food businesses across Texas, we want to make reducing food waste accessible to all. Together, with the great restaurant community and residents in Texas, we know we will have an immediate impact."

Sarah Soteroff, senior PR manager of Too Good To Go’s North American branch, shared the European based corporation’s scaling up of operations in Texas is part of their plan to move across the United States, going into more cities where food waste persists.

“Our goal is to reduce food waste everywhere that it occurs. So in the long term, we want to eliminate food waste globally,” Soteroff says.

The move into U.S. cities has been gradual, as Soteroff said Too Good To Go works to get an initial network of 50 businesses signed up for the app before officially launching. Beyond getting vendors to list their surplus stock on the app, Too Good To Go representatives aid in marketing and educating the stores on how to use the app.

“We want to make sure that we are setting those businesses up for success and ensuring that consumers know about it through PR, through the stories we share. That businesses do feel as though there’s a value to them for being on the app,” Soteroff explains.

Though the surprise bags are typically priced at about one-third their retail values, vendors can still bring in business through these mystery deals. Roughly 8,500 unique users in Houston have made purchases through the app since it debuted, preventing over 28,000 meals from ending up in landfills.

“For us to ensure that we are able to reduce food waste, we do have to be going into markets like Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin–in those larger cities where there’s a larger concentration of stores,” Soteroff shares.

According to the Too Good To Go website, every surprise bag purchased prevents the “CO2e emission of charging one smartphone fully 422 times,” and in 2022 the company averted nearly 200,000 tons of CO2e emissions through its community partnerships.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

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.