Softeq Venture Studio's growing portfolio of startups in its accelerator work out of FUSE Workspace in City Centre. Image via fuseworkspace.com

A Houston early-stage accelerator has named 22 startups to its latest cohort.

Softeq Development Corp. has announced the companies joining the Softeq Venture Studio, the tech services company's accelerator program. A total of 22 companies have joined the program — hailing from the United Kingdom, Iceland, Mexico, Peru, and across the United States. This addition nearly doubles the program's portfolio, bringing the total number of startups to 49.

“This year has been a significant one for the Softeq Venture Fund and our portfolio companies. Due to the hard work of our team and the success achieved by previous founders, we’ve seen our investors and our entrepreneurs evolve to be more global than ever, and with more ambitious plans to revolutionize their industries," says Christopher A. Howard, founder and CEO of Softeq, in a news release. "We continue to attract world-class founders to Houston for our program that de-risks startups and investments."

Howard also announced a new limited partner. Houston entrepreneur Craig Ceccanti — co-founder of Pinot’s Palette and Rivalry Technologies — is the latest investor to join the $40 million Softeq Venture Fund, which is anticipated to close by the end of the year.

“Investors constantly search for opportunities that balance opportunity and risk, and ones that help us grow and maximize returns while maintaining a measure of stability and diversification,” says Ceccanti in the release. “Joining the Softeq Venture Fund is an exciting opportunity because it provides a de-risked investment opportunity plus the ability to participate in a hands-on fashion in Houston within these high-growth industries.”

The trend among the new cohort joining the program for the next three months includes health tech, sports tech, fintech, e0-commerce, Web 3.0, and more. Participating starups will have access to FUSE Workspace, as well as support and guidance from Softeq Venture Studio staff, Softeq engineers, local mentors, investors, and earlier cohort members.

“During our startup journey, we participated in leading technology accelerator Y Combinator. Later on, we realized through our users’ feedback we needed to improve our product with additional technology expertise and support to reach our full potential,” says Gerardo Briones, founder and CEO of new cohort startup Pagaloop of Mexico City. “That’s why we chose to participate in the Softeq Venture Studio. Softeq engineers have experience building enterprise-grade applications that scale up. We also get more opportunities to meet investors to bring our product to all of Latin America.”

The complete list of the new cohort of the Softeq Venture Fund, according to the news release, includes the following companies:

  • Adkaddy gets brands out of your email and into a powerful brand management tool. From discovery to promotions, shipping and receipts, this is digital commerce your way.
  • Allkind is benefiting reproductive healthcare globally by innovating fertility matching, empowering personal goals & improving modern family building.
  • atease is where 133 million government and military employees with strict rental requirements find approved, affordable, and reimbursable lodging options.
  • Boxes provides convenient, space-efficient, highly measurable, sampling and trial vending technology for premium CPG companies looking to reach customers where they shop and live.
  • Hapi is a stock trading platform with no minimums and no commissions focused on consumers in Latin America.
  • HelloDoctor puts qualified, responsive, and affordable doctors on the screens of 89 million cell phones of patients in Mexico. Healthcare just got better in Latin America.
  • Hightag is an automated media capture and delivery system that helps mountain bikers, skiers, and other action sport athletes capture and share their greatest moments.
  • IncentiFind is the nation’s go-to database of green building incentives, transforming U.S. real estate through $70 billion in incentives.
  • JamFeed aggregates artists' social media and music streaming content into an automated no-code website where artists can control their brand, their business, and their relationship with fans in one platform in less than 5 minutes.
  • Lesson Squad helps brands turn their customers into loyal users by creating a branded hub where customers can take lessons, enter competitions, and discover products.
  • LVED is an easy to use expert guided platform that provides everything families need to plan, organize, legally document end of life wishes, and memorialize loved ones.
  • Mesada is a digital remittance company that is utilizes blockchain technology to offer fast, efficient, and easy money transfers throughout the Latin American region.
  • Motusi is a whole-body wearable with AI to generate deeper insights related to movement quality and injury insights to help athletes progress in their performance or recovery.
  • MyShoots is an app for shooting sports organizations to connect with and market to their clients more efficiently, while allowing field-sports brands to connect with their customers.
  • Pagaloop is a fintech company that allows Latin American businesses more control over their cash flow when performing B2B transactions.
  • RESCUNOMICS offers a mobile app that helps save lives by expediting rescuer protocols and providing visibility into building floor plans and more.
  • sEATz connects fans to concessions and merchandise for in-seat delivery or pick-up reducing concession lines, increasing throughput, improving sales, and driving fan satisfaction.
  • SpecsX is transforming eye care into a virtual care model reducing costs, inconvenience for patients and providers, and giving everyone access to perfect vision.
  • Struttur Sports is an NFT platform where athletes share their experiences by connecting and combining digital and In Real Life events to create the deep interactions sports fans crave.
  • Svarmi is a digital platform that defines and prioritizes areas where business and progress influence nature providing meaningful, insightful metrics and proof of regulatory compliance.
  • SynvergySvn digitizes the movements of athletes with integrated wearables like the J-Sleeve so players, coaches, and trainers can diagnose muscle memory and improve repeat performance.
  • WulfTech protects and preserves the health of high-value K9 working dogs through smart wearable technology for government agencies, the military, and first responders.

The Softeq Venture Studio announced its inaugural cohort a year ago, and the fund was launched earlier this year. In August, Softeq expanded to New Hampshire to reach more startups and entrepreneurs.

Through a partnership with New Hampshire investors, Softeq has expanded its venture studio out of state. Image via hrknsscowork.com

Houston tech company's venture studio secures $5M investment, expands out of state

investing in investors

A Houston tech services company has announced fresh funding and a new location for its venture studio focused on growing startups.

Softeq Development Corp. announced an additional commitment of $5 million to the Softeq Venture Fund. With the investment, Softeq has a new partnership that will work toward creating a satellite venture studio in New Hampshire with local investors. Launch New Hampshire will leverage the Softeq Venture Studio platform to back qualified startups from within and outside New Hampshire, according to a news release from Softeq.

“It’s a great time to invest in startup companies, and we saw an opportunity to bridge the gap between the growing innovation community here in Houston and the untapped investment community in New Hampshire,” says Christopher A. Howard, founder and CEO of Softeq, in the release. “We’re excited about this partnership because it provides the Softeq Venture Studio with a source of high-quality startups while also fostering the innovation ecosystem in New Hampshire and New England.”

The Softeq Venture Studio announced its inaugural cohort last year, launching to act as an investor and accelerator program that provides mentors, resources, and workspaces for promising tech startups. This is the first expansion of the program and the latest investment into the Softeq Venture Fund, which has raised over $25 million of its $40 million goal.

Michael and Jamie Simchik, New Hampshire real estate developers, and Terry Anderton, an experienced technology entrepreneur, are the founders of Launch NH. The satellite cohort will work out of HRKNSScowork in Concord, New Hampshire.

“New Hampshire has been slow to adopt an innovation ecosystem, but with nearby Boston enjoying continued startup successes, we have the unique opportunity to leverage what is happening in Massachusetts, as well as in Vermont and Maine,” says Simchik, founder and CEO of HRKNSScowork. “By working with Softeq, we want to help build the innovation community statewide and drive broad-based startup activity in the region, similar to what Softeq has accomplished in its Houston headquarters.”

Anderton founded Wagz, which was recently acquired, an early participant in the Softeq accelerator program. Through his experience with Softeq, the company says he wanted to help bring the program other startups in the region.

The Softeq Venture Studio has made investments into 27 startups from across the globe since it launched in 2021. Over the next three years, per the release, Softeq intends to invest in 40 companies each year, including at least 12 via Launch NH.

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes John "JR" Reale of the TMC, Maria Burgos of Trendy Seconds, and Christopher Howard of Softeq. Courtesy photos

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from venture funding to startup acceleration — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.


John "JR" Reale, executive in residence at Texas Medical Center Innovation and managing director of Integr8d Capital

John "JR" Reale joined the Houston Innovators Podcast for a special two-part series. Photo courtesy of TMC

John "JR" Reale has seen the evolution of Houston's innovation ecosystem from day one. Recently, he joined InnovationMap for a two-part series on the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss the city's evolution as a tech and startup hub as well as what he's up to nowadays — leading venture activity at the Texas Medical Center Innovation and within his own firm.

"One of the most important moments for Houston was when we got kicked in the teeth with the Amazon HQ2 bid," he says on the show. "Amazon came back with the shortlist of the 20 cities in North America — and Houston isn't on it. I remember being excited. It was arguably the most innovative company in the world saying 'no thank you.'"

Flash forward, and Houston's a different ecosystem — still with a ways to go. Click here to stream part one and part two of the series.

Maria Burgos, founder of Trendy Seconds

A Houston innovator found second-hand shopping time consuming. So, she designed a better experience. Image courtesy of Trendy Seconds

After donating her items to a local church, Maria Burgos sought to be more sustainable and decided to try secondhand shopping.

“The good news was that I had so many options, new with tags, great conditions…the bad news was that it was so much that I ended up being frustrated because I didn't find what I liked,” she tells InnovationMap. “I had to spend hours of my time scrolling thousands of items, dozens of filters, multiple platforms."

She asked herself why there wasn’t a website where she could find items in one place. “That was the genesis of Trendy Seconds,” she shares. Click here to read more.

Christopher Howard, founder and CEO of Softeq

Chris Howard, CEO and founder of SofteqA Houston software company has announced its new venture fund. Photo courtesy of Softeq

Houston-based Softeq Development Corp. announced its third group of early-stage startups to join theSofteq Venture Studio, which is geared at helping its resident startups quickly develop their technology and build their businesses. With 14 startups, the summer 2022 cohort is the largest yet and brings the total portfolio to 27 companies. Additionally, the $40 million Softeq Venture Fund welcomed Royal Eagle Capital Partners, a Houston-based investment firm, as a limited partner with its $3 million commitment.

“We are thrilled to see how much the Softeq Venture Studio has grown since 2021,” says Christopher A. Howard, founder and CEO of Softeq, in a news release. “We’re also pleased to welcome Royal Eagle Capital Partners as an investment partner in our Venture Fund, which allowed us to achieve more than 50 percent of our funding goal in just five months. We look forward to building on this partnership and growing Softeq in North America, Latin America, and beyond.”

Softeq is also celebrating a recent expansion into Latin America and staffing the new regional office with 30 engineers. The company has plans to grow to 150 employees in the region over the next year. Click here to read more.

A Houston software company has announced its new venture fund. Photo via Getty Images

Houston tech company launches $40M fund to invest in early-stage startups

money moves

A Houston company that recently launched an innovation studio to support startups has now announced that they are launching a new fund to take startup support to the next level.

Houston-based Softeq Development Corporation, a global full-stack development company, launched The Softeq Venture Fund, a $40 million venture fund to invest in seed and series A startup rounds. According to a news release, more than half the fund will be deployed to power the Softeq Venture Studio, Softeq's recently launched accelerator program.

“For generations, the state of Texas has been home to world-renowned tech companies who have greatly contributed to our regional success. As a local entrepreneur, advisor, and angel investor, it’s been my dream for many years to create a venture fund benefiting startups," says Christopher A. Howard, founder and CEO of Softeq, in the release. "I am proud to increase our support of the state’s early-stage tech community. Our investment fund is designed to attract tech visionaries from both inside and outside the state and grow innovative concepts in Houston."

Jumana Capital, a single-family office also based in Houston and founded in 2018, has made a "sizable investment" in the fund, per the release.

“The Softeq team has successfully engineered, developed, and launched technology solutions for enterprise and early-stage companies for 25 years. In partnership with Softeq, we are thrilled to play a role in the creation of their new fund and to support the entrepreneurs that come to Houston to develop cutting-edge technologies and build businesses,” says Chris Martin, managing director at Jumana Capital, in the release.

While the fund will mostly go into investing in and supporting studio companies, Softeq will also tap into the fund to "invest opportunistically."

In October, the company announced the six startups that make up the studio's inaugural cohort. The purpose of the studio was to identify startups with scalable solutions but that need guidance and support from Softeq and its network.

"Historically, most tech startups had a founder with development skills. However, we're now seeing more and more business people, doctors, and other professionals start companies, and they need a strong engineering partner to develop their products," Howard says in an October news release. "We take it several steps further with the Venture Studio providing technology business consulting, development services, and much-needed cash. We're a vested partner, so we also help secure follow-on funding for continued growth."

Applications are open for the spring 2022 cohort. More information and applications are available online.

Christopher A. Howard is the founder and CEO of Softeq. Photo courtesy of Softeq

The lab will launch virtually first, before moving into a physical space early next year. Photo via Getty Images

Houston software company to launch innovation lab for enterprise startups

new to hou

A Houston-based global software development company has teamed up to create an innovation lab that will launch virtually before moving into a physical space early next year.

Softeq Development Corporation announced the creation of the Softeq Innovation Lab in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Integrated Design and Management program and Massachusetts-based Boundless Technology. The lab is directed at helping enterprise companies collaborate on the technologies of tomorrow, according to a news release.

"At the Softeq Innovation Lab, we recognize the importance of developing an incubator that goes beyond innovation theatre and are rolling up our sleeves to achieve transformative disruption in enterprise companies," says Christopher A. Howard, Softeq founder and CEO, in the release.

"The first wave of disruption was based in Silicon Valley," he continues. "The second wave of disruption is occurring in industries central to Houston's economy such as energy, health care, and financial services. With technology rewriting the playbooks for these industries, Houston is the perfect venue for our Innovation Lab to enable companies to thrive in this new age of disruption."

First up for the lab is a series of Boundless Bootcamps, which aims to connect participants to corporate disruptors, including David Rose of Warby Parker and MIT Media Lab.

"The city of Houston is at the center of a powerful convergence between industry, innovation and proven intrapreneurs," says Chuck Goldman, principal at Boundless Technology, in the release. "The Softeq Innovation Lab brings together entrepreneurs, corporations and 20X innovators who have achieved ROI of at least 20X and built billion-dollar businesses."

In addition to having access to MIT, Boundless, and Softeq's global networks, the participants will also receive an MIT IDM Certification from the nation's top engineering, design, and business program.

"I'm thrilled to bring our leadership and human-centered design program to Houston to help intrapreneurs drive breakthrough growth in leading organizations" says Matt Kressy, founding director MIT IDM, in the release.

For additional information or to find out more about how to get involved please visit the Softeq Innovation Lab's website.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

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.