The Houston Founder Institute graduated its 2024 cohort this month, celebrating the class on May 21. The organization also opened applications for its next round. Photo via Getty Images

The latest cohort of promising Houston startups has made it through the local program for the the world's largest pre-seed startup accelerator.

The Houston Founder Institute graduated its 2024 cohort this month, celebrating the class on May 21. The organization also opened applications for its next round.

"After meticulous selection process and intense four months of aggressive business-building sprints, constant evaluation, and feedback from investors and mentors, just 6 companies were able to make it through," the organization writes in a blog post. "Each of these Founders have demonstrated a high level of perseverance and creativity, and their businesses have been thoroughly vetted and supported by a panel of Houston's top startup experts and investors."

The newest alumni of the Houston program include:

  • Quickgredients, a company that's empowering diners with dietary needs and attract new customers for food businesses through targeted marketing and efficient management.
  • Truckersfinder, a platform connecting trucking companies to essential service providers to streamline their operations.
  • SEKCO, which is developing a technology to help laundry business operators offer a service to wash and press in five minutes or less by integrating wet vacuum cleaning and pressing in manual or automated stations.
  • Gym Rat, a hardware-software integration to improve and better track the fitness experience.
  • ReachAI is impowering small and medium-sized enterprises to elevate their digital footprint and online visibility through cutting-edge marketing strategies and comprehensive web presence optimization solutions.
  • STEMperts, a platform that's helping students learn better and improve grades by engaging them through a combination of interests and learning styles.

Houston Founder Institute is run by local directors James Phelan, Martín Martinez, Mery Ramirez, and Natasha Gorodetsky.

Following the completion of the program, the portfolio companies continue to have access to the Founder Institute's global network and post-graduate support programs to continue building their business.

Global organization gener8tor, along with Downtown Launchpad, started its ninth gBETA Houston cohort last month. Photo via Getty Images

Early-stage accelerator names 9th Houston cohort

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For the ninth time, gBETA is incubating five early-stage Houston startups providing innovative solutions across skincare, human resources, and more.

Global organization gener8tor, along with Downtown Launchpad, started its ninth gBETA Houston cohort last month. The free seven-week, no-equity accelerator program selected five Houston-based founders to provide helpful programming, support, and connections to mentors, customers, corporate partners, and investors.

"We're thrilled to continue fostering innovation in Houston and are thankful for our collaboration with Downtown Launchpad as we launch the ninth cohort of gBETA Houston,” says Vanessa Huerta, vice president of gBETA at gener8tor, in a statement.

The program has accelerated 40 Houston companies since its launch in Houston a few years ago. The companies have gone on to raise over $8.6 million in funding and created more than 70 jobs.

“With each new cohort, we witness the power of innovation unleashed,” Muriel Foster, gBETA Houston director, says in the release. “The Spring 2024 gBETA Houston cohort embodies the spirit of relentless creativity and boundless ambition.”

The gBETA Houston Spring 2024 Cohort includes:

  • Cosnetix is innovating within personalized skincare, leveraging genetic and microbial skin profiling to offer users custom skincare product recommendations. The platform has been developed through over 100 customer discovery interviews and is headed for beta-testing.
  • Kannect has created an innovative community engagement platform — already used by 20 organizations — to streamline communication, foster collaboration, and enhance member engagement. The tools can be used by nonprofits, associations, religious institutions, and beyond as a digital dashboard to manage memberships, organize events, and facilitate meaningful interactions.
  • Targeting college grads and career pivoters, No Experience Jobs helps users find entry-level jobs that don’t require experience. In its first three months of launching, NoExperienceJobs.io received more than 72,000 unique monthly visitors, gained over 1,300 newsletter subscribers, generated more than 700,000 social media engagements, and is already revenue-generating.
  • The Roo App partners with bars and restaurants to connect designating drivers to those who need designated driver services. The company is currently operation on a web-based platform with over 1,500 current visitors, but plans to launch the mobile application later this year.
  • Yuyo.love is changing the fitness game by providing bilingual fitness classes ranging from yoga, pilates, dance, fitness, nutrition, and meditation. The company's hybrid classes have over 150 participants per class and plans to launch the platform this quarter.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

How this Houston innovator is using his personal connection to ALS fuel his fight for a cure

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We can never predict how our lives will turn out, but then maybe some of us can. Genetic testing showed that I, like my grandfather, aunt, uncle and father before me, would most likely die of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS, and/or frontotemporal degeneration (FTD) in my 40s.

Being 36, it’s possible that fear could have overtaken my life, but instead I chose to fight for every chance to change not only my life, but the lives of millions who are suffering or may one day suffer from neurodegenerative disease.

ALS is a rare disease that robs one of their ability to control their muscles, leading them to lose their ability to walk, talk and eventually breathe. Eighty percent of cases are sporadic (of unknown origin) and 20 percent have known genetic causes.

When I learned that I carried the C9ORF72 genetic variant, a causative genetic variant for ALS/FTD) my first instincts were to help others understand their status and where they could turn for help. I saw a vacuum for resources and understanding in the genetic ALS space and I knew that thousands were suffering in darkness.

Through the efforts of many, we created the first ever nonprofit – Genetic ALS & FTD: End the Legacy – focused on fighting for the genetic ALS and FTD communities. After making great strides to fight for our rights and access to care, I was asked if I could help my current CEO, Howard Berman, commercialize Dr. Stanley Appel’s regulatory T Cell (Treg) therapy for ALS.

I joined Coya Therapeutics in 2021 as the first employee, working to build a company that would one day bring life changing therapies to patients. Coya’s therapies are based on Dr. Appel’s discovery that neurodegenerative diseases drive an inflammatory response. As inflammation rises, it damages regulatory T cells, and when Tregs are damaged, inflammation becomes a persistent condition driving degeneration and eventually death.

It was at that point that my life changed from the advocacy world to the therapeutic world. Now over three years later, we are closer than ever to making a paradigm change for how patients with ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases are treated.

At Coya, we believe that combination biologics are the future of treating neurodegenerative diseases. COYA 302 is our lead asset, which has shown promising results in a proof-of-concept study released in March of 2023. We are currently working towards a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial for COYA 302 in ALS set to kick off later this year.

I never wanted to live a life so damned by disease, but when put between a rock and a hard place, the only choice is to fight. I don’t know how my life will end, but I hope that my children will know that I faced a great challenge head on with pride and resilience.

In the end, it is the combination of both the worlds I work in that lead to better outcomes for patients, raising awareness and lifesaving research. This ALS Awareness Month, please join us and our partners like the ALS Association, End the Legacy, and I AM ALS in raising awareness about these conditions, their risks, and treatment options.

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Daniel Barvin is the vice president of operations and patient advocacy at Coya Therapeutics.

Early-stage cancer-fighting startup raises pre-seed, launches under Houston life science leader

ready to grow

Fannin Partners has done it again. The Houston-based life science development group behind medtech companies Procyrion and Allterum Therapeutics announced yesterday that it has launched Radiomer Therapeutics. With an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding, Radiomer joins the $242 million-strong Fannin portfolio.

Radiomer uses Fannin’s proprietary Raptamer platform to target vectors and ligands for theranostic application. The cancer-fighting technology is a targeting agent that can address serious maladies including breast, lung, colorectal, prostate, and head and neck cancers.

And with Radiomer’s launch, Fannin is moving with its trademark aggressiveness. Lead programs expected to complete Phase 0 imaging/dosimetry trial(s) in cancer patients in the first quarter of next year. Those will be closely followed by therapeutic programs.

“Raptamers combine antibody level affinities with desirable physical and pharmacokinetic properties, and a rapid path to clinic,” Dr. Atul Varadhachary, CEO of Radiomer Therapeutics and Fannin managing partner, says in a press release. “We are deploying this unique platform to develop novel therapies against attractive first-in-class oncology targets.”

Varadhachary has operated Radiomer in stealth mode since its 2023 inception. However, Raptamer has been in the company’s portfolio since 2019. The new company has been using the platform to generate data with the rights to radiopharmaceutical applications for the past year.

“Our lead programs include Radiomers targeting both well-established and first-in-class cancer targets,” adds Dr. Phil Breitfeld, Radiomer’s chief medical officer. “Our imaging/dosimetry trials are designed to provide clinical evidence of tumor targeting and biodistribution information, positioning us to rapidly initiate a therapeutic program(s) if successful.”

For over a decade, Fannin has developed and supported promising life science innovations by garnering grant funding and using its team of expert product developers to build out the technology or treatment. The life science innovation timeline is very different from a software startup's, which can get to an early prototype in less than a year.

"In biotech, to get to that minimally viable product, it can take a decade and tens of millions of dollars," Varadhachary said on the Houston Innovators Podcast earlier this year.