Known as the Wayne B. Duddlesten Free Enterprise Institute, the new program will operate in association with the UH Bauer College’s Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship and be open to all UH students. Photo via bauerticker.uh.edu

A $5 million gift from the Wayne Duddlesten Foundation will establish expanded opportunities for entrepreneurship at the University of Houston, according to an announcement from the college earlier this month.

Known as the Wayne B. Duddlesten Free Enterprise Institute, the new program will operate in association with the UH Bauer College’s Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship and be open to all UH students. It's expected to launch in 2024.

UH staff from the Duddlesten Institute and the Wolff Center will be able match budding entrepreneurs across campus with mentors, offer website-building resources, provide legal services and other tools.

"Our goal is to empower imaginative thinkers from idea to market," Paul A. Pavlou, dean of the Bauer College of Business and Cullen Distinguished Chair Professor, said in a statement. "We will support the process from a concept to incubation and continue offering necessary resources all the way to launching a successful new business.”

Dave Cook, executive director of the Wolff Center, said the new institute will create a new type of "synergy across campus."

"It will help create a fabric of innovation, talent, financial, legal and technical service along with a commitment to long held values of the importance of character and integrity as businesses are created," Cook said. "We are honored to share this vision through this collaboration.”

Duddlesten has been a longtime supporter of the university. The successful real estate developer, who's credited for bringing the Rockets to Houston in the '70s, was a Houston native and UH graduate.

His foundation donated $5 million to establish an endowed scholarship at Bauer for students studying entrepreneurship or real estate in 2020. It also established an endowed Tier One Scholarship and endowed scholarship in the Graduate College of Social Work, as well as 25 one-time scholarships for Wolff Center students over the years.

Duddlesten also served as a trustee emeritus and advisory board member for the UH Foundation and the UH System Development Board before his death in 2010.


Earlier this academic year, Rice University also unveiled a new facility dedicated to Ralph O'Connor, former president and CEO of the Highland Oil Company and founder of Ralph S. O’Connor & Associates. The $152 million, state-of-the-art facility features five floors of labs, classrooms and seminar rooms, and is Rice's largest core campus research facility. Click here to read more.
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Houston e-commerce unicorn secures $130M in financing

scaling up

Houston-based Cart.com, which operates a multichannel commerce platform, has secured $105 million in debt refinancing from investment manager BlackRock.

The debt refinancing follows a recent $25 million series C extension round, bringing Cart.com’s series C total to $85 million. The scaleup’s valuation now stands at $1.2 billion, making it one of the few $1 billion-plus “unicorns” in the Houston area.

“Scaleup” refers to a startup that has achieved tremendous growth and has maintained a stable workforce, among other positive milestones. Airbnb, Peloton, and Uber are prime examples of businesses that evolved from startup to scaleup.

Cart.com says the new term loan facility from BlackRock consolidates its venture debt into one package “at competitive terms.” Those terms weren’t disclosed.

The company says the refinancing will enable it to expand into new markets and improve its technology, including its Constellation OMS order management system.

“Cart.com is one of the fastest-growing providers of commerce and logistics solutions today, and I’m excited to partner with BlackRock as we continue to aggressively invest to help our customers operate more efficiently,” Omair Tariq, the company’s founder and CEO, says in a news release.

Through a network of 14 fulfillment centers, Cart.com supports over 6,000 customers and 75 million orders per year.

"BlackRock is pleased to support Cart.com as it advances its mission to unify digital and physical commerce infrastructure," says Keon Reed, a director at BlackRock. “This latest facility underscores our confidence in the company’s differentiated product offerings and financial strategy as it enters its next stage of growth.”

Elon Musk says he's moving SpaceX, X headquarters from California to Texas

cha-cha-changes

Billionaire Elon Musk says he's moving the headquarters of SpaceX and social media company X to Texas from California.

Musk posted on X Tuesday that he plans on moving SpaceX from Hawthorne, California, to the company's rocket launch site dubbed Starbase in Texas. X will move to Austin from San Francisco.

He called a new law signed Monday by California Gov. Gavin Newsom that bars school districts from requiring staff to notify parents of their child’s gender identification change the “final straw.”

“I did make it clear to Governor Newsom about a year ago that laws of this nature would force families and companies to leave California to protect their children,” Musk wrote.

Tesla, where Musk is CEO, moved its corporate headquarters to Austin from Palo Alto, California in 2021.

Musk has also said that he has moved his residence from California to Texas, where there is no state personal income tax.

SpaceX builds and launches its massive Starship rockets from the southern tip of Texas at Boca Chica Beach, near the Mexican border at a site called Starbase. The company’s smaller Falcon 9 rockets take off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Southern California.

It’s just below South Padre Island, and about 20 miles from Brownsville.

Play it back: This Houston innovator is on a mission to develop tech for the moon

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 244

Editor's note: This week on the Houston Innovators Podcast, we’re revisiting a conversation with Tim Crain, the co-founder and CTO at Intuitive Machines, that originally ran in October of 2023.

If you haven't noticed, the moon is having a bit of a moment — and Tim Crain of Intuitive Machines is here for it.

For the past five or so years, NASA and the federal government have introduced and strengthened initiatives to support innovation of technology to be used to get to and explore the moon.

NASA, which is currently focused on its Artemis program that's sending four missions to the moon, also launched the Commercial Lunar Payload Services that's working with several American companies, including Intuitive Machines, to deliver science and technology to the lunar surface.

"Around 2018 or 2019, the moon came back into favor as a destination for American space policy, and it came back in such a way that there's a directive at the national level — at a level above NASA — to explore and develop the moon as a national priority," Crain says in the episode.



On the show, Crain explains the history of Intuitive Machines, which has taken an indirect path to where it is today. The company was founded in 2013 by Crain and co-founders CEO Steve Altemus and Chairman Kamal Ghaffarian as a space-focused think tank. Crain says they learned how to run a business and meet customers' needs and expectations, but they never fell in love with any of the early technologies and ideas they developed — from long-range drones to precision drilling technologies.

But the company answered NASA's call for moon technology development, and Intuitive Machines won three of the NASA contracts so far, representing three missions for NASA.

"We dipped our toe in the 'let's develop the moon' river and promptly got pulled all the way in," Crain says. "We left our think tank, broad, multi-sector efforts behind, and really pivoted at that point to focus entirely on NASA's CLPS needs. ... The timing really could not have been any better."

Since recording the podcast, Intuitive Machines celebrated a historic mission that landed the first lunar lander on the surface of the moon in over 50 years — and the first commercially operated mission ever. The company is also working on a $30 million project for NASA to develop lunar lander technology.

This week, Intuitive Machines announced a successful test result for engine technology to be used in the lunar lander project.