Gwyneth Paltrow of Goop took the stage at Venture Houston to discuss investing and entrepreneurship. Photo courtesy of HX Venture Fund

If you're a startup founder, you might have some things in common with movie star-turned-entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow, who took the stage at Venture Houston this week.

Paltrow was joined with her investor Dana Settle of Greycroft in conversation with Melinda Spaulding of Texas Southern University as moderator. The duo discussed everything from their working relationship to the opportunities they see here in Houston.

Recognizing that, at the time, her decision to start a company was a bit confusing, Paltrow explained on the panel why she felt drawn to business and entrepreneurship. She described growing up in New York, idolizing her friends' parents on Wall Street, and she connected the dots between artistry and entrepreneurship for the audience.

"It struck me recently that the soul of an artist and the soul of an entrepreneur are actually very similar," she told the crowd. "When you're an artist you have this idea that you want to put out into the world and you think you're the only one that can do it — you have something specific and unique to add and you know you're going to do everything you can to put it into the world and to have success.

"And so you have to have this like abject, ridiculous self belief and you have to persevere through everything," she continued. "All of those qualities are exactly what you need to have as an entrepreneur."

The big difference between being an actor and an entrepreneur , Paltrow added, actors have to wait for someone to give them a job — they can't execute unless they get the part.

"I loved migrating over to being an entrepreneur," she said. "I had very strong feelings and instincts and a passion to connect people to great stuff and information — and I could do it on my own terms. I could do it on my own timeline, and nobody was barring or impeding the execution of those things."

Making the transition into entrepreneurship in such a public way came with its own unique set of challenges for Paltrow. While getting in front of venture capital investors wasn't a challenge, getting them to take her seriously was, she said, not even just because of her fame. The people in the room couldn't understand her company.

"The companies that are doing things for women, investors are having a hard time understanding them. I think that's true through and through," she said. "And it was certainly true when I went to go raise money. Everybody took the meetings, I think to get a selfie for their wife. ... And then they'd be like, 'no, thank you.'"

Greycroft — specifically with Settle — was an exception to the experience. Greycroft invested in Goop in 2019 and HX Venture Fund invested in Greycroft in 2020.

"Not everybody's for everybody. And finding the right investor for your company is so important," Settle said to the crowd. "I think getting those really trusted signals from other founders and other funders is the best way."

Since the event was hosted by HXVF and located in Houston, the topic shifted to the Bayou City and what Paltrow has observed of the ecosystem.

"Houston really has an opportunity to define who you all want to be as an investment community. And I think it's really exciting. You have such a massive influx of people coming here. I think you're set up to to support business in a way that, you know, unfortunately, we don't do in California — we make it a little tough," she said.

"I think it really becomes about articulating who what the community, what what do you want it to be? Who do you want to attract? It doesn't happen out of thin air. There has to be intention around how you articulate what the mission is in Houston for this community and start to talk about it and welcome those kinds of entrepreneurs and and define what you want it to be," she added.

Besides her relatable hatred of Excel, Paltrow shared part of her journey that founders from all backgrounds can identify with — identifying your own strengths and weaknesses.

"I have to be confident in where my strengths lie, and be able to index into those and know that I'm the expert in that domain," she said. "In the group dynamic where everyone brings their expertise to the table is really what makes it work.

"We have this thing as women where we have to do everything and it has to be perfect. It's impossible and it's not true," she continues. "Know your strengths, lean into them, don't be afraid to articulate what your strengths are not, and ask the questions you need to ask."

Settle agreed with Paltrow, adding "The best CEOs that I work with are the ones asking the right questions."

Goop Founder Gwyneth Paltrow and venture capitalists Dana Settle and Mitchell Green will headline Venture Houston next month. Images via venturehouston.com

Gwyneth Paltrow, VCs to headline exciting upcoming Houston summit

coming soon

A Houston-based fund of funds is bringing back its venture-focused event — and this year, you might recognize the keynote speaker.

Venture Houston hosted by the HX Venture Fund will take place on Monday, September 12, at The Ion. The day will kick off with a conversation with Goop founder and Academy Award-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow in conversation with Dana Settle, co-founder and managing partner of New York-based Greycroft. Goop is among Greycroft's portfolio companies, and HXVF, which deploys capital in to out-of-town VCs they have an interest and intention in investing into Houston startups, invested in Greycroft in 2020.

Some of the event's other speakers — from outside Texas as well as home grown —include LeadEdge Capital's Mitchell Green, Cart.com's Omair Tariq, Solugen's Gaurab Chakrabati, and many more. The full event agenda and list of speakers are both available online.

The program of the event is centered around key topics directly affecting Houston's innovation ecosystem, such as energy transition, sustainability, startup scaling, the future of health care, entrepreneurship, talent acquisition, and more.

“Venture Houston will bring together some of the most proven venture capitalists from the nation to the Houston stage, alongside Houston’s corporate leaders and most innovative entrepreneurs," says Sandy Guitar, managing director of the HX Venture Fund. "We are delighted to bring conversations around lessons learned and best practices to The Ion so that we can continue to nurture the incredible growth we are experiencing in the innovation ecosystem in Houston.”

Venture Houston is supported and sponsored by organizations including Insperity, Rice University, Greater Houston Partnership, Silicon Valley Bank, and Halliburton Labs.

"Houston's innovation ecosystem is experiencing a compelling transformation," says Bob Harvey, president and CEO of the GHP. "Venture Houston 2022 is the premier event for corporate leaders, venture capital investors, and entrepreneurs to plug into what is happening in the city. We are proud to sponsor and share the stage with leaders helping to illuminate the power of venture capital for Houston’s innovation ecosystem."

Registration is open online for the September 12 event.

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Houston cardiac health startup raises $43 million series B to grow AI-backed platform

money moves

A Houston-based tech company that has a product line of software solutions for cardiac health has raised funding.

Octagos Health, the parent company of Atlas AI — a software platform for cardiac devices like pacemakers, defibrillators, ambulatory monitors and consumer wearables — has announced a $43 million series B raise that will bring their technology to many more hearts.

Morgan Stanley Investment Capital led the investment, which also included funds from Mucker Capital and other continuing strategic investors. The goal of the raise is to supply funds to accelerate Atlas AI’s growth across the United States and to expand into other areas of care, including ambulatory monitors, consumer wearables, and sleep.

"This investment will enable us to accelerate enhancements to our platform, in addition to scaling our commercial team and operations. We are currently the only company that helps cardiology practices migrate their historical data from legacy software providers and fully integrates with any EHR (exertion heart rate) system. We do this while enabling customized reporting supported by patient and practice decision-support analytics," says Eric Olsen, COO of Octagos Health, in a press release.

Octagos Health was founded by a team of healthcare pros including CEO Shanti Bansal, a cardiologist and founder of Houston Heart Rhythm, an atrial fibrillation center. The goal was to find a new way to deal with the massive amount of data that clinicians encounter each day in a way that combines software and the work of human doctors.

According to the Octagos Health website, “Our solution allows clinicians to focus on other ways of delivering meaningful healthcare and more efficiently manage their remotely monitored patients.”

It works thanks to customizable reporting features that allow patients’ healthcare teams to get help while monitoring them, but to do it precisely as they would if they were crunching numbers themselves.

"We are excited to partner with Octagos Health and support their vision of transforming cardiac care," says Melissa Daniels, managing director of Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital. "Octagos Health has demonstrated exceptional growth and innovation in a critical area of healthcare. We believe their platform and vertically integrated software and services significantly improve patient care and streamline cardiac monitoring processes for healthcare providers."

Will Hsu, co-founder and partner of Mucker Capital, agrees. “Octagos Health is poised for scale – industry leading gross margins, a very sticky product that doctors and clinical staff love, and a market ready for disruption with artificial intelligence. This is the new wave for diagnostic care,” he says. And with this raise, it will be available to even more clinicians and patients across the country.

Houston biotech company expands leadership as it commercializes sustainable products

joining the team

Houston-based biotech company Cemvita recently tapped two executives to help commercialize its sustainable fuel made from carbon waste.

Nádia Skorupa Parachin came aboard as vice president of industrial biotechnology, and Phil Garcia was promoted to vice president of commercialization.

Parachin most recently oversaw several projects at Boston-based biotech company Ginkjo Bioworks. She previously co-founded Brazilian biotech startup Integra Bioprocessos.

Parachin will lead the Cemvita team that’s developing technology for production of bio-manufactured oil.

“It’s a fantastic moment, as we’re poised to take our prototyping to the next level, and all under the innovative direction of our co-founder Tara Karimi,” Parachin says in a news release. “We will be bringing something truly remarkable to market and ensuring it’s cost-effective.”

Moji Karimi, co-founder and CEO of Cemvita, says the hiring of Parachin represents “the natural next step” toward commercializing the startup’s carbon-to-oil process.

“Her background prepared her to bring the best out of the scientists at the inflection point of commercialization — really bringing things to life,” says Moji Karimi, Tara’s brother.

Parachin joins Garcia on Cemvita’s executive team.

Before being promoted to vice president of commercialization, Garcia was the startup’s commercial director and business development manager. He has a background in engineering and business development.

Founded in 2017, Cemvita recently announced a breakthrough that enables production of large quantities of oil derived from carbon waste.

In 2023, United Airlines agreed to buy up to one billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from Cemvita’s first full-scale plant over the course of 20 years.

Cemvita’s investors include the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund, an investment arm of Chicago-based United; Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based energy company Occidental Petroleum; and Japanese equipment and machinery manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

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 logistics startup founder, a marketing expert, and a solar energy innovator.

Matthew Costello, CEO and co-founder of Voyager Portal

Houston logistics SaaS innovator is making waves with its expanded maritime shipping platform. Photo courtesy of Voyager

For several years now, Matthew Costello has been navigating the maritime shipping industry looking for problems to solve for customers with his company, Voyager Portal.

Initially, that meant designing a software platform to enhance communications and organization of the many massive and intricate global shipments happening every day. Founded in 2018 by Costello and COO Bret Smart, Voyager Portal became a integral tool for the industry that helps users manage the full lifecycle of their voyages — from planning to delivery.

"The software landscape has changed tremendously in the maritime space. Back in 2018, we were one of a small handful of technology startups in this space," Costello, who serves as CEO of Voyager, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Now that's changed. ... There's really a huge wave of innovation happening in maritime right now." Read more.

Arielle Rogg, principal and founder of Rogg Enterprises

Arielle Rogg writes in a guest column for InnovationMap about AI in the workforce. Photo via LinkedIn

Arielle Rogg isn't worried about artificial intelligence coming for her job. In fact, she has three reasons why, and she outlines them in a guest column for InnovationMap.

"The advent of AI pushes us humans to acquire new skills and hone our existing abilities so we can work alongside these evolving technologies in a collaborative fashion. AI augments human capabilities rather than replacing us. I believe it will help our society embrace lifelong learning, creating new industries and jobs that have never existed before," she writes in the piece. Read more.

Nathan Childress, founder of Solar Slice

Solar Slice Founder Nathan Childress says his new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet. Photo via LinkedIn

Nuclear engineer and entrepreneur Nathan Childress wants consumers to capture their own ray of sunlight to brighten the prospect of making clean energy a bigger part of the power grid. That's why he founded Solar Slice. The new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet.

Although trained in nuclear power plant design, solar power drew his interest as a cheaper and more accessible alternative, and Childress tells InnovationMap that he thinks that the transition to cleaner energy, in Texas especially, needs to step up.

Recent studies show that 80 to 90 percent of the money invested into fighting climate change “aren’t going to things that people actually consider helpful,” Childress says, adding that “they’re more just projects that sound good, that are not actually taking any action." Read more.