By harnessing the power of AI, Sibme will boost the effectiveness of instructional coaching and save teachers’ time as they receive data and feedback in real time on how they conduct their classroom lessons. Photo via Getty Images

Not many adages stand the test of time quite like this one: to be the best, learn from the best.

Sage advice, which is why Houston-based Sibme, the learning engagement platform designed by teachers, is introducing an all-new artificial intelligence tool to transform professional learning for teachers.

By harnessing the power of AI, Sibme will boost the effectiveness of instructional coaching and save teachers’ time as they receive data and feedback in real time on how they conduct their classroom lessons. This is accomplished by providing teachers with more opportunities for meaningful, in-depth conversations with their instructional coaches through automatically generated quantitative data on video and audio recordings of teachers’ classroom instruction.

“When David Wakefield founded the company in 2013, it was primarily based on something that was pretty difficult to do at the time, which was just being able to record and upload video in classrooms,” COO TJ Hoffman tells InnovationMap. “Sibme was the first mobile-first technology that made it possible to upload a video longer than an hour into the cloud. And that was sort of our original approach in the classrooms.

Wakefield and Hoffman were former teachers, with former working in Houston ISD, and the latter in Pasadena ISD.

"We recognized that a lot of the ways in which teachers are trained in traditional workshops, or trainings like modules online and stuff like that, weren't in any way improving our ability to do our jobs as teachers," Hoffman says. “And the thing that really did make it easy for us to grow as teachers was watching other teachers teach and being able to ask them questions and that sort of stuff.

"It's hard to do in schools because teachers are in classrooms with kids all day long," Hoffman continues. "There's no time for them to leave and go watch someone else do their job. So that idea of recording a video and annotating it with comments and asking feedback three minutes in, like ‘Hey, why did you ask that question of that student that way?’ That was something that we originally did, and that's been the primary driver of our growth over the last ten years.”

Efficient education for the educators

With the tagline, “making every moment a teachable moment,” Sibme has broken through as the go-to learning engagement platform for professional development, replete with coaching, cohort-based professional learning communities and peer-to-peer collaboration.

“The thing that we've recognized and have worked on for the last couple of years is, if I record and upload a 45-minute lesson and share it with the teacher next door or the principal at the school or somebody else, they've got to watch it for 45 minutes and that's time-consuming as well,” says Hoffman. “Our newest iteration, our AI tools, make it easier to identify key moments in a video that are related to things that a teacher can do better to reach kids more equitably and more effectively so that they're learning better.”

Not surprisingly, the creators of Sibme are excited about the AI component, which is able to watch the videos, transcribe them and identify key moments where the teacher asks important questions in those videos.

“Now with the AI tool, I can go straight to those moments and see which kids I have called on, what kinds of questions I have asked them, who responded and who hasn't, so it helps teachers develop better strategies for reaching kids.”

Practice makes progress, according to the Sibme platform, which embeds training and collaboration in every workday, engaging employees while building a stronger community of learners.

“Sibme builds off the same principle of athletes,” adds Wakefield. “I can watch a million Astros games, but I'm not going to be a better baseball player until I pick up a bat or pick up a glove and actually start playing and then get coaching on it, right? It's the same principle for training teachers. Teaching is a complex activity. I can't just show you how to teach or tell you how to teach and then you can do it.

“You've got to get up and teach, and then you've got to get really concrete feedback the same way that a great coach provides concrete feedback to a player. Hold the bat a little bit differently or, you know, lean on your left hip. Those real kind of small changes, it's the same thing with a teacher. You know, walk to the left side of the room. Being able to actually provide that feedback on the teacher's work rather than saying, here's how you should teach, which is what training typically does, right? Training is just theory, not actual practice. This is giving teachers an opportunity to rehearse and then get coached by a real coach, whether that coach is someone with a formal title of instructional coach or just the teacher next door.”

Making the network work

Sibme’s novel, yet simple approach to improving teachers via their peers has proven to be much more effective than the typical training methods of the past.

Currently, Sibme works with more than 1,000 innovative schools, districts, and institutions – including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ASCD, Scholastic, the University of Texas, and the Houston Independent School District.

“At this point, I believe we're in 40 states,” says Wakefield. “We're also in some international countries. We have some channel partners that have also helped distribute for us. We probably are in every state in the US in some form or another, in a white-labeled version or within our own Sibme platform. We're definitely one of the leaders in our space for this type of next-generation solutions for professional learning and training.”

And as schools nationwide try to battle with teacher retention, Sibme offers its own solution by giving teachers concrete evidence that they are growing and improving as educators. After all, Sibme is an acronym for “Seeing is Believing Me,” which means that teachers will likely stay onboard if they feel that they are succeeding.

“One of our principals said that they don't have a retention problem because they invest so much in teacher excellence,” says Wakefield. “And when teachers feel successful, then they don't leave. They had, I think it was like an 86 percent decline in teacher turnover in one year just from the teachers being able to look at themselves and see that they’re growing and getting better and improving. That has a huge impact on their feelings of success in their jobs.”

A bright future

With more than 10 years under its belt, Sibme hopes the next 10 will offer even more advancements in the professional development space.

“We're sort of in that first sort of initial iteration of our release with AI,” says Wakefield. “That's only going to improve where things will just become more and more automated. The platform is just going to be able to help them do their work much more efficiently in the future. And they can coach and support far more people than they ever could without AI. And the experts can come in and leverage the AI to be so much more effective at their jobs.

“We’ll continue preparing the next generation of teachers, as well as in university teacher prep programs, so that teachers are getting better prepared for the realities of the classroom by getting a lot more reflection and practice.”

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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.