3 Houston innovators to know this week

WHO'S WHO

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Luis Silva of AT&T, Devin Dunn of TMC Innovation, and Eric Anderson of SynMax. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from health tech to data analytics — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.


Luis Silva, vice president and general manager at AT&T

Not everyone is as holly jolly amid the holidays. Image courtesy

In a guest column, Luis Silva, Houston-based vice president and general manager at AT&T, cautions that the holiday season is prime time for hackers and cyber security threats.

"The good news is you can protect yourself from scams and fraud," he writes. "Just remember that cybercriminals don’t discriminate, they can prey on anyone."

In his article, Silva shares the top five ways to guard against cyberthreats. Read more.

Devin Dunn, head of TMC's HealthTech Accelerator

Devin Dunn leads TMC's HealthTech Accelerator, which is getting ready to welcome its next cohort in January. Photo via TMC.edu

Earlier this year, Devin Dunn joined TMC Innovation as head of TMC's HealthTech Accelerator, a career move that represented Dunn's move to a different side of the startup world. As an early employee at London-based Huma, Dunn was instrumental in growing the health tech company from its early stages to international market expansion.

"I really like working with the dreamers and helping them work backwards to (figure out) what are the milestones we can work toward to make the grand vision come true in the future," Dunn says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "The opportunity to work with different founders on that same journey that we had been through was really appealing." Read more.

Eric Anderson, CTO of SynMax

Houston-based SynMax has closed its first round of funding. Photo courtesy

A Houston-based satellite data analytics company is celebrating an oversubscribed round of recent funding. SynMax announced this week that it closed its seed round at $6 million with an oversubscription of $2 million. The startup is providing geospatial intelligence software as a service to customers within the energy and maritime industries. The technology combines earth observation imagery and key data sources for predictive analytics and artificial intelligence.

Founded in 2021, SynMax is led by CTO Eric Anderson, who previously worked as an analyst at Skylar Capital, according to LinkedIn. Headquartered in Houston, SynMax is hiring employees from all over. Read more.

Devin Dunn leads TMC's HealthTech Accelerator, which is getting ready to welcome its next cohort in January. Photo via TMC.edu

Innovative health tech startups en route to Houston, says new accelerator leader

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 162

For almost a decade the Texas Medical Center has been cultivating health tech innovation by accelerating life science startups. As it has evolved to meet the needs of both its early-stage companies and its member institutions, TMC Innovation has re-evaluated existing programming, introduced new initiatives, and on boarded leaders to represent the organization's mission — the latest of whom, is Devin Dunn.

Earlier this year, Dunn joined TMC Innovation as head of TMC's HealthTech Accelerator, a career move that represented Dunn's move to a different side of the startup world. As an early employee at London-based Huma, Dunn was instrumental in growing the health tech company from its early stages to international market expansion.

"I really like working with the dreamers and helping them work backwards to (figure out) what are the milestones we can work toward to make the grand vision come true in the future," Dunn says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "The opportunity to work with different founders on that same journey that we had been through was really appealing."

Dunn oversees the accelerator, which has evolved from TMCx. The program offers health tech acceleration to two cohorts a year. Each group of startups is selected from around the world and invited to join the program — first at a bootcamp, a week long itinerary of meeting leadership from within TMC Innovation as well as its member institutions, before a smaller group of companies in invited to return to the TMC for six months of hands-on acceleration from the TMC.

Earlier this month, TMC Innovation hosted nine health tech companies at its fall bootcamp. Now, as Dunn explains, the team is extending invites to a select number of those companies and working on a set of objectives for each company to work on when they return to the TMC in January.

"We've had a week to learn about the companies, and they've had a week to learn about us and about Houston, and we'll come back to the table to see if it's a match," Dunn says. "Part of that process is developing a prescription, which is three to four key objectives we co-develop with the founders."

The selected companies will work with TMC Innovation as well as the greater TMC community on these objectives until May, when the whole process starts over with another set of companies in bootcamp. Across the board, Dunn says TMC Innovation is focused on providing support for startups looking for clinical validation — something all companies are challenged with at some point.

"One of the things our program focuses on a lot is opportunities for that clinical validation. How can you work with clinical champions, health systems, and various providers to get the clinical and efficacy data you need to show that your solution really does add value," Dunn says. "That's one of the hallmarks of our program."

Over the past few years, TMC Innovation has expanded its global presence by attracting international cohorts and forming relationships with other countries through what TMC calls their Biobridges. Dunn shares on the show about TMC's latest international initiative with InnovateUK on the show. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

Texas Medical Center Innovation announced the seven health tech startups that joined the 2022 accelerator bootcamp. Photo courtesy of TMC

7 health tech startups flock to Houston for TMC bootcamp

ready to accelerate

The Texas Medical Center's innovation arm welcomed seven companies to its 2022 health tech accelerator program bootcamp.

TMC Innovation Accelerator for HealthTech is aimed at supporting early-stage life science startups through fundraising, connecting with mentors and potential customers, and more.

“Healthtech startups who connect with our network will emerge more prepared to access their customers and grow into their markets," says Emily Reiser, associate director of TMC Innovation, in a news release. "Our advisors, members, and partners unlock insights for these entrepreneurs about how to more effectively build a strategic plan for improved market access and adoption. Bootcamp ignites these connections, providing immediate value to entrepreneurs and enabling our team to define a long term plan for continued collaboration."

If selected following the bootcamp, founders will spend six months at TMCi with strategic mentorship, clinical validation, and other customized milestone development from the organization.

“Bootcamp is an intensive period of discovery and mutual selection," says Devin Dunn, head of the Accelerator for HealthTech, in the release. "Founders get a chance better understand everything that TMCi brings to bear and our team has the opportunity to select those growing companies that will add significant value to our community.”

The bootcamp focused on several innovation areas — including surgical devices, access to care, robotics, and hospital efficiency. The participating companies include:

  • CardMedic, headquartered in Oxford, United Kingdom, aims to improve communication between staff and patients across any barrier-language, deafness, cognitive impairment or disability-with an A to Z library of pre-written scripts replicating common clinical conversations.
  • Chicago-baseed CareAdvisors is connecting health plans, hospitals, and community-based organizations to streamline high risk case management and quickly close the loop on care.
  • Endolumik, founded in Morgantown, West Virginia, has developed a fluorescence-guided device that uses near-infrared light to enhance visualization for safer, faster, and more consistent bariatric surgery.
  • Orcha, based in Daresbury, United Kingdom, rigorously reviews apps to help systems, clinicians, patients, or consumers find their way to the best health-related apps.
  • Austin-based Roboligent has created a rehabilitation robot, the Optimo Regen, that provides evidence-based therapeutic interventions for upper and lower limbs.
  • Boston-founded ScienceIO's platform transforms unstructured text into structured records in real-time. The company's core product is a HIPAA-compliant API for real-time text processing and analytics.
  • Semantic Health, founded in Toronto, Canada, uses artificial intelligence to complete secondary reviews of all coded and claims data to optimize revenue cycle management.
The application for future cohorts and more information about the program are available online. The 2022 cohort will join the ranks of TMCi's community of 305 life science startups and 221 TMC Innovation Accelerator companies and will receive access to the center's dozens of member organizations.

"Having a product that the market truly needs is critical but not enough," says Bongsu Kim, founder and CEO of Roboligent, in the release. "Especially for the medical device market, I realize that introducing a new product is a thorough and collaborative effort from a variety of stakeholders and experts. Without knowing the mechanism and the right connection, it seems almost impossible to get into the market. The TMC Innovation Accelerator is the perfect place to make it happen."

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Houston biopharma company launches equity crowdfunding campaign

money moves

A clinical-stage company headquartered in Houston has opened an online funding campaign.

FibroBiologics, which is developing fibroblast cell-based therapeutics for chronic diseases, launched a campaign with equity crowdfunding platform StartEngine. The platform lets anyone — regardless of their net worth or income level — to invest in securities issued by startups.

The funding, according to a press release, will be used to support ongoing operations of Fibrobiologics and advance its clinical programs in multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc disease, wound care, extension of life, and cancer.

"We're excited to partner with StartEngine on this campaign. StartEngine has over 600,000 investors as part of their community and has raised over half a billion dollars for its clients," says FibroBiologics' Founder and CEO Pete O'Heeron, in the release.

"This is an exciting time at FibroBiologics as we continue progressing our clinical pipeline and developing innovative therapies to treat chronic diseases," he continues. "This new funding will fuel our growth in the lab and bring us one step closer to commercialization."

The campaign, launched this week, already has over 100 investors, at the time of publication, and has raised nearly $2 million, according to the page. The minimum investment is set at around $500, and the company's indicated valuation is $252.57 million.

In 2021, FibroBiologics announced its intention of going public. Last year, O'Heeron told InnovationMap on the Houston Innovators Podcast of the company's growth plans as well as the specifics of the technology.

Only two types of cells — stem cells and fibroblasts — can be used in cell therapy for a regenerative treatment, which is when specialists take healthy cells from a patient and inject them into a part of the body that needs it the most. As O'Heeron explains in the podcast, fibroblasts can do it more effectively and cheaper than stem cells.

"(Fibroblasts) can essentially do everything a stem cell can do, only they can do it better," says O'Heeron. "We've done tests in the lab and we've seen them outperform stem cells by a low of 50 percent to a high of about 220 percent on different disease paths."


Texas ranks as a top state for female entrepreneurs

women in business

Texas dropped three spots in Merchant Maverick’s annual ranking of the top 10 states for women-led startups.

The Lone Star State landed at No. 5 thanks in part to its robust venture capital environment for women entrepreneurs. Last year, Texas ranked second, up from its No. 6 showing in 2021.

Merchant Maverick, a product comparison site for small businesses, says Texas “boasts the strongest venture capital scene” for women entrepreneurs outside California and the Northeast. The state ranked fourth in that category, with $6.5 billion invested in the past five years.

Other factors favoring Texas include:

  • Women solely lead 22 percent of all employees working for a business in Texas (No. 4).
  • Texas lacks a state income tax (tied for No. 1).

However, Texas didn’t fare well in terms of the unemployment rate (No. 36) and the rate of business ownership by women (No. 29). Other Texas data includes:

  • Average income for women business owners, $52,059 (No. 19).
  • Early startup survival rate, 81.9 percent (No. 18).

Appearing ahead of Texas in the 2023 ranking are No. 1 Colorado, No. 2 Washington, No. 3 California, and No. 4 Arizona.

Another recent ranking, this one from NorthOne, an online bank catering to small businesses, puts Texas at No. 7 among the 10 best states for women entrepreneurs.

NorthOne says Texas provides “a ton of opportunities” for woman entrepreneurs. For instance, it notches one of the highest numbers of women-owned businesses in the country at 1.4 million, 2.1 percent of which have at least 500 employees.

In this study, Texas is preceded by Colorado at No. 1, Nevada at No. 2, Virginia at No. 3, Maryland at No. 4, Florida at No. 5, and New Mexico at No. 6. The rankings are based on eight metrics, including the percentage of woman-owned businesses and the percentage of women-owned businesses with at least 500 employees.