Meet the eighth cohort for gBETA Houston. Photo via gener8tor.com

For the eighth time, a global accelerator and venture group has selected five early-stage Houston tech startups to support and help grow.

In partnership with the Downtown Launchpad, gener8tor began its eighth gBETA cohort in September. The free seven-week, equity-free accelerator provides startups with concierge coaching and access to its national network of mentors, customers, corporate partners, and investors.

“Our partnership with Downtown Launchpad to offer this program to Houston-based companies has been exciting,” Lauren Usher, gener8tor gBETA vice president, says in a news release. “Now in its eighth cohort, gBETA Houston continues to support and bolster the technology industries in Houston.”

Since its launch, gBETA Houston has accelerated 40 companies — the majority led by underrepresented founders — that have gone on to raise more than $8.6 million in funding an created more than 70 jobs.

“We're ecstatic to introduce the gBETA Houston Fall 2023 cohort. Our founders have continued to be in a season of bold ideas, groundbreaking solutions and limitless potential,” Muriel Foster, gBETA Houston director, adds.

The fall 2023 cohort for gBETA includes:

  • KONECTU's AI-powered, user-centric platform transforms the Web3 professional freelance landscape and is currently in beta testing with 30 freelancers. The company was founded by Regina M. Noriega.
  • Founded by Yemi Orogbemi, Nemo processes and analyzes financial data to help business leaders visualize their financial performance to better understand what investors and bankers see when they review the numbers. The company has completed a pilot and a beta with two clients on its waitlist.
  • An all-in-one solution, Loop Health, founded by Shawn Wiggins, is a virtual mental health platform aimed at Black and Latino users. Its holistic monthly subscription service includes two one-on-one therapy sessions and one group session per month, as well as meditation, yoga and fitness content.
  • Founded by Camille Buffalo, Parents Balancing Joys gives a community to parents looking for a support system. The social platform allows parents to find resources that support their needs, like childcare, carpool connections, and friendship. The platform has more than 250 moms in 72 ZIP codes on its waitlist and is currently in its beta-testing phase.
  • Parking Pin, LLC’s parking management software connects people to parking spots with zero hardware.The company, founded by Robert Wilson, has conducted customer discovery calls with 11 universities and is currently beta testing with North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
The latest cohort from gBETA Houston has been announced and is currently underway at the Downtown Launchpad. Photo courtesy of Downtown Launchpad

Houston early stage startup accelerator introduces latest cohort

growing gains

Five Houston startups are joining a global accelerator for a seven-week program to strategically grow their businesses.

Houston's gBETA, a part of gener8tor in partnership with the Downtown Launchpad, has launched its spring cohort — the seventh cohort since its launch in Houston in 2019 — this month. The free program lasts seven weeks and connects companies to gener8tor's network of mentors, customers, corporate partners, and investors.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Downtown Launchpad to bring these programs to life and bolster the technology and sustainability industries in Houston,” says Lauren Usher, gener8tor gBETA vice president, in a news release.

gBETA's equity-free model provides coaching for its cohort companies, which are all Houston-based, home-grown.

“It’s exciting to see the seventh cohort of gBETA Houston come together. We’ve seen so much growth from our previous alumni from our program, and we’re excited for that same impact to flourish with this incoming cohort,” says Muriel Foster, gBETA Houston director, in the release.

The ongoing cohort's members include:

  • Adaptagym revolutionizes the fitness and rehabilitation industries by offering a comprehensive and user-friendly platform that caters to the unique needs of all persons on the ability spectrum. The company matches users with the appropriate fitness and allied health professionals. Adaptagym is currently partnering with one clinic and four individuals for beta testing.
  • Circle.ooo is a B2B2C technology company streamlining event tech for small-to-medium event hosts, attendees and sponsors. The app-within-app concept allows event holders to create a free ‘Circle’, and Attendees create a single 'universal profile' digicard to instantly register for any Event without having multiple accounts, profiles or inputting data fields. Circle is a Houston-based Delaware C-Corp, is currently testing v 2.0 of the app, and has 27 customers on their waitlist.
  • Financial Aid Frenzy transforms the way students pay for college, one dollar at a time. Financial Aid Frenzy's crowdfunding platform is tailored to assist students in getting the money needed for their education by connecting them with donors who are passionate about helping them achieve their educational fundraising goals. Financial Aid Frenzy is a Houston-based Delaware C-Corp, with 40 customers interested in the platform.
  • Kash-In Academy utilizes digital “kash” to increase student engagement through monetized lessons and quizzes. With the Kash-In Academy platform, teachers are able to deposit “kash” for positive behavior and academic achievement. Kash-In Academy is approved in 12 school districts servicing 932 teachers and 8,069 students.
  • MendIt’s apparel care marketplace amplifies the choices for consumers to manage their closets more sustainably and empowers retailers with aftercare solutions that elevate their brand. Retailers work with MendIt to offer long-term product care to customers, helping to extend the life of their clothing, save money through reduced returns, and direct capital to local businesses. MendIt’s product is live and available nationwide via shipping, with three local drop-off locations in the Houston market, a waiting list of “menders” across 9 states, and hundreds of garments mended to date.
Downtown Houston has a new innovation space in Amegy on Main. Photo courtesy of Amegy Bank

Photos: Downtown Houston innovation hub in renovated office building opens to the public

ready to launchpad

Last week, a group of innovators, commercial real estate professionals, and Amegy Bank employees celebrated yet another feat in the Houston innovation ecosystem: another innovative and collaborative space's grand opening.

The Downtown Launchpad is officially open across a few floors in Amegy on Main, a renovated office building on the Southwest side of downtown Houston at 1801 Main St. The grand opening reception was held outside in the building's first floor courtyard adjacent to its upgraded parking garage. The event on May 18 coincided with Houston Tech Rodeo.

"The major renovations to Amegy on Main support our strong Amegy Bank culture and reinforce our commitment to supporting the Houston business, technology and entrepreneur community," says Kelly Foreman, senior vice president and manager of corporate real estate and facilities for Amegy, in a news release. "This space serves as a hub for start-ups and innovation, and the resulting job creation through these incubator programs will continue to be meaningful and impactful for our city."

The renovated space includes:

  • Coworking space managed by The Cannon
  • Accelerator and event space for the Launchpad
  • Main Line Café, a chef-driven restaurant concept open to the public
  • New courtyard
  • First-floor gaming lounge
  • New shared spaces and design elements for the building, such as expanded windows for improved daylight, new furniture, enhanced coffee bars
  • Expanded conference space

Originally announced in October 2019, the Downtown Launchpad opened parts of its upgraded space last fall. Now, the full renovation project is completed, offering a new opportunity for collaboration.

"Amegy on Main has become unlike any other space in Houston," Foreman continues. "We are thrilled to offer this new space, its amenities and business development support to our employees and the expanding innovation community."

Click through some photos of the complete spaces below.

Indoor/outdoor dining areas

Photo courtesy of Amegy Bank

Anu Pansare has joined the local gBETA team. Photo via gbetastartups.com

Early-stage accelerator names new Houston leader, opens applications for next cohort

now open

Houston's gBETA accelerator announced new leadership in conjunction with opening enrollment for its latest cohort this week.

The early-stage program, which is a part of Wisconsin-based gener8tor, has named Anu Pansare as its new director.

Pansare has spent the last 20 years at Sugar Land-based consulting firm Volyx and has also worked with big names like Chevron, Schlumberger, and Accenture, as well as smaller startups. She's also been involved with the Houston Angel Network. She will be replacing the accelerator's inaugural director Eléonore Cluzel in the position.

As the main liaison between Houston and gener8tor's national network, Pansare will lead gBETA's third cohort of early stage startups through its free 7-week program, which is designed to help participating companies gain early customer traction and develop key metrics that will make them more marketable for future investment.

"Downtown Launchpad is an inclusive ecosystem of tools, resources, and opportunities that help founders accelerate and scale their businesses to solve humankind's boldest challenges," says Robert Pieroni, director of economic development at Central Houston, in a press release. "The addition of Anu Pansare as gener8tor's new Houston director will strengthen our commitment to entrepreneurs in Houston and will help us evolve our strategy to better serve our founders, startups, partners, and our community."

Applications for the new cohort are open online until March 13.The zero-equity, no-fee program looks for locally based startups still in the early stage of business. Five companies will be selected.

The program is hosting a virtual webinar in partnership with SCORE Houston on March 1 to discuss the program and opportunities for interested startups. Event registration is free.

Houston's gBETA presence was launched thanks to a $1.25 million grant approved by the Downtown Redevelopment Authority in 2019 with support from Central Houston, the City of Houston, and Amegy Bank. The local team has an office at the Downtown Launchpad coworking space in the Amegy Bank Building on Main.

About a year into operations, gBETA has worked with 10 local startups in two cohorts across industries — from food tourism to sports technology, artificial intelligence for home buying to skincare and prescription solutions.

Pansare will be

holding virtual office hours for local entrepreneurs to provide insight and information about gBETA's Houston Spring 2021 program. More information on the program can be found at gBETA Houston's website or email Pansare directly at anu@gener8tor.com.
Niloufar Molavi will lead Central Houston Inc.'s board this year — and she's got fostering innovation on her to-do list. Photo courtesy of CHI

Houston organization names new leader to focus on innovation and economic development

now in charge

An organization that promotes redevelopment and revitalization in Houston has named its new board leader for 2021.

Niloufar Molavi, partner at PwC US, has assumed Central Houston Inc.'s board leadership role effective January 8. Molavi, who leads PwC's Global energy practice, has served on the CHI board since 2011 and chairs the organization's innovation committee.

"Over more than a decade serving on the CHI board, I have witnessed first-hand the major changes that the organization has affected in downtown," Molavi says in a news release. "Among our 2021 priorities is to continue to foster the growth of the innovation sector."

In October, CHI — along with its partners, Amegy Bank and the Downtown Redevelopment Authority — celebrated the grand opening of the Downtown Launchpad, a 17,000-square-foot innovation hub located on the 10th floor of Amegy on Main (1801 Main Street). The hub is home to Houston's MassChallenge Texas and gener8tor accelerators and global nonprofit incubator Impact Hub Houston. The Cannon Houston is the operation partner for the space.

"With the fall 2020 opening of Downtown Launchpad, we have deepened our investment in innovation, which we hope will garner long-term results and economic vitality for downtown as well as the Houston region at large," she continues. "We look forward to developing bridge programs with area universities and organizations and leveraging existing resources to bring more high-tech prospects to our central city."

Molavi, as board chair, will focus on near-term and long term strategic priorities for CHI, which include the region's economic recovery following the pandemic, improving transportation, further developing the innovation ecosystem, recruiting new employers to downtown, and more.

Central Houston Inc. and its Downtown Launchpad recently took home a couple big wins. Photo courtesy of CHI

New innovation center in downtown Houston receives international recognition

big winner

A Houston organization has been recognized for a newly opened innovation hub in downtown.

The International Economic Development Council has awarded Central Houston Inc.'s Downtown Launchpad two honors in its Excellence in Economic Development Awards Program. The new 17,000-square-foot innovation hub in Southern Downtown won a silver rank in the awards' Innovation Programs and Initiatives category and a bronze rank in the Entrepreneurship category.

"The creation of a vibrant innovation district in Downtown has been a strategic priority for Central Houston since it was identified in the 2017 Plan Downtown, our 20-year vision plan for the area's growth and development," says Bob Eury, CHI president, in a news release.

"Downtown Launchpad, which opened just last month, achieves our goal of strengthening connections between entrepreneurs, industry, startups and funders, and we're honored to see the hard work of Central Houston, Inc. and our partners recognized by the International Economic Development Council."

IEDC received over 500 submissions for 35 categories for this year's award. Each submission was evaluated by a diverse panel of economic and community developers from around the world and were looking at the nominees' efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban and rural communities.

"The winners of IEDC's Excellence in Economic Development awards represent the very best of economic development and exemplify the ingenuity, integrity and leadership that our profession strives for each and every day," says the 2020 IEDC Board Chair and One Columbus CEO Kenny McDonald in the release. "We're honored to recognize the more than 100 communities whose marketing campaigns, projects and partnerships have measurably improved regional quality of life."

Last month, the Downtown Launchpad celebrated its grand opening. The hub is located on the 10th floor of Amegy on Main (1801 Main Street), is home to Houston's MassChallenge Texas and gener8tor accelerators and global nonprofit incubator Impact Hub Houston. The Cannon Houston is the operation partner for the space.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Innovative coastline project on Bolivar Peninsula receives federal funding

flood mitigation

The Galveston’s Coastal Barrier Project recently received federal funding to the tune of $500,000 to support construction on its flood mitigation plans for the area previously devastated by Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Known as Ike Dike, the proposed project includes implementing the Galveston Bay Storm Surge Barrier System, including eight Gulf and Bay defense projects. The Bolivar Roads Gate System, a two-mile-long closure structure situated between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula, is included in the plans and would protect against storm surge volumes entering the bay.

The funding support comes from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and will go toward the preconstruction engineering and design phase of Ecosystem Restoration feature G-28, the first segment of the Bolivar Peninsula and West Bay Gulf Intracoastal Waterway Shoreline and Island Protection.

Coastal Barrier Project - Galveston Projects

The project also includes protection of critical fish and wildlife habitat against coastal storms and erosion.

“The Coastal Texas Project is one of the largest projects in the history of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” says Col. Rhett A. Blackmon, USACE Galveston District commander, in a statement. “This project is important to the nation for many reasons. Not only will it reduce risk to the vulnerable populations along the Texas coast, but it will also protect vital ecosystems and economically critical infrastructure vital to the U.S. supply chain and the many global industries located here.”

Hurricane Ike resulted in over $30 billion in storm-related damages to the Texas coast, reports the Coastal Barrier Project, and created a debris line 15 feet tall and 40 miles long in Chambers County. The estimated economic disruption due to Hurricane Ike exceeded $150 billion, FEMA reported.

The project is estimated to take two years to complete after construction starts and will cost between $4 billion and $6 billion, reports Texas A&M University at Galveston.

Houston organization selects research on future foods in space health to receive $1M in funding

research and development

What would we eat if we were forced to decamp to another planet? The most immediate challenges faced by the food industry and astronauts exploring outside Earth are being addressed by The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Space Medicine’s newest project.

Earlier this month, TRISH announced the initial selection for its Space Health Ingress Program (SHIP) solicitation. Working with California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Baylor-based program chose “Future Foods for Space: Mobilizing the Future Foods Community to Accelerate Advances in Space Health,” led by Dr. Denneal Jamison-McClung at the University of California, Davis.

“TRISH is bringing in new ideas and investigators to propel space health research,” says Catherine Domingo, TRISH operations lead and research administration associate at Baylor College of Medicine, in the release. “We have long believed that new researchers with fresh perspectives drive innovation and advance human space exploration and SHIP builds on TRISH’s existing efforts to recruit and support new investigators in the space health research field, potentially yielding and high-impact ideas to protect space explorers.”

The goal of the project is to develop sustainable food products and ingredients that could fuel future space travelers on long-term voyages, or even habitation beyond our home planet.

Jamison-McClung and her team’s goal is to enact food-related space health research and inspire the community thereof by mobilizing academic and food-industry researchers who have not previously engaged with the realm of space exploration. Besides growing and developing food products, the project will also address production, storage, and delivery of the nutrition created by the team.

To that end, Jamison-McClung and her recruits will receive $1 million over the course of two years. The goal of the SHIP solicitation is to work with first-time NASA investigators, bringing new minds to the forefront of the space health research world.

“As we look to enable safer space exploration and habitation for humans, it is clear that food and nutrition are foundational,” says Dr. Asha S. Collins, chair of the SHIP advisory board, in a press release. “We’re excited to see how accelerating innovation in food science for space health could also result in food-related innovations for people on Earth in remote areas and food deserts.”

Clean energy nonprofit CEO to step down, search for replacement to begin

moving on

Greentown Labs, which is co-located in the Boston and Houston areas, has announced its current CEO is stepping down after less than a year in the position.

The nonprofit's CEO and President Kevin Knobloch announced that he will be stepping down at the end of July 2024. Knobloch assumed his role last September, previously serving as chief of staff of the United States Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s second term.

“It has been an honor to lead this incredible team and organization, and a true privilege to get to know many of our brilliant startup founders," Knobloch says in the news release. “Greentown is a proven leader in supporting early-stage climatetech companies and I can’t wait to see all that it will accomplish in the coming years.”

The news of Knobloch's departure comes just over a month after the organization announced that it was eliminating 30 percent of its staff, which affected 12 roles in Boston and six in Houston.

According the Greentown, its board of directors is expected to launch a national search for its next CEO.

“On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I want to thank Kevin for his efforts to strengthen the foundation of Greentown Labs and for charting the next chapter for the organization through a strategic refresh process,” says Dawn James, Greentown Labs Board Chair, in the release. “His thoughtful leadership will leave a lasting impact on the team and community for years to come.”

Knobloch reportedly shifted Greentown's sponsorship relationships with oil companies, sparking "friction within the organization," according to the Houston Chronicle, which also reported that Knobloch said he intends to return to his clean energy consulting firm.

------

This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.