A panel of experts discussed decentralized web and Web3 technology — and its potential for impacting communities. Photo courtesy of DivInc

Houston innovators dispelled some of the misconceptions about the decentralized web and Web3 technology at a recent panel, which highlighted the technology’s ability to bring communities together.

DivInc, a Texas-based accelerator focused on helping BIPOC and female founders on their entrepreneurial journeys, hosted a panel to discuss the benefits of transitioning to DWeb for entrepreneurs, personal success stories of using Web3 technology, and promoted its inaugural DWeb for Social Impact Accelerator.

The panelists included Giorgio Villani, founder of Spindletop Digital; Akeel Bernard, community development manager of Impact Hub Houston; and Ayoola John, co-founder and CEO of Astronaut. The discussion was moderated by Cherise Luter, marketing director of DivInc.

With the application for the DWeb 12-week accelerator program live, announced earlier this year, Luter says the panel was initiated to help explain the links between impact entrepreneurship and DWeb, two areas that people may think are very separate.

“This is our first time hosting a social impact accelerator here in Houston and we’re really excited about it. We added this extra piece of Web3, DWeb – how social entrepreneurs are utilizing this new technology to push forward their vision and bring about their startups,’” Luter says.

Villani, a founder of multiple companies that employ Web3 innovation, defined this technology as a tool of decentralization in which users are responsible for their own data and transactions are kept transparent by being publicly accessible. Villani contrasted this setup to the modern internet, known as Web2, in which users entrust third parties with encrypting their personal data, allowing them to mine and profit from this information.

“Web3 is a flipping of the script a little bit – it’s where we’re focusing primarily on the individual, where the individual is being empowered. Everybody manages their own keys and you don’t have to trust a third party to do anything within the system … you don’t have to cede your power to third party entities – it’s really an empowering thing to do,” Villani explains.

Villani addressed the misunderstanding that the decentralized web is too complicated for the average person to use by highlighting his partnership with multimedia Houston artist J. Omar Ochoa. Ochoa is incorporating Web3 technologies like AI and NFTs into an exhibit, allowing him to interact directly with buyers.

“The misconception is that (Web3) is difficult or too technical and it’s really not. There’s some stuff that takes a little bit of work but once you’ve done that the whole world of Web3 opens up in front of you,” Villani says.

For Villani, Web3 technologies are about the opportunity for connection.

“When you look around you, a lot of people these days are lonely and it’s funny because we have these platforms like Facebooks, Instagrams, WhatsApps, Snapchats and they’re all designed to bring us together but if you really look around you we’re not together,” Villani explains. “For me fundamentally, we have to reimagine how we build social networks, how we connect people.”

Web3 technologies are not all inherently about decentralization of the internet so much as rethinking how to rebuild the web to bring people together based on shared interests, adds John, co-founder of a social impact company that uses Web3 to help brands build online communities.

In contrast to much of the tech world, John also says that NFTs and cryptocurrencies, both of which are considered Web3 tools as they operate on blockchains, are not components of DWeb because they are tied up by monopolies. As the majority of NFTs are sold on one website and Bitcoin continues to dominate the cryptocurrency market, John explains they can not qualify as decentralized.

“I believe I can make an argument that crypto at its core is not about decentralization. What I believe crypto is and the Web3 movement is about reimagination,” John shares.

Bernard, who works directly with social impact entrepreneurs at Impact Hub Houston, says he anticipates founders looking to secure investors for their DWeb related companies will struggle, at first, because they must concisely explain the technology and business model at play. Bernard says he previously coached entrepreneurs on how to explain to investors that investing in social impact companies is not charity but a typical investment that will pay returns. Bernard expects DWeb focused companies will face similar uphill battles of getting investors to understand their concepts.

“I think with DWeb because it’s a newer network it’s going to require social impact entrepreneurs to educate investors and also users on the benefits of DWeb,” Bernard explains. “You’re going to have to be able to explain to them in a clear and consistent way especially to the investors, folks that have the means but don’t understand what DWeb is, how it can be utilized for success.”

Photo courtesy of DivInc

DivInc has announced a new program that will support BIPOC and women founders of social enterprise startups working on Web3 technology. Photo via divinc.org

Texas nonprofit introduces newest accelerator to be hosted in Houston this fall

apply now

A Texas accelerator that's focused on supporting traditionally marginalized entrepreneurs has announced its newest program.

DivInc has introduced DWeb for Social Impact Accelerator, a new program set to support BIPOC and women founders of social enterprise startups developing global solutions with DWeb and Web3 technologies — such as blockchain, crypto-asset, artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality, and more.

The first cohort of the program, which is supported by the Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web, or FFDW, will run from September through November at the Ion. Applications are open now.

"Through the DWeb for Social Impact Accelerator we are marrying activism with the decentralized web in a way that builds these startups and puts them at the forefront of solving society's toughest challenges," says Preston James, CEO at DivInc, in a news release. "We want to see our creative tech economy founders playing a major role in building and benefiting from DWeb and Web3 for the greater good. This partnership with FFDW is a huge leap forward in that pursuit."

The 12-week accelerator will support up to 10 companies, and, at the end of the program, each selected company will receive $10,000 in non-dilutive seed funding. In addition to FFDW, the program is supported by Houston Premier Partners, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Verizon, The Ion, and Mercury.

"A core part of FFDW's mission is education about the decentralized web," says Marta Belcher, president and chair of Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web, in the release. "FFDW is absolutely thrilled to bring more diverse voices into the Web3 ecosystem."

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

TMC Innovation announces second cohort of promising Danish health tech companies

welcome to houston

A new cohort of scientists from the Texas-Denmark BioBridge has been selected to join a Texas Medical Center Accelerator, joining forces with some of Houston’s best advisers and mentors.

This is the second year that four Danish companies have been chosen to join a special TMC Innovation Accelerator program with plans to bring their technologies to the American market. In a joint press release, the Texas Medical Center (TMC) and the BioInnovation Institute (BII), announced that the participants are scheduled to arrive in Houston on May 13 for their first session, in which they’ll work on US customer validation. After that, they’ll take part in the full program, which will allow the founders to make their plans for strategic development over the course of six months.

Just as the TMC Innovation Factory offers help for founders who have set their sights on success in the US market, the Danish BioInnovation Institute provides life science startups with the connections, infrastructure and financial support necessary to bring their ideas to the public.

The companies selected include:

  • Alba Health is pioneering a gut microbiome test for young children that’s informed by AI.
  • AMPA Medical has created InterPoc, a more discrete alternative to types of stoma bags currently available for ileostomy patients.
  • Droplet IV is a medical device that automatically flushes IV lines, reducing waste and making nurses’ jobs easier.
  • Metsystem is a cancer metastasis platform aimed at predicting what the most effective cancer drug is for each patient.

“We are excited to welcome these startups to TMC as Danish companies are making significant strides in drug discovery and health tech developments” says Devin Dunn, head of the accelerator for Health Tech, in the release. “As they look to expand into the US market, the collaborative environment fostered by our dedicated team, programs, and clinical community will help them advance their innovations, foster research collaborations, and further develop their technologies here in Houston.”

The program for the accelerator is based on the successes of the TMC Innovation (TMCi) Health Tech Accelerator program. The TMC Denmark BioBridge was established in 2019 as a collaboration between TMC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.

Houston hospital flies in drone delivery service for medical supplies, prescriptions

incoming

A Houston hospital system has announced that it has plans to launch a drone delivery service for specialty prescriptions and medical supplies in 2026.

Memorial Hermann Health System announced that it intends to be the first health care provider in Houston to roll out drone delivery services from San Francisco-based Zipline, a venture capital-backed tech company founded in 2014 that's completed 1 million drone deliveries.

"As a system, we are continuously seeking ways to improve the patient experience and bring greater health and value to the communities we serve. Zipline provides an innovative solution to helping our patients access the medications they need, quickly and conveniently, at no added cost to them," Alec King, executive vice president and CFO for Memorial Hermann, says in a news release.

Zipline boasts of achieving delivery times seven times faster than traditional car deliveries and can usually drop off packages at a rate of a mile a minute. The drones, called Zips, can navigate any weather conditions and complete their missions with zero emissions.

Per the release, the service will be used to deliver items to patients or supplies or samples between its locations.

"Completing more than one million commercial deliveries has shown us that when you improve health care logistics, you improve every level of the patient experience. It means people get better, faster, more convenient care, even from the comfort of their own home," adds Keller Rinaudo Cliffton, co-founder and CEO of Zipline. "Innovators like Memorial Hermann are leading the way to bring better care to the U.S., and it's going to happen much faster than you might expect."

Houston tech founder shines spotlight on small businesses with new awards initiative

houston innovators podcast episode 234

For decades, small businesses have operated in essentially the same manner — handwritten notes to request time off, manual punch cards to clock in, and verbal agreements to swap shifts. And 10 years ago, Houstonian Rushi Patel thought it was time to upgrade these local shops, eateries, and other businesses.

Homebase, which was founded in San Francisco in 2014 and has its largest office in Houston, provides a suite of software tools for employee scheduling, time tracking, communication, and task management for its users, most of which are small businesses.

After a decade of growing its technology and clientbase, Patel, co-founder and COO of the company, explains the unique challenges these small businesses face on the Houston Innovators Podcast — as well as how Homebase helps.

"It's a bit of an orchestra in terms of what entrepreneurs have to do. Your job is to compose a little, but conduct as well," Patel says on the show. "You've built the song of what you want to have happen, but you're conducting lots of different things to make it a reality as a small business owner."



Patel explains how optimizing these personnel aspects of the business frees up founders and managers and improves the employee experience too. Currently, the job market is competitive for these types of businesses, and retention and hiring are major focus points for entrepreneurs.

With 10 years of data and experience of working with small businesses, Homebase introduced a new awards program this week in honor of National Small Business Week. The inaugural Top Local Workplace Awards honored over 50,000 businesses across the country for a range of positive workplace factors — like pay transparency and employee engagement.

"There are over 2 million employee-centric, main street type of businesses in the United States," Patel says, "these are the restaurants, the retailers, and the service providers. They employ north of 70 million people, so there's a lot of impact that these businesses can have. But what we found was they deserve recognition, and there wasn't recognition for the good practices that these employers were doing."

Using its data, which includes over 2.5 million hourly worker data points, Homebase's team implemented the awards to highlight the companies providing their employees — who are in most cases considered a work family, as Patel says — with a great experience.