The Woodlands Mall shoppers can schedule virtual test drives, complete purchases, schedule deliveries of vehicles and meet with staff at this new high-tech store. Photo courtesy of JLL

The Woodlands-based online pre-owned car purveyor evrdrive has opened its flagship Customer Experience Center, or CXC, at The Woodlands Mall.

Designed by JLL Design Solutions, the modern space will allow shoppers to virtually tour the company's fleet of vehicles through its evrViewTM 3D hologram technology. According to a release, the technology can show evrdrive's full inventory of SUVs, cars, trucks, or other body styles and can display the vehicle's model specifications and history.

From the storefront, shoppers can also schedule virtual test drives, complete purchases, schedule deliveries of vehicles and meet with staff.

"We believe evrdrive is the future of automotive retail, and we are committed to providing our customers with a seamless and enjoyable shopping experience," Brian Singh, CEO of evrdrive, said in a statement.

evrdrive was founded in 2022, according to LinkedIn, and is part of Foundation Automotive Corp, a Houston-based company that owns car dealerships in the U.S. and Canada.

The company also runs a 55,000-square-foot Reconditioning Hub in the Houston area where vehicles are inspected and refurbished.

A number of new innovative auto ventures have rolled into Houston in recent months.

Self-driving ridehailing service Cruise expanded into Houston with its all electric, driverless cars in early May. The company launched services in Austin at the start of the year.

Uber Technologies, Inc. and Nuro also partnered last September to provide autonomous, electric vehicles for food deliveries in Houston. That same month, Drvn, a global on-demand chauffeur service, began operating in the Bayou City.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Why this Houston health care professional jumped in the founder seat to disrupt the industry

problem solver

Ayoade Joy Ademuyewo says that anesthesiology is “the coolest thing in the world.” That’s why she became a certified registered nurse anesthetist.

And that career, which she says is “the perfect blend of science and art,” led to the creation of her startup, Lokum.

Lokum App is a matchmaking engine that aims to connect Ademuyewo’s peers with jobs. She explains that before her innovation, staffing for nurse anesthetists traditionally owed to job boards 30 years older than she was or to recruitment agencies that left them at a disadvantage.

“I didn't want to use that job board because it was sort of difficult to use and I didn't want to use it and a lot of other people felt the same way,” she recalls.

When a desperate friend asked for her help navigating the terrain of finding CRNA work as an independent contractor, Ademuyewo says the wheels began turning in her mind.

“I just thought, 'Why can't I open up my phone and see all of the available jobs to me, based on my preferences and my skills? And I can easily select from them to go to my next job.' And that's sort of where the questions started. And I just kept asking those questions. And I think about two or three years into asking the questions I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I think I'm starting a company,'” Ademuyewo says.

In the hours that she wasn’t in surgery, the CRNA began doing market research.

“As I was studying the market, and mapping it out, these really complex mind maps started to happen. And it was almost a natural conclusion that the more you understand the problem, the more the solution starts to appear to you,” she explains.

And she saw that the obvious solution was also potentially a big opportunity for her to create something entirely new — neither a job board nor an agency, but something entirely new. Ademuyewo calls Lokum a “matchmaking engine.” It takes the preferences, specialties and skills of CRNAs like her and matches them to jobs that make sense for them. To date, the pilot has connected users with around 200 hospitals and clinics in 20 states.

Fortunately, because there are so few CRNAs in practice, they are a unified bunch.

“It’s a really well-networked profession,” says Ademuyewo. “ I'm lucky to be in a profession where what we do is really special and really specialized.”

Because she was already part of the tight knit community, the founder had no trouble finding pilot customers. She worked with Houston-based Octaria Software to engineer the technical side of the app, as well as another local cybersecurity firm to work on infrastructure.

Lots of big news has come for Ademuyewo in the first half of 2024. She participated in this year’s cohort of the Google for Startups Accelerator Program-North America, which she says helped to gain traction in her fundraising amid a bear market.

The result? Early this month, Lokum announced a raise of $700,000 in pre-seed funding, which will be allocated to improving and enhancing the existing technology. Those funds came from Houston investors including Aileen Allen, of the Houston Angel Network, Mercury, and The Artemis Fund; and Matt Miller, former Liongard product executive, as well as from Houston-based VC firm South Loop Ventures. More came from the non-local JP Morgan and Techstars.

Today, Ademuyewo is devoted full-time to Lokum, though she still practices her favorite combination of science and art on weekends in order to maintain her licensure.

“I will always be clinical, that will never change,” she says. “Part of that is just staying close to the problem and the people who are experiencing it, I think that is exactly the right thing for me to be doing.”

Houston energy company opens applications for unique energy tech startup pilot program

calling all innovators

Houston-based NOV is launching a new growth-stage startup accelerator focused on the upstream oil and gas industry.

NOV, a provider of oil and gas drilling and production operations equipment, has announced its new NOV Supernova Accelerator in collaboration with VentureBuilder, a consulting firm, investor, and accelerator program operator led by a group of Houston innovators.

Applications to the program are open online, and the deadline to apply is July 7. Specifically, NOV is looking for companies working on solutions in data management and analytics, operational efficiency, HSE monitoring, predictive maintenance, and digital twins.

The five-month program establishes a significant relationship between the 20 selected startups and NOV, beginning with paid pilot programs.

"This is not a traditional startup accelerator. This is often a first-client relationship to help disruptive startups refine product-market fit and creatively solve our pressing enterprise problems," reads the program's website.

Selected startups will have direct access to NOV's team and resources. The program will require companies to spend one week per month in person at NOV headquarters in Houston and will provide support surrounding several themes, including go-to-market strategy, pitch practice, and more.

“The NOV Supernova Accelerator offers a strategic approach where the company collaborates with startups in a vendor-client relationship to address specific business needs," says Billy Grandy, general partner of VentureBuilder.vc, in a statement. "Unlike mergers and acquisitions, the venture client model allows corporations like NOV to quickly test and implement new technologies without committing to an acquisition or risking significant investment.”

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.