Favor is hunting for its first-ever chief taco officer. Courtesy of Favor

Do you fancy yourself to be a taco aficionado? If so, you’ll really eat up a new job opening at delivery service Favor.

Owned by San Antonio-based grocery chain H-E-B, Favor is hunting for its first-ever chief taco officer. Yes, a chief taco officer — not to be confused with another type of CTO (chief technology officer).

“The company will pay one energetic, hungry, and social savvy Texan $10,000 to track down the best tacos across the state this summer,” Favor says in a news release.

Aside from the $10,000 in pay, Favor will provide food, accommodations, and transportation in each city, as well as wellness activities such as massages and yoga classes. In addition, the chief taco officer will receive customized Favor swag and one year of free Favor delivery.

“Tacos are one of the top Favored foods across all of the cities we serve throughout Texas,” says Jag Bath, CEO of Favor. “The history and culture behind one of the most iconic foods in the Lone Star State vary from city to city, and we’re excited for our new Chief Taco Officer to discover some of the best and most authentic tacos out there.”

Texas residents over 21 are eligible to apply. Applicants must create and share a short video on why they should be Favor’s chief taco officer, and submit a short form on Favor’s application page. The application deadline is 11:59 pm Thursday, May 12.

Favor’s chief taco officer may want to stock up on digestive aids, given the mass quantity of tacos they’re likely to consume. In 2015, Texas Monthly compiled a list of the 120 Texas tacos “you must eat before you die.” The list highlighted taco purveyors in 15 areas around the state, from Amarillo to Corpus Christi.

By the way, Austin-based outdoor services provider LawnStarter recently crowned Austin the state’s best city for tacos, followed by Round Rock, Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston. But if Favor’s chief taco officer is traversing Texas the entire summer, they’re bound to visit dozens of cities that could argue they deserve the title.

And perhaps Favor’s chief taco officer will do us a favor and crack the shell of Rent.com’s recent ranking of Texas as the No. 2 state for tacos, behind California. Everything’s bigger in Texas, right? That includes our appetite for tacos — and our prowess in producing them.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

H-E-B is ringing up a new accolade. Photo courtesy

Equipped with online and in-app ordering, Texas grocer named No. 1 for delivery

DOING MORE

Widely praised for its response to the ongoing pandemic, Texas-based grocery chain H-E-B's cart has once again been filled with kudos.

In a study by market research and mystery shopping firm Ipsos, H-E-B ranked first for grocery delivery among U.S. retailers, with a 99 percent accuracy rate. At No. 2 in the grocery delivery category was Austin-based Whole Foods Market, which achieved a 95 percent accuracy rate.

For the study, mystery shoppers across the country rated various retailers on the quality of their buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS), curbside, and delivery services. Ipsos conducted 150 mystery shops per retailer across these three categories.

"Use of BOPIS and curbside pickup has increased for 78 percent of shoppers since COVID-19 began, and 69 percent expect to continue using it at the same or higher levels after the pandemic subsides," Carlos Aragon, vice president of U.S. channel performance at Ipsos, says in an October 9 release. "As we continue to see the adoption and usage of these new digital offers rise and continue to stick, it is important that brands have the mechanism to ensure they deliver a seamless and safe customer experience for these new users."

To promote social distancing, H-E-B rolled out two-hour delivery in April, eliminating the need for customers to interact.

"With Texans relying on delivery now more than ever, it is our duty to support more of our communities across the state, as quickly as possible," Jag Bath, Favor's CEO and H-E-B's chief digital officer, said in an April release.

To accommodate two-hour delivery for H-E-B customers, Favor undertook a statewide expansion. The grocery chain rolled out its home delivery option in 2018, the same year that H-E-B bought Favor.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Apps like Favor and Instacart can now apply for permits to deliver booze from stores and restaurants straight to your door. Photo courtesy of Favor

Houstonians have access to ordering liquor at their fingertips — thanks to a new Texas law

There's an app for that

It's about to be a lot easier to order your favorite handle of booze straight to your door, thanks to new legislation. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission just began accepting applications for permits enabling services like Favor and Instacart to bring alcohol to your home.

In June, Governor Greg Abbott signed legislation that widens the door for liquor delivery across the Lone Star State. Any third-party company seeking to launch the service can now obtain a so-called consumer delivery permit from TABC. Chris Porter, a TABC spokesman, tells CultureMap that the first permits should be issued during the third week of December — just in time for Christmas Day and New Year's Eve parties.

In a December 5 news release, TABC executive director Bentley Nettles says this law is "an important step forward for Texas consumers, as well as alcohol retailers. For years, Texans across the state have relied on third-party services to deliver everything from clothing to vehicles. Now, at long last, alcohol can be delivered as well."

Before enactment of the law, certain businesses like liquor stores could distribute beer, wine, and liquor in Texas to homes and businesses. But through this year's legislative update, third-party companies now will be permitted to pick up beer, wine, and liquor from a state-licensed retailer such as a bar, restaurant, or liquor store and then take it to customers — either as solo purchases or along with food orders.

"We primarily see this as appealing to third-party delivery services," Porter says. "There are laws on the books which became effective in September that allow restaurants with the proper permit to deliver alcohol along with food on their own. Of course, if these businesses opt instead to contract that delivery to a third party, then the third party would need the new consumer delivery permit."

The new law mandates that drivers and booze buyers be at least 21 years old, which is the legal age for alcohol consumption in Texas.

Among the businesses and organizations that backed the legislation are San Antonio grocery chain H-E-B, which owns the Austin-based Favor delivery app; Instacart; the Houston-based Landry's restaurant conglomerate; e-commerce giant Amazon; TechNet; the Texas Restaurant Association; Beer Alliance of Texas; Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas; and the California-based Wine Institute.

"This law will allow more businesses to take advantage of on-demand delivery apps that enable them to reach more customers, while ensuring deliveries of alcohol are carried out safely and responsibly," David Edmonson, TechNet's executive director for Texas and the Southeast, said in a June news release.

The Texas Restaurant Association applauds the law as a way for restaurants to better compete in the on-demand economy.

"With customers increasingly craving convenience, and hotels, grocery stores, and package stores already permitted to allow alcohol to be taken or delivered off the premises, this legislation [levels] the playing field for restaurants," the association says in a statement.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Spring cohort announced for Houston tech company's startup accelerator

ready to grow

A Houston tech company has announced the latest cohort of its accelerator program, bringing the total number of startups supported by the company to 63.

Softeq Development Corp., a technology services development company, named 14 new startups joining its three-month spring Softeq Venture Studio cohort.

“We are so proud of the success we have had with the Softeq Venture Studio, helping to support and secure funding for 63 startups to date through the Softeq Venture Fund," says Christopher A. Howard, founder and CEO of Softeq. "With 23 of 89 founders coming from outside of the U.S., we demonstrate Houston’s growing influence as a startup hub where entrepreneurs can find a welcoming innovation community, a strong talent base, and world-class research facilities."

The spring 2023 cohort for Softeq includes:

  • Houston-based AIM7, data intelligence platform that unlocks wearable and mHealth data to provide customized and predictive wellness solutions.
  • Avendly, based in Providence, Rhode Island, makes robotic automation for restaurants to help, not supplant humans. Its first of many products is Mixibot, an integrated back-bar cocktail vending system.
  • Founded in Austin, ClioVis, is meeting today’s content-creator students where they are and how they learn. The company provides unique experiential learning tools designed for today’s content-creator students who learn by doing, not lectures.
  • Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, Flometrica, is a digital health solution featuring "use anywhere" devices to remotely monitor and diagnose various urinary tract problems through analysis of different urine parameters.
  • Gophr, from Lake Charles, Louisiana, is a technology-driven logistics company that provides tailored and efficient delivery solutions for various industries, individuals, and businesses of all sizes.
  • Chicago-based KarChing puts cash in teens’ hands for safe driving. The only app built for parents, teens, and insurance companies that rewards drivers for phone- and distraction-free behavior behind the wheel.
  • Houston-founded Meander collects travel customer satisfaction micro-surveys as people go about their trips. The research platform rewards travelers for sharing their pics, videos, and insights.
  • MEedia, based in Sacramento, California, puts a professional press conference event in your pocket. Individuals can create broadcast-worthy interactive shareable content with just their phone.
  • MeterLeader, from Huntington Beach, California, gamifies saving energy in homes by using real-time utility data and behavioral science. We're like a Fitbit challenge for your home, but instead of steps we measure kWh, therm, and CO2 reductions.
  • Houston-based PayOnDelivery, integrates secure payment with delivery for markets like Craigslist and Facebook. It’s low-hassle, fraud-free buying and selling for peer-to-peer marketplaces.
  • Another Lake Charles business, Picasso Analytics has a platform that can reduce delays and save oil refiners and petrochem owners 10 to 15 percent on multi-million dollar turnaround events by providing a single source of truth integrating the schedule, time entry, and shop status.
  • Sarasota, Florida-based Toivoa develops software-based therapies for people with disabilities who experience mental health disorders. On track for FDA approval, the platform is prescription-based, clinically validated, and delivered on your phone.
  • UpBrainery Technologies, founded in Houston, helps students explore careers through digital experiences. AI guides their interests in career paths and credentials their achievements for employers and colleges.
  • Also from Houston, WellWorth (https://wellworthapp.com/), is a financial modeling SaaS platform that helps upstream oil and gas finance leaders improve their decision-making around raising, managing, and deploying capital.

Softeq Venture Studio launched over a year ago with its inaugural cohort in 2021, and the fund was launched last year. Since launch, Softeq has raised 80 percent of its inaugural $40 million Softeq Venture Fund and made investments in 63 startups. Softeq has also reformatted its accelerator program to include two cohort classes per year, allowing for more time to be spent with the Venture Studio and its cohort startups.

Houston college receives grant to support aerospace technician training

workforce funding

The Texas Workforce Commission granted $332,000 to three Houston-area organizations last month to support aerospace technician training for unemployed and displaced workers, as well as recent high school grads.

The funding will go toward BayTech, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership and San Jacinto College, and comes out of the TWC's Texas Talent Connection grant. The TWC awarded a similar grant to Lone Star College in January with the goal of supporting "innovative education and workforce skills training programs" for first-generation students in six different industries.

This most recent grant will allow about 50 students to become certified aerospace technicians in electrical, composite, or structural tracts.

After advancing through the program, they'll receive a completion certificate from the San Jacinto College's EDGE Center and will have the opportunity to sit for a nationally recognized certification exam.

According to a release from San Jacinto College, the organizations will also facilitate students' placement directly into the workforce.

"Funding like this grant from the Texas Workforce Commission to further our training offerings reaches far beyond our students to the future of the aerospace industry, Brenda Hellyer, chancellor of San Jacinto College, said in a statement. "A skilled workforce is critical to the success of the Houston Spaceport and the aerospace industries that support it, and we understand our role in providing the next generation of aerospace technicians."

San Jacinto College, which is the official education training partner for the Houston Spaceport at Ellington Airport, launched the EDGE Center in 2020.

The center aims to train future aerospace professionals through its technician programs as well as a general aerospace program and a drone pilot program. To date, about 30 students have earned their credentials .

Houston founder on creating an app for sports connections and having fun

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 179

Lydia Davies had the idea for an app that would forge friendship and fun — right at the beginning of the world's most isolating time.

She shouted her idea — an app that would allow golfers to connect when traveling or on nice weekends when other friends might not be free — to her husband over the heads of their rambunctious children.

"I started building the app right then and there in this tornado of noise and chaos, and it kind of just became my sanity in that early COVID time because I had something to work on and build," Davies says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast.

The idea turned into TeeMates, which launched in 2021 and focused on golf exclusively, and evolved into the TEAMATES App, the current platform that now has a growing selection of sports and activities for users to sync up with others on.

As of this week, users have new features in the app that includes rewards and incentives for users to give feedback to each other on the app. Davies has even hosted events to bring people together in the name of socialization and activity.

"There is so much tension and fear after COVID in just communicating and connecting, and people just seem to feel a bit insecure. I didn't want people to feel that way," she says. "I wanted to create a community where people could just show up and be a part of a group because they are joining in an activity together."

Ultimately, the app — and its evolving features — is all about having fun and creating real human connections, Davies says.

"Activity and fun — adults have to have fun, and not just out at bars drinking," she says. "Sports and activities are fun — competition and learning something new is fun."

Davies shares her journey of entrepreneurship — which has included a pop music career and a real estate business — on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.