FemTec Health has acquired two companies — a women's reproductive platform and a nutrition platform. Image via avawomen.com

Last month, a Houston-based, tech-enabled health and beauty sciences company made two acquisitions of startups in the femtech space.

FemTec Health, creator of the Awesome Woman comprehensive health care subscription platform, has acquired Ava AG — a women's reproductive digital diagnostics and therapeutics company — and Nutrimedy — a clinical nutrition platform.

Ava, founded by Lea von Bidder in Zurich in 2014, uses artificial intelligence and clinical trials-backed science to help women conceive faster. Per a news release, the FDA-cleared technology has helped over 70,000 women get pregnant.

"What Lea and the Ava team have built is truly innovative. We are excited to add the leader in reproductive health to our portfolio and onto our team," says Dr. Kimon Angelides, FemTec Health founder and CEO, in the July 19 release. "From fertility to contraception, pregnancy support, menopause management, and personalized health insights, Ava's technology is a great addition to make it even easier for women within the FemTec Health platform to take control of their health, all while keeping their data and personal health information one hundred percent private and secure."

FemTec Health's Awesome Woman platform will integrate Ava's technology, adding reproductive health to its list of female-focused health care services which includes vaginal health, hormone balance, sexual wellness, and beauty.

"Ava's vision has always been to be a companion to women along every stage of their lives. With Ava's female health AI integrated into FemTec's care platform, women will finally have access to a fully continuous health journey," says von Bidder in the release. "We are excited to join FemTec in building continuous support for women from puberty to menopause."

Last week, FemTec announced the acquisition of Nutrimedy, a HIPAA-compliant digital health platform founded by Karolina Starczak in Boston in 2016. With the acquisition, Awesome Women members will have access to Nutrimedy's guided nutritional support.

"For many health conditions, nutrition is a key but often neglected component," says Angelides, in the July 25 news release. "Adding Nutrimedy's robust, evidence-based clinical nutrition platform to the Awesome Woman program will be a gamechanger for our subscribers. Whether it's to optimize pregnancy planning, manage menopause symptoms, or for general wellness and prevention, research shows women are seeking personalized, science-backed nutritional support that's easy to use and that they can trust."

With its AI-powered platform, users can access real-time food recommendations and photo food logging. Nutrimedy empowers those suffering from chronic conditions and disruptive food allergies and sensitivities, to make informed dietary decisions in the moment.

"Nutrimedy was started with the mission to improve access to nutrition in healthcare and make it significantly more personalized and actionable in our hectic daily routines," says Starczak in the release. "Within the field of nutrition, conflicting and confusing misinformation is pervasive and prevents most people from making the best decision for their individual health."

Last fall, FemTec Health emerged from stealth with $35 million in fresh VC investment. The company has also acquired Birchbox, Mira Beauty, and Liquid Grids over the past year.

Angelides, a Houstonian, previously told InnovationMap that he was driven to found FemTech Health because there was no holistic platform focused on every phase of women's health.

"Women don't really have a program that's designed for them," Angelides says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "We embarked in terms of building a platform and a company that would be a single destination for women — one that's not age specific but built around journeys."

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Kimon Angelides of FemTec Health, Sandy Guitar of HX Venture Fund, and Jill Chapman of Insperity. Courtesy photos

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

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

Kimon Angelides, CEO of FemTech Health

Dr. Kimon Angelides, a serial entrepreneur in Houston, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss how he plans to disrupt women's health and beauty. Photo courtesy

Founded in 2020 by Kimon Angelides, FemTec Health is creating a holistic approach to women's health in both a B2B and a direct-to-consumers capacity. He explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that most treatment for women is centered around age, rather than the type of health care they are looking for and need.

"Women don't really have a program that's designed for them," Angelides says on the show. "We embarked in terms of building a platform and a company that would be a single destination for women — one that's not age specific but built around journeys." Click here to continue reading.

Sandy Guitar, managing director of HX Venture Fund

Sandy Guitar of HX Venture Fund explains how they're working with out-of-town VCs to fund Houston companies in a recent Q&A. Photo courtesy

Last week, the HX Venture Fund — a fund of funds that makes investments as a limited partner in venture capital funds across the country — hosted Washington D.C.-based Revolution Ventures in Houston to introduce the firm to local entrepreneurs. Tige Savage, co-founder and managing partner of Revolution Ventures, and Sandy Guitar, managing partner of HX Venture Fund, join InnovationMap for a Q&A about how the two organizations are working together to put funding in the hands of Houston tech entrepreneurs.

"This is our second event this year already, and we've done about half a dozen of these so far of what we call VC engage days," Guitar says. "The idea of the VC engage day is to really connect all of our communities together." Click here to read more.

Jill Chapman, senior performance consultant with Insperity

Gen Z is predicted to represent more than 25 percent of the workforce by 2025 — here's how you can prepare your workplace for their imminent arrival. Photo courtesy of Insperity

Gen Z workers — they are coming. In a guest column for InnovationMap, Jill Chapman, senior performance consultant with Insperity, shares tips on preparing your workplace for the future.

"As business leaders prepare for an influx of Zoomers in the workplace by promoting mission/values, employee well-being, DEI and technology, they are also making significant strides toward improving the work environment, which leads to increased employee engagement, retention and performance for sustained business success." Click here to read more.

Dr. Kimon Angelides, a serial entrepreneur in Houston, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss how he plans to disrupt women's health and beauty. Photo courtesy

Houston innovator taps into tech to give women a holistic platform for health and wellness

houston innovators platform episode 131

When it comes to women's health and wellness, there's never been a one-stop shop. Over the past few years, tons of femtech startups have popped up with health-focused apps or niche products, but no company has emerged to provide a comprehensive approach for women.

That is until FemTec Health emerged from stealth mode last fall — already with over 100 employees and $35 million in funding. The company was founded in 2020 by Kimon Angelides — a serial entrepreneur who founded Livongo Health, a digital health system focused on diabetes treatment, and Vivante Health, a gut health platform, as well as a handful of other businesses.

For his latest endeavor, Angelides had idea of creating a holistic approach to women's health in both a B2B and a direct-to-consumers capacity. He explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that most treatment for women is centered around age, rather than the type of health care they are looking for and need.

"Women don't really have a program that's designed for them," Angelides says on the show. "We embarked in terms of building a platform and a company that would be a single destination for women — one that's not age specific but built around journeys."

A key differentiator for FemTec Health is its data analytics component. Angelides was in academia prior to starting his career as an entrepreneur, and he says that he's prioritizing lab research and data to identify specific biomarkers that can indicate more optimized treatment for everything from IVF and vaginal health to the best skincare based on genetics and hormones.

"Right now, we're analyzing data from 44 million women over a six-year period — it's medical claims data," he explains, "and we're using predictive analytics to find out what are some of the digital markers are."

FemTec Health has around 180 employees across the world, and Angelides says he's got a lab in Houston he's hoping to build out and grow to focus on diagnostics testing. Part of the company's growth strategy included acquiring companies, including beauty subscription box Birchbox, universal beauty store Mira Beauty, and beauty industry social marketing platform Liquid Grids, which has over 1.5 million members.

Angelides shares more about how he has observed Houston develop as an innovation ecosystem — as well as what's next for FemTec Health — on the podcast episode. Listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.



This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Carolyn Rodz of Hello Alice, Kimon Angelides of FemTec Health, and Lara Cottingham of Greentown Labs. Courtesy photos

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

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 clean energy — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Carolyn Rodz, CEO and founder of Hello Alice

Carolyn Rodz joins the Houston Innovators Podcast this week. Photo courtesy of Hello Alice

Hello Alice exists to serve small business founders through their entrepreneurial journeys — that's why Carolyn Rodz founded the company — and SMBs needed support more than ever last year.

As challenging as the pandemic was for Hello Alice, it was validating too. Rodz says the company had a 700 percent increase in revenue and an 1,100 percent acquisition growth.

"We'd never operated in a downcycle, but what we learned through that process was that we're a really valuable resource for business owners when times are great, but we're also a really valuable resource for them when times are tough," she says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. Click here to read more and stream the episode.

Kimon Angelides, founder, chairman, and interim CEO of FemTec Health,

Dr. Kimon Angelides is also the founder of Houston health tech startups Livongo Health and Vivante Health. Photo via LinkedIn

Kimon Angelides, who has founded a handful of Houston health tech startups, has announced his latest venture launched FemTec Health, a tech-enabled women's health sciences and beauty company focused on transforming the total healthcare experience for women. The company is emerging from stealth mode this week with already 10 million members, two clinical trials in progress, $38 million in funding, and a team of over 150.

"Our platform can be implemented across all areas including specialty care, wellness and prevention, reproductive care, sexual wellness, mental health, chronic care, and beyond," Angelides says in the release. "It is driven by state-of-the-art genomics and digital technologies that empower women to take control of their health at every stage of their life journey, based on their individual health profiles."

FemTec Health's business and growth model is to expand via acquisitions — and the company has several under its belt already, including beauty subscription box Birchbox, universal beauty store Mira Beauty, and beauty industry social marketing platform Liquid Grids, which has over 1.5 million members, according to the release. Click here to read more.

Lara Cottingham, chief of staff for Greentown Labs

As of this week, Lara Cottingham is the chief of staff at Greentown Labs. Photo via LinkedIn

Lara Cottingham is the new chief of staff for Greentown Labs, a Boston-area company that opened in Houston earlier this year. Cottingham previously served as the city of Houston's chief sustainability officer and the chief of staff for the city's Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department for the past seven years. In her new role, Cottingham will oversee the day-to-day operations and communications for Greentown's CEO Emily Reichert, along with key stakeholder engagements and strategic initiatives for the incubator.

"In working with Mayor Turner and Climate Mayors across the U.S., I saw how important partnerships are to helping cities decarbonize," says Cottingham in the release. "There is no better partner or place for climate action at work than Greentown Labs. Greentown is 100 percent committed to attracting and nurturing the energy companies of the future and making Houston the energy transition capital of the world. I'm excited to join the team and see how climatetech can help cities reach their climate goals." Click here to read more.

The new startup has acquired Birchbox and plans to relaunch the beauty subscription service with its patented health customization. Photo via birchbox.com

New women's health and beauty biz led by Houston entrepreneur emerges from stealth with $35M in funding

beauty tech

A Houston health tech entrepreneur who's started six businesses in his career has announced his latest endeavor.

Dr. Kimon Angelides, founder of Houston health tech startups Livongo Health and Vivante Health, launched FemTec Health, a tech-enabled women's health sciences and beauty company focused on transforming the total healthcare experience for women. The company is emerging from stealth mode this week with already 10 million members, two clinical trials in progress, and a team of over 150.

FemTec Health is building the data analytics platform to support products and services for women in every life stage. The patent-pending BiomeAI™engine uses AI and deep machine learning to translate consumer, genetic, microbiome, and biometric data into the delivery of holistic healthcare personalized for every woman, according to a news release from the company.

"Our platform can be implemented across all areas including specialty care, wellness and prevention, reproductive care, sexual wellness, mental health, chronic care, and beyond," Angelides says in the release. "It is driven by state-of-the-art genomics and digital technologies that empower women to take control of their health at every stage of their life journey, based on their individual health profiles."

Angelides serves as the new company's chairman and interim CEO. Photo via LinkedIn

FemTec has already raised more than $35 million in funding from a myriad of investors, capital, and shareholders, including Longmont Capital, Ithaca LifeSciences, Unilever Ventures, Estee Lauder, Shiseido, e.Ventures, Viking Global, and Trinity Capital.

The company, which has been in the works since May of 2020, has assembled an all-star team of experts, including Dr. Kimberly Capone, chief scientific officer (formerly with Johnson & Johnson), and Dr. Laura Clapper, COO (formerly Cigna, CVS-Aetna).

"Women's health has been under-researched and underrepresented for too long," says Capone in the release. "As a woman and a scientist, I have often been the sounding board for friends and family on their wellness journey – offering advice and feedback on skincare, vaginal care, probiotics and supplements that can help with issues in skin and vaginal health, PMS and menopause. What I hear consistently is that women do not know where to go, or what products to choose that may help."

This is exactly the need the technology will help to solve.

"This is where FemTec Health's unified and coordinated platform comes in — we provide personalized services and science-based products that are meaningful and effective for women at all stages of their lives. I believe the future is female and FemTec Health will help get us there," Capone continues.

FemTec Health's business and growth model is to expand via acquisitions — and the company has several under its belt already, including beauty subscription box Birchbox, universal beauty store Mira Beauty, and beauty industry social marketing platform Liquid Grids, which has over 1.5 million members, according to the release.

"Our first acquisitions within women's health and beauty are key to our mission to revolutionize the women's healthcare and beauty industry," says Angelides, who is the company's executive chairman and interim CEO. "Women deserve a comprehensive, all encompassing model designed specifically for them. The starting point is to really understand a woman's healthcare needs and then apply smart technology like AI and predictive analytics to translate the data into actionable outcomes."

In the near future, the company plans on re-launching Birchbox, using the BiomeAI™ platform to give subscribers curated personalized skin and healthcare products. Birchbox was sold to private equity firm, Viking Global — one of FemTec's investors, in 2018.

"I have always believed in the power of women as a community, and I believe this is a natural step in the evolution of Birchbox," says Katia Beauchamp, founder of Birchbox, in the release. "Eleven years ago, we were compelled by an ability to build deep customer relationships month after month. FemTec's vision for the future of women's healthcare was inspirational to me and I could see the opportunity for the thousands of women in the Birchbox community to extend beyond consumer beauty products to a more holistic health and wellness offering."

According to the release, more strategic partnerships with health and wellness companies will be announced soon.

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Houston researchers create AI model to tap into how brain activity relates to illness

brainiac

Houston researchers are part of a team that has created an AI model intended to understand how brain activity relates to behavior and illness.

Scientists from Baylor College of Medicine worked with peers from Yale University, University of Southern California and Idaho State University to make Brain Language Model, or BrainLM. Their research was published as a conference paper at ICLR 2024, a meeting of some of deep learning’s greatest minds.

“For a long time we’ve known that brain activity is related to a person’s behavior and to a lot of illnesses like seizures or Parkinson’s,” Dr. Chadi Abdallah, associate professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor and co-corresponding author of the paper, says in a press release. “Functional brain imaging or functional MRIs allow us to look at brain activity throughout the brain, but we previously couldn’t fully capture the dynamic of these activities in time and space using traditional data analytical tools.

"More recently, people started using machine learning to capture the brain complexity and how it relates it to specific illnesses, but that turned out to require enrolling and fully examining thousands of patients with a particular behavior or illness, a very expensive process,” Abdallah continues.

Using 80,000 brain scans, the team was able to train their model to figure out how brain activities related to one another. Over time, this created the BrainLM brain activity foundational model. BrainLM is now well-trained enough to use to fine-tune a specific task and to ask questions in other studies.

Abdallah said that using BrainLM will cut costs significantly for scientists developing treatments for brain disorders. In clinical trials, it can cost “hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said, to enroll numerous patients and treat them over a significant time period. By using BrainLM, researchers can enroll half the subjects because the AI can select the individuals most likely to benefit.

The team found that BrainLM performed successfully in many different samples. That included predicting depression, anxiety and PTSD severity better than other machine learning tools that do not use generative AI.

“We found that BrainLM is performing very well. It is predicting brain activity in a new sample that was hidden from it during the training as well as doing well with data from new scanners and new population,” Abdallah says. “These impressive results were achieved with scans from 40,000 subjects. We are now working on considerably increasing the training dataset. The stronger the model we can build, the more we can do to assist with patient care, such as developing new treatment for mental illnesses or guiding neurosurgery for seizures or DBS.”

For those suffering from neurological and mental health disorders, BrainLM could be a key to unlocking treatments that will make a life-changing difference.

Houston-based cleantech unicorn named among annual top disruptors

on the rise

Houston-based biotech startup Solugen is making waves among innovative companies.

Solugen appears at No. 36 on CNBC’s annual Disruptor 50 list, which highlights private companies that are “upending the classic definition of disruption.” Privately owned startups founded after January 1, 2009, were eligible for the Disruptor 50 list.

Founded in 2016, Solugen replaces petroleum-based products with plant-derived substitutes through its Bioforge manufacturing platform. For example, it uses engineered enzymes and metal catalysts to convert feedstocks like sugar into chemicals that have traditionally been made from fossil fuels, such as petroleum and natural gas.

Solugen has raised $643 million in funding and now boasts a valuation of $2.2 billion.

“Sparked by a chance medical school poker game conversation in 2016, Solugen evolved from prototype to physical asset in five years, and production hit commercial scale shortly thereafter,” says CNBC.

Solugen co-founders Gaurab Chakrabarti and Sean Hunt received the Entrepreneur of The Year 2023 National Award, presented by professional services giant EY.

“Solugen is a textbook startup launched by two partners with $10,000 in seed money that is revolutionizing the chemical refining industry. The innovation-driven company is tackling impactful, life-changing issues important to the planet,” Entrepreneur of The Year judges wrote.

In April 2024, Solugen broke ground on a Bioforge biomanufacturing plant in Marshall, Minnesota. The 500,000-square-foot, 34-acre facility arose through a Solugen partnership with ADM. Chicago-based ADM produces agricultural products, commodities, and ingredients. The plant is expected to open in the fall of 2025.

“Solugen’s … technology is a transformative force in sustainable chemical manufacturing,” says Hunt. “The new facility will significantly increase our existing capabilities, enabling us to expand the market share of low-carbon chemistries.”

Houston cleantech company tests ​all-electric CO2-to-fuel production technology

RESULTS ARE IN

Houston-based clean energy company Syzygy Plasmonics has successfully tested all-electric CO2-to-fuel production technology at RTI International’s facility at North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park.

Syzygy says the technology can significantly decarbonize transportation by converting two potent greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, into low-carbon jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline.

Equinor Ventures and Sumitomo Corp. of Americas sponsored the pilot project.

“This project showcases our ability to fight climate change by converting harmful greenhouse gases into fuel,” Trevor Best, CEO of Syzygy, says in a news release.

“At scale,” he adds, “we’re talking about significantly reducing and potentially eliminating the carbon intensity of shipping, trucking, and aviation. This is a major step toward quickly and cost effectively cutting emissions from the heavy-duty transport sector.”

At commercial scale, a typical Syzygy plant will consume nearly 200,000 tons of CO2 per year, the equivalent of taking 45,000 cars off the road.

“The results of this demonstration are encouraging and represent an important milestone in our collaboration with Syzygy,” says Sameer Parvathikar, director of renewable energy and energy storage at RTI.

In addition to the CO2-to-fuel demonstration, Syzygy's Ammonia e-Cracking™ technology has completed over 2,000 hours of performance and optimization testing at its plant in Houston. Syzygy is finalizing a site and partners for a commercial CO2-to-fuel plant.

Syzygy is working to decarbonize the chemical industry, responsible for almost 20 percent of industrial CO2 emissions, by using light instead of combustion to drive chemical reactions.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.