Through a first-of-its-kind proposal, Las Vegas-based public utility NV Energy would supply geothermal power generated by Fervo Energy for Google’s two data centers in Nevada. Photo via blog.google

Houston-based Fervo Energy’s geothermal energy soon will help power the world’s most popular website.

Through a first-of-its-kind proposal, Las Vegas-based public utility NV Energy would supply 115 megawatts of geothermal power generated by Fervo for Google’s two data centers in Nevada. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

In 2021, Google teamed up with Fervo to develop a pilot project for geothermal power in Nevada. Two years later, electricity from this project started flowing into the Nevada grid serving the two Google data centers. Google spent $600 million to build each of the centers, which are in Henderson, a Las Vegas suburb, and Storey County, which is east of Reno.

The proposed agreement with NV Energy would bring about 25 times more geothermal power capacity to the Nevada grid, Google says, and enable more around-the-clock clean power for the search engine company’s Nevada data centers.

A data center gobbles up 10 to 50 times the energy per square foot of floor space that a typical office building does, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

“NV Energy and Google’s partnership to develop new solutions to bring clean … energy technology — like enhanced geothermal — onto Nevada’s grid at this scale is remarkable. This innovative proposal will not be paid for by NV Energy’s other customers but will help ensure all our customers benefit from cleaner, greener energy resources,” Doug Cannon, president and CEO of NV Energy, says in a Google blog post.

Utility regulators still must sign off on the proposal.

“If approved, it provides a blueprint for other utilities and large customers in Nevada to accelerate clean energy goals,” Cannon says.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Fervo Energy's Project Red with Google is officially operational. Photo via blog.google

Houston startup's sustainable energy project with Google goes online

switch flipped

Google is on a mission to run all of its data centers and office campuses on constant carbon-free energy by 2030, and the tech giant is one step closer to that goal.

Last week, Google announced that its 24/7 carbon-free energy, or CFE, in Nevada to power its local data center in the state is officially operational. The facility is powered by Houston-based Fervo Energy's geothermal technology, a project — called Project Red — that began in 2021 and celebrated its successful pilot this summer.

"When we began our partnership with Fervo, we knew that a first-of-a-kind project like this would require a wide range of technical and operational innovations," Michael Terrell, senior director of energy and climate at Google, writes in a blog post about the partnership.

Fervo relies on tried and true drilling techniques from the oil and gas industry, accessing heat energy that previously has been elusive to traditional geothermal methods, Terrell continues. Fervo dug two horizontal wells at the Nevada plant, as well as installed fiber-optic cables to capture data that tracks performance and other key information.

"The result is a geothermal plant that can produce round-the-clock CFE using less land than other clean energy sources and drawing on skills, knowledge, and supply chains that exist in other industries," Terrell says. "From our early commitment to support the project’s development to its successful completion, we’ve worked closely with Fervo to overcome obstacles and prove that this technology can work."

Google also recently announced a partnership with Project InnerSpace, a nonprofit focused on global geothermal energy development.

Fervo is working on another nearby project, the company announced in September. The 400-milliwatt geothermal energy project in Cape Station, Utah, will start delivering carbon-free power to the grid in 2026, with full-scale production beginning in 2028.

The project, in southwest Utah, is about 240 miles southwest of Salt Lake City and about 240 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Cape Station is adjacent to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) and near the Blundell geothermal power plant.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Sarah Hein of March Biosciences, Sean Kelly of Amperon, Donnell Debnam Jr. of the Google in Residence program, and the 2023 Houston Innovation Awards judges. Photos courtesy

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 biotech to energy software, recently making headlines in Houston innovation — plus the decision makers for the Houston Innovation Awards.

Sarah Hein, CEO and co-founder of March Biosciences

Early-stage cell therapy startup March Biosciences has partnered with CTMC. Photo via march.bio

Named in part after one of the best months out of the year for Houstonians, March Biosciences has entered into a uniquely Houston partnership. Sarah Hein, CEO and co-founder of the cancer immunotherapy startup, met her co-founders at the TMC Accelerator for Cancer Therapeutics.

“It's a perfect example of the opportunities here in Houston where you can go from bench to bedside, essentially, in the same institution. And Baylor has been particularly good at that because of the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy,” says Hein.

The company recently announced a partnership with another Houston institution, CTMC. Read more.

Sean Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Amperon

It's payday for a startup that's improving analytics for its energy customers. Photo via Getty Images

Amperon Holdings Inc. raised $20 million in its latest round of funding in order to accelerate its energy analytics and grid decarbonization technology.

The fresh funding will support the company in evolving its platform that conducts electricity demand forecasting to a comprehensive data analytics solution.

“The energy transition is creating unprecedented market volatility, and Amperon is uniquely positioned to help market participants better navigate the transitioning grid – both in the U.S. and as we expand globally,” Sean Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Amperon, says. Read more.

Donnell Debnam Jr., instructor in the Google in Residence program

Thanks to Google, Donnell Debnam Jr. is helping train future software engineers at Prairie View A&M University. Photo via LinkedIn

Computer science students at Prairie View A&M University are gaining firsthand knowledge this semester from a Google software engineer.

As an instructor in the Google in Residence program, Donnell Debnam Jr. is helping train future software engineers — and other potential tech professionals — who are enrolled this fall in Prairie View A&M’s introductory computer science course. Fifty-four students are taking the class.

“I participated in the Google in Residence program as a student, and I am honored to return as an instructor,” says Debnam. “This innovative program was created to support greater diversity in the tech industry, and as an instructor, I have the privilege of helping the next generation of software engineers create a more inclusive culture within the STEM fields.” Read more.

2023 Houston Innovation Awards judges

Bonus innovators to know: The 10 Houstonians deciding the finalists and winners for this year's Houston Innovation Awards. Photos courtesy

Ten Houstonians are in the hot seat for deciding the best companies and individuals in Houston's innovation ecosystem.

InnovationMap has announced its 2023 Houston Innovation Awards judging panel, which includes startup founders, nonprofit leaders, investors, corporate innovators, and more.

Meet the 10 selected judges who will evaluate applications from the nearly 400 nominations that were submitted this year. Read more.

Thanks to Google, Donnell Debnam Jr. is helping train future software engineers at Prairie View A&M. Photo via LinkedIn

Google program plants software expert at Houston-area university

meet the faculty

Computer science students at Prairie View A&M University are gaining firsthand knowledge this semester from a Google software engineer.

As an instructor in the Google in Residence program, Donnell Debnam Jr. is helping train future software engineers — and other potential tech professionals — who are enrolled this fall in Prairie View A&M’s introductory computer science course. Fifty-four students are taking the class.

“I participated in the Google in Residence program as a student, and I am honored to return as an instructor,” says Debnam. “This innovative program was created to support greater diversity in the tech industry, and as an instructor, I have the privilege of helping the next generation of software engineers create a more inclusive culture within the STEM fields.”

Prairie View A&M is one of 14 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-serving schools that are benefiting this fall from the Google residency program. Since being founded in 2013, the program has enabled more than 8,000 college students across the country to absorb knowledge from Google tech professionals.

The Google program addresses a nationwide gap in tech diversity.

A 2023 report from CompTIA, a trade group for the tech industry, shows Black professionals make up 12 percent of the U.S. workforce but eight percent of tech occupations, while Hispanic professionals represent 17 percent of the U.S. workforce but eight percent of tech occupations.

Prairie View A&M, an HBUC, is one of two Texas universities in this fall’s program. The other is the University of Texas at El Paso, a Hispanic-serving school. The main campus of Prairie View A&M is roughly 45 miles northwest of Houston.

Google says Debnam is equipping students at Prairie View A&M “with the skills needed to enter the workforce, such as fundamental coding concepts, how to debug, and how to prepare for technical interviews.”

As a student in 2017, Debnam participated in the Google residency program at Hampton University, an HBCU in Hampton, Virginia. In a LinkedIn post, Debnam wrote that since then, “I always said to myself and others that if I could figure out a way to get into Google someday, I would make it a priority to try to be part of this program.”

After completing two Google internships and earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Hampton, Debnam joined the tech giant as a full-time software engineer in 2021.

“If you know me, you know I have a passion for tech, but an even deeper passion for working with students and being a resource in any way possible,” he wrote on LinkedIn.

Nai-Hui Chia, an assistant professor of computer science at Rice, was recognized for his research on Hamiltonian simulations, a method for representing the motion of moving particles. Photo via Rice.edu

Houston professor earns Google Scholar award for quantum computing research

recent recognition

A Rice University quantum computer scientist was one of 78 global professors to be presented with a 2023 Google Scholar award, the university announced this month.

Nai-Hui Chia, an assistant professor of computer science at Rice, was recognized for his research on Hamiltonian simulations, a method for representing the motion of moving particles. Chia aims to understand if quantum computers or machines can simulate a "Hamiltonian matrix" with a shorter evolution time.

"We call this fast-forwarding for a Hamiltonian simulation,” Chia says in a statement.

Chia aims to use the funds from Google to discover Hamiltonians that can be fast-forwarded using parallelism or classical computation, according to Rice. He will present his current work on Hamiltonians and their connection to cryptology in July at the 2023 Computational Complexity Conference in Warwick, UK.

The Google Research Scholar program grants funds of up to $60,000 to support professors' research around the world. This year's cohort works in fields ranging from algorithms and optimization to natural language processing to health research.

Three other Texas researchers were awarded funds in the 2023 cohort.

The University of Texas at Austin's Jon Tamir was awarded for his work in applied sciences. Atlas Wang, also from UT, was awarded in the machine learning and data mining category. Shenglong Xu, from Texas A&M University, joined Chia in the quantum computing category.

Tech behemoth Google has awarded funds to several Houston innovators in recent years.

Last summer the company named AnswerBite, Boxes and Ease to its inaugural cohort of the Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund. Selected companies received an equity-free $100,000 investment, as well as programming and support from Google.

In September 2022, ChurchSpace and Enrichly were named part of the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund. The companies also received $100,000 non-dilutive awards along with mentoring and support.

DOSS is a real estate platform founded in Houston that helps democratize access to homeownership. Photo via Getty Images

How this Houston innovator is tapping into tech to make homeownership more accessible

ask DOSS

Real estate and homeownership has been historically exclusionary. Bobby Bryant — the first Black man to create and franchise a real estate brokerage brand — wanted to do something about that.

Considering the history of the real estate industry — women weren't able to buy homes without being married and African Americans were refused outright thanks to the country's history of redlining — Bryant tells InnovationMap he saw an opportunity for a business.

“I look at diversity as our superpower, and I look at the opportunity to kick that door down," he says.

Bryant is the CEO and founder of DOSS, a digital brokerage that uses tech to make homeownership more affordable. DOSS is in the process of developing what Bryant describes as a “real estate super app.” The company, which was born in 2016, has developed a technology where customers are able to ask for real-estate advice and tips, search for home listings, get neighborhood information, and recent sales data.

The effort received funding via the Google for Startups Black Founders program, which totalled $100,000. DOSS touts its platform as a dynamic and effective effort to methodically dissect the entire real estate process and rebuild a modern-day digital real estate brokerage with a “flex-model” that's more modern.

Bryant is looking to grow DOSS using a franchise method. Franchisees get a program that lowers their expenses, increases their bottom line, and provides cutting edge technology that includes use of artificial intelligence. While the real estate space is competitive, and for some could be daunting, Bryant looks to modernize the industry, while making it simpler to navigate. And that's where the tech comes in.

“The fluidness of the process, not making it as restrictive to certain groups, it really opens things up, and that is what we’ve seen with our technology,” Bryant says. “How do we turn around and make data more humanistic and centralize it?

"We want people to feel comfortable asking questions and getting accurate answers," he continues. "Millenials and Gen Z are the most-educated generations we’ve seen in history. They are also the most diverse in history. We understand that."

Bryant explains how important equity and honesty is to these new generations, and he's built DOSS with them in mind. As a former educator with two master's degrees in education, Bryant transitioned to the world of real estate in 1999. He says he sees a connection in his journey from helping students to now helping people find a home — especially to these younger generations of first-time buyers who are dealing with an ever-changing market.

“Education is a part of all of our lives,” Bryant says. “I've been able to educate people on the process, and create a technology that makes it all more fluid, and insightful and transparent with the real estate industry. ... What I’ve done is incorporate an educational process, which I guess you can say is an advantage I have.”

Bobby Bryant founded Doss to make it easier to learn about homeownership. Photo via askdoss.com

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston space tech company reaches major milestone for engine technology

fired up

A Houston company that's creating the next generation of space exploration technology is celebrating a new milestone of one of its technologies.

Intuitive Machines reports that its VR900 completed a full-duration hot-fire test, qualifying it for its IM-2 lunar mission. With the qualification, the company says its VR3500, an engine designed for larger cargo class landers, also advances in development.

The engine technology is designed, 3D-printed, and tested all at Intuitive Machines' Houston facility, which opened in the Houston Spaceport last year.

Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus says in a news release that the company's goal was to lead the way in scalable deep space engines as the industry heads toward lunar missions.

“This validated engine design meets current mission demand and paves the way for our VR3500 engine for cargo delivery such as lunar terrain vehicles, human spaceflight cargo resupply, and other infrastructure delivery," Altemus continues. "We believe we’re in a prime position to build on our successful development and apply that technology toward current contracts and future lunar requirements for infrastructure delivery.”

Earlier this year, Intuitive Machines was one of one of three companies selected for a $30 million NASA contract for the initial phase of developing a rover for U.S. astronauts to traverse the moon’s surface.

Another Houston company has seen success with its engine testing. In March, Venus Aerospace announced that it's successfully ran the first long-duration engine test of their Rotating Detonation Rocket Engine in partnership with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

Houston is the most stressed out city in Texas, report finds

deep breaths

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but a new report by WalletHub shows Houston residents are far more stressed out than any other city in Texas.

Houston ranked No. 18 out of 182 of the largest U.S. cities based on work, financial, family-related, and health and safety stress, according to WalletHub's "Most & Least Stressed Cities in America (2024)" report. 39 relevant metrics were considered in the report, including each city's job security, the share of households behind on bills within the last 12 months, divorce rates, crime rates, among others.

Houston was ranked the most stressed out city in Texas, but it's still far less stressed than many other U.S. cities. Cleveland, Ohio took first place as the most stressed city in America, followed by Detroit, Michigan (No. 2), Baltimore, Maryland (No. 3), Memphis, Tennessee (No. 4), and Gulfport, Mississippi (No. 5).

Out of the four main categories, Houstonians are struggling the most with work-related stress, ranking No. 13 nationally. The report found Houston has the No. 1 highest traffic congestion rate out of all cities in the report. But at least Houston drivers are solidly average, as maintained by a separate Forbes study comparing the worst drivers in America.

Houston workers can rejoice that they live in a city with a generally high level of guaranteed employment, as the city ranked No. 151 in the job security comparison. The city ranked No. 16 nationwide in the metric for the highest average weekly hours worked.

Houston fared best in the financial stress category, coming in at No. 72 nationally, showing that Houstonians aren't as worried about pinching pennies when it comes to maintaining a good quality of life. The city ranked No. 39 in the comparison of highest poverty rates.

Here's how WalletHub quantified Houston's stress levels:

  • No. 17 – Health and safety stress rank (overall)
  • No. 36 – Family stress rank (overall)
  • No. 63 – Unemployment rates
  • No. 81 – Percentage of adults in fair/poor health
  • No. 95 – Divorce rate
  • No. 96 – Percentage of adults with inadequate sleep

WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe said in the report that living in particularly arduous cities can play a big role in how stressed a person is, especially when considering uncontrollable circumstances like family problems or work-related issues.

"Cities with high crime rates, weak economies, less effective public health and congested transportation systems naturally lead to elevated stress levels for residents," Happe said.

Happe advised that residents considering a move to a place like Houston should consider how the city's quality of life will impact their mental health, not just their financial wellbeing.

Other Texas cities that ranked among the top 100 most stressed cities in the U.S. are:

  • No. 20 – San Antonio
  • No. 38 – Laredo
  • No. 41 – Dallas
  • No. 47 – Corpus Christi
  • No. 61 – El Paso
  • No. 68 – Fort Worth
  • No. 71 – Brownsville
  • No. 75 – Arlington
  • No. 78 – Grand Prairie
  • No. 88 – Garland
The full report and its methodology can be found on wallethub.com

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston cardiac health startup raises $43 million series B to grow AI-backed platform

money moves

A Houston-based tech company that has a product line of software solutions for cardiac health has raised funding.

Octagos Health, the parent company of Atlas AI — a software platform for cardiac devices like pacemakers, defibrillators, ambulatory monitors and consumer wearables — has announced a $43 million series B raise that will bring their technology to many more hearts.

Morgan Stanley Investment Capital led the investment, which also included funds from Mucker Capital and other continuing strategic investors. The goal of the raise is to supply funds to accelerate Atlas AI’s growth across the United States and to expand into other areas of care, including ambulatory monitors, consumer wearables, and sleep.

"This investment will enable us to accelerate enhancements to our platform, in addition to scaling our commercial team and operations. We are currently the only company that helps cardiology practices migrate their historical data from legacy software providers and fully integrates with any EHR (exertion heart rate) system. We do this while enabling customized reporting supported by patient and practice decision-support analytics," says Eric Olsen, COO of Octagos Health, in a press release.

Octagos Health was founded by a team of healthcare pros including CEO Shanti Bansal, a cardiologist and founder of Houston Heart Rhythm, an atrial fibrillation center. The goal was to find a new way to deal with the massive amount of data that clinicians encounter each day in a way that combines software and the work of human doctors.

According to the Octagos Health website, “Our solution allows clinicians to focus on other ways of delivering meaningful healthcare and more efficiently manage their remotely monitored patients.”

It works thanks to customizable reporting features that allow patients’ healthcare teams to get help while monitoring them, but to do it precisely as they would if they were crunching numbers themselves.

"We are excited to partner with Octagos Health and support their vision of transforming cardiac care," says Melissa Daniels, managing director of Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital. "Octagos Health has demonstrated exceptional growth and innovation in a critical area of healthcare. We believe their platform and vertically integrated software and services significantly improve patient care and streamline cardiac monitoring processes for healthcare providers."

Will Hsu, co-founder and partner of Mucker Capital, agrees. “Octagos Health is poised for scale – industry leading gross margins, a very sticky product that doctors and clinical staff love, and a market ready for disruption with artificial intelligence. This is the new wave for diagnostic care,” he says. And with this raise, it will be available to even more clinicians and patients across the country.