Raptor Technologies, a Houston-based company providing safety-focused software to schools, has made an acquisition and announced new investment. Graphic via raptortech.com

A Houston company that provides school safety software to schools across the country has made a strategic acquisition.

Raptor Technologies announced last week that it has acquired United Kingdom-based CPOMS, which provides student safeguarding software to schools in the UK. Raptor reported that the M&A activity follows strategic investments from Chicago-based Thoma Bravo and existing investors JMI Equity, a Maryland-based firm, and New York-based Ares Capital. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"We are excited to add CPOMS best-in-class wellbeing products to Raptor's market-leading school safety product suite and to welcome the CPOMS team into the Raptor family," says Gray Hall, CEO of Raptor Technologies, in the press release. "Combining CPOMS software and domain expertise with Raptor further advances our mission to protect every child, every school, every day. We are eager to bring the proven capabilities of CPOMS to the US market and continue advancing CPOMS leadership position in the UK."

Raptor was founded to provide schools with a suite of software that can help implement safety across visitor, volunteer, and emergency management services. The software that the CPOMS platform provides targets reporting abuse, cyberbullying, and more.

"Raptor was the perfect fit for CPOMS. Both companies have dedicated themselves to keeping schools and students safe and share very similar cultures," says John Wild, managing director at CPOMS, in the release. "We at CPOMS are excited about joining the Raptor organization and look forward to the enhanced growth opportunities ahead."

Hall will lead the expanded organization, and Wild will transition to managing director of UK Operations for Raptor and CPOMS.

The acquisition was connected to Raptor's recent funding. The company did not disclose the amount raised.

"School safety needs in the US and UK continue to evolve, with solutions for managing the wellbeing and safety of students being paramount," says Adam Solomon, a principal at Thoma Bravo, in the release. "Through this investment and acquisition, we see tremendous potential for Raptor to extend its market leadership in K-12 school safety and its continued deployment of innovative solutions to schools in the US and UK."

The Houston company was founded in 2003. In 2018, Raptor received investment from JMI Equity.

"Combining CPOMS with Raptor creates a company with unique capabilities to help schools manage the safety and wellbeing of their students," says Bob Nye, general partner at JMI Equity, in the release. "We're excited about this acquisition and the strategic opportunity ahead."

At Houston Exponential's second annual HX Capital Summit, four Houston entrepreneurs turned investors discussed their lessons learned. Getty Images

Here's what startups can learn from Houston exits

Success stories

One way to evaluate a city's innovation ecosystem is by the number of successful exits they've had. From startups being acquired by big companies to bringing in a private equity partner, exits can put a city on the map.

Houston has quite a few exits under its belt, and some of those entrepreneurs have stayed in town to fund future success stories. At Houston Exponential's second annual HX Capital Summit, four entrepreneurs discussed their exits, providing key lessons learned for entrepreneurs.

Houston has some perks. 

One thing moderator Samantha Lewis, director at the GOOSE Society of Texas, asked each panelist was what made each entrepreneur start their companies in Houston — and furthermore, what made them stay here after their successful exit.

Panelist Ashok Gowda co-founded and served as COO at Visualase Inc., a real-time tissue monitoring system that exited to Medtronic for over $100 million. He now leads Biotex, a Houston-based medical technology investment firm and accelerator, as president and CEO.

For Gowda, Houston was obviously a key market for med tech, but it provided something even more once he reached the commercialization phase of a product.

"From a commercial standpoint, once the technology became commercial, it was an ideal location," Gowda says. "We were traveling all across the US, and it was a nice hub. We're right in the center of the country, and you can get to either coast very quickly."

The panel also agreed that the quality of life in Houston played a major role in settling down.

You might need to rethink your executive team. 

The panel full of venture capitalists of course touched on the ability to fundraise in Houston, as each panelist had been on both sides of the table. For Gowda, it's pretty simple.

"If you're struggling to raise money, you either have a bad idea or the wrong team," he says, adding that if you really believe in your idea, take a good hard look at who's at the leadership level of your team.

Talent is still a challenge in Houston.

Of course, if you do identify a problem within your team, finding the right leader for your technology might be difficult in Houston.

Keith Kreuer, who was also on the panel, is principal at RedHouse Associates, a group of angel investors that invest like a find would, but without having a fund. Between Kreuer and his team, they were involved in 10 startups before forming the investment group.

"We could find developer and sales talent here, but to get to that higher executive talent, we had to go out to other places," Kreuer says.

However, not all of the panelists agreed that talent was a major challenge they faced. Some noted that they got lucky with the talent they found.

Don Kendall, CEO of Kenmont Capital Partners, came to Houston to run a power company and family office. He turned $100,000 into $1.6 billion and now is a member of GOOSE.

"We had no problem getting the engineering talent," Kendall says. "We really found Houston to be a good environment, and it's only just continued to improve."

Playing to Houston's strengths might be key to success.

For Gray Hall, managing director at Austin-based BuildGroup, which focuses on writing big checks to a small amount of software startups, he knew how to play to his company's and Houston's strengths.

Hall previously served as CEO of AlertLogic, which had a private equity exit in 2013, and Hall stayed on until 2018 as the company continued to grow. He also co-founded Veracenter, which had a strategic exit after growing to $80 million in annual revenue.

"The common theme across both companies and why we were able to grow is real simple: Customer and people," Hall says.

Houston might be one of the country's best kept secrets when it comes to midmarket activity, Hall notes — midmarket companies being defined as those with $50 million to $1 billion in revenue.

"What Houston doesn't get enough credit for is the midmarket in Houston, which I think is tremendous," Hall says. "It's as strong as anywhere else in the country."

AlertLogic was able to tap into this midmarket to quickly grow its client base.

Something else that differentiates Houston from other cities is its culture, which is less focused on the glitz and glam and more focused on hard work.

"Engage with people that have a credible story and a credible plan to solve a problem," he says.

Houston is growing. 

One thing each of the entrepreneurs agreed on is that the city is only growing its resources and quality of startups.

"I see Houston as sort of a startup in the startup world," Kreuer says. "And, what we're trying to do is grow and catch up to the West Coast and the East Coast, but I think Texas as a whole is going to be pretty powerful, and Houston is going to be a central part of that mainly because we have the markets here, and the people in the area and the talent to do that."

As Houston's success stories become more frequent, this provides an avenue for more entrepreneurs turned investors.

"When you've done it before, you've learned the lessons, and you feel like you can do it again and again," Gowda says. "That's what we're trying to do. You see all the possibilities here."

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

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 synthetic biology to venture capital — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Gaurab Chakrabarti, the CEO and co-founder of Solugen

Gaurab Chakrabarti shared his entrepreneurial journey on the SXSW stage this year. Photo courtesy of the Greater Houston Partnership

Houston doesn't have too many unicorns — startups valued at $1 billion or more — in its innovation ecosystem, but Solugen, a sustainable chemicals company, is among the elite group. Gaurab Chakrabarti, the CEO and co-founder of the company, joined Houston House by the Greater Houston Partnership, to share his story on the SXSW stage.

“You do make your own luck, but you have to be putting in the work to do it," Chakrabarti says, adding that it's not an easy thing to accomplish. “There are things you can be doing to increase your luck surface area."

He shared several lessons he learned on his founder journey in the discussion. Read more.

Sandy Guitar, managing director of HX Venture Fund

Sandy Guitar shares some lessons learned from the fallout of Silicon Valley Bank. Photo via HXVF

Following the failure of Silicon Valley Bank, there's one thing Sandy Guitar can say has changed for Houston innovators: Bank diversification is going to be a must.

“We didn't think we needed one last week, but this week we know we need a resilience plan," she says, explaining that bank diversification is going to be added to "the operational due diligence playbook." Read more.

Cameron Owen, co-founder and CEO of rBIO

San Diego-based rBIO moved to Houston to take advantage of the growing ecosystem of biomanufacturing and synthetic biology. Photo courtesy of rBIO

Founded in San Diego, rBIO recently relocated to Houston and has big plans for settling in the city, says Cameron Owen, the company's co-founder and CEO.

“Companies from California like us and the coastal areas were converging here in Houston and creating this new type of bioeconomy,” he tells InnovationMap.

He shares that Houston wasn't originally on his radar, until it was. A visit turned into a relocation, and it's just the beginning for the biotech startup that's focused on using synthetic biology for pharmaceuticals. Read more.

Med tech firm expands footprint, Houston innovator assumes new role, and more local innovation news

short stories

Houston's innovation ecosystem has had some big news this month, from new job titles for Houston innovators to expanding office space.

In this roundup of Houston startup and innovation news, a Houston organization expands its footprint in the TMC, Rice University opens applications for a cleantech accelerator, and more.

Organization expands footprint in Houston

Proxima CRO has announced its expansion within TMCi. Photo via Twitter

Proxima Clinical Research, a contract research organization headquartered in Houston, announced that it is expanding its office space in the Texas Medical Center Innovation Factory.

"Texas Medical Center is synonymous with innovation, and the TMC Innovation space has proven an ideal location for our CRO. It's an important part of our origin story and a big part of our success," says Kevin Coker, CEO and co-founder of Proxima CRO, in a news release.

The expansion will include around 7,500-square feet of additional office space.

"The resources found across TMC's campuses allow for companies such as Proxima Clinical Research to achieve clinical and business milestones that will continue to shape the future of life sciences both regionally and globally. We are excited for Proxima to expand their footprint at TMC Innovation Factory as they further services for their MedTech customers," says Tom Luby, director of TMC Innovation, in the release.

$20M grant fuels hardtech program's expansion

Activate is planting its roots in Houston with a plan to have its first set of fellows next year. Photo via Activate.org

A hardtech-focused nonprofit officially announced its Houston expansion this week. Activate, which InnovationMap reported was setting up its fifth program here last month, received a $20M commitment by the National Science Foundation to fuel its entrance into the Bayou City.

“Houston’s diversity offers great promise in expanding access for the next generation of science entrepreneurs and as a center of innovation for advanced energy," says NSF SBIR/STTR program director Ben Schrag in a news release.

The organization was founded in Berkeley, California, in 2015 to bridge the gap between the federal and public sectors to deploy capital and resources into the innovators creating transformative products. The nonprofit expanded its programs to Boston and New York before launching a virtual fellowship program — Activate Anywhere, which is for scientists 50 or more miles outside one of the three hubs.

“We are delighted to be opening our newest Activate community in Houston,” says Activate Anywhere managing director Hannah Murnen, speaking at the annual Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy Innovation Summit. “Houston is a city where innovation thrives, with an abundance of talent, capital, and infrastructure—the perfect setting for the Activate Fellowship.”

Activate is still looking its Houston’s first managing director is actively underway and will select fellows for Activate Houston in 2024.

TMC names new entrepreneur in residence

Zaffer Syed has assumed a new role at TMC. Photo via TMC.org

Houston health tech innovator has announced that he has joined the Texas Medical Center's Innovation Factory as entrepreneur in residence for medtech. Zaffer Syed assumed the new role this month, according to his LinkedIn, and he's been an adviser for the organization since 2017.

Syed has held a few leadership roles at Saranas Inc., a medical device company founded in Houston to detect internal bleeding following medical procedures. He now serves as adviser for the company.

"As CEO of Saranas, he led the recapitalization of the company that led to the FDA De Novo classification and commercial launch of a novel real-time internal bleed monitoring system for endovascular procedures," reads the TMC website. "Zaffer oversaw clinical development, regulatory affairs and strategic marketing at OrthoAccel Technologies, a private dental device startup focused on accelerating tooth movement in patients undergoing orthodontic treatment.

"Prior to working in startup ventures, Zaffer spent the first 13 years of his career in various operational roles at St. Jude Medical and Boston Scientific to support the development and commercialization of Class III implantable devices for cardiovascular and neuromodulation applications."

TMC is currently looking for an entrepreneur in residence for its TMCi Accelerator for Cancer Therapeutics program.

Applications open for clean energy startup program

Calling all clean energy startups. Photo courtesy of The Ion

The Clean Energy Accelerator, an energy transition accelerator housed at the Ion and run by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, has opened applications for Class 3. The deadline to apply is April 14.

The accelerator, which helps early-stage ventures reach technical and commercial milestones through hybrid programming and mentorship, will host its Class 3 cohort from July 25 to Sept. 22.

“Accelerating the transition to a net-zero future is a key goal at Rice University. Through accelerating the commercial potential of our own research as well as supporting the further adoption of global technologies right here in Houston, the Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator is proof of that commitment,” says Paul Cherukuri, vice president of innovation at Rice, in a news release. “The Rice Alliance has all the critical components early-stage energy ventures need for success: a corporate innovation network, energy investor network, access to mentors and a well-developed curriculum. This accelerator program is a unique opportunity for energy startups to successfully launch and build their ventures and get access to the Houston energy ecosystem.”

According to Rice, the 29 alumni companies from Class 1 and 2 have gone on to secure grants, partnerships, and investments, including more than $75 million in funding. Companies can apply here, learn more about the accelerator here or attend the virtual information session April 3 by registering here.

Houston-based real estate giant rolls out sustainability-focused business unit

seeing green

Houston-based real estate investor, developer, and manager Hines is stepping up its commitment to sustainability.

The company just formed a business unit, EXP by Hines, that is aimed at addressing “the disruptive changes in the built environment.”

EXP by Hines comprises two parts: Global ESG and the Global Venture Lab. Doug Holte, who was a senior partner at Hines from 1987 to 2009, has been hired as CEO of EXP.

“EXP by Hines is an engine of growth using the most innovative ideas in capital, culture, and environmental stewardship to connect every stakeholder in the built environment and create healthy, activated communities,” Holte says in a news release. “EXP is looking beyond the boundaries of real estate to solve complex problems while creating long-term value.”

Peter Epping, who joined Hines in 2001, is the company’s global head of ESG (environmental, social, and governance). A 2022 survey by professional services firm Deloitte found that ESG continues to gain ground in the corporate world. Business executives questioned for the survey believe ESG strategies will:

  • Strengthen stakeholder trust
  • Elevate brand reputation
  • Boost employee retention
  • Improve ROI
  • Reduce risk

Kathryn Scheckel, who joined Hines in 2019, leads the company’s new Global Venture Lab, which is tasked with identifying and accelerating ventures, partnerships and investments. The lab includes a startup incubator and a VC arm.

According to the news release, priorities of the Global Venture Lab include innovations in the use of physical space, development of ESG solutions, and creation of “revolutionary built-world technologies.”

The efforts being spearheaded by Holte, Epping, and Scheckel are geared in part toward Hines achieving net zero carbon by 2040 in its nearly 231 million-square-foot global portfolio without buying carbon credits.