EnergyCapitalHTX is now live and reporting on Houston's role in the energy transition. Photo via Getty Images

Houston's newest media platform has officially gone live.

EnergyCapitalHTX.com, originally announced in March, is now up and running. Houston-based Gow Media, a multi-platform media company and the parent company of InnovationMap, CultureMap, SportsMap, and ESPN Radio 97.5FM and 92.5FM, launched the site tonight at an event at Gow Media's office.

“We are excited to roll out our new outlet, EnergyCapitalHTX.com. We have been very impressed by Houston’s efforts to lead the global transition of energy and to address the 'dual challenge' of meeting the world’s growing demand for energy while at the same time reducing carbon emissions,” says David Gow, CEO of Gow Media.

“On our new site, we plan to provide informative, unbiased coverage of the Houston-based initiatives, spanning big corporations and startups," he continues. "We hope that a site dedicated to the transition will bring visibility to the city’s substantive progress and to the path forward.”

The site will cover Houston's energy transition ecosystem — the people, companies, capital sources, and numerous initiatives in Houston. Lindsey Ferrell serves as the inaugural editor of the site.

The site’s inaugural sponsor is HETI, which launched in 2021. Led by Executive Director Jane Stricker, HETI was founded to drive economic growth in the Houston area within the energy transition toward a lower carbon future.

“We are excited to support Gow Media with the launch EnergyCapitalHTX.com,” Stricker says in an earlier news release. "There is so much innovative and exciting activity in our ecosystem. Houston is the Energy Capital of the World, and this platform will amplify the energy leadership that is already happening here.”

Here's what startups took home wins at CERAWeek. Photo by Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

8 energy tech startups recognized at Houston's CERAWeek pitch competition

taking home the W

Over 200 startups participated in CERAWeek this year, and 18 of those companies pitched at a Greater Houston Partnership event.

The Houston Energy Transition Initiative, an initiative to promote Houston's work within the energy transition, hosted its second annual HETI Energy Ventures Competition at CERAWeek Innovation Agora. The competition was divided into four categories. The first batch of startups consisted of five companies from the Texas Entrepreneurship Exchange for Energy, or TEX-E, a collaboration with Greentown Labs, MIT’s Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship, and universities across Texas.

The winning startups shared $50,000 of prizes, sponsored by TEX-E. Houston-based Helix Earth Technologies — which has developed high-speed, high-efficiency filter systems derived from technology originating at NASA — won both the first place prize and fan favorite for the category. Helix's co-founders, Rawand Rasheed and Brad Husick from Rice University, walked away with $25,000 in prizes

Founded by Bryon Praslicka, Daniel Zamarron, and Craig Newman from Texas A&M University, Flux Works LLC, and its magnetic gear technology, took second place and $15,000 home. Tierra Climate, a two-sided marketplace for carbon offsets and other sustainability efforts founded by Emma Konet and Jacob Mansfield from Rice University, won third place and $10,000.

Helix Earth Technologies walked away with the top prize of the TEX-E category. Photo via greentownlabs.com

The next sets of startup pitches we broken down by funding stages — pre-seed and seed, series A, and series B and beyond.

Red Shift Energy, uses plasma energy to produce hydrogen from hydrogen sulfide, won fan favorite in the pre-seed and seed category sponsored by HX Venture Fund. A member of Halliburton Labs, the company also was recognized as Chevron favorite.

Per the judging panel, CanaGas won the title of most promising in the pre-seed and seed category sponsored by Alchemy Industrial. The Canadian company liquifies natural gas without costly cryogenics or stripping of the gas.

Houston-based Criterion Energy Partners won both the most-promising series A company category sponsored by SLB, but also the fan favorite series A category sponsored by Guerrella LLC. A geothermal energy tech company, Criterion was also a member of Rice's inaugural Clean Energy Accelerator cohort.

OptiSeis Solutions also won in both categories for the series B track. The company, a geophysical acquisition design and software company, won the title of most promising in the series B category sponsored by Pana LCE Investments and the series B fan favorite category sponsored by Halliburton Labs.

Lastly, the competition named the Most Impactful DEI, a category sponsored by Pana LCE Investments. Austin-based Gazelle Ecosystems, a social innovation startup with eco-solutions for corporations, won that category.

Are you interested in finding the best Houston tech and innovation conversations at CERAWeek this year? Look no further than this guide. Photo by Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

7+ can't-miss innovation events at CERAWeek featuring Houston speakers

where to be

If you're headed out to CERAWeek by S&P Global next week in downtown Houston, you'll want to make the most of it. Scout out Houston tech innovators at this annual energy-focused conference with this list of must-attend panels, presentations, and networking opportunities.

CERAWeek, taking place in the George R. Brown Convention Center and the Hilton Americas Hotel, is focused is on the entire energy industry, and has several themes this year — including shifting geopolitics, supply chain and infrastructure constraints, tech and innovation, future of work, and more.

Most of the innovation-themed events are organized under the Agora track. While CERAWeek is a global affair, you're sure to spot Houston-based executives, companies, and startups. Here are all the events you can't miss if learning more about Houston energy innovation is your goal.

Monday: Scaling Startups: New and efficient financial models

New startups in the energy ecosystem are providing solutions to the grand climate and climate sustainability challenges. But exciting startups need to move beyond the drawing board to eventual commercial success through necessary funding. What financial models are most successful in bringing these startups to scale?

The panel is from 12:30 to 1:10 pm on Monday, March 6. More info.

Tuesday: Chevron | Global Innovation Hubs: Where to grow your startup

The world needs a robust energy innovation ecosystem to realize decarbonization commitments. Learn about how the ecosystem’s parts are interdependent and must work together for the system to thrive and for the world to advance an energy system that’s affordable, reliable and ever cleaner.

The talk is from 2 to 2:30 pm on Tuesday, March 7. More info.

Tuesday: Gulf Coast Hydrogen Hub

With an existing ecosystem of infrastructure, producers, and consumers, the Gulf Coast has ambitions to become a global hydrogen hub. What technologies will be used? How will companies trade low-carbon hydrogen across their shared infrastructure? Join this panel to discuss how the “Energy Capital of the World” plans to lead the low carbon future.

The panel is from 5:30 to 6 pm on Tuesday, March 7. More info.

Wednesday: The Role of Private Capital in Funding the Energy Transition

While public market funds run by institutional investors have been shifting allocations toward cleantech companies, they are often hamstrung by a limited universe of pure-play cleantech equities and index-tracking methodologies that limit their ability to take longer-duration bets. The real action for energy transition investors to date has been in private equity, where funds can take duration risk and have overcome liquidity limitations by successfully raising historically large funds. The pace of private equity dealmaking, which slowed in early 2022, has accelerated sharply again for cleantech since the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States. How much of the pent-up private equity capital remains to be run through, and how will the even larger universe of public market investors gain access to these growing markets?

The event is from 7:15 to 8:20 am on Wednesday, March 8. More info.

Wednesday: Adaptation and Climate Resilience

We are witnessing a global rise in extreme weather events such as flooding, drought and heat waves. Climate change is having a variety of effects in different regions. Growing attention and investment is being directed to adaptation. What are different countries and regions doing to adapt to climate change? How will technology, policy and smart design combine to make the world more climate resilient?

The event is from 10 to 10:30 am on Wednesday, March 8. More info.

Wednesday: HETI Energy Ventures Pitch Competition

Over 15 startups and entrepreneurs will present to an audience of 1000+ investors, accelerators, and innovators for a chance to win one of many awards sponsored by Houston's energy transition community.

The event is from 10 am to 3 pm on Wednesday, March 8. More info.

Wednesday: Cities Leading the Energy Transition - World Energy Cities Partnership Mayors

Cities are at the forefront for tackling the climate and energy challenges impacting us all. Hear from the cities of Houston, Esbjerg, Perth and Calgary as they describe their visions toward a more sustainable energy plan for their communities.

The panel is from 12:30 to 1:10 pm on Wednesday, March 8. More info.

Thursday: Energy Transition Hubs: How cities are leading the charge

Increasingly, governments are transforming their communities by accelerating energy transition policies and infrastructure. Listen to how these cities are creating the blueprints for a more sustainable habitat for their citizens.

The panel is from 8:30 to 9:10 am on Thursday, March 9. More info.

BONUS: Network at these company houses

CERAWeek's Agora Partner houses exist showcase what companies are most excited about. Find your way to these three houses in between sessions to learn more about each business's tech and innovation.

  • Chevron: Back in its largest space yet, the Chevron house will highlight Chevron Technology Ventures portfolio companies, Chevron New Energies partnerships and tech experts, along with VR experiences and tech exhibits.
  • Oxy: Oxy, an international energy company based in Houston, is featuring its application of new tech, including Direct Air Capture with geologic sequestration and other CO2 utilization technologies.
  • ExxonMobil: ExxonMobil, which recently relocated its HQ to Houston, is talking about a lower-emission energy future — something that requires multiple solutions that can be implemented at scale to address some of the highest-emitting sectors of the economy.

Houston founders — these four programs have applications open now. Photo via Getty Images

4 program deadlines Houston innovators should know about

short stories

Editor's note: It's safe to say 2023 has fully kicked off as Houston's startup and innovation ecosystem has switched into second gear. A handful of programs — local and national — have opened applications for accelerators and pitch competitions. Scroll through to find one that applies to your company or a startup you know of. Take careful note of the deadlines since they'll be here before you know it.

Is something missing? Email natalie@innovationmap.com for editorial consideration.

Carbon to Value Initiative

Greentown Labs announced its looking for innovative companies with carbon-related technology. Photo via GreentownLabs.com

Greentown Labs announced that its Carbon to Value (C2V) Initiative has opened applications for its third set of startups.

"Supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the C2V Initiative is a unique partnership among the Urban Future Lab at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, Greentown Labs, and Fraunhofer USA that’s driving the creation of a thriving innovation ecosystem for the commercialization of carbontech—technologies that capture and convert CO₂ into valuable end products or services," reads the news release. "Since the C2V Initiative's inception in 2020, the program has supported 18 groundbreaking carbontech startups—chosen from an exceptional pool of more than 230 applications."

The program is looking for companies with technologies within carbon capture, management, removal, or conversion and between TRL 4 and TRL 7. Selected companies will receive a $10,000 stipend and participate in the six-month program.

Applications are due by the end of the day on March 31. For more information and to apply, click here.

MassChallenge accelerators

MassChallenge has two accelerators open for applications. Photo courtesy of MassChallenge

MassChallenge has two programs with open applications:

MassChallenge US Early Stage Accelerator (Deadline: March 3)

This three-month program is industry agnostic and provides intensive support, guidance, tools, and connectivity to the greater MassChallenge community. Around 200 startups are selected per cohort that range in stage from those currently engaged in customer discovery work to validating a technology or service. For more information and to apply, click here.

MassChallenge HealthTech Accelerator (Deadline: February 6)

The 2023 HealthTech Sprint is an eight-week program intended to work intensely with 20 to 25 startups to accelerate the tools and technologies that could transform healthcare. The HealthTech Sprint program is designed to support mid-stage companies that possess a product/solution ready for scaling. For more information and to apply, click here.

Houston Energy Transition Initiative's Energy Ventures Pitch Competition 

HETI is bringing back its CERAWeek pitch competition. Image via houston.org

The Greater Houston Partnership's Houston Energy Transition Initiative, or HETI, is looking for participants for its Energy Ventures Pitch Competition at CERAWeek this year.

"This pitch competition brings together key members of the energy industry, investors, and startups to showcase the critical innovations and emerging technologies that create value from the world’s transition to low-carbon energy systems," reads the website.

HETI is looking for companies addressing challenges and opportunities in CCUS, hydrogen, energy storage, and the circular economy, are invited to present their well-developed business concepts to a world-class investor community.

Applications close February 9. For more information and to apply, click here.

Rice Business Plan Competition

The annual Rice Business Plan Competition has opened applications for student startups. Photo by Natalie Harms

Calling all student-founded startups — the largest and richest intercollegiate student startup competition, the Rice Business Plan Competition, has applications open. According to Rice, 784 RBPC alumni have raised $4.6 billion in funding and created over 5,500 jobs. This year's event is going to be held May 11 to 13.

The RBPC is open to all students from any university around the world. Teams must include at least one graduate-level student, and every team that is invited to compete in person at Rice University is guaranteed to take home at least one of the more that 60 expected cash prizes. For more information and to apply, click here.

Bob Harvey has announced his retirement plans. Photo courtesy of GHP

Greater Houston Partnership leader to retire, executive search committee forms to find new CEO

transition plans

Bob Harvey, who has been at the helm as the Greater Houston Partnership for over a decade has announced his retirement plans.

In an announcement today, the GHP revealed that Harvey, the president and CEO of the organization since 2012, plans to retire at the end of the year.

“This last decade has been a dynamic time for Houston and the Partnership. As a life-long Houstonian, it is a true honor to wake up each day focused on supporting Houston’s growth and working with the business community to create opportunities for all Houstonians,” says Harvey in a news release. “The commitment of business leaders to the success of this region is inspiring, and I look forward to continuing to lead the Partnership over the next year as we move Houston forward.”

Thad Hill, the current board chair of GHP and president and CEO of Calpine Corporation, has created an executive search committee made up of Partnership board members and chaired by Marc Watts, the 2018 Partnership board chair and president of The Friedkin Group. According to the release, the search will be national but the new CEO will be expected to "have some working familiarity with Houston and its business community." Current staff members will also be considered.

“I want to thank Bob for his tremendous leadership over the last decade as we’ve made great strides as an organization and as a region,” Hill says in the release. “I am grateful that Bob will continue to advance the organization over the coming months as we begin the process to find his successor. Under Bob’s leadership, the Partnership plays an essential role in the inclusive growth and prosperity of our great community, and I am confident his successor will expand on that legacy.”

The GHP is an economic development organization that serves the 12-county region encompassing Houston. It also acts as the business community’s advocate within policy across the local, state, and federal levels.

Under Harvey, the GHP has rolled out several initiatives, including workforce development program UpSkill Houston, the Houston Energy Transition Initiative, and diversity, equity, and inclusion program One Houston Together.

“The Partnership is an outstanding organization with strong board and staff leadership, impeccable financials, and a mission-oriented bias for action to make Houston a better place to live, work and build a business,” Hill says in the release. “The next leader of the Partnership is set-up to succeed, and I look forward to the process to identifying this person who will continue the organization’s momentum forward.”

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Jason Pesterfield of Optellum, Jane Stricker of HETI, and Michael Lee of Octopus Energy. 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 health tech to clean energy — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Jason Pesterfield, CEO of Optellum

Jason Pesterfield joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to share how he plans on getting the company to commercialization right here from Houston. Photo courtesy of Optellum

Last year, Optellum, based in the United Kingdom, opened its United States headquarters in Houston, and shortly after Jason Pesterfield joined to lead the team. On a recent Houston Innovators Podcast episode, Pesterfield explained it's just the start of the company's presence in Houston.

"We're really at the beginning of it," he says. "This is the epicenter of medicine within the United States. There's no bigger or better place for health care than Houston. It's great to be a part of that and to have access to those facilities and those world class physicians and care teams." Read more.

Jane Stricker, executive director of the Houston Energy Transition Initiative at the GHP

These organizations are teaming up to advance development of a regional clean industrial hub. Photo courtesy of GHP

The Houston Energy Transition Initiative and the Center for Houston’s Future have teamed up with the Mission Possible Partnership to lead the city of Houston through the accelerated development of a regional clean industrial hub geared at decarbonization of the industrial sector, including petrochemicals, cement plants, heavy transportation, and more.

The two-year project is focused on development and deployment of clean energy projects — such as "low-carbon hydrogen, carbon capture, use and storage, electrification of industrial processes, and the production and use of low carbon fuels," according to a press release.

“There is no geography in the world better positioned to support the transition to and integration of abundant, low-carbon energy solutions than Houston," says Jane Stricker, executive director and senior vice president of HETI, in the release. "As the Energy Transition Capital of the World, Houston is leveraging its energy leadership to accelerate global solutions for a low-carbon future. This partnership with MPP is a critical component in the region’s efforts to develop and deploy technologies, policies and strategies for broad decarbonization." Read more.

Michael Lee, CEO of Octopus Energy US

Now is the time for your tech company to become a climate company, says this Houston expert. Photo via LinkedIn

In a guest column for InnovationMap, Michael Lee, CEO of Octopus Energy, called for tech innovators to change lanes to focus on the climatetech industry.

"We used to say, 'every company will become a tech company.' We’re now moving towards a world where 'every company is a climate company,'" Lee writes. "And that is creating opportunities throughout the economy for people to contribute their skills and support their families while building something that actually matters." Read more.

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Houston Innovation Awards opens ticket sales as nomination deadline looms

mark your calendar

You can now buy tickets to the 2023 Houston Innovation Awards on November 8 — but the deadline to nominate deserving individuals and companies for the prestigious awards is just a few days away.

Tickets are available online for the awards event taking place at Silver Street Studios, and InnovationMap has a few options to choose from. Individual tickets are on sale for $80, with a special founder price of $40 available. This year, individual tickets will have seating at a first come, first served basis, but attendees are also able to opt into a reserved table of 10 for $1,000. Sponsors, judges, and finalists and their guests will receive complimentary tickets.

The nomination period for the annual awards is coming to a close next week on Tuesday, September 19. Click here to read about this year's awards categories.The process includes submitting nominations on behalf of yourself or others, and next week, nominees will be sent an application that will be due October 4. A panel of judges will review the applications and finalists will be announced and notified ahead of the event.

If you are interested in joining our partners, which include The Ion, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and more, in sponsoring this event, please reach out to misti@gowmedia.com.

Secure your Houston Innovation Awards tickets now.

Submit a nomination before it's too late!

Cultivating an office culture can prevent loneliness, create connections, says Houston expert

guest column

There’s been a lot of chatter about returning to the office and remote work. No matter which side of the argument you’re on, there are valid points to be made for both views. The pandemic forced organizations to rethink operations, with many employees working remote for the first time. And now, we’re in that habit and many don’t want to change.

But here’s the thing. Isolation creates loneliness and we’re in the middle of a loneliness epidemic. A report released by The U.S. Surgeon General titled “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” found that even before COVID changed the world, about half of the U.S. adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness. While technology has allowed for work to continue outside of traditional office walls by dialing in to video conferences from home, there is still a missing link. It’s much harder to build community virtually. We haven’t cracked that code yet.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D – Conn, recently introduced legislation to create a national policy to promote social connection and address the soaring rates of loneliness.

“Loneliness is one of the most serious, misunderstood problems facing America today,” Murphy said in a press statement. “This crisis transcends traditional political boundaries, presenting a chance to bring together right and left around a project to help people find connectedness.”

Whether people realize it or not, we all need to feel seen and understood, and when that happens it creates meaningful connection. That connection in turn leads to strong company Whether people realize it or not, we all need to feel seen and understood, and when that happens it creates meaningful connection. That connection in turn leads to strong company culture and more productive, energizing workdays.

Happiness begins with healthy human relationships and companies are being challenged to balance employee flexibility and workplace interactions. While there is no clear-cut right answer, Birkman International is moving to a four-day, in-office workweek. Employees will cut back from 40 to 32 hours-per-week and those hours will be spent at Birkman’s offices.

With employees once again working under the same roof, there will be opportunities for organic spot meetings, team brainstorms and water cooler chatter. While some might see these as “soft” skills, they are essential for a well-performing workplace.

It’s important to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to balancing employee flexibility with returning to the office. Just like every person has unique needs, every company must figure the best solution for its culture, its productivity and most importantly, its people.

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Amy Shepley serves as president at Birkman International, an industry-leading organizational performance company.

Houston startup with sustainable biotech solutions lands offtake arrangement with United Airlines

ready for takeoff

An innovative Houston company is celebrating a new deal with a global airline.

Cemvita Corp. announced a new offtake arrangement with United Airlines. Cemvita's first full-scale sustainable aviation fuel plant will provide up to 1 billion gallons of SAF to United Airlines. The 20-year contract specifies that Cemvita will supply up to 50 million gallons annually to United.

It's not the first collaboration Cemvita has had with the airline. Last year, United invested in the biotech company, which used the funding to open its Houston pilot plant.

“Since our initial investment last year, Cemvita has made outstanding progress, including opening their new pilot plant – an important step towards producing sustainable aviation fuel,” United Airlines Ventures President Michael Leskinen says in a news release. “United is the global aviation leader in SAF production investment, but we face a real shortage of available fuel and producers. Cemvita’s technology represents a path forward for a potentially significant supply of SAF and it’s our hope that this offtake agreement for up to one billion gallons is just the beginning of our collaboration.”

Founded in Houston in 2017 by brother-sister team Moji and Tara Karimi, Cemvita's biotechnology can mimic the photosynthesis process, turning carbon dioxide into feedstock. The company's SAF plan hopes to increase reliability of existing SAFs and lower impact of fuel creation.

“Biology is capable of truly amazing things,” Moji Karimi, CEO of Cemvita, says in the release. “Our team of passionate, pioneering, and persistent scientists and engineers are on a mission to create sustainable BioSolutions that redefine possibilities.”

“We are thrilled to partner with United Airlines in working towards transforming the aviation industry and accelerating the energy transition,” he continues. “This agreement featuring our unique SAF platform is a major milestone towards demonstrating our journey to full commercialization.”

Earlier this year, United, which was reportedly the first airline to announce its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, launched its UAV Sustainable Flight FundSM. The fund, which named Cemvita to its inaugural group of portfolio companies, has raised over $200 million, as of this summer.

Moji and Tara Karimi co-founded Cemvita in 2017. Photo courtesy of Cemvita

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.