3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes John Higgins of illumiPure, Natara Branch of HX, and Daniel Murray of Covenant Underwriters. Photos courtesy

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

John Higgins, CEO of illumiPure

CleanWhite can quickly and continuously sanitize high-touch areas through its light-based technology. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston-based illumiPure recently announced that it has received a worldwide patent for its LED white light disinfectant earlier this year, known as CleanWhite. The product can quickly and continuously sanitize high-touch areas while a room remains occupied and has shown an elimination of 99 percent of surface bacteria, spores, mold, biofilms, and viruses including SARS-CoV-2 through light-based technology. It's intended to be used in areas like kitchens, restrooms, and locker rooms and is safe for humans and pets.

CleanWhite uses spikes of light wavelengths at 405 and 470 nanometers to kill surface pathogens. Unlike other products on the market, CleanWhite can emit these levels without also emitting a visible purple-violet light while also suppressing blue light wavelengths.

"CleanWhite features technology that makes it the first of its kind, achieving a sought-after solution to produce 405+470 nm blue light as white light," John Higgins, CEO of illumiPure, says in a statement. "As a result of this revolutionary finding, we anticipate the patent’s success across a myriad of industries, including education, healthcare, hospitality, and retail.” Click here to read more.

Natara Branch, CEO of Houston Exponential

Meet Natara Branch — the new CEO of HX. Photo courtesy of Natara Branch

Ever since she accepted the new position as CEO of Houston Exponential, Natara Branch has been on a listening tour of Houston's innovation ecosystem. Branch explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that she has a passion for the city of Houston, and she's got open ears to anyone in the ecosystem who wants to contribute to the advancement of the city's tech ecosystem.

As she explains, she is getting her fair share of feedback — but she has an ask for anyone who she's met.

"I am challenging people. You're not just going to give me feedback and sit back and watch. You're going to participate," Branch says. "I have not met one person who doesn't want Houston to win — they wouldn't be here if they didn't." Click here to read more and listen to the podcast.

Daniel Murray, co-founder and chief underwriter of Covenant Underwriters

The emerging insurtech industry has a plethora of opportunities for job seekers and more. Photo courtesy

More than 100,000 Houstonians work in insurance, according to Daniel Murray, co-founder and chief underwriter of Covenant Underwriters, a Houston-based insurtech start-up, building e-commerce insurance products for underserved niches. But the 400-year-old industry is hungry for tech talent.

In a guest column for InnovationMap, Murray explains the need for tech and innovation within insurance — and the opportunity the industry has.

"The adage goes that everyone in the insurance industry was either born into it or tricked into it," he writes. "This may have applied to the last generation, but today’s insurance industry offers vast opportunities (including remote) for every discipline, especially for tech job seekers." Click here to read more.

Meet Natara Branch — the new CEO of HX. Photo courtesy of Natara Branch

New HX leader strives to unlock Houston's potential

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 158

For the past few weeks, Natara Branch has been on a listening tour of Houston's innovation ecosystem. Recently named the CEO of Houston Exponential, Branch says one word comes to mind when she thinks of the future of HX: Potential.

"I know that's an overused word," Branch says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast, "but I think we really have to get everyone in Houston galvanized around the fact that we do have this potential so that people can see it and invest in Houston — both internally and externally. I really do believe Houston has so much to offer people who live or want to live here."

After spending over 18 years at the National Football League driving that organization forward, Branch says she was looking a role that would bring her back to her adopted hometown of Houston — a city she's been cheering on from afar during her tenure at the NFL based in New York City.

Branch joins HX as the organization changed ownership — it was acquired by Gow Companies, a company founded by Lawson Gow (who is the son of David Gow, InnovationMap's parent company's CEO) — and transitioned from being a nonprofit into being a for-profit company. Branch says that this transition shouldn't affect Houston entrepreneurs' interaction with HX other than improve on the experience as now HX is an entity for entrepreneurs and by entrepreneurs too.

"I'm an entrepreneur, I'm a consultant, I invest, and I work with entrepreneurs all the time," she says on the podcast. "I'm an entrepreneur at heart. ... If you're a founder, you know it's a unique experience. If you're an investor, it's a risky experience, and I've been on both sides."

Branch shares more on the show about her passion for the city of Houston, and how she's got open ears to anyone in the ecosystem who wants to contribute to the advancement of the city's tech ecosystem. And, as she explains, she is getting her fair share of feedback — but she has an ask for anyone who she's met.

"I am challenging people. You're not just going to give me feedback and sit back and watch. You're going to participate," Branch says. "I have not met one person who doesn't want Houston to win — they wouldn't be here if they didn't."

Next week, Branch is making her Houston debut to the greater community at the Houston Innovation Awards Gala, a collaborative event hosted by HX and InnovationMap, on November 9 at the Ion. She shares what all she's excited about for the event on the show. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


Check out these conferences, pitch competitions, networking, and more in the month of November. Photo via Getty Images

10+ can't-miss Houston business and innovation events for November

Where to be

Hold onto your hats, Houston. If you thought October was a busy month for business events, November even more exciting and full of pitches, conferences, summits, and more. Here's a rundown of what all to throw on your calendar for November when it comes to innovation-related events.

This article will be updated as more business and tech events are announced.

FEATURED: November 9 — Houston Innovation Awards Gala

Find out what Houston startups and innovators go home with the big win at InnovationMap and Houston Exponential's gala. Learn more about this year's finalists by clicking here.

The event is Wednesday, November 9, at 6 pm, at the Ion. Click here to register.

November 1-3 — Urban Manufacturing Alliance's Houston Gathering

Learn about the unique challenges and opportunities within manufacturing in the current economy, as well as network with Houston manufacturing professionals.

The event is Tuesday, November 1, to Wednesday, November 3, at West Houston Institute. Click here to register.

November 2 — Greentown Labs Climatetech Summit

Hear from the climatetech industry's leaders at Greentown Labs' annual event. The morning features panels and pitches, followed by lunch, networking, and an expo. The summit continues on November 3 in Boston, and both days will be streamed for viewers.

The event is Wednesday, November 2, at 8 am, at Greentown Houston and streaming online. Click here to register.

November 4 — Enventure's 10-Year Anniversary

Join Enventure as we celebrate its 10th Anniversary — from the organization's accomplishments to a look toward what the future brings to Enventure.

The event is Friday, November 4, at 7 pm, at III by Wolfgang Puck. Click here to register.

November 5 — Tech Fest Live in-person Experience at the Ion

The Ion as partnered with Tech Fest Live to bring your family to an engaging Family Tech Day experience, designed with middle and high school students in mind.

The event is Saturday, November 5, at 9:30 am, at the Ion. Click here to register.

November 8 — Texas Life Science Forum

The Texas Life Science Forum, co-hosted by BioHouston and Rice Alliance, is the premier life science and healthtech event in Texas that brings together members from industry, emerging life science companies, academic and investors. Hear pitches from innovative and early stage life science companies, network and enjoy exciting panels, keynotes and speakers.

The event is Tuesday, November 8, at 8:30 am, at Rice University. Click here to register.

November 9 — The Future of Industrial Automation Lunch & Learn with Yokogawa

In this Lunch & Learn, Elbert van der Bijl (Director of Marketing & Solutions Consulting for Yokogawa North America), will talk about the journey from industrial automation to industrial autonomy (IA2IA). He will also speak about how new technologies are being embraced to be able to make this transition. The presentation will highlight some key developments like Open Process Automation (OPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), and mobile Robotics and how they will play a role in the future of Industrial Automation.

The event is Wednesday, November 9, at 11:30 am, at The Cannon-West Houston. Click here to register.

November 10 — Greater Houston Partnership's State of the Port

Join the Greater Houston Partnership at the annual State of the Port featuring Ric Campo, Chairman of the Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority. Campo will discuss innovations taking place at Port Houston and Project 11. The highly anticipated Project 11 will deepen and widen the Houston Ship Channel and increase economic impact, jobs and address supply chain challenges.

The event is Thursday, November 10, at 10:30 am, at The Omni Riverway. Click here to register.

November 10 — BGV Pitch Tour Houston

The BGV Pitch Tour is coming to Houston November 10th in partnership with Omaze and the aid of our amazing 6 Change Agents to throw a BGV Pitch Competition. Thee BGV Change Agents are amazing Black and/or Brown women-identifying founders who are actively working to uplift and grow the city's ecosystem for Black and Brown founders in their area.

The event is Thursday, November 10, at 6 pm, at The Cannon-West Houston. Click here to register.

November 15 — Lilie's Community Celebration

Celebrate the end of the semester and take a peek into what all the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship community has going on.

The event is Tuesday, November 15, at 6 pm, at the Lilie offices at Rice University. Click here to register.

November 17 — Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator 2022 Demo Day

Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator is hosting a Demo Day to showcase its Class 2 startups who are ready for investment, pilots and accelerating the energy transition.

The event is Thursday, November 17, at 1:30 pm, at the Ion. Click here to register.

November 19 — Pearland Innovation Hub Pitch Competition

Come attend this event open to the community to hear pitches from local small business owners, network, and learn about the Pearland Innovation Hub.

The event is Tuesday, November 17, at 4 pm, at Pearland City Hall. Click here to register.

November 30 — Commercial ZEV Event

This event by Houston-based Evolve is your chance to drive zero-emissions commercial vehicles and learn how you can convert your fleet to save on costs.

The event is Wednesday, November 30, at 8:30 am to 5 pm, at NRG Park. Click here to register.

Meet Natara Branch — the new CEO of HX. Photo courtesy of Natara Branch

Exclusive: Houston Exponential names new CEO to lead strategy at the evolving organization

ready to grow

There's a new leader at the helm of an organization dedicated to advancing Houston's innovation ecosystem.

Natara Branch has been named as CEO of Houston Exponential. She started the new role earlier this month and replaces Lawson Gow, who temporarily held the responsibility when his company, Gow Companies, acquired the entity and transitioned it from a nonprofit into a for-profit. While Gow Cos. remains the parent company of HX, the organization will be led independently by its own set of leadership and board, which is in the process of being formed.

In her new role, Branch is focused on establishing the strategy of the evolved organization as well as strengthening and establishing key partnerships within Houston and beyond.

"When we acquired Houston Exponential, one of our immediate priorities was to search for a world-class CEO to lead the organization into the future," says Lawson Gow, who is the son of David Gow, CEO of Gow Media, InnovationMap's parent company. "We are thrilled to announce that we've found that in Natara Branch. She is going to be the amazing leader that Houston needs to carry HX into the future."

Born in Germany and raised all around Texas, Branch says she is passionate about Houston as her adoptive hometown. She attended the University of Houston's C.T. Bauer College of Business, where she got her degree in accounting, and worked at ExxonMobil's audit team in Houston earlier in her career. Most recently, Branch was the first African American woman to hold a vice president position at the NFL. Based in New York, she oversaw operations in various leadership roles at the NFL for over 18 years.

A strategist and investor, Branch serves on the board for the University of Houston's Bauer School of Business as well as the school's Power Athletics Task Force. She also serves as a director for Super Group and as a director and chair of the audit committee for Bleuacacia.

"For the last 18 and a half years, I have been shouting from the rooftops about the resources, talent, and potential of this city," Branch tells InnovationMap. "And now, to be able to do that first-hand here in the city — that literally wakes me up excited every morning.

"This city has given me so much in so many different ways," she continues. "This is my opportunity to give back to the city that really did raise me and has given me so many opportunities. I could not be more excited to be a part of this momentum."

Branch joins HX at a uniquely transitional time for the organization. Founded in 2017 as a nonprofit by a cohort of collaborative organizations — the Greater Houston Partnership, the Mayor's Office, and the Houston Technology Center — HX was established to connect and convene Houston's tech and startup scene with the rest of the ecosystem, including educational institutions, corporations, investors, and more.

While the business model has evolved, this access to support is not changing, Branch says, explaining that entrepreneurs will always have access to resources and support at no cost.

"If HX is doing its job, you'll know the name — but you'll know it as a supporter of entrepreneurs," Branch says. "They are the heroes of the story. It's not HX. HX is here to tell the stories of these entrepreneurs so that they are getting funding, resources, advisers, mentors, exits."

While HX will continue the legacy of its two cornerstone events — its gala, which is on November 9 this year in collaboration with InnovationMap, and Tech Rodeo, usually occurring in the spring — Branch says the company will not be an events-focused organization. Rather, HX will amplify and convene the existing events and programming already taking place in town — both to Houstonians and to the rest of the world.

"We will be a sort of tour guide of innovation and technology within the city of Houston," Branch says, comparing the concept to her role at the NFL, which scouts out host cities for the SuperBowl. "If someone is looking for a coworking space or mentors and academic institutions to support their research, we will be that hub that can get that information out to the people already doing this hard and important work."

Calling all Houston innovators — now's your time to shine. Graphic by Naomi Galvez

Deadline extended: InnovationMap, HX open nominations for new combined awards gala

calling all innovators

Update: The deadline for nominations have been extended to midnight on Sunday, October 2.

InnovationMap is back to honor local startups and innovators — and this time, we've upped the ante.

Houston Exponential and InnovationMap have teamed up to combine their annual awards and event efforts to premiere a brand new program. The Houston Innovation Awards Gala on Wednesday, November 9, at The Ion will be a comprehensive event honoring Houston founders, innovators, investors, and more. InnovationMap and HX, which was acquired earlier this year, are in the same network of ownership.

Nominations are open online until midnight October 2, and nominees will have until October 11 to complete an additional application that will be emailed to nominees directly. A group of industry experts and Houston innovation leaders will review those submissions and determine finalists and winners across 11 categories. The categories for this year's awards are:

  • BIPOC-Owned Business honoring an innovative company founded or co-founded by BIPOC representation
  • Female-Owned Business honoring an innovative company founded or co-founded by a woman
  • Hardtech Business honoring an innovative company developing and commercializing a physical technology across life science, energy, space, and beyond
  • B2B Software Business honoring an innovative company developing and programming a digital solution to impact the business sector
  • Green Impact Business honoring an innovative company providing a solution within renewables, climatetech, clean energy, alternative materials, and beyond
  • Smart City Business honoring an innovative company providing a tech solution within transportation, infrastructure, data, and beyond
  • New to Hou honoring an innovative company, accelerator, or investor that has relocated its primary operations to Houston within the past three years
  • DEI Champion honoring an individual who is leading impactful diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and progress within Houston and their organization
  • Investor of the Year honoring an individual who is leading venture capital or angel investing
  • Mentor of the Year honoring an individual who dedicates their time and expertise to guide and support to budding entrepreneurs
  • People's Choice: Startup of the Year selected via an interactive voting portal during of the event
Nominees can be submitted to multiple categories.

Additionally, the awards gala will honor an innovator who's made a lasting impact on the Houston innovation community. While you may nominate an individual for the Trailblazer Award via the online form, the judging committee will not require applications or nominations for this category and will be considering potential honorees from the ecosystem at large. If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities, please reach out to cbuckner@houstonexponential.org.

Last year, InnovationMap introduced its awards program and named 28 finalists and honored the nine winners on September 8. Click here to see more from last year's event.

Tickets for the November 9 event are available online. Early bird tickets will be $60 per person and startup founders will be able to attend for $25.

Click here to submit a nomination or see form below.


Check out these conferences, pitch competitions, networking, and more in the month of September. Photo via Getty Images

10+ can't-miss Houston business and innovation events for September

Where to be

As temperatures begin to cool — hopefully, the city's business community is heating up with another month of networking and conference events. Here's a rundown of what all to throw on your calendar for September when it comes to innovation-related events.

This article will be updated as more business and tech events are announced.

September 10 — Enventure BaseCamp - Special Edition Life Science Innovation Bootcamp

We invite all those interested in life science innovation to our monthly BaseCamp! Our community-driven series returns for a special edition Bootcamp! We are breaking down key concepts, start-up case studies, and more! Join us for a morning of learning, networking, and all things science and business.

The event is Saturday, Sept. 10, 10 am to 1 pm, online. Click here to register.

September 12 — Venture Houston

Venture Houston is illuminating the power of venture capital by bringing together venture capitalists across the nation along with Houston’s most innovative corporates and high-growth startups.

The event is Monday, Sept. 12, 7:30 am to 6:30 pm, at the Ion. Click here to register.

September 14 — Access to Success Pitch Event

Underrepresented founders in climatetech face unique and growing challenges to accessing investors and fundraising in order to scale their companies and push forward the energy transition. How can startups bridge this gap, and where can investors who want to begin diversifying their portfolios find guidance?

The event is Wednesday, Sept. 14, 10 am to 2 pm, at Greentown Houston. Click here to register.

September 15 —19th annual Energy Tech Venture Forum

In its 19th year, the Energy Tech Venture Forum, hosted by The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, is the premier energy tech venture capital conference to connect energy innovators, investors, corporates, and the energy ecosystem. This year’s in-person forum will showcase promising energy tech companies that are boldly creating the future of energy, as well as a keynote and panel from industry leaders. You can also expect to see pitches from the inaugural class of the Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator.

The event is Thursday, Sept. 15, 8 am to 5 pm, at Rice University, McNair Hall. Click here to register.

September 15 — Hispanic Business Summit

Join the U.S. Small Business Administration, Houston Baptist University, Baker Ripley, and Impact Hub for the annual Hispanic Business Summit. The event will include networking, information about the impact of Latino entrepreneurship in Houston, small business success stories, and a panel of lenders for tips on accessing business capital. Attendees will also have an opportunity to network with other business owners and local business resources.

The event is Thursday, Sept. 15, 9 am to noon, at the Ion. Click here to register.

September 15 — Meet Knightsgate Ventures

UH Technology bridge will be virtually hosting Durg Kumar, co-founder and partner at Knightsgate Ventures investment fund.

The event is Thursday, Sept. 15, noon to 1 pm, online. Click here to register.

September 16-18 — Houston Hackathon 2022

To celebrate the National Civic Day of Hacking, we invite all people who want to make a difference in our region to join us at the annual Houston Hackathon! This is a “civic” hackathon, focused on ideating, designing, and developing both policy-based and tech solutions to some of Houston’s greatest challenges. Project stakeholders will be there from the city, local organizations, and Houston's impact community.

The event is Friday, Sept. 16, to Sunday, Sept. 18, at Impact Hub Houston. Click here to register.

September 20 — State of the Texas Medical Center

Home to the largest medical complex in the world and the brightest minds in medicine, the Texas Medical Center is a leading life sciences destination taking on the greatest medical challenges of our generation. Learn more about the exciting developments planned for the TMC campus and discover how innovation and industry partnerships are helping us accelerate the pace of discovery, ensuring we will continue to be the global leader in patient care.

The event is Tuesday, Sept. 20, 10:30 am to 1:30 pm, at the Hilton Americas. Click here to register.

September 20 — LatinTech Pitch 2022

LatinTech Pitch 2022 is presented in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month by the Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest along with the Ion, Latinx Startup Alliance, and Texas Business Association.

The event is Tuesday, Sept. 20, 6 to 8 pm, at the Ion. Click here to register.

September 21 — Here For It Live in Houston

Palette, a female-focused coworking space and community created to support women in careers and life, will host its popular video series live on the road at partner spaces from coast to coast. Palette founder and Here for It LIVE host, Catherine Hover, will interview the founding partner of Curate Capital, Carrie Colbert, at Sesh Coworking.

The event is Wednesday, Sept. 21, 6 to 8 pm, at Sesh Coworking. Click here to register.

September 28 — Halliburton Labs Finalists Pitch Day

This hybrid event allows for attendees to attend in person at The Ion Houston or virtually online for a full program of innovative ideas, discussion, and inspiration — all centered on the startup finalists who are advancing the future of clean energy. The event will include a lively keynote discussion with Jack Brouwer, director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center, University of California, Irvine, hosted by Walter Isaacson, Halliburton Labs Advisory Board Member and Leonard Lauder Professor of American History and Values at Tulane.

The event is Wednesday, Sept. 28, 9 am to 12:30 pm, at the Ion or online. Click here to register.

September 29 — The Inaugural State of Infrastructure

Join the Greater Houston Partnership for the inaugural State of Infrastructure where a panel of experts from varying industries will discuss the investments needed to build equitable, resilient communities.

The event is Thursday, Sept. 29, 10:30 am to 1:30 pm, at the Omni Houston. Click here to register.

September 29 — Fort Bend County Innovation Council Launch

Houston Exponential is excited to be expanding into Greater Houston innovator communities and invite you to join us for the official launch of the Fort Bend Innovation Council. In partnership with the Fort Bend EDC, The Cannon, Born Global, and Code Launch, we'd love to invite all ingenious innovators, enterprising educators, collaborative corporates, inquisitive investors, exhausted entrepreneurs, and all friends and family to help kick things off.

The event is Thursday, Sept. 29, 5 to 7 pm, at the HCSS Development Building. Click here to register.

September 29 — Low-Carbon Hydrogen Accelerator Final Showcase

Join Greentown Labs Houston to celebrate the culmination of the Low-Carbon Hydrogen Accelerator—the 2022 program in the Greentown Go Energize track—a-first-of-its-kind startup-corporate partnerships accelerator focused on advancing innovations that are key to enabling a low-carbon hydrogen economy in partnership with EPRI, Shell, the City of Houston, and the Urban Future Lab at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering.

The event is Thursday, Sept. 29, 5 to 8 pm, online. Click here to register.

September 29 — Sesh Coworking Ribbon Cutting

Sesh Coworking began as an organization in 2017 and introduced a brick and mortar space in 2019. In 2022, the organization expanded and moved to its new location!. Join the event to check out the space and celebrate Sesh Coworking.

The event is Thursday, Sept. 29, 6 to 8 pm, at Sesh Coworking. Click here to register.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston-based creator economy platform goes live nationally

so clutch

An app that originally launched on Houston college campuses has announced it's now live nationwide.

Clutch founders Madison Long and Simone May set out to make it easier for the younger generation to earn money with their skill sets. After launching a beta at local universities last fall, Clutch's digital marketplace is now live for others to join in.

The platform connects brands to its network of creators for reliable and authentic work — everything from social media management, video creation, video editing, content creation, graphic design projects, and more. With weekly payments to creators and an inclusive platform for users on both sides of the equation, Clutch aims to make digital collaboration easier and more reliable for everyone.

“We’re thrilled to bring our product to market to make sustainable, authentic lifestyles available to everyone through the creator economy," says May, CTO and co-founder of Clutch. "We’re honored to be part of the thriving innovation community here in Houston and get to bring more on-your-own-terms work opportunities to all creators and businesses through our platform.”

In its beta, Clutch facilitated collaborations for over 200 student creators and 50 brands — such as DIGITS and nama. The company is founded with a mission of "democratizing access to information and technology and elevating the next generation for all people," according to a news release from Clutch. In the beta, 75 percent of the creators were people of color and around half of the businesses were owned by women and people of color.

“As a Clutch Creator, I set my own pricing, schedule and services when collaborating on projects for brands,” says Cathy Syfert, a creator through Clutch. “Clutch Creators embrace the benefits of being a brand ambassador as we create content about the products we love, but do it on behalf of the brands to help the brands grow authentically."

The newly launched product has the following features:

  • Creator profile, where users can share their services, pricing, and skills and review inquiries from brands.
  • Curated matching from the Clutch admin team.
  • Collab initiation, where users can accept or reject incoming collab requests with brands.
  • Collab management — communication, timing, review cycles — all within the platform.
  • In-app payments with a weekly amount selected by the creators themselves.
  • Seamless cancellation for both brands and creators.
Clutch raised $1.2 million in seed funding from Precursor Ventures, Capital Factory, HearstLab, and more. Clutch was originally founded as Campus Concierge in 2021 and has gone through the DivInc Houston program at the Ion.

Madison Long, left, and Simone May co-founded Clutch. Photo courtesy of Clutch

2 Houston suburbs roll onto top-15 spots on U-Haul’s list of growing cities

on the move

More movers hauled their belongings to Texas than any other state last year. And those headed to the Greater Houston area were mostly pointed toward Missouri City and Conroe, according to a new study.

In its recently released annual growth report, U-Haul ranks Missouri City and Conroe at No. 13 and No. 19, respectively among U.S. cities with the most inbound moves via U-Haul trucks in 2022. Richardson was the only other Texas cities to make the list coming in at No. 15.

Texas ranks No. 1 overall as the state with the most in-bound moves using U-Haul trucks. This is the second year in a row and the fifth year since 2016 that Texas has earned the distinction.

“The 2022 trends in migration followed very similar patterns to 2021 with Texas, Florida, the Carolinas and the Southwest continuing to see solid growth,” U-Haul international president John Taylor says in a news release. “We still have areas with strong demand for one-way rentals. While overall migration in 2021 was record-breaking, we continue to experience significant customer demand to move out of some geographic areas to destinations at the top of our growth list.”

U-Haul determines the top 25 cities by analyzing more than 2 million one-way U-Haul transactions over the calendar year. Then the company calculated the net gain of one-way U-Haul trucks entering a specific area versus departing from that area. The top U-Haul growth states are determined the same way.

The studies note that U-Haul migration trends do not directly correlate to population or economic growth — but they are an “effective gauge” of how well cities and states are attracting and maintaining residents.

Missouri City is known for its convenient location only minutes from downtown Houston. The city’s proximity to major freeways, rail lines, the Port of Houston, and Bush and Hobby Airports links its businesses with customers “around the nation and the world,” per its website.

The No. 19-ranked city of Conroe is “the perfect blend of starry nights and city lights,” according to the Visit Conroe website. Conroe offers plenty of outdoor activities, as it is bordered by Lake Conroe, Sam Houston National Forest and W. Goodrich Jones State Forest. But it also has a busy downtown area with breweries, theaters, shopping and live music.

To view U-Haul’s full growth cities report, click here.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston expert: Space tourism is the future — do we have the workforce to run it?

guest column

Throughout history, humans have always been fascinated in exploring and traveling around the world, taking them to many exotic places far and away. On the same token, ever since the dimension of space travel has been inaugurated with multiple private companies launching rockets into space, it has become an agenda to make space travel public and accessible to all. We believe that space travel is the next frontier for tourism just like for our forefathers world travel to faraway places was the next frontier, for recreational and adventure purposes.

In a world racing on technology, we can picture flying cars, invisible doors, and international cuisine in space. With this rapid expansion of the land, the idea of space tourism has stirred the space industry to think about running businesses, start trade, and set up universalization beyond the ring of the earth. It is no longer science fiction but our immediate future. However, the true question remains. Who will be responsible for all of it? Are we training the right workforce that is needed to build and run all of this?

Space tourism is an exciting idea in theory, traveling to extra-terrestrial destinations, exploring new planets, all by being in an anti-gravitational environment. Through these diminishing borders and rapid advancements soon we'll be living the space life, all the virtual, metaverse gigs coming to reality. But before that let's explore space tourism and how the solar system will welcome humans.

What is Space tourism?

Ever since 1967, Apollo opened the getaway of space travel and the technological intervention spun to rise. Just like nomad tourism, space tourism is human space travel for commercializing interstellar for leisure or pleasurable adventures of the unknown. Space has different levels of horizons, according to research, orbital space has high speeds of 17,400 mph to allow the rocket to orbit around the Earth without falling onto the land. While lunar space tourism goes into subcortical flights and brings people back at a slower speed.

Studies have shown that in the upcoming years, commercial space exploration will hike up the economical database, by generating more than expected revenue. On these grounds, space tourism won't be limited to suborbital flights but rather take onto orbital flights, this revolutionary expenditure will change the future.

Everything aligns when the right team works together endlessly to reach the stars. The space exploration will only take place with enthusiastic and empowered individuals catering towards their roles.

Astronomers, space scientists, meteorologists, plasma physicists, aerospace engineers, avionics technicians, technical writers, space producers, and more will work in the field to make this space dream come true.

The attraction of Space exploration

Curiosity is the gateway to the seven wonders of the world. Humans are born with novelty-seeking, the drive to explore the unknown and push boundaries. This exploration has benefited society in a million ways, from making bulbs to jets.

The attraction towards exploring the space stems from the same desire for novelty seeking. We want to answer the most difficult questions about the universe, is there only darkness beyond that sky? Can we live on another planet if ours die? To address the challenges of space and the world, we have created new technologies, industries, and a union worldwide. This shows how vital space exploration is to humans. Many astronauts dwell on the idea of seeing the iconic thin blue outline of our planet, the quintessential experience makes the astronaut go back and back. However, are we entering this dimension with the right skills? Is our future workforce ready to take need the best

Who will lead the path?

The main question that still goes unanswered is who will run space tourism. When it comes to the future, there are infinite options. One decision and you will fly into an endless sky.

This expenditure has opened multiple career opportunities for the future workforce to take on for diversification and exploration of space. Currently, we cannot predict how people will find meaning and improve their lives through space tourism, but it will be a soul-awakening experience. According to experts, travelers would prefer a livelihood in space for which companies are working day and night to figure out accommodation and properties. The ideas include having space hotels, offices, research labs, and tents for operations.

Lastly, space tourism is just a start, we are moving into a dimensional field of physics and astronomy to create new opportunities and ground-breaking inventions to explore the untouchable. The new era of more refined and thoroughly accessed careers are on the rise, let's see how the world evolves in the next 10 years.

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Ghazal Qureshi is the founder and CEO of UpBrainery, a Houston-based immersive educational technology platform that taps into neuroscience research-based programs to provide adaptive learning and individualized pathways for students at home or in the classroom.