Castle Biosciences CEO Derek Maetzold has something to be proud about. Photo courtesy of Castle Biosciences

Some Houston-area companies now have some major bragging rights — and perhaps, an influx of resumes on the way. Inc. magazine has released its new list of the country's 250 best-led midsize companies, and four Greater-Houston firms are in the spotlight.

The Houston-area companies are:

  • Castle Biosciences, Friendswood, No. 126
  • Sunova Energy, Houston, No. 156
  • Cactus Wellhead, Houston, No. 224
  • National Energy Services Reunited, Houston, No. 228

For those brushing up CVs or ready to invest, Castle Biosciences develops and commercializes diagnostic and prognostic tests for dermatologic cancers.

To compile the list, Inc. evaluated private and public U.S.-based companies with 2020 revenue of $50 million to $2 billion, or a valuation of $50 million to $10 billion. With help from Pitchbook and Shango Labs, Inc. sifted through data related to management excellence for more than 10,000 companies.

"This inaugural list of companies represents the remarkable mid-sized companies, both public and private, often founder-led, that are at the vanguard of reinventing American business," says Scott Omelianuk, editor-in-chief of Inc. magazine. "With their leadership, all businesses will benefit from an exciting, competitive future full of possibilities."

Bozeman, Montana-based software company Snowflake tops the Inc. list.

Elsewhere in Texas, An Austin company is generating buzz as the best-led midsize business in Texas. Dating app provider Bumble ranks first in Texas and 40th overall. Here's how the Austin companies fared overall:

  • Bumble, No. 40
  • BigCommerce, No. 70
  • YETI, No. 91
  • Digital Turbine, No. 101
  • Open Lending, No. 137
  • Everly Health, No. 150
  • The Zebra, No. 170
  • Helias Construction, No. 177
  • Cirrus Logic, No. 180

As for Dallas-Fort Worth, these companies landed on the list:

  • Goosehead Insurance Agency, Westlake, No. 148
  • The Container Store, Coppell, No. 153
  • Sabre, Southlake, No. 181
  • Trintech, Addison, No. 184
  • MB2 Dental, Carrollton, No. 203
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This Houston company is among the fastest-growing businesses in the state. Sean Pavone/Getty Images

Houston e-commerce company ranks as one of fastest-growing business in Texas, says Inc.

A Houston-based company is among the 100 fastest growing businesses in the nation.

Homestead Brands, an e-commerce business comprised of the Lori Wall Beds and Organic Swings brands, grew 3,916 percent from 2017 to 2020, according to the newly released Inc. 5000 list. That makes the Humble-based business the eighth-fastest-growing private company in Texas and the 98th nationally.

"We are a team of A players determined to build the kind of company we all wish we could have worked at from the start of our careers: a place where everybody is valued, challenged, and comes to work with a sense of purpose," Homestead Brands says on its website.

A total of 90 Houston-area companies made the list. Other tech companies making the cut includes Onit, GoCo.io, Velentium, Softeq, Poetic, Techwave, and more.

Companies on the 2021 Inc. 5000 are ranked according to percentage growth in revenue from 2017 to 2020. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2017. They also must be U.S.-based, privately held, for-profit, and independent. The minimum revenue threshold for 2017 is $100,000; the minimum for 2020 is $2 million. Among the 5,000 companies on the list, the average median three-year growth rate stood at 543 percent, and median revenue reached $11.1 million.

"The 2021 Inc. 5000 list feels like one of the most important rosters of companies ever compiled," Scott Omelianuk, editor-in-chief of Inc., says in an August 17 news release. "Building one of the fastest-growing companies in America in any year is a remarkable achievement. Building one in the crisis we've lived through is just plain amazing. This kind of accomplishment comes with hard work, smart pivots, great leadership, and the help of a whole lot of people."

San Antonio-based Texas Solar Integrated took the top spot statewide and ranked 11th nationally with a growth rate of 22,381 percent. The company installs commercial and residential solar energy systems.

"At Texas Solar, we treat our customers like family. We believe that successful relationships with partners and homeowners alike develop through transparency and the trust for doing things right the first time," the company says on its website.

The top-ranked company from the Austin area is Empowering a Billion Women, landing at No. 28. The company, which does business as EBW Worldwide, focuses on social, health, and economic empowerment of women. The company saw three-year revenue growth of 10,676 percent.

"Access to opportunity, education, and a support system for success is key to breaking the historical biases that have previously held women back from reaching their fullest social, health, and economic potential," says Linda Pringle Evans, dean of The EBW Business School for Women.

In Dallas-Fort Worth, Pomerenke Holdings is the top-ranked company on the Inc. 5000. Holding down the No. 73 spot, the automotive remarketer grew 5,164 percent from 2017 to 2020.

"Being ranked 73rd in a tough economic year for so many demonstrates the outstanding work and dedication of our team and partners," says Joey Pomerenke, founder and CEO of Pomerenke Holdings.

Following are other Texas companies that made the top 200 in the Inc. 5000, along with their three-year growth rates:

49. Residential real estate platform OJO Labs, Austin, 6,767 percent
77. Book club operator Literati, Austin, 4,898 percent
79. Tea-by-the-box purveyor Sips by, Austin, 4,754 percent
87. YouTube ad platform AdOutreach, Austin, 4,515 percent
120. Staffing agency Rayne Staffing, Houston, 3,390 percent
141. Dental services provider Endo1 Partners, Houston, 2,936 percent
165. Healthcare consulting firm ReMedi Health Solutions, Houston, 2,547 percent
169. Mortgage lender NXT Mortgage, Coppell, 2,496 percent
196. Software provider Noblesoft Technologies, Irving, 2,200 percent

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It pays to work at these four Houston companies. Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Facebook

4 Houston companies clock in among America’s best employers, says Inc.

happy workers

Houston has already been heralded as a hotbed for innovation. Now, a handful of local companies are in the spotlight as the best places to work.

Four Houston companies are among 429 businesses named May 12 to Inc. magazine's 2021 list of the country's best workplaces. They are:

  • Marketing and PR firm CKP, Houston.
  • Environmental restoration company Ecosystem Planning and Restoration, Tomball.
  • IT automation platform Liongard, Houston.
  • Online recruiting service WizeHire, Houston.

"We've taken steps, especially during the pandemic, to build an amazing team and inclusive culture that is rooted in collaboration," Liongard CEO Joe Alapat says in a news release. "I am proud every day of the work this team is doing and the positive impact we're having on the managed services industry, and thrilled that our employees share our excitement and enthusiasm."

Meanwhile, 11 Austin companies receiving kudos are:

  • 9Gauge Partners, a business management consulting firm.
  • AgileAssets, a provider of transportation management software.
  • AlertMedia, an emergency communication and monitoring platform.
  • Decent, a provider of health insurance.
  • Fourlane, a provider of QuickBooks support.
  • Made In Cookware, an e-commerce startup that sells pots, pans, and other cookware.
  • Mighty Citizen, a branding, marketing, and communications firm.
  • OJO Labs, a platform for buying and selling homes.
  • Ontic, a company whose software helps companies address physical threats.
  • Q1Media, a digital media company.
  • The Zebra, an insurance marketplace.

Nick Soman, founder and CEO of Decent, says his company seeks to trust, respect, and appreciate every employee.

"This year that has meant quickly helping employees who lost power during an unprecedented snowstorm find a warm place to stay and offering unlimited time off," Soman says in a news release. "Being recognized as a top workplace is a special honor for Decent. Our people are at the heart of our company. They foster our amazing culture and drive our consistently outstanding customer service."

Lukas Quanstrom, CEO of Ontic, says his company is committed to upholding the core values, standards, and practices that contributed to the Inc. honor.

"Over the past year, the Ontic team has experienced rapid growth reinforcing how important our supportive, entrepreneurial culture is to nurturing talent and prioritizing our employees' overall welfare," Quanstrom says in a news release.

Each nominated company took part in an employee survey, conducted by Quantum Workplace, on topics including management effectiveness, perks, and employee growth. Also, an organization's benefits were audited to help determine the employer's standing.

Elsewhere in Texas, seven Dallas-Fort Worth employers, four Houston-area employers, and one San Antonio employer made the Inc. list.

Dallas-Fort Worth area

  • Staffing and recruiting firm BridgeWork Partners, Dallas.
  • Commercial real estate services company esrp, Frisco.
  • Staffing agency Frontline Source Group, Dallas.
  • PR and marketing firm Idea Grove, Dallas.
  • HVAC and plumbing warranty company JB Warranties, Argyle.
  • Technical consulting firm Stratosphere Consulting, Dallas.
  • NetSuite consulting firm The Vested Group, Plano.

Inc. highlights esrp's employee emergency fund, which offers "a financial lifeline for a range of life events, including funerals, medical emergencies, and welcoming new grandchildren. The omnipresent resource is funded through anonymous employee donations."

San Antonio

The only San Antonio company to make the 2021 list was IT services provider Mobius Partners.

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What are the best companies to work for in Houston? Inc. magazine has released its list. Getty Images

Inc. named the​ best workplaces in U.S. — and 6 Houston companies landed on the list

workers loving work

These days, finding work is a full-time job for thousands of struggling Houstonians. Some of those people might want to check out six employers from Greater Houston that were just named among the country's best workplaces.

On May 5, Inc. magazine revealed the 395 employers in the U.S. that made its 2020 list of the best workplaces. In all, 30 employers in Texas ranked among the country's top workplaces.

To develop the ranking, Omaha, Nebraska-based Quantum Workplace surveyed employees from more than 3,000 companies in the U.S. on topics such as trust, management effectiveness, perks, and confidence in the future. Quantum based the final list on a composite score of survey results.

Houston employers that appear on the 2020 list are:

  • Alliantgroup, a tax consulting firm
  • AMB Architects, an architecture firm that specializes in designing medical and corporate offices, stores, and building renovations.
  • Eagle Pipe, a distributor of pipes for industrial and municipal projects
  • G&A Partners, an HR outsourcing company
  • Rekruiters, a staffing firm
  • The Black Sheep Agency, a marketing, branding, and design firm

Here's a rundown of the other Texas companies that earned spots on Inc.'s list of the country's best workplaces.

Dallas

  • Dialexa, a provider of technology R&D and development
  • Embark, a financial consulting firm
  • January Digital, a digital marketing and consulting firm
  • Munck Wilson Mandala, a tech-focused law firm
  • OneDay, a provider of a video storytelling platform for senior living centers
  • OutMatch, a provider of a platform that helps employers hire, retain, and develop employees
  • Worldwide Express, a shipping company

Addison

  • Lone Star Analysis, a provider of analytics software

Fort Worth

  • Blue Jean Networks, an IT support and services company

Irving

  • 5, an energy advisory firm
  • JB Warranties, an insurance firm

Plano

  • LiquidAgents Healthcare, a staffing agency for nurses
  • The Vested Group, a consulting firm for users of NetSuite software
  • TRUth, an advertising and marketing agency

Austin

  • 9Gauge Partners, a business management consulting firm
  • Abilitie, a provider of simulation-based learning tools
  • AlertMedia, a provider of emergency notification software
  • AllPro Hospitality Staffing, a staffing service for hotels and caterers
  • OJO Labs, a maker of AI-powered software for homebuyers and home sellers
  • Personiv, an outsourcing company
  • Pushnami, a provider of digital marketing software
  • SourceDay, a maker of supply chain management software
  • The Zebra, an insurance comparison website

Round Rock-based Jacaruso Enterprises also showed up in the ranking. It offers sales training, technology, and consulting for hotels.

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Inc. magazine has identified the fastest-growing companies in Houston. Nick Bee/Pexels

These are the 5 fastest-growing companies in Houston, according to a recent report

ready, set, grow

Bellaire-based startup Instafuel is pumping up its revenue in a big way.

Among the 250 fastest-growing companies in Texas identified by Inc. magazine, Instafuel tops the group of businesses based in the Houston metro area and ranks fifth statewide. Houston-based companies make up 68 of the state's fast-growing companies — eight Houston companies make up the top 25 list.

Instafuel, whose official corporate name is Fuel Husky LLC, provides mobile refueling services to B2B clients. The Inc. ranking, released March 13, shows Instafuel posted revenue growth of 1,353 percent from 2016 to 2018.

According to a November 2019 article published by CSP magazine, Instafuel has expanded to 30 trucks that have dispensed nearly 10 million gallons of fuel to more than 150 B2B clients in major Texas metro markets like Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Austin. CSP covers the convenience and petroleum retailing industry.

"We've been bootstrapping … in stealth mode for the last four years, just trying to grow this business one [client] by one, trying to truly understand what it means to be a mobile refueler, or what we call a compact mobile refueler, and trying to target and understand the business model for small- to medium-sized business fleets," Nour Baki, vice president and co-founder of Instafuel, told the magazine.

Ranked second in the Houston area and sixth statewide by Inc. is Spring-based Bellatorum Resources LLC, whose revenue shot up 1,261 percent from 2016 to 2018. Bellatorum, a veteran-owned and veteran-operated investment company, specializes in mineral rights and oil royalty acquisitions.

"I think our work ethic and customer service is what makes us different from our competitors," Chris Bentley, president and CEO of Bellatorum Resources, told the Oil & Gas Council in July 2018.

"Based on the feedback I consistently receive from mineral owners, they tell me that many of our competitors fail to return phone calls and emails, and sometimes even fail to treat them with common courtesy and respect during their business dealings," Bentley added. "We believe in putting the mineral owner first, which always pays off for us."

At No. 3 in the Houston area and No. 8 statewide is Houston-based Sarvicus LLC. Sarvicus, an IT services and utilities provider, grew revenue by 1,048 percent from 2016 to 2018.

"Whether it's a process, piece of equipment, or a tool, we try to optimize its efficiency. When we are successful, that often translates to benefits for our customers," Sarvicus co-founder and CEO Marc Packard told CIOReview magazine.

Houston-based SIA Solutions LLC appears at No. 4 among Houston-area companies and No. 9 among Texas companies. From 2016 to 2018, revenue at the professional services engineering and consulting firm soared 1,030 percent.

"Because of our client-first philosophy, we're willing to take on tough challenges and deliver. It's in our culture. It's natural to us," CEO Srini Neralla told the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University's Mays Business School in November 2019. We put together strong teams comprising of firms our size or larger, including universities, in order to deliver what our clients want."

With a 2016-18 growth rate of 824 percent, Houston-based Zahroof Valves Inc. nails down the No. 5 spot among Houston-area companies and No. 14 among Texas companies. Zahroof Values makes and markets specialized valves for reciprocating gas compressors. Its investors include Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures LLC, the investment arm of oil giant Saudi Aramco.

In an August 2019 release, Zahroof Valves CEO Tony Gioffredi said: "Our commitment to driving positive change [in] the oil and gas industry is shown through our innovative products … ."

Houston entrepreneur Megan Eddings' activewear brand has received national attention. Courtesy of Accel Lifestyle

Houston entrepreneur snags national spotlight and mentorship from Tilman Fertitta

featuring founders

Fashion and science have more in common than you think: Just ask Accel Lifestyle founder and CEO Megan Eddings, who spent three years developing the Prema fabric used in the ethical and environmentally friendly activewear brand she launched in Houston.

"I've always loved science. I've always been fascinated by things you can't see which is, to me, science and chemistry," Eddings tells CultureMap.

Her fascination with fashion and science has paid off: Eddings is one of 40 selected entrepreneurs across the United States to participate in Inc. Magazine's Founders Project. In honor of Inc.'s 40th anniversary, it launched the year-long project. Designed to assist entrepreneurs to grow their business, the initiative will match 40 established entrepreneurs, including Houston's billionaire Tilman Fertitta, MailChimp's Ben Chestnut, and Drybar's Ali Webb to provide advice, access to capital, marketing guidance, and other valuable assets.

Eddings says she was blown away and couldn't wait to learn about the new mentor-mentee relationship. "I was super excited to be paired with Tilman Fertitta," she says.

Fertitta, the sole owner of Fertitta Entertainment, the restaurant giant Landry's, the Golden Nugget Casinos and Hotels, and the NBA's Houston Rockets tells CultureMap he, "enjoyed meeting Megan and learning more about her unique product. She will surely be another successful Houston entrepreneur and look forward to following her growth."

Eddings says Fertitta has already shared his expertise as she continues pitching Accel Lifestyle to national retailers.

"We've already had a few conversations," she says. "One was about wholesale versus retail, which was printed in the November issue, and there was a video interview published on Inc.com."

With a degree in chemistry from the University of Virginia and experience working in labs at UVA and Brown University, Eddings put her education to use after pondering why her husband's sweaty gym clothes weren't coming out clean.

Her anti-stink fabric ensures consumers are less likely to throw away their clothing, which is a strong focus for the brand — not contributing to the landfill epidemic. With antimicrobial properties, the proprietary fabric is ideal for various industries besides fitness, including hospitality, medical, automotive, and more.

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New ERCOT dashboards let Houstonians check energy supply in real-time

power check

With winter temperatures and last year's freeze still top of mind for many Texans, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, has rolled out new dashboards to help you keep tabs on the energy supply in real-time.

Local may not have heard of ERCOT until the winter storm in February 2021 that would go on to take the lives of 246 people after the freeze overwhelmed the power grid and left millions freezing in the dark.

Since that storm, anxiety has been high. But these dashboards may help Texans get a gauge on what we're dealing with at any given moment.

The ERCOT site features find nine different dashboards on the Grid and Market Conditions page. Each dashboard has a timestamp of when it was last updated and if you select "Full View," you'll get a detailed explanation of what the graphs mean.

If things are normal, the grid will be green. But if it's black, that means we're in an energy emergency level 3, so expect controlled outages. Energy conservation would also be critical.

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Continue reading and watch the full video on our news partner ABC13.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know — the first of this new year — I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from startup development to energy transition — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Joey Sanchez, senior director of ecosystems at the Ion Houston

Joey Sanchez joins the Houston Innovator Podcast to discuss his new role at The Ion Houston. Photo via LinkedIn

Joey Sanchez, who previously served as director of corporate engagement at Houston Exponential, has been in his new role as senior director of ecosystem at The Ion for about three months now.

"I'm focusing specifically on the communities of entrepreneurs, startups, investors — and trying to bridge connections among them," Sanchez says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "This is the biggest challenge in Houston and we want to flip that with density. Density is really the key to solving connections."

Sanchez joined the Houston Innovators Podcast and shares about what gets him so excited about Houston innovation on the show. Click here to listen and read more.

Nisha Desai, founder and CEO of Intention

Four climatetech-focused individuals have been named to Greentown Lab's board. Photo via LinkedIn

Greentown Labs named new board members, including two community board members to act as liaisons between startups and Greentown Labs. Greentown Houston's appointed representation is Nisha Desai, founder and CEO of Intention, and community member.

Desai's current startup, Intention, is climate impact platform for retail investors, and she has previously worked at six energy-related startups including Ridge Energy Storage, Tessera Solar, and ActualSun, where she was co-founder and CEO. She's also worked in a leadership role at NRG Energy and spent several years as a management consultant with the energy practice of Booz Allen Hamilton — now Strategy&, a PWC company.

"I'm honored to join the board of Greentown Labs as a representative of the startup community," she says in the release. "This is a pivotal time for climate and energy transition. I look forward to working with the rest of the board to expand the collective impact of the Greentown Labs ecosystem." Click here to read more.

Moji Karimi, co-founder and CEO of Cemvita Factory

Moji Karimi joins InnovationMap to discuss how Cemvita Factory has deployed its recent investment funding and what's next for the company and Houston as a whole when it comes to biomanufacturing. Photo courtesy of Cemvita

Moji Karimi and his sister Tara had the idea for a company that could transform carbon emissions and mitigate new damage to the environment. Only, it seems, they were a bit ahead of their time.

Houston-based Cemvita Factory, founded in 2017, uses synthetic biology and take carbon emissions and transform them into industrial chemicals. However, it's only been since recently that the conversation on climate change mitigation has focused on carbon utilization.

"I think people are realizing more about the importance of really focusing on carbon capture and utilization because fossil fuels are gonna be here, whether we like it or not, for a long time, so the best thing we could do is to find ways to decarbonize them," Moji Karimi, co-founder and CEO, tells InnovationMap. "There's been this focus around carbon capture and storage, and I think the next awakening is going to be utilization." Click here to read more.

3 businesses join Houston initiative for carbon capture and storage

seeing green

Three big businesses — Air Liquide, BASF, and Shell — have added their firepower to the effort to promote large-scale carbon capture and storage for the Houston area’s industrial ecosystem.

These companies join 11 others that in 2021 threw their support behind the initiative. Participants are evaluating how to use safe carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology at Houston-area facilities that provide energy, power generation, and advanced manufacturing for plastics, motor fuels, and packaging.

Other companies backing the CCS project are Calpine, Chevron, Dow, ExxonMobil, INEOS, Linde, LyondellBasell, Marathon Petroleum, NRG Energy, Phillips 66, and Valero.

Business and government leaders in the Houston area hope the region can become a hub for CCS activity.

“Large-scale carbon capture and storage in the Houston region will be a cornerstone for the world’s energy transition, and these companies’ efforts are crucial toward advancing CCS development to achieve broad scale commercial impact,” Charles McConnell, director of University of Houston’s Center for Carbon Management in Energy, says in a news release.

McConnell and others say CCS could help Houston and the rest of the U.S. net-zero goals while generating new jobs and protecting current jobs.

CCS involves capturing carbon dioxide from industrial activities that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and then injecting it into deep underground geologic formations for secure and permanent storage. Carbon dioxide from industrial users in the Houston area could be stored in nearby onshore and offshore storage sites.

An analysis of U.S Department of Energy estimates shows the storage capacity along the Gulf Coast is large enough to store about 500 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to more than 130 years’ worth of industrial and power generation emissions in the United States, based on 2018 data.

“Carbon capture and storage is not a single technology, but rather a series of technologies and scientific breakthroughs that work in concert to achieve a profound outcome, one that will play a significant role in the future of energy and our planet,” says Gretchen Watkins, U.S. president of Shell. “In that spirit, it’s fitting this consortium combines CCS blueprints and ambitions to crystalize Houston’s reputation as the energy capital of the world while contributing to local and U.S. plans to help achieve net-zero emissions.”