Did you know that you can order an eco-conscious burger in Houston? Photo courtesy of Hopdoddy

Hearty Austin-based chain Hopdoddy Burger Bar has unveiled a new lineup of regenerative burgers that are supposed to be better for the planet and the consumer.

The term "regenerative burger" could cause a few head-scratches: Some may think of lab-grown or 3D-printed meat, while others think of plant-based alternatives but it’s neither. It is grass-fed meat, sourced a bit differently. "Regenerative farming" is a term used to describe farming and grazing practices that claim to restore and rebuild degraded soil, resulting in better-quality air and water.

Hopdoddy’s vice president of culinary Matt Schweitzer explained that it all began with with a sense of obligation to do better as a brand for the consumers and the ecosystem.

“We felt like we could really take a stand and look to move our entire supply chain in a regenerative fashion, so we could really be proud of the work we’ve done and we could hopefully leave the animals, the farmers, the ranchers, the native grasslands, and our planet a better place than before we started,” says Schweitzer.

The new menu items include the "Roosevelt Burger" with grass-fed regenerative bison; the "Nashville Hot Sandwich" with regenerative raised chicken; the "Regenerative Royale," which is a play on a classic double quarter-pounder with cheese; the "Mother Nature" with grass-fed regenerative beef; and the "Buffalo Bill" also uses regenerative bison, but appears not to be grass-fed.

The five burgers are available at all Hopdoddy locations nationwide. The beef and bison are sourced from Texas-based regenerative company Force of Nature, while the chicken is from Cooks Venture.

With this launch, Hopdoddy removes all plant-based meat substitutes from its menu, significantly reducing the options for vegans and vegetarians. The company felt the ingredients and ethos of the alternative meats — describing some such as Beyond Meats as "falsely advertised" regarding nutrition in a press release — no longer aligned with its values and mission. However, the house-made veggie patty remains on the signature "El Bandito" burger.

Schweitzer says the regenerative burgers have received positive feedback, as people are excited to know where their food comes from, how it gets to their table, and what type of impact it causes. Regarding the future of regenerative meat, he says there is no doubt it could become mainstream soon.

“I think the flavor profile, the eating experience, the story, the mission, the purpose, really speaks for itself," says Schweitzer. "So, I really think it’s a matter of time until 'regenerative' is talked about in the same way that 'organic,' or 'sustainable,' or those type of buzzwords are talked about."

To further show its commitment to regenerative agriculture, Hopdoddy is also one of the sponsors of Common Ground, a documentary about the pioneers of the regenerative movement, premiering October 4 in Austin. The "uplifting" film, according to a release, features well-known actors Laura Dern, Rosario Dawson, Jason Momoa, Woody Harrelson, Ian Somerhalder, and Donald Glover, emphasizing that this motley crew does share one thing in common: a strong belief in regenerative agriculture.

For more information about the new regenerative burgers, visit hopdoddy.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Why this Houston health care professional jumped in the founder seat to disrupt the industry

problem solver

Ayoade Joy Ademuyewo says that anesthesiology is “the coolest thing in the world.” That’s why she became a certified registered nurse anesthetist.

And that career, which she says is “the perfect blend of science and art,” led to the creation of her startup, Lokum.

Lokum App is a matchmaking engine that aims to connect Ademuyewo’s peers with jobs. She explains that before her innovation, staffing for nurse anesthetists traditionally owed to job boards 30 years older than she was or to recruitment agencies that left them at a disadvantage.

“I didn't want to use that job board because it was sort of difficult to use and I didn't want to use it and a lot of other people felt the same way,” she recalls.

When a desperate friend asked for her help navigating the terrain of finding CRNA work as an independent contractor, Ademuyewo says the wheels began turning in her mind.

“I just thought, 'Why can't I open up my phone and see all of the available jobs to me, based on my preferences and my skills? And I can easily select from them to go to my next job.' And that's sort of where the questions started. And I just kept asking those questions. And I think about two or three years into asking the questions I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I think I'm starting a company,'” Ademuyewo says.

In the hours that she wasn’t in surgery, the CRNA began doing market research.

“As I was studying the market, and mapping it out, these really complex mind maps started to happen. And it was almost a natural conclusion that the more you understand the problem, the more the solution starts to appear to you,” she explains.

And she saw that the obvious solution was also potentially a big opportunity for her to create something entirely new — neither a job board nor an agency, but something entirely new. Ademuyewo calls Lokum a “matchmaking engine.” It takes the preferences, specialties and skills of CRNAs like her and matches them to jobs that make sense for them. To date, the pilot has connected users with around 200 hospitals and clinics in 20 states.

Fortunately, because there are so few CRNAs in practice, they are a unified bunch.

“It’s a really well-networked profession,” says Ademuyewo. “ I'm lucky to be in a profession where what we do is really special and really specialized.”

Because she was already part of the tight knit community, the founder had no trouble finding pilot customers. She worked with Houston-based Octaria Software to engineer the technical side of the app, as well as another local cybersecurity firm to work on infrastructure.

Lots of big news has come for Ademuyewo in the first half of 2024. She participated in this year’s cohort of the Google for Startups Accelerator Program-North America, which she says helped to gain traction in her fundraising amid a bear market.

The result? Early this month, Lokum announced a raise of $700,000 in pre-seed funding, which will be allocated to improving and enhancing the existing technology. Those funds came from Houston investors including Aileen Allen, of the Houston Angel Network, Mercury, and The Artemis Fund; and Matt Miller, former Liongard product executive, as well as from Houston-based VC firm South Loop Ventures. More came from the non-local JP Morgan and Techstars.

Today, Ademuyewo is devoted full-time to Lokum, though she still practices her favorite combination of science and art on weekends in order to maintain her licensure.

“I will always be clinical, that will never change,” she says. “Part of that is just staying close to the problem and the people who are experiencing it, I think that is exactly the right thing for me to be doing.”

Houston energy company opens applications for unique energy tech startup pilot program

calling all innovators

Houston-based NOV is launching a new growth-stage startup accelerator focused on the upstream oil and gas industry.

NOV, a provider of oil and gas drilling and production operations equipment, has announced its new NOV Supernova Accelerator in collaboration with VentureBuilder, a consulting firm, investor, and accelerator program operator led by a group of Houston innovators.

Applications to the program are open online, and the deadline to apply is July 7. Specifically, NOV is looking for companies working on solutions in data management and analytics, operational efficiency, HSE monitoring, predictive maintenance, and digital twins.

The five-month program establishes a significant relationship between the 20 selected startups and NOV, beginning with paid pilot programs.

"This is not a traditional startup accelerator. This is often a first-client relationship to help disruptive startups refine product-market fit and creatively solve our pressing enterprise problems," reads the program's website.

Selected startups will have direct access to NOV's team and resources. The program will require companies to spend one week per month in person at NOV headquarters in Houston and will provide support surrounding several themes, including go-to-market strategy, pitch practice, and more.

“The NOV Supernova Accelerator offers a strategic approach where the company collaborates with startups in a vendor-client relationship to address specific business needs," says Billy Grandy, general partner of VentureBuilder.vc, in a statement. "Unlike mergers and acquisitions, the venture client model allows corporations like NOV to quickly test and implement new technologies without committing to an acquisition or risking significant investment.”

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.