Here are over 10 can't-miss events for Houston innovators in June. Photo courtesy of Rice University

From networking meetups to expert speaker summits, June is filled with opportunities for Houston innovators.

Here's a roundup of events you won't want to miss out on so mark your calendars and register accordingly.

Note: This post may be updated to add more events.


June 6 — Ion Block Party and Chef Showcase

On the first Thursday of each month, Block Party brings together startups, tech enthusiasts, and business visionaries in a dynamic and festive environment.

June’s special edition of Block Party will be a Chef Showcase! The District’s robust food and drink offerings showcase hyper-local concepts that reflect Houston’s reputation for having a culturally diverse restaurant industry.

This event is Thursday, June 6, from 4 to 7 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

June 6 — Houston Blockchain Alliance Monthly Meetup

This in-person event is a great opportunity to connect with fellow blockchain enthusiasts in the Houston area. Whether you're a beginner or an expert, come and engage in lively discussions, share insights, and network with like-minded individuals. Discover the latest trends and advancements in blockchain technology while enjoying a friendly and casual atmosphere.

June's guest speaker, Alex Guerra of SYS Labs, will talk about DeFi today v. DeFi tomorrow. Alex is a business developer at SYS Labs and co-founder of Pachira Finance.

This event is Thursday, June 6, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at The Cannon. Click here to register.

June 8 — Celebration of Entrepreneurship

Head to IAG Technology for an exciting evening dedicated to all things entrepreneurship. Whether you're a seasoned business owner or just starting out, this event has networking, learning, and celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit.

Come celebrate entrepreneurship and the launch of Earn On Purpose, a business mentoring and coaching company. At Earn on Purpose, entrepreneurship is simplified through solid fundamentals and practical strategies for success.

This event is Saturday, June 8, from 5 to 10 pm at IAG Technology. Click here to register.

June 10 — 2024 Energy Drone & Robotics Summit

Connect with 1500+ global energy & industrial robotics, drone & data leaders at a time of rapid growth in the robotics sector. Hear from expert speakers on the latest ideas, use cases, best practices, tech, and trends as innovators, regulators, the most energy asset owners & service firms and more break these topics down.

This event begins Monday, June 10, from 4 to 6:30 pm at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott. Click here to register.

June 11 — Software Day at the Ion: From Seed to Success

Software Day at the Ion is a program series hosted by the Ion and Mercury, where software founders can connect with mentorship at Houston’s HQ for innovation.

This monthly series provides support, inspiration, and connections needed to help startups on their path to rapid, sustainable growth. Each month, Software Day will include office hours (by application), a keynote session, and networking.

This event is Tuesday, June 11, from 3:30 to 7 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

June 13 — 2024 Speaker Series: Dynamic Innovations in Energy Efficiency

Co-hosted by the TEPRI, in partnership with the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice, this event will spotlight just and effective strategies to boost energy efficiency, ensuring equitable access to sustainable energy solutions for all Texans. Keynote addresses by Dr. Robert D. Bullard, renowned environmental justice advocate and recipient of the 2024 Time Magazine Earth Award, and Donnel Baird, founder of BlocPower and inaugural recipient of TIME’s 2022 “Dreamer of the Year.”

The event is Thursday, June 13, from 2 to 4 pm at Melcher Hall. Click here to register.

June 13 — Out In Tech Monthly Mixer

Out in Tech Houston is the local chapter for Out in Tech, the world’s largest non-profit community of LGBTQ+ tech leaders. Check out their relaxed social-mixer event, hosted on the second Thursday of every month.

This event is Thursday, June 13, from 7 to 8:30 pm at Second Draught. Click here to register.

June 18 — Juneteenth Journey: Bridging Past and Present Through Technology

This special presentation will offer insights into the historical significance of Juneteenth, and illuminate the evolution of technology from the 1860s through World War II to modern Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the technology of today. Experts from the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum and Emancipation Park Conservancy will illustrate how technology has evolved as well as the parallels between the innovative spirit of the Buffalo Soldiers and today’s technological advancements, emphasizing the role of diversity and inclusion in driving innovation.

This event is Tuesday, June 18, from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm a the Ion. Click here to register.

June 20 — Visionary Voices: Leading Authentically with Woodside CEO Meg O’Neill

Celebrate Pride Month with a special edition of Ion’s “Visionary Voices” speaker series, featuring a powerful conversation between two leaders who’ve paved the way for LGBTQ+ representation in their respective fields – Woodside Energy CEO Meg O’Neill and former Houston Mayor Annise Parker. Attendees will gain insights into the unique experiences and milestones that have shaped both Meg and Annise’s careers, as well as the importance of visibility and representation in corporate leadership and public service.

This event is Thursday, June 20, from 3:30 to 6 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

June 25 — State of AI: Generating Real Business Value with AI

This comprehensive one-day free event organized by the Houston-based CODE Group is designed to equip decision-makers, C-level executives, and software developers with strategies to harness AI effectively. The event kicks off with a keynote from Markus Egger, Microsoft Regional Director, on “Harnessing AI for Tangible Business Outcomes,” setting the stage by demonstrating how AI can integrate seamlessly into business applications to enhance productivity and innovation.

This event is Tuesday, June 25, from 9 am to 5 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

June 28 — Young Professional Climate & Career Mixer

Climate Connect is a community resilience education and engagement program launching in Houston, Texas and powered by the Coalition of Community Organizations and Verizon. This meetup is for those interested in networking, learning, and exploring career opportunities in the field of climate change. The event will take place at 6500 Rookin Street, Houston, TX 77074 (Building E), where you can connect with like-minded individuals, meet industry professionals, and discover new, green career paths.

This event is Friday, June 28, from 5:30 to 7 pm at 6500 Rookin St. Click here to register.

Houston-based energy tech investor Neal Dikeman writes his observations on Houston's venture capital and startup community's growth — in stark comparison of Silicon Valley's recent evolution. Photo courtesy of the Ion

VC investor: Houston's energy tech ecosystem grows as Bay Area activity seemingly slows

guest column

There's stretch of sleek low rise office buildings in Palo Alto — referred to as Sandhill Road — that has long been the center of Silicon Valley (and the world’s) venture capital sector. An investor friend of mine told me recently that Sandhill Road is a ghost town these days, with the key partners at many of the Silicon Valley venture funds largely working from home or at their second homes.

That’s disappointing if true, but not surprising. Commuting sucks, and this business is a lot more far flung and global than it used to be. The venture capital business is always a wild and fun ride, focused on founders and the next big thing, with constant movement and alliances and partnerships.

I’ve been in these waves since I began investing during the dotcom boom in 2000, making the jump from private equity to venture capital in San Francisco at a fund behind Yellowpages.com and a few others, before co-leading a prior firm I founded in San Francisco doing seed investing and advising funds and investment arms of Macquarie Bank, ConocoPhillips, and Shell. We got in on the ground floor of cleantech and did well. This is my third major VC downcycle – there is always opportunity on both sides, and the more things change, the more they stay the same in venture capital. Hubs matter, because the business is heavily a critical mass of talent and capital business, with a power curve of outcomes. Cutthroat as venture capital and startups are, it is not private equity. You do need partners.

Houston has long lacked a center of gravity at all, let alone in tech. You might try rereading the 2001 Economist headline article “The Blob that Ate East Texas” for some humorous color on that score. But in tech, that’s changing.

Rice University’s Ion Houston innovation district project came out of some of the Greater Houston Partnership work a few years ago on how to get a serious tech hub going (I briefly served on the GHP affiliated Houston Technology Center board for Royal Dutch Shell during that revamp). After a slow start, Ion has begun to fill up with tech startups and bona fide check writing investors to go with the constant barrage of startup programming on its Ion Activation Floor and adjacent Greentown Labs incubation building.

Chevron Technology Ventures opened a guest office on day one on the third floor and Houston private equity and sometime crossover VC investor Ara Partners took early space with its headquarters in the building across the hall from them. Local fund of funds HX Venture Fund, which was created out of that GHP/HTC revamp and also puts on the Venture Houston Conference, moved in on the second floor.

Our fund, Energy Transition Ventures, was the first venture capital fund to move into the Ion when we launched in 2021, is located two doors down from HXVF. My partners and I made the call to make Houston our headquarters over Austin where my partner, Craig Lawrence, is located. He’s a former energy tech and solar executive who learned venture investing leading the successful cleantech effort at Accel Partners in Palo Alto. We are both Texas educated, Bay Area venture capital alums who are doing venture capital in Texas because it’s our home. Our third partner, Q Song, moved from Korea to the US, picking Houston over Austin and our Bay Area office to join us.

Houston was not the obvious choice – it still isn’t – I got nostalgia when driving through Austin and San Francisco in the last week seeing the sheer mass of tech and venture capital names to do business with, but doing things our own way is kind of our brand. We chose the Ion, because well, venture capital and startup life is a participation not a spectator sport, and if Houston was ever going to have a shot at being an investment hub, it needed an actual hub, and founders needed a place to go meet venture capitalists, and that won’t work if venture capitalists all work out of their homes or alone in some energy corridor or downtown high rise.

In our hallway of the Ion, you pass HX Venture Fund, Decarbonization Partners, Energy Transition Ventures, and WaterLens, a water testing startup which spun out of UT many years ago, all next door to each other at one end. And at the other end BP Ventures — with a newly added ExxonMobil venture capital team guest suite adjacent — next to water and energy pipeline corrosion detection software and hardware startup INGU, a Chevron Technology Ventures-backed startup, which is adjacent to one of Houston’s largest venture-backed SaaS companies, Liongard. That’s a half a dozen tech startup founders and a dozen investors across all stages in 125 feet.

I can count approximately 20 other startups in the building now, still heavily skewed to energy. Across the floor, Artemis Energy Partners and Veriten, run respectively by Houston energy fixtures Bobby Tudor and Maynard Holt two of the three Tudor Pickering Holt founders, have their offices, with Schlumberger and hydrogen software startup Velostics which just announced its seed round sandwiched in between. The co-founder of Tierra Climate, a Rice spinout that also just announced its seed round works out of the coworking, and Eigen Controls is building GHG detection equipment around the corner a few feet from an Edtech and medtech startup, and renewable energy services startup Clean Energy Services is headquartered a few feet from the entrance.

Since we moved in, GOOSE Capital, a Houston investment group launched out of Rice at the Rice Alliance Business Competition two decades ago, put its offices in the Ion Activation Floor, and you can quietly find their Managing Director Andrew Nicholson trooping up and down the stairs. BP Ventures then pulled the trigger in 2022 – and moved its US venture capital investing team HQ to the Ion — right down the hallway from us. Chad Bown who manages the US team is sitting in a phone booth 100 feet from me and Chris Spears is listening on pitches as I type this. And this month Decarbonization Partners, the climate growth fund of BlackRock and Temasek, opened its office next door to mine in between us and HX, with three investment professionals, led by David Hayes, formerly with BP Ventures. Aramco Ventures, now led by the former Energy Ventures US head Jim Sledzik, began weekly Friday morning office hours. Jim can often be grabbed for a casual chat on his way between meetings on a regular basis, as can Luis Alcoser or Kemal Anbarci who pop in and out of the Chevron Technology Ventures visiting offices on third floor, with Veriten, which just announced an investment fund, and now Artemis joining recently.

The Houston pool of high quality founders and startups has definitely improved as well – though we still don’t have the quantity or quality of teams needed for a healthy startup market. Blair Garrou from Mercury Fund was part of a recent panel for the Texas Venture Crawl at the Ion along with BP Ventures’ Ion based Grace Chan talking about why Houston, and he remarked that in their earlier funds, Mercury was 5 to 10 percent Houston startups, having to go far afield to fill up even one fund - but his recent fund is closer to 25 percent Houston based, as local team quality has improved.

Houston venture capital is two orders of magnitude smaller than the Bay Area – it’s about like writing an article asking whether Silicon Valley is the emerging Energy Corridor. But it’s nice to have coffee and beers with next door neighbors who are actually investing in, and founders who are actually running, venture backed businesses. Founders are learning that Houston’s venture investment and tech scene has an actual home these days, and is open for business.

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Neal Dikeman is a venture capitalist and seven-time startup co-founder investing out of Energy Transition Ventures.

Michelle Stansbury, vice president of innovation and IT applications at Houston Methodist, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo courtesy of Houston Methodist

Houston innovator powers health care innovation by collaboration — inside and outside of the hospital setting

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 202

It might surprise most to know that Houston Methodist doesn't have an innovation department within their hospital system — at least not one set up as you'd imagine, with a team specifically dedicated to innovation. Instead, Houston Methodist's Digital Innovation Obsessed People, or DIOP, consists of leaders across departments.

Michelle Stansbury is one of those leaders. As vice president of innovation and IT applications at Houston Methodist, she oversees the system's IT department and serves as a leader within its innovation efforts. This includes the Center for Innovation Technology Hub — which opened in 2020 in the Texas Medical Center location and opened its Ion outpost last week.

Stansbury explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast how effective this distribution of innovation responsibilities has been for Houston Methodist. With everyone having a seat at the table — operations knows the biggest problems that need solutions, IT knows how to deploy technology, etc. — implementation of new innovations has been sped up.

"If we partner together, we should be able to succeed fast or fail fast," she says on the show. "We've been able to find a solution, pilot it, and, if it works well, roll it out at a speed that most other organizations have not been able to do. It's been highly successful for us."

The newest way Houston Methodist is mixing up how it brings in innovative solutions to its team and patients is by taking its team outside of the Texas Medical Center and its hospitals in general. Now, Houston Methodist has a permanent tech hub in the Ion, owned and operated by Rice Management Company, on the lower level of the building, completely open to any of the Ion's visitors.

"We've always had a great partnership with Rice. This almost felt like an extension with Houston Methodist and our Rice collaboration with the Ion," Stansbury says. "Our main goals have been how can we utilize the talent that's housed out of that facility."

She explains that the new hub is an extension of the original hub in the TMC hospital, and that innovators who are interested in collaborating with Houston Methodist — especially those with solutions applicable to health care — can visit the Ion hub as an entry point.

Both hub locations showcase pilot technology Houston Methodist is working on, and that technology will then get deployed out into its hospital locations — and especially its Cypress hospital, which is being billed as being the "smart hospital of the future." The construction is underway and expected to deliver in 2025.

Stansbury shares more about this ninth location for Houston Methodist as well as more details on the new tech hub on the podcast. Listen to the interview here — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

Houston Methodist opened a new tech hub in the Ion this week. Photo by Shannon O’Hara/Ion

Photos: Houston hospital opens tech hub in the Ion

innovation outpost

A Houston hospital has opened an innovation outpost in the Ion this week in order to showcase health tech innovation and connect with Houston innovators.

The Houston Methodist Tech Hub at Ion hub has officially opened. The 1,200-square-foot space was created in addition to the Center for Innovation Technology Hub that's in Houston Methodist’s flagship location in the Texas Medical Center, which opened in February 2020.

The new space, located on the lower level of the Ion, exists to serve as a common ground for innovators across industries to promote collisions and innovation, as well as interaction with Houston Methodist team members

“Our new Tech Hub at Ion supports not only our commitment to the Houston innovation community but also to the rapidly shifting healthcare industry,” Michelle Stansbury, vice president of innovation and IT applications at Houston Methodist, says in a statement. “We know we can’t solve the healthcare challenges of the future if we confine ourselves within our hospital walls or even within our own industry.

"We look forward to the collaborative space our new Tech Hub will provide and the future programming opportunities we can create together to inspire, challenge, and foster a spirit of innovation in our city.”

The new hub, according to the news release, also will host educational events, reverse pitch sessions, and more. Visitors can schedule a time to view the space or connect with the Houston Methodist innovation team by filling out a form online.

The hub, which was originally announced last year, is the latest partner to open within the Ion's space. Earlier this year, the organization announced other new tenants.

“Houston Methodist’s space at the Ion opens up even more opportunities for our start-up and entrepreneur community to embed and gain exposure to the latest innovations in health care, health technology, and digital health,” Jan E. Odegard, executive director of Ion, says. “This partnership and opportunity provided by Houston Methodist, a leading healthcare organization in the country, is a testament to the ecosystem we’re building and the talent within our building. Furthermore, Houston Methodist’s approach and appetite for cross-industry innovation and collaboration meshes seamlessly with the Ion’s ongoing plans to support Houston’s growing innovation community in industries and fields that will change the world.”

Both of Houston Methodist's tech hubs will showcase its latest technologies its implementing in its hospital system, including the "hospital of the future" it's building out in Cypress.

Collaborative effort

Photo by Shannon O’Hara/Ion

Revealed at an event earlier this month, the Ion is now home to installations by Houston-based artists Christopher Blay and Kill Joy, which play on the traditional window displays the building hosted for years as the historic Sears Building. Photo courtesy of Marc Furi Creative/the Ion

Photos: Ion Houston's latest art installations tackle tech, social issues

eye on the ion

Two new art installations at the Ion speak to the building's past and its potential future.

Revealed at an event earlier this month, the innovation hub developed by Rice University is now home to installations by Houston-based artists Christopher Blay and Kill Joy, which play on the traditional window displays the building hosted for years as the historic Sears Building.

The pieces are part of the Ion's Eye on Art program, according to a release. Each was selected by the Ion and Ion District Art Advisory Council with support from Piper Faust.

"Innovation and art have a lot more in common than you might think. Many of our local artists learn how to use emerging technologies to create their pieces and hone their craft,” Jan E. Odegard, executive director of the Ion, says in a statement. “Creativity plays a vital role in fostering innovation and we’re honored to provide artists like Christopher and Kill Joy with a platform to serve as an inspiration for the entire innovation ecosystem here at the Ion.”

Blay, who's an artist, writer and currently serves as the chief curator of the Houston Museum of African American Culture, created his installation in collaboration with the Ion Prototyping Lab. Using canvases and wood frames, the installation depicts slaving vessels and spaceships to "symbolizes where the Black community has been and where they are going," according to the Ion.

The installation is part of Blay's latest body of work, “The SpLaVCe Program."

Joy's work focuses on environmental and social justice. Her installation at the Ion, “Creation, Current, Solution," uses animated puppets inspired by Filipino folklore to explore the intersection of technology and sustainable living.

Blay and Joy's installations will be on display for the next six months, and will rotate out to feature other Houston-based artists' work.

The Ion first launched the The Eye On Art Program in March 2022. The debut displays included Lina Dib’s over-the-top kitsch “Self-Portrait in the Garden” and Preston Gaines' multi-sensory “Fantasy Landscape.” The second rotation featured Lisa Morales and Stacey Gresell’s “The Collective Hive” and “Exploración Orgánica” by Maria Rodriguez, Miriam Mireles, Bryce Saucier, Timothy Hudson, and Victoria Armenta: “Exploración Orgánica”

Earlier this summer, the Ion also announced that it would launch its official workforce development partner’s 12- to 15- week technology skills training courses this fall.

Click through photos from the new installation below.

“The SpLaVCe Program" by Christopher Blay

Photo courtesy of Marc Furi Creative/the Ion

The newest tenant at the Ion is a West Texas-based oilfield equipment provider. Photo courtesy of the Ion

Another energy co. opens new office in the Ion Houston

moving in

The Ion's latest tenant is a Texas oilfield equipment provider that's recently seen an uptick in business amid the energy transition.

SCS Technologies, based in Big Spring, Texas, has opened a new office in the Ion, a 266,000-square-foot innovation hub in Midtown, to focus on strategy and innovation. SCS provides CO2 capture measurement and methane vapor recovery equipment for the energy, industrial, and environmental sectors.

“Embracing Houston's pivotal role in the energy transition, the Ion has swiftly become the epicenter of innovative collaborations. For SCS Technologies, this marks an exciting opportunity to align our capabilities and technology with a diverse consortium of organizations working toward ambitious carbon-neutral goals,” says Cody Johnson, CEO of SCS Technologies, in a news release. “Looking ahead, we are invigorated by the boundless possibilities at the Ion, envisioning groundbreaking solutions and technologies that will unfold there.”

The Ion has seen a flurry of activity when it comes to energy tenants. In March, United Kingdom-based Carbon Clean, opened its US headquarters in the Ion as it expands nationally. In April, the Ion named several other new tenants, which included industrial software company Cognite, robotics tech provider Nauticus, and more. These companies join Chevron, which officially opened its new outpost in 2022 after being announced as a founding partner in 2020. ExxonMobil is also a founding partner.

SCS also announced a new executive on its team. On July 20, SCS announced René Vandersalm as COO. Johnson says in a July 20 statement that the appointment comes at a time when "energy and industrial sectors are undergoing a considerable transformation of their processes and infrastructure to align with carbon-neutral goals."

Vandersalm previously worked for over 20 years at Thermon Manufacturing leading the company's heating solutions. In his new role, he says he will work within SCS "to design and produce the innovative compression and measurement systems our customers need to achieve emissions goals."

“It’s an exciting time as energy and industrial companies strive towards sustainable operations, all while delivering the energy and products that customers worldwide rely on,” Vandersalm continues in the release. “I am both excited and honored to collaborate with the talented and motivated SCS Technologies team as we make a significant impact in this industry-wide transition.”

SCS is partnered with New Orleans-based Black Bay Energy Capital, an energy-focused private equity fund.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

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Houston e-commerce unicorn secures $130M in financing

scaling up

Houston-based Cart.com, which operates a multichannel commerce platform, has secured $105 million in debt refinancing from investment manager BlackRock.

The debt refinancing follows a recent $25 million series C extension round, bringing Cart.com’s series C total to $85 million. The scaleup’s valuation now stands at $1.2 billion, making it one of the few $1 billion-plus “unicorns” in the Houston area.

“Scaleup” refers to a startup that has achieved tremendous growth and has maintained a stable workforce, among other positive milestones. Airbnb, Peloton, and Uber are prime examples of businesses that evolved from startup to scaleup.

Cart.com says the new term loan facility from BlackRock consolidates its venture debt into one package “at competitive terms.” Those terms weren’t disclosed.

The company says the refinancing will enable it to expand into new markets and improve its technology, including its Constellation OMS order management system.

“Cart.com is one of the fastest-growing providers of commerce and logistics solutions today, and I’m excited to partner with BlackRock as we continue to aggressively invest to help our customers operate more efficiently,” Omair Tariq, the company’s founder and CEO, says in a news release.

Through a network of 14 fulfillment centers, Cart.com supports over 6,000 customers and 75 million orders per year.

"BlackRock is pleased to support Cart.com as it advances its mission to unify digital and physical commerce infrastructure," says Keon Reed, a director at BlackRock. “This latest facility underscores our confidence in the company’s differentiated product offerings and financial strategy as it enters its next stage of growth.”

Elon Musk says he's moving SpaceX, X headquarters from California to Texas

cha-cha-changes

Billionaire Elon Musk says he's moving the headquarters of SpaceX and social media company X to Texas from California.

Musk posted on X Tuesday that he plans on moving SpaceX from Hawthorne, California, to the company's rocket launch site dubbed Starbase in Texas. X will move to Austin from San Francisco.

He called a new law signed Monday by California Gov. Gavin Newsom that bars school districts from requiring staff to notify parents of their child’s gender identification change the “final straw.”

“I did make it clear to Governor Newsom about a year ago that laws of this nature would force families and companies to leave California to protect their children,” Musk wrote.

Tesla, where Musk is CEO, moved its corporate headquarters to Austin from Palo Alto, California in 2021.

Musk has also said that he has moved his residence from California to Texas, where there is no state personal income tax.

SpaceX builds and launches its massive Starship rockets from the southern tip of Texas at Boca Chica Beach, near the Mexican border at a site called Starbase. The company’s smaller Falcon 9 rockets take off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Southern California.

It’s just below South Padre Island, and about 20 miles from Brownsville.

Play it back: This Houston innovator is on a mission to develop tech for the moon

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 244

Editor's note: This week on the Houston Innovators Podcast, we’re revisiting a conversation with Tim Crain, the co-founder and CTO at Intuitive Machines, that originally ran in October of 2023.

If you haven't noticed, the moon is having a bit of a moment — and Tim Crain of Intuitive Machines is here for it.

For the past five or so years, NASA and the federal government have introduced and strengthened initiatives to support innovation of technology to be used to get to and explore the moon.

NASA, which is currently focused on its Artemis program that's sending four missions to the moon, also launched the Commercial Lunar Payload Services that's working with several American companies, including Intuitive Machines, to deliver science and technology to the lunar surface.

"Around 2018 or 2019, the moon came back into favor as a destination for American space policy, and it came back in such a way that there's a directive at the national level — at a level above NASA — to explore and develop the moon as a national priority," Crain says in the episode.



On the show, Crain explains the history of Intuitive Machines, which has taken an indirect path to where it is today. The company was founded in 2013 by Crain and co-founders CEO Steve Altemus and Chairman Kamal Ghaffarian as a space-focused think tank. Crain says they learned how to run a business and meet customers' needs and expectations, but they never fell in love with any of the early technologies and ideas they developed — from long-range drones to precision drilling technologies.

But the company answered NASA's call for moon technology development, and Intuitive Machines won three of the NASA contracts so far, representing three missions for NASA.

"We dipped our toe in the 'let's develop the moon' river and promptly got pulled all the way in," Crain says. "We left our think tank, broad, multi-sector efforts behind, and really pivoted at that point to focus entirely on NASA's CLPS needs. ... The timing really could not have been any better."

Since recording the podcast, Intuitive Machines celebrated a historic mission that landed the first lunar lander on the surface of the moon in over 50 years — and the first commercially operated mission ever. The company is also working on a $30 million project for NASA to develop lunar lander technology.

This week, Intuitive Machines announced a successful test result for engine technology to be used in the lunar lander project.