Kevin Knobloch is stepping down as Greentown Labs CEO, effective on July 31. Photo via LinkedIn

Greentown Labs, which is co-located in the Boston and Houston areas, has announced its current CEO is stepping down after less than a year in the position.

The nonprofit's CEO and President Kevin Knobloch announced that he will be stepping down at the end of July 2024. Knobloch assumed his role last September, previously serving as chief of staff of the United States Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s second term.

“It has been an honor to lead this incredible team and organization, and a true privilege to get to know many of our brilliant startup founders," Knobloch says in the news release. “Greentown is a proven leader in supporting early-stage climatetech companies and I can’t wait to see all that it will accomplish in the coming years.”

The news of Knobloch's departure comes just over a month after the organization announced that it was eliminating 30 percent of its staff, which affected 12 roles in Boston and six in Houston.

According the Greentown, its board of directors is expected to launch a national search for its next CEO.

“On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I want to thank Kevin for his efforts to strengthen the foundation of Greentown Labs and for charting the next chapter for the organization through a strategic refresh process,” says Dawn James, Greentown Labs Board Chair, in the release. “His thoughtful leadership will leave a lasting impact on the team and community for years to come.”

Knobloch reportedly shifted Greentown's sponsorship relationships with oil companies, sparking "friction within the organization," according to the Houston Chronicle, which also reported that Knobloch said he intends to return to his clean energy consulting firm.

------

This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

The cuts to positions affects both Greentown Labs locations. Photo via Greentown

Greentown Labs reduces roles at Houston, Boston incubators

tough decisions

Greentown Labs has announced a reduction in its staff, which affects both of its locations.

In a letter addressed to the Greentown Labs community, the organization's CEO and President Kevin Knobloch reported that Greentown will be reducing its staff by 30 percent, eliminating 12 roles in Boston and six in Houston. Knobloch noted changes in leadership, growth of the team, and adjustments following the pandemic.

"Greentown Labs grew rapidly over the past four years in pursuit of advancing its mission to catalyze climate action through entrepreneurship, partnership, and collaboration," Knobloch writes in the letter. "This created a structural deficit where growth outpaced revenue."

The letter did not provide details of which positions were eliminated at either location.

With these resizing of the staff and reduced expenses, Knobloch writes that the organization is positioned well for its future.

"Despite this decision, I remain optimistic about the future for Greentown and the impact we will have on addressing the climate crisis," Knobloch tells the community. "Our mission is as urgent as ever and we remain committed to supporting all of you—our startups—by prioritizing core operations, member services, and strategic partner engagements."

Knobloch took the helm of Greentown last summer. He previously served as chief of staff of the United States Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s second term.

------

This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Meet the six startups that will be working with Shell and Greentown Labs for the next six months. Photo via Greentown

6 energy tech startups named to corporate-backed manufacturing accelerator

go make

Greentown Labs has named the six participating climatetech startups for an accelerator for a global energy leader.

Shell and Greentown Labs announced the cohort for Greentown Go Make 2023 — a program designed to accelerate partnerships between startups and corporates to advance carbon utilization, storage, and traceability solutions with manufacturing in mind. Shell, which invests in net-zero and carbon-removal technologies, is hoping to strategically align with startups within carbon utilization, storage, and traceability across the energy transition spectrum.

“At Greentown Labs we recognize and appreciate the role energy incumbents must play in the energy transition, and we’re eager to facilitate meaningful partnerships between these impressive startups and Shell—not only to advance these technologies but also to help Shell achieve its sustainability goals,” Kevin Knobloch, CEO and President of Greentown Labs, says in a news release. “We know carbon utilization, storage, and traceability will play a critical role in our collective efforts to reach net-zero, and we’re enthusiastic about the potential impact these companies can have in that work.”

The cohort, selected from 110 applications, is co-located at Greentown's Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, locations and includes:

  • Portland-based Caravel Bio is developing a novel synthetic biology platform that uses microbial spores and enzymes to create catalysts that are long-lasting and can withstand extreme conditions and environments.
  • Circularise, which is based in the Netherlands, is developing a blockchain platform that provides digital product passports for end-to-end traceability and secure data exchange for industrial supply chains.
  • Corumat, based in Washington, converts organic waste into high-performance, insulating, greaseproof, and biodegradable packaging materials.
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts-headquartered Lydian develops a fully electrified reactor that can convert a variety of gaseous, non-fossil feedstocks into pure syngas with high efficiency.
  • Maple Materials from Richmond, California is developing a low-cost electrolysis process to split carbon dioxide into graphite and oxygen.
  • Ontario, Canada-founded Universal Matter develops a proprietary Flash Joule Heating process that converts carbon waste into high-value and high-performance graphene materials to efficiently create sustainable circular economies.

The program, which includes $15,000 in non-dilutive stipend funding for each company, will work closely with Shell and Greentown over six months via mentorship, networking opportunities, educational workshops, and partnership-focused programming to support collaboration. Go Make 2023 concludes with a showcase event on March 27 at Greentown Labs’ Houston location.

This week, Shell announced another accelerator cohort it's participating in. The Shell GameChanger Accelerator, a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), named four West Coast climatetech companies: DTE Materials, Hexas Biomass, Invizyne Technologies, and ZILA BioWorks. The program provides early-stage cleantech startups with access to experts and facilities to reduce technology development risk and accelerate commercialization of new cleaner technologies.

“Tackling the climate challenge requires multifaceted solutions. At Shell, we believe technology that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere will be essential for lowering emissions from energy and chemical products,” Yesim Jonsson, Shell’s GCxN program manager, says in a statement. “The companies in GCxN's sixth cohort embody these objectives and have the potential to usher in a more sustainable future.”

------

This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Jeremy Pitts of Activate Houston, Tim Boire of VenoStent, and Kevin Knobloch of Greentown Labs. Photos courtesy

3 Houston innovators to know this week

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

Jeremy Pitts, managing director for Activate Houston

Jeremy Pitts has been named the inaugural Houston managing director for Activate. Photo via LinkedIn

Activate named Jeremy Pitts as the Houston managing director this month. The nonprofit, which announced its new Houston program earlier this year, was founded in Berkeley, California, in 2015 to bridge the gap between the federal and public sectors to deploy capital and resources into the innovators creating transformative products.

For Activate Houston, the challenge is to focus on finding and supporting innovators within the energy sector.

"There are so many reasons to be excited about the energy transition and overall innovation ecosystem in Houston — the region's leadership in energy and desire to maintain that leadership through the energy transition, the many corporations leading the charge to be part of that change who are speaking with their actions and not just their words, the incredible access to talent, the region's diversity, the list goes on and on," Pitts tells InnovationMap. Read more.

Tim Boire, CEO and co-founder of VenoStent

Tim Boire shares his company's roadmap on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via LinkedIn

Commercializing a health tech innovation is a long game — fraught with regulatory obstacles, cyclical rounds of funding, and continuous improvement — all fueled by the desire to enhance treatment and save lives.

That's Tim Boire's plan. And it's a thorough one at that. On this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast, Boire — president and CEO of VenoStent, a medical device startup that’s designing a unique material for hemodialysis patients — shares his roadmap for his company.

"We believe we can be pioneers of a paradigm shift in vascular surgery — to not just treat problems after they've already occurred, but actually prevent them from occurring in the first place," he says in the episode. Read more.

Kevin Knobloch , CEO of Greentown Labs

Kevin Knobloch will lead Greentown Labs as CEO. Photo via LinkedIn

While not based in Houston, Kevin Knobloch, who served as chief of staff of the United States Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s second term, is definitely going to be someone to know in the innovation ecosystem. He will be CEO of Greentown Labs, effective September 5. In his role, Knobloch will oversee both Greentown locations in Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, outside of Boston.

“I’m honored and thrilled to have the opportunity to once again pass the leadership baton,” Greentown Co-Founder Jason Hanna says, who has been serving as interim CEO. “Especially so given Kevin’s incredible record of climate leadership. I’m excited for the future of this organization and the impact he can make as Greentown enters the second decade of its climate mission.” Read more.

Kevin Knobloch will lead Greentown Labs as CEO. Photo via LinkedIn

Greentown Labs names new CEO to oversee Houston, Boston incubators

seeing green

The largest climatetech incubator in North America has named an Obama Administration appointee as its next CEO.

Kevin Knobloch, who served as chief of staff of the United States Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s second term, will be CEO of Greentown Labs, effective September 5. In his role, Knobloch will oversee both Greentown locations in Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, outside of Boston.

“Kevin has a proven and impressive track record of growing, operationalizing, and leading a dynamic mix of organizations at different stages and in various industries, all of which have aligned with his unwavering commitment to addressing the climate crisis,” Greentown Labs Board Chair Dawn James says in a news release. “On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I am thrilled to welcome Kevin as our next CEO. We are excited for what is to come under Kevin’s leadership and look forward to the positive impact he will undoubtedly have on our team, our startup community, and the ecosystem at large.”

With 30 years of experience across sectors, Knobloch most recently served as president of Knobloch Energy, an independent advisory and consulting firm. He also served as acting executive director of the National Offshore Wind Research & Development Consortium from June through December 2022. From 2018 to 2020, Knobloch was president of New York OceanGrid LLC, where he led Anbaric’s efforts to develop offshore wind transmission in New York.

“I’m honored and thrilled to have the opportunity to once again pass the leadership baton,” Greentown Co-Founder Jason Hanna says, who has been serving as interim CEO. “Especially so given Kevin’s incredible record of climate leadership. I’m excited for the future of this organization and the impact he can make as Greentown enters the second decade of its climate mission.”

The appointment follows an executive search that began after Greentown's previous CEO Emily Reichert announced she was stepping down in December.

“I’m delighted to be asked by Greentown Labs’ Board of Directors to be the next leader of this highly effective organization—and very excited to get to work,” Knobloch says in a statement. “I’ve long admired the critical role Greentown plays in supporting the growth and impact of early-stage climate and energy transition technology companies, as well as the impressive efforts by former longtime CEO Emily Reichert and the talented Board and staff to build Greentown into a national powerhouse and model for other incubators around the world. The climate crisis demands that we accelerate our collective pace of deployment and I look forward to collaborating with our startups, staff, and partners to support that acceleration.”

The announcement comes on the heels of Greentown naming its inaugural Houston general manager. Timmeko Moore Love was named to that new position last week.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston investors back new platform for retail traders looking to follow financial influencers

making a splash

As anyone who witnessed the impact Gamestop's meme stock had on the country already realizes, influential investors can drive momentum within the financial sector. And one company with fresh funding from a Houston firm is betting on that exactly.

CashPool is a new mobile platform that gives everyday investors the opportunity to derive influence from the investment strategies and trades made by trusted and influential stock traders who have built substantial followings on social media platforms. By allowing retail traders the chance to join social media influencers’ various “pools” on its platform, CashPool is primed to change the way the masses acquire wealth.

This is the kind of algorithmic trading aimed at a new generation of investors that gets the attention of early-stage venture capital funds like Houston-based Ten X Labs, a pre-seed angel fund that recently invested in CashPool to help the trading platform continue its mission of transforming the investment landscape.

"We are thrilled to receive funding from Ten X Labs, as it validates our innovative approach to trading and investing," CashPool Founder and CEO Averett Barksdale says in a news release. "This investment will enable us to further enhance our platform, expand our user base and continue to revolutionize the industry. We believe that everyone should have transparent, governed access to profitable trading and investment opportunities, and through CashPool we are making that vision a reality."

Connecting the dots

CashPool is broker agnostic connector, allowing its users to keep their current brokers like Robinhood, Coinbase, Charles Schwab, Acorns, Fidelity, ETRADE, Stash, Sofi and Betterment and creates a seamless investment experience.

“We are that middle piece,” says Barksdale. “So your money stays on whatever brokerage you’ve connected to the platform, and we just execute the trades on your brokerage for you.”

Considering that users’ money remains with their original brokerage, how does CashPool monetize its platform?

“We don’t charge users to execute trades,” says Barksdale. “We charge per pool you join. So, on our platform, strategies are called pools and a user can join as many strategies as they want.”

Financial influencers set the strategies. These are profitable traders who have become influencers on various social media platforms and built-up followings comprised of people who are or are desiring to be retail traders themselves.

“There are a ton of people out there who actually are profitable traders,” says Barksdale. “Same as what we saw happen with GameStop and the whole Reddit situation. That was a financial influencer, right? It just so happens that he had a strategy that he thought would work and it turned out for a while it did work, right?

“We want to not only empower the retail trader, but empower these financial influencers who are profitable as well. Just because it's a whole marketplace out there for it. But a lot of times the retail trader doesn't quite understand who to go with. On our platform, you could see the results of these financial influencers right before your eyes on our platform. So you can see if they're profitable or not, or if someone's just on Instagram or whatever, social media platform posting screenshots but aren’t actually executing those trades.”

Increasing transparency

With trading, past success can be an arbiter for future performance, so with CashPool, users can choose to join the pools of influencers who have documented success as a trader on the platform.

“On our platform you can't hide,” says Barksdale. “We're connected to their brokerage account, so we see what trades they're making in real time. We also see their performance in real time, and we display that on the platform. That's something that you really can't get around. So if someone on Instagram says they traded this stock, then I made X amount of dollars and had this percentage of return, then you go to the platform and look at your pool and see they didn't do that and were lying the whole time, it’s literally just putting everything out there in the open. We have the kind of transparency that doesn't exist currently right now in the space.”

Broadcasting one’s successes is easy, but what about the losses?

“I thought it was going to be a lot more difficult just thinking, do people really want to show what they're doing?” says Barksdale. “But the thing that I've seen is a lot of these traders are a whole lot more competitive. And the traders who are doing it, they're constantly talking out against people who aren't actually doing it in real life.

“A lot of the traders who are actually profitable, they do live trades every day. But how do users if they should pay to get into a specific trader’s live trading session? Like, how do they know they're profitable already?

“On CashPool, users can see an actual influencer's win rate and say, 'Okay, 86 percent of the time they are profitable, and I could see how many trades they've made in total.' From that standpoint, users can make an educated decision on what pools to join and pay for.”

CashPool users can join as many pools as they see fit, but the cost of each pool’s membership may vary due to the popularity or success percentage rate of the financial influencer.

“You can join as many pools as you want, but what we suggest is you start by joining the pools of influencers that you already follow and trust, that you're already following like on Twitter or YouTube or Instagram or whatever it may be,” says Barksdale. “We are suggesting that you follow them first and you join their pools first. What we do is on the monetization side is we allow the creators on our platform who are the influencers to set their own price for their pool.”

Building a secure network

Outside of who or what to follow, information security is likely a concern for potential users. Financial influencers’ trade information is readily available (win percentages and number of trades, not dollar amounts), but users’ won’t be able to see other users’ information on the platform.

“Currently, we have a list of 10 brokerages who are on board, and then we're working to onboard more as we keep going on,” says Barksdale. “So, we have like your Interactive brokerages, and we also have a few other ones that are UK specific and Canada specific. We would love to have every single brokerage on the platform, but unfortunately, there are a couple that are still kind of playing hard to get, so to speak.”

The first rollout of CashPool is set, but version two will likely include content creation from the financial influencers.

Barksdale, who has a background in product development and experience working at companies like Charles Schwab and Fidelity, is mostly excited about the prospect of CashPool unlocking expert financial strategies for everyone, not just the financial advisors behind the closed doors of Wall Street.

“Yes, my philosophy is that financial health and financial growth should be accessible for all,” says Barksdale. “The thing that gets me is it needs to be responsible. So, for example, RobinHood is a platform that doesn't necessarily care if you are making responsible decisions, they just care that you're trading on that platform.

“Our platform is strictly focused on actually being the place where these retail traders can make responsible decisions centered around investing and trading.”

Tech companies contribute to recovery fund for those affected by Houston storm

helping hands

The past month in Houston has been marked by severe flooding and a sudden storm that left nearly a million residents without power. The Houston Disaster Alliance has established the Severe Weather and Derecho Recovery Fund to help those impacted by the weather.

“The Greater Houston Disaster Alliance was formed so that in times of crisis, there is a swift and efficient response to help those severely impacted begin the process of recovery,” said Stephen Maislin, president and CEO, Greater Houston Community Foundation. “When disaster strikes, it requires a collaborative and coordinated response from the nonprofit, for-profit, public sector, and philanthropic community to ensure the most vulnerable in our region get the help they need to start the recovery and rebuilding process.”

At least a million dollars has been donated to the fund, courtesy of $500,000 from the CenterPoint Energy Foundation and another $500,000 from Comcast. With Houston now a federally declared disaster area by President Joe Biden, impacted residents are able to apply for various grants and aid.

Those still struggling from the weather events should call the 211 Texas/United Way HELPLINE. Assistance is available for housing, utilities, food, elder assistance, and other areas. Crisis counseling is also available.

“Outside of times of disaster, we know that 14 percent of households in our region are struggling on income below the federal poverty line and 31 percent of households in our region are working hard but struggling to make ends meet. It’s these neighbors who are disproportionately impacted when disaster strikes,” said Amanda McMillian, president and CEO, United Way of Greater Houston. “This fund allows us to lift up the most vulnerable who have been impacted by recent weather events to ensure they can not only recover from the immediate crisis, but also prepare themselves for future disasters.”

The derecho storm that hit Houston on Thursday, May 16 had wind gusts up to 100mph. Nearly a million people in the Houston area were left without power, and as of Wednesday CenterPoint was still working to restore electricity to more than 60,000 people. Photos showed that the storm toppled massive power pylons, took down trees, and even ripped the sides off buildings. Miniature tornadoes touched down in parts of the city, adding to the devastation.

The Houston Disaster Alliance was launched in 2023 as a joint effort between the Greater Houston Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Houston to help mitigate the damage of weather crises year-round. This has become increasingly necessary as Houston's weather has become more unpredictable than ever.

------

This article originally ran on CultureMap.