This week's innovators to know are focused on health and wellness, from a Houston-based cryotherapy franchise to the person behind funding medical device and digital health startups. We couldn't narrow these folks down to the usual three, so here are the four Houston innovators to know as we start the last week in February.
Juliana Garaizar, director of the Texas Medical Center Venture Fund
Courtesy of TMC
Juliana Garaizar has worked all around the world, and her international contacts and venture capital experience has landed her at the heart of the Texas Medical Center leading the TMC Venture Fund.
"I think TMC wants to be positioned as a strong competitor to the East and West Coasts as a point of entry for companies coming to the United States, but also for technology and commercializations from hospitals," she tells InnovationMap. "The fact that I'm already very connected to other countries — not only from the funding side but also from the research side, is really helpful."
Garaizar has her hands full running the $25 million nonprofit fund that invests around $2 million a year. Recipients, which all have a connection to TMC either through the accelerator or workspaces, receive a range between $250,000 to $500,000, and can go up to $1 million in a deal, Garaizar says. She is focused on securing deal flow for the fund before growing it more.
"In the long term, we would like to raise a bigger fun, around $100 million fund," she says. "We would need to make sure we have our deal flow ready for that, and a big part of that would be international deal flow."
Walter Klemp, chairman and CEO of Moleculin
Courtesy of Moleculin
It's pretty concerning to Walter Klemp that, while Houston has the world's largest medical center, "the tragic irony" is that other cities have far more biotech money ready to be invested.
"The Third Coast is really starved for capital," he tells InnovationMap. "What drew me into this was I was one of the few entrepreneurs that lived here that knew the ropes in terms of tapping into East and West Coast capital structures and could make that connection for them."
In 2007, chairman and CEO Walter Klemp founded Moleculin Biotech Inc. as a private company. The company has three core technologies currently being tested with some success, but the most promising is called WP1066, which uses propolis, a compound of beeswax, sap and saliva that bees produce to seal small areas of their hives, as a base. The active compound both downregulates the STAT3, a long-time Holy Grail in the cancer research world, and directly attacking the tumor, but also quieting T Cells, which allows the body's own immune system to fight the cancer itself. Essentially, it works both as chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
Jay Sutaria, founder and lead trainer of Sutaria Training & Fitness
Courtesy of ST&F
Earthbound Houstonians have a chance to use NASA training equipment thanks to Jay Sutaria's company, Sutaria Training & Fitness.
"It's exclusive access to the equipment that is not available openly in Houston," Sutaria tells InnovationMap. "NASA is a reference for us to become better trainers."
Sutaria founded his company in 2011 while he was a student at the University of Houston, and the company now operates with two trainers. His clients include professional athletes such as D.J. Augustin (Orlando Magic, NBA); and Tim Frazier (New Orleans Pelicans, NBA), however, Sutaria and his team offer professional personal training services to any type of athlete.
Kyle Jones, COO of iCRYO
Courtesy of iCryo
Kyle Jones says he's always known he was destined for entrepreneurship, and when he came across the potential of cryotherapy while working at a physical therapist office, he knew it was a scalable business.
He opened his first location of iCRYO in League City in 2015. Now the company is
Jones says he used the location to work out the kinks of his business model, since he didn't really have much to model after. One thing that was most important to Jones, with his PT background, was safety of the patients. He cared about this more than making money, he says.
"I knew first and foremost the one thing that the cryotherapy space didn't have was a certification program, which is kind of terrifying to me," Jones tells InnovationMap. "Any therapy has some type of schooling or certification — massage therapy and acupuncture both have it. Cryotherapy even to date does not a certification to it."