The 12-week program received a record number of applications, that spanned the campus' degree offerings. Photo via rice.edu

Rice University's Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, or Lilie, has named eight teams to the second cohort of the Lilie Summer Venture Studio.

The teams are focused on a range of innovative concepts, from health care solutions to running shoe design to automating recruiting from the NCAA Transfer Portal.

According to Rice, the 12-week program received a record number of applications, that spanned the campus' degree offerings.

“We are thrilled to see such a high level of interest and excitement from Rice students for a high-growth venture accelerator,” Kyle Judah, executive director of Lilie, said in a statement. “The diversity and creativity in this year's applications were truly inspiring, and we’re excited to support these promising ventures with the resources and mentorship they need to hit escape velocity and create the next generation of pillar companies for Houston, Texas and the world.”

The selected teams will receive $15,000 in non-dilutive funding from the accelerator, along with access to coworking space and personalized mentorship in the Liu Idea Lab.

Here are the teams for the 2024 Lilie Summer Venture Studio:

  • Coflux Purification, a patent-pending in-stream module that breaks down PFAS using a novel absorbent for chemical-free water
  • Docflow, focused on streamlining residency shift scheduling
  • JewelVision, building virtual fitting rooms for jewelry e-commerce retailers using generative AI
  • Levytation, using data science and AI to answer critical questions about sales and customers for coffee shop management
  • OnGuard, a marketplace to book off-duty police officers and security professionals
  • Roster, leverages data on athletes in the NCAA Transfer Portal to automatically send updates on players to coaches
  • Solidec, a technology platform that extracts molecules from water and air, transforms them into pure chemicals and fuels without any carbon emissions
  • Veloci, a running shoe venture that addresses common pains through shoe design

Lilie launched the Summer Venture Studio last year. According to Rice, two out of the six teams selected, Helix Earth Technologies and Tierra Climate, raised venture capital funds after completing the accelerator program.

Helix Earth Technologies also went on to earn the inaugural TEX-E Prize at CERAWeek in 2023.

“The track record of our Summer Venture Studio Accelerator speaks for itself, despite being early in our second year," Taylor Anne Adams, head of venture acceleration programs at the Liu Idea Lab, said in a statement. "This is the power of entrepreneurship programming that is designed by founders, for founders, that happens at the Liu Idea Lab.”


Last year, Lilie also named 11 successful business leaders with ties to Houston to its first Lilie’s Leadership Council. Each agreed to donate time and money to the university’s entrepreneurship programs. Click here to see who made the list.
This year, Rice University's NRLC started with 100 student venture teams before being whittled down to the final five at the championship. Photo courtesy of Rice

Rice University's student startup competition names 2024 winners, awards $100,000 in prizes

taking home the W

A group of Rice University student-founded companies shared $100,000 of cash prizes at an annual startup competition.

Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship's H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge, hosted by Rice earlier this month, named its winners for 2024. HEXASpec, a company that's created a new material to improve heat management for the semiconductor industry, won the top prize and $50,000 cash.

Founded by Rice Ph.D. candidates Tianshu Zhai and Chen-Yang Lin, who are a part of Lilie’s 2024 Innovation Fellows program, HEXASpec is improving efficiency and sustainability within the semiconductor industry, which usually consumes millions of gallons of water used to cool data centers. According to Rice's news release, HEXASpec's "next-generation chip packaging offer 20 times higher thermal conductivity and improved protection performance, cooling the chips faster and reducing the operational surface temperature."

The rest of the winners included:

  • Second place and $25,000: CoFlux Purification
  • Third place and $15,000: Bonfire
  • Outstanding Achievement in Social Impact Award and $1,500: EmpowerU
  • Outstanding Achievement in Artificial Intelligence and $1,000: Sups and Levytation
  • Outstanding Achievement in Consumer Goods Prize and $1,000: The Blind Bag
  • Frank Liu Jr. Prize for Creative Innovations in Music, Fashion and the Arts and $1,500: Melody
  • Outstanding Achievement in Climate Solutions Prizes and $1,000: Solidec and HEXASpec
  • Outstanding Undergraduate Startup Award and $2,500: Women’s Wave
  • Audience Choice Award and $2,000: CoFlux Purification

The NRLC, open to Rice students, is Lilie's hallmark event. Last year's winner was fashion tech startup, Goldie.

“We are the home of everything entrepreneurship, innovation and research commercialization for the entire Rice student, faculty and alumni communities,” Kyle Judah, executive director at Lilie, says in a news release. “We’re a place for you to immerse yourself in a problem you care about, to experiment, to try and fail and keep trying and trying and trying again amongst a community of fellow rebels, coloring outside the lines of convention."

This year, the competition started with 100 student venture teams before being whittled down to the final five at the championship. The program is supported by Lilie’s mentor team, Frank Liu and the Liu Family Foundation, Rice Business, Rice’s Office of Innovation, and other donors

“The heart and soul of what we’re doing to really take it to the next level with entrepreneurship here at Rice is this fantastic team,” Peter Rodriguez, dean of Rice Business, adds. “And they’re doing an outstanding job every year, reaching further, bringing in more students. My understanding is we had more than 100 teams submit applications. It’s an extraordinarily high number. It tells you a lot about what we have at Rice and what this team has been cooking and making happen here at Rice for a long, long time.”

HEXASpec was founded by Rice Ph.D. candidates Tianshu Zhai and Chen-Yang Lin, who are a part of Lilie’s 2024 Innovation Fellows program. Photo courtesy of Rice

Applications are now open for the Summer Venture Studio. Photo via rice.edu

Rice University kicks off new program for student startup founders

student entrepreneurship

Students at Rice University will have a new opportunity to have a taste of entrepreneurship this summer.

The Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, or Lilie, has established a new startup accelerator program called the Summer Venture Studio. The program, which will run May 15 through August 7, is open to students of any major or year, including recent graduates.

“The Summer Venture Studio will empower student teams to accelerate their ventures and hit escape velocity,” says Kyle Judah, executive director of Lilie, in a news release. “We believe that with the right personalized program and resources, and led by our team of experienced founders, we can unlock students’ limitless potential to create the next generation of pillar companies for Houston, Texas and the world.”

The accepted students will work full-time with Lilie's one-on-one mentorship, programming, and up to $15,000 in equity-free funding per team — all provided in a dedicated coworking space.

“Summer Venture Studio offers Rice students the opportunity to work on their venture ideas with individualized programming customized to their experience, background and venture stage,” says Yael Hochberg, the Ralph S. O’Connor Professor in Entrepreneurship and head of the Rice Entrepreneurship Initiative. “The program is designed to blend seamlessly into students’ curricular and co-curricular experience throughout the academic year, ensuring that each student is met where they are in experience and entrepreneurial knowledge.”

The accelerator is looking for student teams of up to five members. The team lead must be a current student or have graduated within a month of the program's start. Applications are now open online and will be evaluated on a rolling basis.

The annual H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge awarded equity-free cash prizes to three impressive student startups. Photo courtesy of Rice University

Rice University student startups win $65,000 in competition

winners revealed

A Rice University startup competition concluded with a big win for a company started by students trying to use tech to help prevent veteran suicide.

The startup, rutd: resources united. technology driven., a secure platform that can deliver more than 14,000 mental health resources to veterans, won first prize at the virtually held H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge last week. The prize included a $27,500 check.

Seven other Rice-affiliated startups pitched for judges at the event for a shot at equity-free seed funding. The program is a part of Rice's Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, or Lilie.

"With the biggest and most diverse field of competitors in the history of the competition, it shows that at Rice and Lilie, you don't have to choose between being a student and working on your startup. We empower you to do both," says Kyle Judah, executive director of Lilie, in a press release. "These founders took advantage of all our resources and opportunities — which is why they had million-dollar partnerships and tens of thousands of users at competition time."

Second place went to Green Room, a startup that aims to provide tools — like payments and tax compliance — for Houstonians in the live music industry. The Green Room team won $20,000.

In third place was A440, a company focused on "bringing the creator economy to classical music, helping a centuries-old art form find new life in the modern era," according to the release. A440 won the $15,000 third place prize, as well as the $2,500 Norman Dresden Leebron Audience Choice Award.

The competition, which was sponsored by was sponsored by Mercury Fund and T-Minus Solutions and supported by the Napier family and the Liu Family Foundation, also provided mentoring and pitch coaching opportunities from experts and the Rice community.

The judges included Rice alumni Claire Shorall, CEO and co-founder of Topknot; Sunit Patel, CFO of Ibotta; Monica Pal, founding partner of How Women Invest; Chris Staffel, managing director of GOOSE Capital; and Brad Husick, CEO and founder of IdeaSense.

This week's innovators to know in Houston includes Kyle Judah of Rice University, and Devin and Peter Licata of Headquarters. Photos courtesy

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: This week's Houston innovators to know are each looking to positively effect Houston's startup and innovation ecosystem. From making innovation more representative starting with on campus to looking to help companies most affected by COVID-19, here's what these innovators are up to.

Kyle Judah, executive director of Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Rice University

Kyle Judah joins the Houston Innovators Podcast last week. Photo courtesy of Lilie

To Kyle Judah, who recently joined Rice University's Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, establishing Houston's innovation ecosystem as unique and reflective of the city is of extreme importance. From diversity of people to diversity of industry, Judah is hard at work at making Rice's programs reflective of Houston.

"We can't just copy and paste what works for the Bay Area or what works for Boston," he says. "We have to figure out what is going to be the authentic right sort of centers of excellence for Rice and for Houston — areas like energy, health care, space. It just so happens that these areas that Houston and Rice have historically done better at than anyone else — those happen to be the most grand challenges for all of humanity."

Judah joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss this and what else he has on his radar in his new role. Read more and stream the episode here.

Devin and Peter Licata of Headquarters

Headquarters is looking to give away coworking space to two startups affected by the pandemic. Photo courtesy of Headquarters

A brother-sister team, Peter and Devin Licata are running Headquarters, a coworkering space just east of downtown Houston. And, after watching how COVID-19 has affected startups, they are looking to donate space to two deserving companies.

"For Devin and I being local Houstonians," says Peter. "It was very exciting to bring a product to Houston that we had never seen before in the city. When we started the search for a building, we had a very specific idea of how we wanted it to look and feel, and the amenities we wanted to provide."

Headquarters is currently accepting submissions from startups, founders, and entrepreneurs to be considered for free office space through Friday, October 2, with recipients set to be announced the week of October 5th.

Kyle Judah is executive director of Rice University's Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Photo courtesy of Lilie

New innovation leader at Rice University plans to take campus innovations to the world

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 50

When Kyle Judah accepted his position as executive director at Rice University's Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, he had spent less than 48 hours in the city of Houston. In fact, his first two months in the role have been spent completely remote and out of town.

Still, his limited in-person interaction with the city and with Rice made an impact.

"One of the things I found so exciting about what's going on in Houston right now that, quite frankly, was incredibly attractive about the opportunity to come and join Lilie and Rice was that Houston has these big pillar companies in energy and health care and all these critical areas that the world, the economy, and the society needs," Judah says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "That's all in Houston right now."

Judah and Lilie's goal is to help identify the innovation happening on campus at Rice and bring it to the world. And, he says, Rice as a whole has a huge place in the greater Houston innovation ecosystem. The challenge is identifying what industries Houston and Rice have an opportunity to disrupt.

"We can't just copy and paste what works for the Bay Area or what works for Boston," he says. "We have to figure out what is going to be the authentic right sort of centers of excellence for Rice and for Houston — areas like energy, health care, space. It just so happens that these areas that Houston and Rice have historically done better at than anyone else — those happen to be the most grand challenges for all of humanity."

Another priority Judah has leading Lilie, which was founded at Rice in 2015, is to make sure opportunities are available for everyone. This month, the university launched the Rice Experiment Fund — a $500 semesterly stipend available to all students. The funds are meant to be used on early market testing and experiments, which can be prohibitive obstacles for students.

"We want to make sure that the diversity of entrepreneurship at Rice speaks to the diversity of the city in our backyard," says Judah, adding that diversity and inclusion is at the top of mind for programs like this.

Judah shares more on where he plans to lead Lilie and his early impressions on Houston's startup scene in the podcast episode. Overall, he's found it extremely welcoming.

"I found that everyone here wants Houston to win," he says. "We're really playing as a broader collective, and that's incredibly special."

You can listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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Houston cardiac health startup raises $43 million series B to grow AI-backed platform

money moves

A Houston-based tech company that has a product line of software solutions for cardiac health has raised funding.

Octagos Health, the parent company of Atlas AI — a software platform for cardiac devices like pacemakers, defibrillators, ambulatory monitors and consumer wearables — has announced a $43 million series B raise that will bring their technology to many more hearts.

Morgan Stanley Investment Capital led the investment, which also included funds from Mucker Capital and other continuing strategic investors. The goal of the raise is to supply funds to accelerate Atlas AI’s growth across the United States and to expand into other areas of care, including ambulatory monitors, consumer wearables, and sleep.

"This investment will enable us to accelerate enhancements to our platform, in addition to scaling our commercial team and operations. We are currently the only company that helps cardiology practices migrate their historical data from legacy software providers and fully integrates with any EHR (exertion heart rate) system. We do this while enabling customized reporting supported by patient and practice decision-support analytics," says Eric Olsen, COO of Octagos Health, in a press release.

Octagos Health was founded by a team of healthcare pros including CEO Shanti Bansal, a cardiologist and founder of Houston Heart Rhythm, an atrial fibrillation center. The goal was to find a new way to deal with the massive amount of data that clinicians encounter each day in a way that combines software and the work of human doctors.

According to the Octagos Health website, “Our solution allows clinicians to focus on other ways of delivering meaningful healthcare and more efficiently manage their remotely monitored patients.”

It works thanks to customizable reporting features that allow patients’ healthcare teams to get help while monitoring them, but to do it precisely as they would if they were crunching numbers themselves.

"We are excited to partner with Octagos Health and support their vision of transforming cardiac care," says Melissa Daniels, managing director of Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital. "Octagos Health has demonstrated exceptional growth and innovation in a critical area of healthcare. We believe their platform and vertically integrated software and services significantly improve patient care and streamline cardiac monitoring processes for healthcare providers."

Will Hsu, co-founder and partner of Mucker Capital, agrees. “Octagos Health is poised for scale – industry leading gross margins, a very sticky product that doctors and clinical staff love, and a market ready for disruption with artificial intelligence. This is the new wave for diagnostic care,” he says. And with this raise, it will be available to even more clinicians and patients across the country.

Houston biotech company expands leadership as it commercializes sustainable products

joining the team

Houston-based biotech company Cemvita recently tapped two executives to help commercialize its sustainable fuel made from carbon waste.

Nádia Skorupa Parachin came aboard as vice president of industrial biotechnology, and Phil Garcia was promoted to vice president of commercialization.

Parachin most recently oversaw several projects at Boston-based biotech company Ginkjo Bioworks. She previously co-founded Brazilian biotech startup Integra Bioprocessos.

Parachin will lead the Cemvita team that’s developing technology for production of bio-manufactured oil.

“It’s a fantastic moment, as we’re poised to take our prototyping to the next level, and all under the innovative direction of our co-founder Tara Karimi,” Parachin says in a news release. “We will be bringing something truly remarkable to market and ensuring it’s cost-effective.”

Moji Karimi, co-founder and CEO of Cemvita, says the hiring of Parachin represents “the natural next step” toward commercializing the startup’s carbon-to-oil process.

“Her background prepared her to bring the best out of the scientists at the inflection point of commercialization — really bringing things to life,” says Moji Karimi, Tara’s brother.

Parachin joins Garcia on Cemvita’s executive team.

Before being promoted to vice president of commercialization, Garcia was the startup’s commercial director and business development manager. He has a background in engineering and business development.

Founded in 2017, Cemvita recently announced a breakthrough that enables production of large quantities of oil derived from carbon waste.

In 2023, United Airlines agreed to buy up to one billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from Cemvita’s first full-scale plant over the course of 20 years.

Cemvita’s investors include the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund, an investment arm of Chicago-based United; Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based energy company Occidental Petroleum; and Japanese equipment and machinery manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a logistics startup founder, a marketing expert, and a solar energy innovator.

Matthew Costello, CEO and co-founder of Voyager Portal

Houston logistics SaaS innovator is making waves with its expanded maritime shipping platform. Photo courtesy of Voyager

For several years now, Matthew Costello has been navigating the maritime shipping industry looking for problems to solve for customers with his company, Voyager Portal.

Initially, that meant designing a software platform to enhance communications and organization of the many massive and intricate global shipments happening every day. Founded in 2018 by Costello and COO Bret Smart, Voyager Portal became a integral tool for the industry that helps users manage the full lifecycle of their voyages — from planning to delivery.

"The software landscape has changed tremendously in the maritime space. Back in 2018, we were one of a small handful of technology startups in this space," Costello, who serves as CEO of Voyager, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Now that's changed. ... There's really a huge wave of innovation happening in maritime right now." Read more.

Arielle Rogg, principal and founder of Rogg Enterprises

Arielle Rogg writes in a guest column for InnovationMap about AI in the workforce. Photo via LinkedIn

Arielle Rogg isn't worried about artificial intelligence coming for her job. In fact, she has three reasons why, and she outlines them in a guest column for InnovationMap.

"The advent of AI pushes us humans to acquire new skills and hone our existing abilities so we can work alongside these evolving technologies in a collaborative fashion. AI augments human capabilities rather than replacing us. I believe it will help our society embrace lifelong learning, creating new industries and jobs that have never existed before," she writes in the piece. Read more.

Nathan Childress, founder of Solar Slice

Solar Slice Founder Nathan Childress says his new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet. Photo via LinkedIn

Nuclear engineer and entrepreneur Nathan Childress wants consumers to capture their own ray of sunlight to brighten the prospect of making clean energy a bigger part of the power grid. That's why he founded Solar Slice. The new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet.

Although trained in nuclear power plant design, solar power drew his interest as a cheaper and more accessible alternative, and Childress tells InnovationMap that he thinks that the transition to cleaner energy, in Texas especially, needs to step up.

Recent studies show that 80 to 90 percent of the money invested into fighting climate change “aren’t going to things that people actually consider helpful,” Childress says, adding that “they’re more just projects that sound good, that are not actually taking any action." Read more.