This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Marc Nathan of Michael Best, Teresa Thomas of Deloitte, and Luis Arregoces of Blue People. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: Welcome to another Monday edition of Innovators to Know. Today I'm introducing you to three Houstonians to read up about — three individuals behind recent innovation and startup news stories in Houston as reported by InnovationMap. Learn more about them and their recent news below by clicking on each article.

Marc Nathan, senior director of market development at Michael Best

Headed to SXSW? Marc Nathan shares what you need to know. Photo via Michael Best

Tens of thousands of people are descending upon Austin for SXSW — many of whom are ambitious startup founders. For Houston entrepreneurs, there's a lot to consider before heading down the street to Austin, and Marc Nathan can help.

The native Houstonian, who works with startups as senior director of market development at Michael Best and is based in Austin, has attended the conference for over 20 years. Every year, he assembles a comprehensive SXSW guide including round up of must-attend events, tips, and more.

He joined the Houston Innovators Podcast this week to provide his thoughts on how Houston founders can make the most of the tech-focused Interactive track — or the unofficial experiences taking place around Austin.

"You do not need a badge to enjoy and get the most out of SXSW," Nathan says, explaining that having a badge is ideal for a first timer experience. "For struggling founders who are typically broke, if you can swing the travel to get to Austin — getting here, staying here, and eating here, which are all not very cheap to start with — if you can swing that, then a badge is not that critical." Read more.

Teresa Thomas, vice chair and national sector leader for energy and chemicals at Deloitte

Teresa Thomas, newly named vice chair and national sector leader for energy and chemicals at Deloitte, shares her vision in an interview. Photo via LinkedIn

Deloitte is undergoing a leadership shift — and this evolution for the nearly 200-year-old company directly affects its Houston office and the energy transition line of business.

Earlier this year, Teresa Thomas was named vice chair and national sector leader for energy and chemicals at Deloitte. Based in Houston, she will also serve as an advisory partner and leader in Deloitte & Touche LLP's Risk & Financial Advisory energy and chemicals practice. She succeeds Amy Chronis, partner at Deloitte LLP, who will continue to serve within the energy and chemicals practice until her retirement in June 2024. Read more.

Luis Arregoces, chief artificial intelligence officer at Blue People

Blue People has named Luis Arregoces as the company’s first chief artificial intelligence officer. Photo courtesy of Blue People

A Houston-based software company has named its first chief artificial intelligence officer.

Blue People has named Luis Arregoces as the company’s CAIO. With 20 years of experience, Arregoces has led AI projects for global Fortune 100 companies in various industries.

“I am honored to join Blue People and be a part of this historic moment,” Arregoces says in a news release. ”Together, we have the opportunity to shape the future of AI in Houston and beyond. AI’s versatility and transformative potential make it indispensable across all industries to drive innovations, efficiency, and competitiveness.” Read more.

Blue People has named Luis Arregoces as the company’s first chief artificial intelligence officer. Photo courtesy of Blue People

Houston software shop bets on AI with new C-suite member

eyes on AI

A Houston-based software company has named its first chief artificial intelligence officer.

Blue People has named Luis Arregoces as the company’s CAIO. With 20 years of experience, Arregoces has led AI projects for global Fortune 100 companies in various industries.

He has a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of New Mexico and is an adjunct professor in Statistics and Data Science at the University of Houston. He previously led the Applied Intelligence and Data Science at Accenture's Innovation Hub.

“We are beyond excited to have Luis on board,” Alfredo Arvide, chief innovation officer of Blue People, says in a news release. “His leadership and vision will allow Blue People to help clients and C-level executives develop AI roadmaps and solutions for real-time analytics, secure data sharing, and technology-agnostic ecosystems that will shape the future of innovation across all industries in Houston and throughout the region.”

Blue People has offices in Houston, Austin, Texas, and Monterrey, México. Blue People was named People’s Choice: Startup of the Year at the 2023 Houston Innovation Awards. The company also recently participated in CodeLaunch Houston, where its startup partner won the judges' pick in the competition.

“I am honored to join Blue People and be a part of this historic moment,” Arregoces says in a news release. ”Together, we have the opportunity to shape the future of AI in Houston and beyond. AI’s versatility and transformative potential make it indispensable across all industries to drive innovations, efficiency, and competitiveness.”

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Energy giant announces deal retail company to bring EV tech to Houston malls

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Two Houston-area malls will be getting bp's electric vehicle charging technology thanks to a new global collaboration.

The global energy company will be bringing its global EV charging business, bp pulse, to 75 shopping facilities across the country thanks to a partnership with Simon Malls. Two malls in town — The Galleria and Katy Mills Mall — soon see bp's EV charging Gigahubs. The company will install and operate the chargers at the two area sites.

The deal aims to deliver over 900 ultra-fast charging bays that will support most make and model of EVs with the first locations opening to the public in early 2026. Other Texas locations include Grapevine Mills in Grapevine, and Austin’s Barton Creek Square.

“We’re pleased to complete this deal with Simon and expand our ultra-fast charging network footprint in the U.S.,” Richard Bartlett, CEO of bp pulse, says in a news release. “The Simon portfolio aligns with bp pulse’s strategy to deploy ultra-fast charging across the West Coast, East Coast, Sun Belt and Great Lakes, and we are thrilled to team up with Simon so that EV drivers have a range of retail offerings at their impressive destinations.”

Last month, bp pulse opened a EV charging station at its North American headquarters in Houston. The company plans to continue deployment of additional charging points at high-demand spots like major metropolitan areas, bp-owned properties, and airports, according to bp.

“As a committed long term infrastructure player with a global network of EV charging solutions, bp pulse intends to continue to seek and build transformative industry collaborations in real estate required to scale our network and match the demand of current and future EV drivers,” Sujay Sharma, CEO bp pulse Americas, adds.

Houston space tech company reaches major milestone for engine technology

fired up

A Houston company that's creating the next generation of space exploration technology is celebrating a new milestone of one of its technologies.

Intuitive Machines reports that its VR900 completed a full-duration hot-fire test, qualifying it for its IM-2 lunar mission. With the qualification, the company says its VR3500, an engine designed for larger cargo class landers, also advances in development.

The engine technology is designed, 3D-printed, and tested all at Intuitive Machines' Houston facility, which opened in the Houston Spaceport last year.

Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus says in a news release that the company's goal was to lead the way in scalable deep space engines as the industry heads toward lunar missions.

“This validated engine design meets current mission demand and paves the way for our VR3500 engine for cargo delivery such as lunar terrain vehicles, human spaceflight cargo resupply, and other infrastructure delivery," Altemus continues. "We believe we’re in a prime position to build on our successful development and apply that technology toward current contracts and future lunar requirements for infrastructure delivery.”

Earlier this year, Intuitive Machines was one of one of three companies selected for a $30 million NASA contract for the initial phase of developing a rover for U.S. astronauts to traverse the moon’s surface.

Another Houston company has seen success with its engine testing. In March, Venus Aerospace announced that it's successfully ran the first long-duration engine test of their Rotating Detonation Rocket Engine in partnership with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

Houston is the most stressed out city in Texas, report finds

deep breaths

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but a new report by WalletHub shows Houston residents are far more stressed out than any other city in Texas.

Houston ranked No. 18 out of 182 of the largest U.S. cities based on work, financial, family-related, and health and safety stress, according to WalletHub's "Most & Least Stressed Cities in America (2024)" report. 39 relevant metrics were considered in the report, including each city's job security, the share of households behind on bills within the last 12 months, divorce rates, crime rates, among others.

Houston was ranked the most stressed out city in Texas, but it's still far less stressed than many other U.S. cities. Cleveland, Ohio took first place as the most stressed city in America, followed by Detroit, Michigan (No. 2), Baltimore, Maryland (No. 3), Memphis, Tennessee (No. 4), and Gulfport, Mississippi (No. 5).

Out of the four main categories, Houstonians are struggling the most with work-related stress, ranking No. 13 nationally. The report found Houston has the No. 1 highest traffic congestion rate out of all cities in the report. But at least Houston drivers are solidly average, as maintained by a separate Forbes study comparing the worst drivers in America.

Houston workers can rejoice that they live in a city with a generally high level of guaranteed employment, as the city ranked No. 151 in the job security comparison. The city ranked No. 16 nationwide in the metric for the highest average weekly hours worked.

Houston fared best in the financial stress category, coming in at No. 72 nationally, showing that Houstonians aren't as worried about pinching pennies when it comes to maintaining a good quality of life. The city ranked No. 39 in the comparison of highest poverty rates.

Here's how WalletHub quantified Houston's stress levels:

  • No. 17 – Health and safety stress rank (overall)
  • No. 36 – Family stress rank (overall)
  • No. 63 – Unemployment rates
  • No. 81 – Percentage of adults in fair/poor health
  • No. 95 – Divorce rate
  • No. 96 – Percentage of adults with inadequate sleep

WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe said in the report that living in particularly arduous cities can play a big role in how stressed a person is, especially when considering uncontrollable circumstances like family problems or work-related issues.

"Cities with high crime rates, weak economies, less effective public health and congested transportation systems naturally lead to elevated stress levels for residents," Happe said.

Happe advised that residents considering a move to a place like Houston should consider how the city's quality of life will impact their mental health, not just their financial wellbeing.

Other Texas cities that ranked among the top 100 most stressed cities in the U.S. are:

  • No. 20 – San Antonio
  • No. 38 – Laredo
  • No. 41 – Dallas
  • No. 47 – Corpus Christi
  • No. 61 – El Paso
  • No. 68 – Fort Worth
  • No. 71 – Brownsville
  • No. 75 – Arlington
  • No. 78 – Grand Prairie
  • No. 88 – Garland
The full report and its methodology can be found on wallethub.com

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.