The sweaters may be ugly, but the success of Specialty1's team is gorgeous. Specialty1/Facebook

Dozens of Houston-based companies have undergone explosive growth in revenue over the last few years, with one such business landing near the top of the prestigious 2023 Inc. 5000 list.

One Houston-based company, Specialty1 Partners, ranked No. 15 nationally, boasting an unimaginable 18,747 percent growth rate from 2019 to 2022. Founded in 2019 by a group of doctors, Specialty1 Partners is a specialty dental services provider focusing on endodontics, oral surgery, and periodontics.

In a press release celebrating their No. 15 spot, the company says it now has more than 350 specialists across 27 states, and over 220 practices.

"We are honored to be recognized by Inc. 5000 for our 3rd consecutive year," stated Daryl Dudum, founder and co-CEO of Specialty1 Partners. "Our tremendous growth reflects our core mission in serving our dental surgical specialists by providing the clinical autonomy they deserve and the business support they need."

While being No. 1 in Houston, Specialty1 Partners is also the fifth highest-ranked Texas business on the list, and No. 1 in the national dental industry. Austin-based CharterUp, an online marketplace specializing in real-time instant transportation booking, ranked No. 2 nationally and No. 1 in the state.

It's not the first award that Specialty1 Partners is celebrating this year. Dudum and his co-founder and co-CEO, Matthew Hadda, were named regional winners for the 2023 EY Entrepreneurs of the Year awards.

Companies on the 2023 Inc. 5000, released August 15, are ranked by percentage growth in revenue from 2019 to 2022. To qualify for the list, a company must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2019. The company also must have been U.S.-based, privately held, for-profit, and independent as of December 31, 2022. The minimum revenue required for 2019 was $100,000; the minimum for 2022 was $2 million.

In all, 482 Texas-based companies made this year’s list, and 95 of those are Houston-based. The report says eight businesses are newly-founded, 59 are repeat honorees, and more than 9,400 jobs were added thanks to these companies.

The 10 remaining Houston-area businesses ranking among the top 500 include:

  • No. 81 – Hawthorne Capital, 5,574 percent growth rate
  • No. 89 – Valiant Capital, 5,223 percent growth rate
  • No. 162 – Intervene K-12, 3,207 percent growth rate
  • No. 205 – Mission Driven Meat & Seafood, 2,720 percent growth rate
  • No. 292 – BODY20, 1,931 percent growth rate
  • No. 360 – Cobalt Engineering and Inspections, La Marque, 1,588 percent growth rate
  • No. 383 – Jess Lea Boutique, Magnolia, 1,519 percent growth rate
  • No. 393 – Gasochem International, 1,469 percent growth rate
  • No. 441 – Supreme Jewelers, Friendswood, 1,315 percent growth rate
  • No. 489 – Just Made Foods LLC, 1,198 percent growth rate

Here are the other Texas companies appearing in the state’s top 20 are:

  • No. 2 – CharterUp, Austin, 111,130 percent growth rate
  • No. 4 – Green Light Distribution, Coppell, 41,090 percent growth rate
  • No. 13 – Blue Hammer Roofing, Dallas, 19,510 percent growth rate
  • No. 14 – eTrueNorth, Mansfield, 19,130 percent growth rate
  • No. 19 – Publishing.com, Austin, 16,497 percent growth rate
  • No. 85 – Archer Review, Dallas, 5,378 percent growth rate
  • No. 90 – Norwood, Austin, 5,189 percent growth rate
  • No. 104 – 24HourNurse Staffing, Pittsburg, 4,520 percent growth rate
  • No. 110 – Advantis Medical Staffing, Dallas, 4,302 percent growth rate
  • No. 112 – CloudServus, Austin, 4,215 percent growth rate
  • No. 144 – Maveneer, Dallas, 3,630 percent growth rate
  • No. 145 – Ashland Greene, Dallas, 3,617 percent growth rate
  • No. 152 – Physical Therapy Biz, Dallas, 3,542 percent growth rate
  • No. 155 – Curis Functional Health, Dallas, 3,444 percent growth rate
  • No. 175 – TimelyCare, Fort Worth, 3,015 percent growth rate
  • No. 180 – LeasePoint Funding Group, Austin, 2,920 percent growth rate
The full list of businesses can be found on inc.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

The 11 executives now will move on to national Entrepreneur Of The Year program. National winners will be named in November. Photos courtesy

Houston innovators recognized at annual regional entrepreneur competition

Meet the winners

Eleven Houston-based executives have been crowned regional winners in the Entrepreneur Of The Year program, run by professional services firm EY.

The 11 executives now will move on to national Entrepreneur Of The Year program. National winners will be named in November.

“Every year, we are completely blown away by the accomplishments of our Entrepreneur Of The Year Regional Award winners, and 2023 is no different,” AJ Jordan, director of the Entrepreneur Of The Year program for EY Americas, says in a news release. “They are change-makers and champions of business and community, and we are so proud to be honoring them. We can’t wait to see how these leaders will continue to improve lives and disrupt industries.”

Here are the 11 local winners from the program’s Gulf South region.

Steve Altemus, president and CEO of Intuitive Machines

Intuitive Machines, founded in 2013, is a publicly traded space exploration company. The company’s upcoming mission will send the first U.S. spacecraft to the moon since 1972 as well as the first-ever commercial lunar lander. Its Nova-C spacecraft will carry commercial and NASA payloads.

Earlier this year, a joint venture led by Intuitive Machines nabbed a contract valued at up to $719 million for work on NASA’s Joint Polar Satellite System. The company, which went public in February 2023, forecasts revenue of $174 million to $268 million this year.

“Steve’s visionary mindset and ability to assemble and inspire a talented team have been instrumental in our collective success,” the company says in a statement about the Entrepreneur Of The Year award. “He consistently fosters a culture of excellence, empowering our diverse group of engineers, scientists, and visionaries to pioneer groundbreaking solutions and deliver outstanding results.”

Gaurab Chakrabarti, co-founder and CEO of Solugen, and Sean Hunt, co-founder and CTO

Solugen, founded in 2016, makes and distributes specialty chemicals derived from feedstock. The startup is reportedly valued at more than $2 billion. To date, Solugen has raised $642.2 million, according to Crunchbase.

In naming Solugen one of the most innovative companies of 2022, Fast Company noted that the carbon-negative process embraced by Solugen and the startup’s “ability to sell flexible amounts of chemicals to companies looking to lower their own footprint have helped the company make inroads in a traditionally slow-moving industry.”

Daryl Dudum and Matthew Hadda, founders and co-CEOs of Specialty1 Partners

Specialty1 Partners, which launched in 2019, supplies business services to dental surgery practices. These services include HR, recruiting, payroll, accounting, operations, marketing, business development, compliance, IT, and legal.

In 2022, Specialty1 Partners appeared at No. 72 on the Inc. 5000 list with two-year revenue growth of 2,921 percent.

“Supporting our partners and helping them grow while continuing to build partnerships with industry-leading, innovative surgical specialists is what we focus on every day,” Dudum says in a 2022 news release. “It’s not just about growing our network — we are committed to helping our partner practices grow and succeed on their terms.”

Ludmila Golovine, president and CEO of MasterWord Services

MasterWord Services offers translation and interpretation in more than 400 languages for customers such as energy, health care, and tech companies. The woman-owned business was founded in 1993.

“I’m grateful to our exceptional team and to each of our translators and interpreters who every day live our mission of connecting people across language and culture,” Golovine says in a news release about the Entrepreneur Of The Year honor.

Roger Jenkins, president and CEO of Murphy Oil

Murphy Oil is involved in oil and natural gas exploration and production primarily onshore in the U.S. and Canada, and offshore along the Gulf of Mexico. The publicly traded Fortune 1000 company, founded in 1944, racked up revenue of nearly $4 billion in 2022.

“Over the years, the company has grown and evolved to become a leading independent energy company, with strategic assets around the world,” Murphy says on its website. “All the while, we have remained true to our mission — to challenge the norm, tap into our strong legacy, and use our foresight and financial discipline to deliver inspired energy solutions.

Mohammad Millwala, founder and CEO of DM Clinical Research

DM Clinical Research, founded in 2006, runs 13 sites for clinical trials. Its areas of specialty include vaccines, internal medicine, pediatrics, gastrointestinal, psychiatry, and women’s health.

“DM Clinical Research is in a period of rapid growth with multiple new study sites added over the last two years in addition to the quadrupling of our staff to over 500 employees,” Millwala says in a January 2023 news release. “We expect this transformational growth trajectory to continue for the foreseeable future, on the road to becoming the leading independent clinical research network in the nation.”

Mark Walker, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Direct Digital Holdings, and Keith Smith, co-founder and president

Publicly traded Direct Digital Holdings owns three operating companies that offer online platforms for advertising. Three years after its founding in 2018, the company became the ninth Black-owned business to go public in the U.S.

The company posted revenue of $88 million in 2022, up 131 percent from the previous year.

“Direct Digital Holdings’ success is rooted in the hard work and commitment we have long seen in taking advantage of advertising opportunities targeting underserved communities and [that] markets often overlook,” Smith says in a news release about the Entrepreneur Of The Year award.

Omair Tariq, co-founder and CEO of Cart.com

While technically headquartered in Austin, Houston-funded Cart.com's co-founder and CEO, Omair Tariq, also was a Gulf South winner in the Entrepreneur Of The Year program.

The e-commerce company moved its headquarters from Houston to Austin in 2021. However, Tariq remains in Houston. In May 2023, Tariq delivered the commencement address to MBA recipients from Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, where he earned his MBA.

Cart.com, founded in 2020, offers software and services to thousands of online merchants. To date, the pre-IPO company has raised $421 million in funding, according to Crunchbase.

“We want to be the commerce-enablement infrastructure for the largest brands in the world,” Tariq told the Insider news website in 2022.

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Houston researchers create AI model to tap into how brain activity relates to illness

brainiac

Houston researchers are part of a team that has created an AI model intended to understand how brain activity relates to behavior and illness.

Scientists from Baylor College of Medicine worked with peers from Yale University, University of Southern California and Idaho State University to make Brain Language Model, or BrainLM. Their research was published as a conference paper at ICLR 2024, a meeting of some of deep learning’s greatest minds.

“For a long time we’ve known that brain activity is related to a person’s behavior and to a lot of illnesses like seizures or Parkinson’s,” Dr. Chadi Abdallah, associate professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor and co-corresponding author of the paper, says in a press release. “Functional brain imaging or functional MRIs allow us to look at brain activity throughout the brain, but we previously couldn’t fully capture the dynamic of these activities in time and space using traditional data analytical tools.

"More recently, people started using machine learning to capture the brain complexity and how it relates it to specific illnesses, but that turned out to require enrolling and fully examining thousands of patients with a particular behavior or illness, a very expensive process,” Abdallah continues.

Using 80,000 brain scans, the team was able to train their model to figure out how brain activities related to one another. Over time, this created the BrainLM brain activity foundational model. BrainLM is now well-trained enough to use to fine-tune a specific task and to ask questions in other studies.

Abdallah said that using BrainLM will cut costs significantly for scientists developing treatments for brain disorders. In clinical trials, it can cost “hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said, to enroll numerous patients and treat them over a significant time period. By using BrainLM, researchers can enroll half the subjects because the AI can select the individuals most likely to benefit.

The team found that BrainLM performed successfully in many different samples. That included predicting depression, anxiety and PTSD severity better than other machine learning tools that do not use generative AI.

“We found that BrainLM is performing very well. It is predicting brain activity in a new sample that was hidden from it during the training as well as doing well with data from new scanners and new population,” Abdallah says. “These impressive results were achieved with scans from 40,000 subjects. We are now working on considerably increasing the training dataset. The stronger the model we can build, the more we can do to assist with patient care, such as developing new treatment for mental illnesses or guiding neurosurgery for seizures or DBS.”

For those suffering from neurological and mental health disorders, BrainLM could be a key to unlocking treatments that will make a life-changing difference.

Houston-based cleantech unicorn named among annual top disruptors

on the rise

Houston-based biotech startup Solugen is making waves among innovative companies.

Solugen appears at No. 36 on CNBC’s annual Disruptor 50 list, which highlights private companies that are “upending the classic definition of disruption.” Privately owned startups founded after January 1, 2009, were eligible for the Disruptor 50 list.

Founded in 2016, Solugen replaces petroleum-based products with plant-derived substitutes through its Bioforge manufacturing platform. For example, it uses engineered enzymes and metal catalysts to convert feedstocks like sugar into chemicals that have traditionally been made from fossil fuels, such as petroleum and natural gas.

Solugen has raised $643 million in funding and now boasts a valuation of $2.2 billion.

“Sparked by a chance medical school poker game conversation in 2016, Solugen evolved from prototype to physical asset in five years, and production hit commercial scale shortly thereafter,” says CNBC.

Solugen co-founders Gaurab Chakrabarti and Sean Hunt received the Entrepreneur of The Year 2023 National Award, presented by professional services giant EY.

“Solugen is a textbook startup launched by two partners with $10,000 in seed money that is revolutionizing the chemical refining industry. The innovation-driven company is tackling impactful, life-changing issues important to the planet,” Entrepreneur of The Year judges wrote.

In April 2024, Solugen broke ground on a Bioforge biomanufacturing plant in Marshall, Minnesota. The 500,000-square-foot, 34-acre facility arose through a Solugen partnership with ADM. Chicago-based ADM produces agricultural products, commodities, and ingredients. The plant is expected to open in the fall of 2025.

“Solugen’s … technology is a transformative force in sustainable chemical manufacturing,” says Hunt. “The new facility will significantly increase our existing capabilities, enabling us to expand the market share of low-carbon chemistries.”

Houston cleantech company tests ​all-electric CO2-to-fuel production technology

RESULTS ARE IN

Houston-based clean energy company Syzygy Plasmonics has successfully tested all-electric CO2-to-fuel production technology at RTI International’s facility at North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park.

Syzygy says the technology can significantly decarbonize transportation by converting two potent greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, into low-carbon jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline.

Equinor Ventures and Sumitomo Corp. of Americas sponsored the pilot project.

“This project showcases our ability to fight climate change by converting harmful greenhouse gases into fuel,” Trevor Best, CEO of Syzygy, says in a news release.

“At scale,” he adds, “we’re talking about significantly reducing and potentially eliminating the carbon intensity of shipping, trucking, and aviation. This is a major step toward quickly and cost effectively cutting emissions from the heavy-duty transport sector.”

At commercial scale, a typical Syzygy plant will consume nearly 200,000 tons of CO2 per year, the equivalent of taking 45,000 cars off the road.

“The results of this demonstration are encouraging and represent an important milestone in our collaboration with Syzygy,” says Sameer Parvathikar, director of renewable energy and energy storage at RTI.

In addition to the CO2-to-fuel demonstration, Syzygy's Ammonia e-Cracking™ technology has completed over 2,000 hours of performance and optimization testing at its plant in Houston. Syzygy is finalizing a site and partners for a commercial CO2-to-fuel plant.

Syzygy is working to decarbonize the chemical industry, responsible for almost 20 percent of industrial CO2 emissions, by using light instead of combustion to drive chemical reactions.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.