Fourteen companies are joining the spring cohort of the Softeq Venture Studio. Photo courtesy of Softeq

A Houston tech company has announced the latest cohort of its accelerator program, bringing the total number of startups supported by the company to 63.

Softeq Development Corp., a technology services development company, named 14 new startups joining its three-month spring Softeq Venture Studio cohort.

“We are so proud of the success we have had with the Softeq Venture Studio, helping to support and secure funding for 63 startups to date through the Softeq Venture Fund," says Christopher A. Howard, founder and CEO of Softeq. "With 23 of 89 founders coming from outside of the U.S., we demonstrate Houston’s growing influence as a startup hub where entrepreneurs can find a welcoming innovation community, a strong talent base, and world-class research facilities."

The spring 2023 cohort for Softeq includes:

  • Houston-based AIM7, data intelligence platform that unlocks wearable and mHealth data to provide customized and predictive wellness solutions.
  • Avendly, based in Providence, Rhode Island, makes robotic automation for restaurants to help, not supplant humans. Its first of many products is Mixibot, an integrated back-bar cocktail vending system.
  • Founded in Austin, ClioVis, is meeting today’s content-creator students where they are and how they learn. The company provides unique experiential learning tools designed for today’s content-creator students who learn by doing, not lectures.
  • Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, Flometrica, is a digital health solution featuring "use anywhere" devices to remotely monitor and diagnose various urinary tract problems through analysis of different urine parameters.
  • Gophr, from Lake Charles, Louisiana, is a technology-driven logistics company that provides tailored and efficient delivery solutions for various industries, individuals, and businesses of all sizes.
  • Chicago-based KarChing puts cash in teens’ hands for safe driving. The only app built for parents, teens, and insurance companies that rewards drivers for phone- and distraction-free behavior behind the wheel.
  • Houston-founded Meander collects travel customer satisfaction micro-surveys as people go about their trips. The research platform rewards travelers for sharing their pics, videos, and insights.
  • MEedia, based in Sacramento, California, puts a professional press conference event in your pocket. Individuals can create broadcast-worthy interactive shareable content with just their phone.
  • MeterLeader, from Huntington Beach, California, gamifies saving energy in homes by using real-time utility data and behavioral science. We're like a Fitbit challenge for your home, but instead of steps we measure kWh, therm, and CO2 reductions.
  • Houston-based PayOnDelivery, integrates secure payment with delivery for markets like Craigslist and Facebook. It’s low-hassle, fraud-free buying and selling for peer-to-peer marketplaces.
  • Another Lake Charles business, Picasso Analytics has a platform that can reduce delays and save oil refiners and petrochem owners 10 to 15 percent on multi-million dollar turnaround events by providing a single source of truth integrating the schedule, time entry, and shop status.
  • Sarasota, Florida-based Toivoa develops software-based therapies for people with disabilities who experience mental health disorders. On track for FDA approval, the platform is prescription-based, clinically validated, and delivered on your phone.
  • UpBrainery Technologies, founded in Houston, helps students explore careers through digital experiences. AI guides their interests in career paths and credentials their achievements for employers and colleges.
  • Also from Houston, WellWorth (https://wellworthapp.com/), is a financial modeling SaaS platform that helps upstream oil and gas finance leaders improve their decision-making around raising, managing, and deploying capital.

Softeq Venture Studio launched over a year ago with its inaugural cohort in 2021, and the fund was launched last year. Since launch, Softeq has raised 80 percent of its inaugural $40 million Softeq Venture Fund and made investments in 63 startups. Softeq has also reformatted its accelerator program to include two cohort classes per year, allowing for more time to be spent with the Venture Studio and its cohort startups.

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Report: Houston secures spot on list of top 50 startup cities

by the numbers

A new ranking signals great promise for the growth of Houston’s startup network.

Houston ranks among the world’s top 50 startup cities on a new list from PitchBook, a provider of data and research about capital markets. In fact, Houston comes in at No. 50 in the ranking. But if you dig deeper into the data, Houston comes out on top in one key category.

The city earns a growth score of 63.8 out of 100 — the highest growth score of any U.S. city and the seventh highest growth score in the world. In the growth bucket, Houston sits between between Paris (64.4) and Washington, D.C. (61.7).

The PitchBook growth score reflects short-term, midterm, and long-term growth momentum for activity surrounding venture capital deals, exits, and fundraising for the past six years.

PitchBook’s highest growth score (86.5) goes to Hefei, a Chinese manufacturing hub for electric vehicles, solar panels, liquid crystal displays, home appliances, and Lenovo computers.

The overall ranking is based on a scoring system that relies on proprietary PitchBook data about private companies. The system’s growth and development scores are based on data related to deals, exits, fundraising and other factors.

Houston earns a development score of 34.1 out of 100, which puts it in 50th place globally in that regard. This score measures the size and maturity of a city’s startup network.

Topping the overall list is San Francisco, followed by New York City and Beijing. Elsewhere in Texas, Austin appears at No. 16 and Dallas at No. 36.

The ranking “helps founders, operators, and investors assess locations when deciding where to expand or invest,” says PitchBook.

“Network effects matter in venture capital: Investors get more than half of their deals through referrals, according to research led by Harvard professor Paul Gompers,” PitchBook goes on to say. “So it stands to reason that dealmakers should seek these networks out when deciding where to do business.”

4 Houston universities earn top spots for graduate programs in Texas

top schools

Houston's top-tier universities have done it again. U.S. News and World Report has four Houston-area universities among the best grad schools in the state, with some departments landing among the top 100 in the country.

U.S. News publishes its annual national "Best Graduate Schools" rankings, which look at several programs including business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, and many others. For the 2024 report, the publication decided to withhold its rankings for engineering and medical schools. It also changed the methodology for ranking business schools by adding a new "salary indicator" based on a graduate's profession.

U.S. News also added new rankings for doctoral and master's programs in several medical fields for the first time in four years, or even longer in some cases. New specialty program rankings include audiology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, pharmacy, nurse midwifery, speech-language pathology, nurse anesthesia, and social work.

"Depending on the job or field, earning a graduate degree may lead to higher earnings, career advancement and specialized skill development," wrote Sarah Wood, a U.S. News Education reporter. "But with several types of degrees and hundreds of graduate schools, it can be difficult to narrow down the options."

Without further ado, here's how the local schools ranked:

Rice University's Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business maintained its position as No. 2 in Texas, but slipped from its former No. 24 spot in the 2023 report to No. 29 overall in the nation in 2024. Its entrepreneurship program tied for No. 8 in the U.S, while its part-time MBA program ranked No. 15 overall.

Houston's University of Texas Health Science Centerearned the No. 3 spots in Texas for its masters and doctorate nursing programs, with the programs earning the No. 31 and No. 45 spots overall in the nation. The school ranked No. 25 nationally in the ranking of Best Public Health schools, and No. 36 for its nursing-anesthesia program.

Prairie View A&M University's Northwest Houston Center ranked No. 5 in Texas and No. 117 in the nation for its master's nursing program. Its Doctor of Nursing Practice program ranked No. 8 statewide, and No. 139 nationally.

The University of Houstonmoved up one spot to claim No. 4 spot in Texas for its graduate education program, and improved by seven spots to claim No. 63 nationally. Its graduate business school also performed better than last year to claim No. 56 in the nation, according to the report. The University of Houston Law Center is the fifth best in Texas, and 68th best in the U.S. Most notably, its health care law program earned top nods for being the seventh best in the country.

Among the new specialty program rankings, UH's pharmacy school ranked No. 41 nationally, while the speech-language pathology program earned No. 44 overall. The graduate social work and public affairs programs ranked No. 67 and No. 76, respectively, in the nation.

The full list of best graduate schools can be found on usnews.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Op-Ed: Removing barriers is critical for the future of Houston's health care workforce

guest column

Houston houses one of the most renowned medical communities in the world. However, Texas' current health care workforce shortage has severely impacted the city, with large swaths of the Gulf Coast Region deemed medically underserved. Thousands of Houstonians are impacted year after year due to the lack of access to life-saving medical care.

The obvious solution to this problem is to form a pipeline of health care workers by equipping students with the necessary skills and education to fill this gap. Sadly, many individuals who lack opportunity yet aspire to pursue a career in the health care industry face barriers related to childcare, transportation, mentorship gaps and life's unexpected circumstances.

Dwyer Workforce Development (DWD), a national health care training nonprofit, has recently expanded its footprint to Texas and has joined Houston Community College (HCC), one of the largest community colleges in the country, to provide life-changing support and create a pipeline of new health care workers, many who come from underserved areas.

Last year, our organizations launched the Dwyer Scholar Apprenticeship program, which is actively enrolling to combat the health care shortage and bring opportunities to those lacking. Working together, we are supporting apprentices each year to earn their Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) certificates, where students can choose a Phlebotomy or EKG specialization, helping our city meet the demand for one of the most essential and in-demand jobs in health care each year. Our program will help address Texas' loss of 36 percent of its CNAs over the past decade while providing gateways for highly motivated students—Dwyer Scholars—to thrive in long-term health care careers.

We know financial barriers prevent many potential health care workers from obtaining the certifications needed to enter the workforce. That's why we are bringing our innovative programs together, enabling Scholars to earn while they learn and opening doors for those who do not have the financial luxury of completing their training in a traditional educational atmosphere.

After enrollment, DWD continues to provide case management and additional financial support for pressures like housing, childcare, and transportation so Scholars don't have to put their work before their education. Scholars are placed with employers during the program, where they complete their apprenticeships and begin full-time employment following graduation.

The Texas Workforce Commission has identified apprenticeship programs as a key area for expansion to meet employer demand for skilled workers. Through our partnership, we are doing just that – and the model is proven. More than 85 percent of DWD Scholars in Maryland, where the program was established, have earned their certificates and are now employed or on track to begin their careers.

Our work doesn't end here. Over the next decade, Texas will face a shortage of 57,000 skilled nurses. Texas must continue to expand awareness and access to key workforce training programs to improve outcomes for diverse needs. Our organizations are working to vastly expand our reach, making the unattainable attainable and helping to improve the lives and health of our community.

No one's past or present should dictate their future. Everyone deserves access to health care, the ability to further their education and the chance to set and achieve life goals. The opportunities to reach and empower underserved populations to participate in the health care workforce are limitless.

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Barb Clapp is CEO of Dwyer Workforce Development, a nonprofit that supports individuals who aspire to pursue a career in the health care industry. Christina Robinson is the executive director for work-based learning and industry partnerships at Houston Community College.