Texas has landed in the No. 8 spot for the best states for Black entrepreneurs. Photo by Christina Morillo/Pexels

The Lone Star State has again ranked among the top states for Black entrepreneurs, but Texas didn't rank as highly as it did in 2022.

According to Merchant Maverick’s latest annual report on the state of Black businesses, Texas has landed in the No. 8 spot for the best states for Black entrepreneurs. While the state maintains a position in the top 10, Texas has dropped from its No. 3 spot last year.

Guided by metrics including Black-owned businesses per million residents, percentage of the state’s workforce employed by Black-owned businesses, average annual payroll of Black-owned businesses, average annual income of Black business owners, regional price parity, a cost of living indicator, unemployment rate, and Top state income tax bracket rates, the report also noted the following key takeaways:

The Lone Star State is:

  • No. 9 for highest average annual income.
  • Home to 360 Black-owned businesses per capita.
  • No. 15 highest in the nation for percentage of the workforce working for Black businesses.

Black businesses continue to see success all over the state.

The largest Black tech conference in the country, the 2023 AfroTech Conference, recently returned to Austin for the second straight year at the Austin Convention Center. The five-day conference united over 300 companies – including Amazon, Meta, and Google – to expand the representation of Black Americans in STEM fields.

In 2022, a ranking by Black employees at Apartment List put Houston at No. 4 among the best cities for Black professionals. The Apartment List employees judged 82 cities in four categories: Business environment for Black professionals. Houston ranks third. Black community and representation. Houston ranks fourth. Economic opportunities for Black professionals. Houston ranks seventh. Housing opportunities for Black professionals. Houston ranks No. 20.

Growth also was reflected post-pandemic for Black-owned startups in Houston according to study by economists at Rice University, Boston University, Columbia University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The study found that from 2019 to 2020, the startup rate rose 32 percent in four largely Black areas of Houston: Kashmere Gardens, Missouri City, South Acres, and Sunnyside. The statewide startup rate during that period was 10 just at percent.

Texas recently landed on another Merchant Maverick report, also dropping a few spots in Merchant Maverick’s annual ranking of the top 10 states for women-led startups. The Lone Star State landed at No. 5 for women-led startups in 2023, down from No. 2 in 2022. Last year, Texas ranked second, up from its No. 6 showing in 2021.
Texas, once again, has been named a top city for starting a business. Photo via Getty Images

Texas ranks among best states to start a business

We're no. 3

For years, Texas has been lauded for its business climate being welcoming for new businesses and startups. This year's study shows that the Lone Star State has yet again made the list.

Texas ranked as the third best state to start a business in personal finance website WalletHub's recent list, 2023's Best & Worst States to Start a Business, with a score of 56.85 points. Texas ranked behind Utah, No. 1, and Florida, No. 2, and just ahead of Colorado. Idaho, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, and California make up the rest of the top 10, respectively.

The study looked at 27 key indicators of startup success across all 50 states. Texas was recognized for these factors in particular:

  • No. 10 – average growth in number of small businesses
  • No. 30 – labor costs
  • No. 10 – availability of human capital
  • No. 4 – average length of work week (in hours)
  • No. 14 – cost of living
  • No. 13 – industry variety
  • No. 31 – percentage of residents who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19
Source: WalletHub


Richard Ryffel, professor of finance practice at Washington University in St. Louis, noted the importance of policy in making a state a good place to start a business..

"Established businesses looking to expand might expand or relocate entirely based on the relative favorability of the local business climate," Ryffel says. "Recently, Texas, for example, has been the beneficiary of some significant business relocations based on its business-friendly policies."

The methodology of the study focused on three key dimensions — business environment, access to resources, and business costs — and 27 relevant metrics. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, and then each state’s average across all metrics was used to calculate its overall score.

In 2021, Texas ranked in the top position of WalletHub's study. Last year, the personal finance website looked at which cities were ideal spots for business launching. The report found that Georgetown as the best small city in Texas for starting a business.

Houston suburbs didn't manage to crack the top 200, but four were recognized amongst the rest of the best small business towns, according to the study:

  • Texas City , No. 202
  • Baytown, No. 267
  • Deer Park, No. 362
  • Conroe, No. 369
When it came to big cities, Houston ranked as No. 35.
Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

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.

------

This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.