The ultimate who's who of 2023 — these are our favorite Houston Innovators Podcast guests of last year. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: In 2023, I recorded 50 episodes of the Houston Innovators Podcast — a weekly discussion with a Houston innovator, startup founder, investor, and more. I've rounded up seven podcast episodes that stood out for me looking back at the year of recordings. Scroll through to see whom I selected and stream their individual episodes, and tune into the last episode of the year where I explain why I enjoyed each conversation.



Episode 174 - Rolling out nationwide - Mike Francis and Carrie Horazeck of NanoTech

NanoTech's Chief Commercial Officer Carrie Horazeck and Co-Founder and CEO Mike Francis join the Houston Innovators Podcast to celebrate the nationwide launch of their roof coating product. Photo via LinkedIn

A Houston startup is celebrating its nationwide launch of its flagship product that coats roofs to reduce energy waste.

NanoTech's Nano Shield Cool Roof Coat is a unique product that can be added onto roofs to reduce energy waste on buildings. Co-founder and CEO Mike Francis and Chief Commercial Officer Carrie Horazeck joined the Houston Innovators Podcast to share more details about the product.

"It's just a coating that can go on top of existing structure — any type of commercial roof," Horazeck says on the show. "We have a pretty good amount of data from 2022 showcasing that we can reduce HVAC consumption within the building by about 30 to 40 percent.

"Our clients really see a immediate benefit in their energy bill, and, of course, if you reduce the HVAC consumption, that automatically translates to a decrease in your scope one emissions," she continues. Continue reading.


Episode 181 - Gearing up for high-speed global travel - Sassie Duggleby of Venus Aerospace

Sarah "Sassie" Duggleby of Venus Aerospace joins the Houston Innovators Podcast this week. Photo courtesy of Venus

Sarah "Sassie" Duggleby is on a mission to get people home in time for dinner — whether they are traveling around the world or working for her business. That's why she founded Venus Aerospace, which is developing hypersonic space planes. It's also why she relocated the company from the West Coast to Houston.

"We knew we had to find a location where we could test our engine and still be home for dinner," Duggleby says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Our company vision is 'home for dinner.' We want to fly you across the globe and have you home for dinner. And, if you work for us, we want you home for dinner."

Venus's technology enables this revolutionary travel through its supersonic combustion engine — more akin to a rocket's engine than an airplane's — that allows for travel at a higher elevation, she explains on the show. Jet engines rely on air outside of the aircraft to combust, and rocket engines work with a system that supplies air internally. And, as Duggleby explains, the engine can go further with the same amount of fuel, so it's a more sustainable way of traveling too. Continue reading.


Episode 182 - Stopping neurodegenerative diseases in their tracks - Howard Berman of Coya Therapeutics

For Howard Berman, CEO and co-founder of Coya Therapeutics, commercializing his company is personal. Photo courtesy of Coya

When Howard Berman sought out renowned Houston Methodist researcher and neurologist Dr. Stanley Appel, he was looking for treatment for his father, who was suffering from dementia. He wasn't looking for a job, but Dr. Appel had other ideas and asked Berman to meet with him.

"I was interested in what I could do for my dad," Berman says on the Houston Innovators Podcast, explaining how he took the meeting with Dr. Appel, who then presented him with some of his research. "By slide five my jaw had hit the ground.

"He had shown that he could stop the progression in one of his early trials of ALS," Berman says.

Not too long after that meeting, Berman, who founded digital health platform imaware, joined Dr. Appel to lead commercialization of Coya Therapeutics, a biotech startup that raised over $20 million in venture funding before going public a few months ago. Continue reading.


Episode 187 - Bridging the gap to innovation - Ramanan Krishnamoorti of University of Houston

Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president of energy and innovation at the University of Houston, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to talk about the university's dedication to helping the city become an innovative force. Photo via UH.edu

Ramanan Krishnamoorti has had a varied career in academia, from an engineering professor to nanotech research. While he never made the transition from researcher to entrepreneur, he managed to snag a CEO title at the university about a decade ago: Chief energy officer.

Since then his role has expanded to include advancing UH's innovation of all kinds — from health tech to the arts — as vice president of energy and innovation at UH. In his role, he oversees the UH Technology Bridge, a lab and coworking space for tenants just a short drive away from UH's main campus, as well as future plans, like a new central campus hub for innovation that's in its early stages of development.

"What we really need at the university today is to bring innovation — which tech transfer is a piece of — and connect that to real-world challenges to deliver what the world needs, which is talented folks delivering new innovative, entrepreneurial, or intrapreneurial programs," Krishnamoorti says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. Continue reading.

Episode 193 - Innovating in the East End - Erik Ibarra of Magnolia Fund and ORDRS

Erik Ibarra's latest venture is to give agency to residents in the neighborhood he grew up in. Photo courtesy

Innovation isn't always tinkering with tech or programming software, although serial entrepreneur Erik Ibarra knows that world well. Sometimes it's about rethinking how a community improves and develops without doing the residents a disservice.

That's why Ibarra started Magnolia Fund, a mission-driven investment fund dedicated to enriching the East End community and preserving the neighborhood's culture and history. Ibarra, who has lived in the area the majority of his life, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast, that he's looking to turn residents into investors.

"Our investors from the neighborhood, today they walk around and look at their house and say, 'I own that,' and that's great," Ibarra says. "In the future, our investors should be able to say that, and then point to a building and say, 'I own a portion of that building too. And I helped that small business over there.'" Continue reading.


Episode 198 - The undeniable impact of AI - Anshumali Shrivastava of ThirdAI CorpEpisode 198 - The undeniable impact of AI - Anshumali Shrivastava of ThirdAI Corp

Anshumali Shrivastava joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to share the revolutionary work ThirdAI is doing for artificial intelligence. Photo via rice.edu

Anshumali Shrivastava's career has evolved alongside the rise of artificial intelligence. Now, he believes his company represents the future of the industry's widespread implementation.

Shrivastava, who's also a professor at Rice University, founded ThirdAI, pronounced "third eye," in 2021 to democratize artificial intelligence through software innovations. As Shrivastava explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast, AI processes have historically been run on larger, less accessible computing hardware. ThirdAI's tools are able to run on a regular central processing unit, or CPU, rather than the more powerful graphics processing unit, or GPU.

"We focus on the problems that people are facing in the current AI ecosystem," Shrivastava says on the podcast. "Right now, if you are to build some of the large-language models and (linear programming) models, you need a lot of computing power, dedicated engineers to move it, and, even if you are using fully managed services, it's costly and there are a lot of privacy implications because you have to move data around." Continue reading.


Episode 212 - The 'frivolous' lawsuit over DEI funding - Carolyn Rodz and Elizabeth Gore of Hello Alice

Hello Alice Co-Founders Carolyn Rodz and Elizabeth Gore join the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss the lawsuit they're facing. Photo courtesy Cayce Clifford/Hello Alice

For years, Hello Alice has been helping small businesses across the country get equitable access to funding and support. Now, the Houston tech company is facing its own obstacle: An affirmative action lawsuit.

"I don't think in a million years that we ever expected anything like this," Elizabeth Gore, co-founder and president of Hello Alice, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "There's surprise, then there's fear, and then there's anger. But now on the other side of it, we're emboldened, confident, and more passionate than ever."

America First Legal's lawsuit against Hello Alice and its partner, Progressive Insurance, alleges that their program to award10 $25,000 grants to Black-owned small businesses constitutes racial discrimination. AFL was founded by former Trump Administration adviser Stephen Miller and features a handful of other former White House officials on its board. Continue reading.

Houston-based WellWorth was selected as the winner of this year’s Houston Startup Showcase. Photo courtesy of the Ion

Houston energy startup wins Ion's annual showcase, pitch competition

1st place

The Ion hosted its annual startup pitch competition, and one company walked away with a win.

WellWorth, a financial modeling and analysis software-as-a-service company for the upstream energy sector, won the Houston Startup Showcase + Expo and secured a $5,000 prize. The startup's technology introduces a more streamlined approach to NAV modeling or corporate financial modeling for its users.

“Having worked in investment banking, I have seen firsthand how the limitations of Excel models and a lack of bespoke tools have led to inefficient workflows in upstream Oil & Gas finance," says Samra Nawaz, CEO and Co-founder of WellWorth, in a statement. "We decided to solve this problem by building a cloud-based platform that helps energy finance leaders improve decision-making around raising, managing, and deploying capital.”

Nawaz explains how impactful the opportunity to pitch has been on WellWorth, which aims to raise funding early next year accelerate customer acquisition and product development.

“By getting involved in the Ion’s innovation ecosystem, we’ve been able to not only network with many entrepreneurs and innovators in the Houston community, but also find opportunities to scale our growth,” continues Nawaz. “We’re thrilled to have brought a few more customers onboard recently, and are working closely with them to optimize our product pipeline."

The company pitched alongside the other five finalists, which included Tierra Climate, MRG Health, BeOne Sports, Trez, and Mallard Bay. Mallard Bay, a booking platform for hunting and fishing trips, secured the people's choice award, which was decided by the crowd.

“Our flagship event, Houston Startup Showcase, not only connects startups and entrepreneurs with top business leaders but also provides them an opportunity to pitch their innovations to the technology ecosystem,” says Jan Odegard, executive director of the Ion, in a news release. “We extend our congratulations to WellWorth and the company’s innovative SaaS platform for energy industry finance teams, as well as Mallard Bay, the People’s Choice winner. These companies are exemplifying the exciting new technologies being developed in Houston today.”

In addition to the pitches, several companies showcased at the event, including Nanotech, manufacturer of thermal management materials for the built environment; last year's winner Unytag, a universal toll tag that provides drivers the ability to pass through tolls anywhere in the nation; and Softeq, provides early-stage innovation, technology business consulting, and full-stack development solutions to enterprise companies and innovative startups.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

NanoTech's Chief Commercial Officer Carrie Horazeck and Co-Founder and CEO Mike Francis join the Houston Innovators Podcast to celebrate the nationwide launch of their roof coating product. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston material science company strategically rolls out flagship product nationwide

houston innovators podcast episode 174

A Houston startup is celebrating its nationwide launch of its flagship product that coats roofs to reduce energy waste.

NanoTech's Nano Shield Cool Roof Coat is a unique product that can be added onto roofs to reduce energy waste on buildings. Co-founder and CEO Mike Francis and Chief Commercial Officer Carrie Horazeck joined the Houston Innovators Podcast to share more details about the product.

"It's just a coating that can go on top of existing structure — any type of commercial roof," Horazeck says on the show. "We have a pretty good amount of data from 2022 showcasing that we can reduce HVAC consumption within the building by about 30 to 40 percent.

"Our clients really see a immediate benefit in their energy bill, and, of course, if you reduce the HVAC consumption, that automatically translates to a decrease in your scope one emissions," she continues.

Now, NanoTech is playing in the climatetech materials space, the duo explains, and is able to offer clients the opportunity of sustainability with a return — and provide the data for them to prove it.

When deciding how to roll out the product nationally, Francis and Horazeck decided to create a partner enablement program of around 20 companies rather than going with one big distributor.

"We wanted to make sure we developed really strong relationships with our partners and brought on partners that really believed in our vision and understood what we're trying to do at NanoTech — not just with the roof coating, but the whole vision of our company," Horazecks says, explaining that NanoTech has 12 partner companies already and is actively interviewing for the last eight spots.

The roof coating is just the beginning, Francis and Horazeck say about the growing company. NanoTech, which also has a fireproofing product that can protect against fires of up to 1,800 degree Celcius temperatures, also is working on a clear coating product for windows and even solar panels.

"We have the technologies — we're filing multiple patents almost every month to enter different areas of the green building and fireproofing spaces. We're working with more than 40 Fortune 500 companies — things are really clicking," Francis says on the show. "What I think is the next period in our company history is hiring the best talent we can possibly find."

Francis and Horazeck share more about the future of NanoTech on the podcast, and each share their thoughts on the vast opportunities in Houston's networking community and innovation ecosystem. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


Want to work for one of the top startups in Houston? These ones are hiring. Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

Here's which of the 2022 Houston Innovation Awards finalists are hiring

Growing biz

After scouring Houston for the best of the Houston innovation ecosystem and evaluating dozens of companies, InnovationMap and Houston Exponential have announced the finalists that will be honored at the 2022 Houston Innovation Awards. But which of these companies are growing their teams?

Turns out, almost all of them have open positions — some planning to double their teams over the next year. In fact, the 30 companies that make up the cohort of finalists are looking for over 150 new employees — some have these positions open now and others are seeking these new team members over the next 12 months.

Click here to get your tickets to the 2022 Houston Innovation Awards Gala.
Let's look at how many new hires these top startups are looking for.

Double-digit growth

When it comes to the awards finalists looking to scale their team by 10 or more new employees, five companies are looking to enter this type of hiring spree. Blue People, a finalist in the BIPOC-Founded Category, is hiring 25 new employees. The company was founded in 2015 in Mexico and relocated its primary operations to Houston in 2020. Blue People, which develops software innovation for tis clients, has over 150 employees — seven of whom, including C-level executives, are based in Houston. Some of the company's new hires will be based in town.

Another company that's also relocated its operations to Houston recently and is growing its team significantly is Venus Aerospace, creator of a hypersonic spaceplane capable of one-hour global travel. Venus, a finalist in the New to Hou category, currently has a team of 60 people and is based out of the Houston Spaceport. The company is hiring an additional 20 people.

Fast-growing B2B Software finalist Solidatus — a data management software solution — has 16 open positions, including five in the US. According to the company, they hope to have reached a headcount of about 140 within the next 12 months — up from their current 110 employees.

NanoTech, a Green Impact finalist and materials science company, is looking to nearly double its team of 20 to add an additional 15 new employees.

Competing in the People's Choice category, LevelField Financial — a financial service platform that serves customers interested in the digital asset class — is looking to hire 10 people to join its team of 19 employees.

Steady as she grows

Six Houston Innovation Awards finalists are in the process of adding more than a few new team members. Rivalry Technologies, a finalist in the B2B Software and People's Choice categories, is hiring seven people to join its team of 13. The company created a mobile ordering solution — called sEATz — for arenas and recently rebranded and expanded to provide the technology to other industries.

Founded in New Orleans and relocated to the Houston area last year, Fluence Analytics has a total of 30 employees and is looking to hire an additional six new team members. The company, which created a real-time analytics solution for the chemicals industry, is also a finalist in two categories: Hardtech and New to Hou.

Biotech company Cemvita Factory — both a Green Impact and People's choice finalist — has already scaled to employ 75 team members. Now, the company is hiring an additional five more.

Encina Development Group — circular chemicals company for the consumer products and packaging, pharmaceuticals, construction, and other industries — is also looking to add five more team members to its 30 employees. The company is a finalist in the Green Impact category.

Another Green Impact finalist is IncentiFind, a database for green building incentives that's transforming real estate, is hiring five new employees to almost double their team of eight.

INGU, a New to Hou finalist, is a pipeline inspection solution to achieve Net Zero and ESG compliance for the water and oil and gas pipeline infrastructure. The company is seeking five new team members to join its 19 employees based in Houston and Canada.

Seeking selectively

The following awards finalists are looking to grow their teams by just a handful or so — between one and four — of new hires:

Find out which of these employers take home the win at the November 9 gala at the Ion. Click here to RSVP.

Here's your latest roundup of Houston innovation news you may have missed. Photo by Tim Leviston/Getty Images

Houston startup names new exec, innovators join prestigious program, and more news

short stories

Houston's cooling down, but the city's innovation news is heating up, and there might be some headlines you may have missed.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston startups and tech, a Houston startup has a new C-level exec, two innovators join a international cohort of leaders, and more.

NanoTech names new chief commercial officer

Carrie Horazeck is now the chief commercial officer for NanoTech. Photo courtesy of NanoTech

Houston-based materials science company NanoTech Inc. has appointed Carrie Horazeck as chief commercial officer for the startup, which created a fireproofing and carbon reduction through cool roof coatings. In her new role, Horazeck will lead marketing and sales strategy for the growing company.

“I’ve been a fan of NanoTech since I first met co-founder and CEO Mike Francis at a Halliburton Labs event last year," Horazeck says in a statement. “It’s an incredible team, with an incredible product. They are on the precipice of major growth and I’m very honored to be a part of that journey.”

Prior to NanoTech, Horazeck spent 11 years in management consulting helping to grow her clients' businesses, staying tuned into consumer trends and behaviors to guide product development and intelligent marketing strategy. She's worked with a wide range of industries and clients including Samsung, General Mills, Newell Brands, Coca-Cola, Unilever, American Express, British American Tobacco, Anheuser-Busch, and the Department of Education in New York City. Most recently, she led commercial development and market penetration strategy for an Austin based startup in the renewable energy space.

"We are excited to have Carrie join the NanoTech team. She is going to help us get one step closer to our goal of reducing carbon emissions with our cool roof coating and fireproofing critical infrastructure," says Francis in the statement.

2 Houstonians named to global cohort

Houstonians Allie Danziger and Natasha McDaniel were announced to be joining the Fall 2022 Milestone Makers cohort. Photos courtesy

Two Houston innovators have been named to Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center's Fall 2022 Milestone Makers cohort, which selects individuals addressing the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals.

The virtual, 12-week program provides individualized mentorship and executive coaching, as well as access to the Center’s vast network of industry experts to help each founder with his or her milestone. The new cohort was selected through application process, and all hope to improve the lives of and support communities across the globe. The two Houstonians in the current cohort include:

  • Allie Danziger of Ampersand, which enhances employee retention by ensuring mastery in key skills required for entry-level professionals.
  • Natasha McDaniel of Lit for Life, which offers culturally relevant reading and writing resources as well as family coaching and educational consulting services.

Applications are open for the Winter 2023 program are now open.

Houston robotics company to ring the bell on Wall Street

The Nasdaq Bell Ringing Ceremony for Nauticus Robotics, Inc. will take place this Thursday. Image via LinkedIn

Houston-based Nauticus Robotics, which went public last month via SPAC, is due to ring the Nasdaq bell on Wall Street.

The company, which now trades under the $KITT ticker, will have its bell ringing ceremony beginning at 2:45 p.m. CT on October 20 and can be viewed via this link.

Nauticus continues to be led by CEO Nicolaus Radford and the current executive team.

“The closing of this business combination represents a pivotal milestone in our company’s history as we take public our pursuit of transforming the ocean robotics industry with autonomous systems,” Radford, who founded what was known as Houston Mechatronics in 2014, said in a news release about the IPO. “Not only is the ocean a tremendous economic engine, but it is also the epicenter for building a sustainable future.”

UH named 2022 Hispanic Serving Institution Leader by U.S. Fulbright program

UH — and its students — have been recognized by the Fulbright organization. Photo courtesy of UH

For the second year in a row, the University of Houston has been named as a 2022 Fulbright Hispanic Serving Institution Leader.

“As the state’s premier Hispanic-Serving Institution and a top Fulbright producer, the University of Houston strives to ensure an environment of inclusion and success for all,” said UH President Renu Khator. “This recognition is yet another milestone that reinforces what so many already know about our institution … that our students are supported both culturally and academically.”

The recognition was announced the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities annual conference in San Diego on Oct. 10.

The University of Houston recently announced 10 student Fulbright recipients, each prepared to travel far and wide to gain international insights, according to the news release. Since 2018, nearly 50 Fulbright scholarships have been awarded to UH students.

“Enhancing learning and research experiences for students and faculty through the Fulbright Program is important to expanding the University’s international footprint,” says Michael Pelletier, executive director of UH’s Institute for Global Engagement in the release.

Texas investor named among outstanding women in clean energy

Phoebe Wang was honored for her work at Shell Ventures. Photo via LinkedIn

The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced the nine winners of the 2022 Clean Energy Education & Empowerment Awards that honors women for outstanding leadership and accomplishments in clean energy.

“For too long, there has been a significant gender gap in the energy sector, meaning half the population have had a minimized impact on one of our most important industries,” says U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm in a news release. “As we transition to a clean energy economy, we will have to tap into the pool of amazing women working in energy and grow their ranks. That’s why DOE is proud to recognize the winners of this year’s C3E Awards, a diverse group of changemaking women tackling some of the biggest challenges in energy.”

Among the honorees, Phoebe Wang, formerly of Shell Ventures and based in Texas, was recognized in the business category. Wang "leads investments in early- and late-stage startups working on technologies to accelerate the energy transition in the areas of hydrogen, carbon capture utilization and storage, energy storage, mobility, and power," per the release. In the past decade, she has invested more than $150 million startups and has been closely involved in the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. Last week, Wang was announced to be joining the Amazon Climate Pledge Fund as investment partner.

Now in its 11th year, the C3E Inititive led by the DOE — in collaboration with the MIT Energy Initiative, Stanford University’s Precourt Institute for Energy, and the Texas A&M Energy Institute — will award each winner with a cash gift of $8,000 and national recognition of their efforts.

The Rice Alliance has named its second annual cohort. Photo via Getty Images

5 Houston energy tech companies named to Rice accelerator

seeing green

The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship has announced the 17 companies joining its second accelerator — and the program didn't have to venture very far for some of them.

The Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator named the early- to mid-stage startups that will participate in its second annual class — five of which are based in Houston:

  • CLS Wind is developing a unique system to lift any size wind turbine component to any height using smaller-capacity cranes, an efficient, safe and economical solution to a lack of available high-capacity cranes and vessels.
  • Dsider is developing a low code solution for climate minded organizations to visualize and analyze their carbon pathways to plan, prioritize and operate sustainably and economically.
  • Emission Critical is developing carbon accounting and management software as a service to help enterprises solve end-to-end carbon footprinting with minimum effort
  • NanoTech is developing advanced materials to help businesses and individuals solve fireproofing and thermal insulation challenges with new world particles.
  • Pressure Corp is developing waste pressure power systems to help midstream gas companies solve how they reduce emissions by providing the technology, capital and expertise required to achieve their environmental, social and governance goals.

The 10-week program kicks off at the university’s Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum in September, and concludes on Demo Day on Nov. 17. While mostly virtual, the program will welcome the complete cohort to Houston three times throughout the accelerator.

The full cohort of companies — which come from seven states and four countries — has already collectively raised more than $54.5 million. Over the 10 weeks, the companies will receive support and mentorship to help them raise funding, launch pilots, win adoption into the marketplace, and more.

The 2022 cohort specializes across the spectrum of clean energy, including advanced materials, digital technology for energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, geothermal energy, hydrogen, waste heat to power, wave energy, and wind energy. The rest of the cohort includes:

  • Atargis Energy, based in Colorado, is developing an innovative twin hydrofoil-based wave energy converter technology combined with a proprietary feedback control system that combines real-time sensors, predictive algorithms and machine learning to make possible the first predictable, low-cost, utility-scale baseload electricity sourced from ocean waves for utilities and other electricity providers.
  • Based in Somerville, Massachusetts, Eden GeoPower Inc. is developing electrical reservoir stimulation technology to help geothermal, petroleum and mineral resource developers solve issues with low-permeability reservoirs by effectively increasing permeability in a way that uses less water and emits less CO2 than traditional stimulation methods.
  • FuelX has developed solid-state hydrogen power systems to help transportation manufacturers meet their customers’ growing performance requirements by using high-energy-density systems that outperform batteries and other pure hydrogen solutions. When coupled with a green hydrogen raw material, FuelX systems provide zero-carbon power.
  • GeoGen Technologies — a Canadian company — is developing a new kind of geothermal that allows oil and gas companies to convert end of life oil and gas wells to economic geothermal.
  • Durham, North Carolina-based GOLeafe uses organic materials and non-energy or capital-intensive equipment toproduce graphene oxide — the world's strongest, thinnest and most conductive material — through a process that’s 10 times more cost efficient and eco-friendly using readily available materials such as hay, sugar and wood chips.
  • LiNa Energy is commercializing safe, sustainable, solid-state sodium batteries that contain no lithium or cobalt.
  • Luminescent, based in the United Kingdom, is building an isothermal expansion heat engine for waste heat recovery along gas transmission pipelines.
  • Nobel improves fuel efficiency for gas-fired power plants with drop in, reliable supersonic combustion technology.
  • Quino Energy — based in California — produces low-cost, long-lifetime aqueous organic flow batteries for grid storage applications. The charge is stored in specially designed organic molecules called quinones, which are produced from cheap chemical precursors in a proprietary, zero-waste process.
  • Viridly, based in Texas,is developing geothermal power plants with patent-pending generator technology alongside geothermal greenhouses to provide the first financially viable way to confidently deliver and scale up the development of baseload geothermal electricity.
  • Another Canadian company, Volta Technique’s compressed air storage and management technology addresses the unpredictable and ever-increasing cost of energy for large commercial and industrial electricity users while enabling decarbonization of the electricity grid through higher integration of renewable energy.
  • Wootz, another Texas company, is developing a scalable manufacturing process to produce sustainable, cost-effective, high-performance carbon nanotube materials at commercial scale to replace or enhance traditional metallic conductors.

Twelve companies participated in Class 1 of the Rice Alliance Clean Energy, which was delivered virtually last summer. The 12 startups in that inaugural class have raised a combined $6.5 million in funding, identified and launched pilots, met investors, hired staff and moved their offices to Houston.

The program is supported by founding sponsor Wells Fargo and supporters: BP, Baker Botts, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Halliburton Labs, Equinor, Microsoft, NRG, Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures, Shell Ventures, Sunnova, TotalEnergies, Tudor Pickering Holt, Canadian Consulate, TC Energy, Phillips 66, and ENI Next.

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Annual student startup competition in Houston names teams for 2024

ready to pitch

The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship announced the 42 student-led teams worldwide that will compete in the highly competitive Rice Business Plan Competition this spring.

The annual competition, known as one of the world’s largest and richest intercollegiate student startup competitions, will take place April 4 to 6 in Houston. Teams in this year's competition represent 35 universities from four countries, including two teams from Houston and four others from Texas.

Teams, made up of graduate students from a college or university anywhere in the world, will present their plans before 350 angel, venture capital, and corporate investors to compete for more than $1 million in prizes. Last year, teams were awarded $3.4 million in investment and in-kind prizes, the largest total awarded thus far in the decades-old competition after some investors doubled — or even tripled — down on investment awards.

The 2024 RBPC will focus on five categories: Energy, Cleantech and Sustainability; Hard Tech; Life Sciences and Healthcare Solutions; Digital Enterprise; Consumer Products and Services.

Invitees include:

  • AIRS ML, Imperial College London (United Kingdom)
  • Blaze Power, UCLA
  • ChiChi Foods, Washington University in St. Louis
  • CureWave Sciences, Rutgers University
  • CurveAssure, Johns Hopkins University
  • D.Sole, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Dendritic Health AI, Northwestern University
  • Dialysis Innovations, University of Michigan
  • FlowCellutions, University of Pittsburgh
  • HEXAspec, Rice University
  • HydroPhos Solutions, University of New Hampshire
  • Icorium Engineering Company, University of Kansas
  • Informuta, Tulane University
  • Kiwi Charge, York University (Canada)
  • Korion Health, University of Maryland, College Park
  • Limitless Aeronautics, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
  • LiQuidium, University of Houston
  • Malleous, University of Pittsburgh
  • MesaQuantum, Harvard University
  • MineMe, University of Pennsylvania
  • NaviAI, Cornell University
  • NutriAI, Tufts University
  • OSPHIM, RWTH Aachen University (Germany)
  • Overture Games, Northwestern University
  • OX SOX, University of Georgia
  • Oxylus Energy, Yale University
  • Palanquin Power, University of Texas at Austin
  • Paradigm Robotics, University of Texas at Austin
  • Particle-N, University of Connecticut
  • Poka Labs, Harvard University
  • Power2Polymer, RWTH Aachen University (Germany)
  • ProPika, University of Arkansas
  • Protein Pints, Michigan State University
  • Samtracs, Oklahoma State University
  • Sancorda Medical, University of Texas at Dallas
  • Side Coach Sports, Baylor University
  • Socian AI, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Somnair, Johns Hopkins University
  • TouchStone, University of California, Berkeley
  • Vita Innovations, Stanford University
  • WattShift, University of Chicago
  • ZebraMD, UCLA

The companies join more than 700 RBPC alumns that have collectively raised more than $5.5 billion in funding. More than 269 RBPC companies are in business or have made successful exits, according to the Rice Alliance's website.

Last year, Texas A&M-based team FluxWorks took home $350,000 and won the competition based on judges scores. The company's technology includes magnetic gears that are four times quieter than standard with 99 percent efficiency.

Sygne Solutions and TierraClimate, two Rice-led teams, won second and fourth places, respectively. Zaymo, from Brigham Young University, took home the most in investment dollars. Click here to see the full list of 2023 teams.

Texas is the No. 1 destination for Gen Zers on the move, study says

by the numbers

A new population analysis by real estate marketplace Zillow has pegged the Lone Star State as the No. 1 destination for adults born between 1996 and 2004 – also known as Gen Z.

Using data from the 2022 U.S. Census Bureau, the report identifies the Top 10 states to which Gen Zers are moving, and Texas was the runaway winner – far outranking No. 2 destination, California, with 76,805 Gen Z movers, versus California's 43,913.

Reasons for moving vary, but the report says young adults from 18 to 24 years old may prefer to live in states with high performing job markets, especially in a place like San Antonio where one of the nation's top employers resides. San Antonio is also a great place for remote work, according to estimations by Forbes.

Favorable weather also may play a factor in the high migration of Gen Z'ers, the report suggests. Texas' mostly year-round sunshine makes it more attractive to younger crowds who are looking for fun activities around the state, not to mention the advantageous impact on dating opportunities.

Other top states with high influx of Gen Z movers include Washington (No. 5), which added over 33,500 Gen Z movers in 2022, and Colorado (No. 6) with less than 31,000 new Gen Z residents.

Their least favorite destination was Michigan, and the Northeast also ranked poorly, with four New England states – Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine – all in the bottom 10.

State with a high cost-of-living like Washington, Colorado, and Virginia (No. 7) are places where young adults are more likely to have a bachelor's degree, work in tech, or serve in the military, according to Zillow principal population scientist Edward Berchick.

However, becoming a homeowner is much more difficult, as the report found 77 percent of the Gen Z workers in these states are renters.

"Gen Z movers are likely drawn to the job opportunities in these states, despite the higher costs of housing," Berchick explains. "They may also be in a stage of life where they're willing and able to be flexible in their standards of living while starting their careers."

The top 10 states for Gen Z movers are:

  • No. 1 – Texas
  • No. 2 – California
  • No. 3 – Florida
  • No. 4 – North Carolina
  • No. 5 – Washington
  • No. 6 – Colorado
  • No. 7 – Virginia
  • No. 8 – Illinois
  • No. 9 – Georgia
  • No. 10 – Arizona

The full report can be found on zillow.mediaroom.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Op-Ed: Black-owned businesses are making history in Texas, across America

guest column

In recent years, our small business community has weathered a global pandemic, persistent supply chain issues, sometimes volatile prices, and a tight labor market—and Black-owned businesses in our state have faced disproportionate impacts from these pandemic challenges.

Despite those headwinds, Black-owned businesses across Texas are fueling one of the largest and most diverse waves of new business creation America has ever seen—what President Biden calls America’s Small Business Boom.

As we mark America’s 48th national celebration of Black History Month, the SBA is highlighting Black-owned businesses’ achievements here in Texas and throughout the nation. The past three years have been the three strongest years of new business formation in American history.

The 16 million new business applications filed during this period show Americans starting businesses at nearly twice the rate—86 percent faster—compared to the pre-2021 average. During that time, U.S. small businesses have created more than 7.2 million net new jobs. And Black-owned businesses are responsible for some of the most significant gains.

The Invest in America agenda is powering the Biden Small Business Boom, and unlike many economic recoveries of the past, this one includes entrepreneurs of color. One of the reasons for that is the SBA’s Community Navigator Pilot Program (CNPP). This innovative hub-and-spoke partnership connected hundreds of community organizations around the country - like the U.S. Black Chambers of Commerce and the National Urban League - with entrepreneurs, helping them make the most of SBA resources. “The SBA CNPP allowed the

Houston Area Urban League Entrepreneurship Center to leverage existing partnerships with organizations that offered services to socially and economically disadvantaged business owners and women-owned businesses,” states Eric Goodie, Executive Vice President of the Houston Area Urban League. “Through the CNPP we provided comprehensive business planning and support, e-commerce technical assistance, financial and credit education, opportunities for business networking, access to capital and procurement opportunities,while providing assistance with obtaining various business certifications. We also found theSBA Lender match portal to be a critical resource in the capital acquisition process."

Under Administrator Isabel Guzman, the SBA has also delivered record-breaking government contracting for small businesses—including the most federal contracting dollars going to Black-owned businesses in history. And we’re addressing longstanding gaps in access to capital for Black entrepreneurs, more than doubling our small business loans toBlack-owned businesses since 2020.

These investments are making a big impact. Black business ownership is growing at the fastest pace in 30 years. The share of Black households owning a business doubled between 2019 and 2022. In 2023 alone, Census data showed Americans filed 5.5 million new business applications across the country, including over 500,000 here in Texas. That success is creating a rising tide. Black wealth is up a record 60 percent from before the pandemic, and Black unemployment has reached historic lows since 2021.

The SBA also understands that the work must continue. Black entrepreneurs and other historically underserved communities still face obstacles accessing capital. That's why President Biden and the SBA are committed to ensuring that anyone with a good idea can pursue that opportunity, and the Small Business Boom speaks to that success. We're helping more Americans than ever access the funds they need to realize their dreams of small business ownership – and that means more jobs, more goods and services, and more resilient communities, no matter the zip code.

To learn more about SBA resources, entrepreneurs are invited to join the SBA Houston District Office as it teams up with the Emancipation Economic Development Council and dynamic community organizations to celebrate Black History Month. The organizations will host the Resources to Empower Entrepreneurs event at the Emancipation Cultural Center on Wednesday, February 28, and will feature discussions surrounding resources, funding, and training available for small business owners.

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Mark Winchester is the SBA Houston District Office's acting district director.