3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Dan Purvis of Velentium, Tony Sanchez of OneNexus Environmental, and Kevin Doffing of Energy Capital of the Future. Courtesy photos
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This new Houston startup is tackling the increasingly dangerous problem of methane-emitting inactive oil and gas wells. Photo courtesy of OneNexus

Houston energy exec launches well-plugging fintech company

future of O&G

Long-time Houston energy executive Tony Sanchez has launched a new fintech company that aims to help oil and gas exploration and production operators decommission orphaned wells and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

The company, OneNexus Environmental, was formed in partnership with Houston-based private equity firm BlackGold Capital Management LP and offers exploration and production companies "the equivalent of a universal life insurance policy for their oil & gas wells," according to a statement.

Through OneNexus's model, operators will be able to transfer the title of their wells over to OneNexus, thus absolving all Asset Retirement Obligations (AROs) related to decommissioning inactive wells that are known to release dangerous levels of methane. OneNexus will then assume the financial and operation obligations around properly plugging the wells in a safe, reliable, and cost-effective manner.

"The drastic decline in energy demand that arose from the pandemic forced many operators to walk away from their wells," Sanchez said in a statement. "When orphaned wells started multiplying around the world overnight, what was previously the so-called elephant in the oilfield could no longer be ignored."

Tony Sanchez has founded OneNexus in Houston. Photo courtesy

In addition to the fintech operation, OneNexus will also introduce a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation that will call on the international oil and gas community to support the innovative solutions to suppressing greenhouse gas emissions.

"Existing solutions are inadequate," Sanchez adds. "We started a company that is capable of tackling the problem head-on and that enables energy companies to proactively be part of the solution."

Sanchez was the founder and former CEO of Sanchez Energy Corporation, a multi-billion dollar energy production company with assets in the Eagle Ford Shale, and has held finance and analysis positions at JP Morgan Investment Banking and Zix Corp. (NASDAQ: ZIXI). He has brought over energy industry specialists and financial professionals to build out his team, with subject matter experts in petroleum engineering, chemical engineering, data science, and systems management.

OneNexus joins a growing group of Houston organizations focused on clean energy and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Recent research from Rice University showed that the city is uniquely ready for the energy transition.

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Houston biopharma company launches equity crowdfunding campaign

money moves

A clinical-stage company headquartered in Houston has opened an online funding campaign.

FibroBiologics, which is developing fibroblast cell-based therapeutics for chronic diseases, launched a campaign with equity crowdfunding platform StartEngine. The platform lets anyone — regardless of their net worth or income level — to invest in securities issued by startups.

The funding, according to a press release, will be used to support ongoing operations of Fibrobiologics and advance its clinical programs in multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc disease, wound care, extension of life, and cancer.

"We're excited to partner with StartEngine on this campaign. StartEngine has over 600,000 investors as part of their community and has raised over half a billion dollars for its clients," says FibroBiologics' Founder and CEO Pete O'Heeron, in the release.

"This is an exciting time at FibroBiologics as we continue progressing our clinical pipeline and developing innovative therapies to treat chronic diseases," he continues. "This new funding will fuel our growth in the lab and bring us one step closer to commercialization."

The campaign, launched this week, already has over 100 investors, at the time of publication, and has raised nearly $2 million, according to the page. The minimum investment is set at around $500, and the company's indicated valuation is $252.57 million.

In 2021, FibroBiologics announced its intention of going public. Last year, O'Heeron told InnovationMap on the Houston Innovators Podcast of the company's growth plans as well as the specifics of the technology.

Only two types of cells — stem cells and fibroblasts — can be used in cell therapy for a regenerative treatment, which is when specialists take healthy cells from a patient and inject them into a part of the body that needs it the most. As O'Heeron explains in the podcast, fibroblasts can do it more effectively and cheaper than stem cells.

"(Fibroblasts) can essentially do everything a stem cell can do, only they can do it better," says O'Heeron. "We've done tests in the lab and we've seen them outperform stem cells by a low of 50 percent to a high of about 220 percent on different disease paths."


Texas ranks as a top state for female entrepreneurs

women in business

Texas dropped three spots in Merchant Maverick’s annual ranking of the top 10 states for women-led startups.

The Lone Star State landed at No. 5 thanks in part to its robust venture capital environment for women entrepreneurs. Last year, Texas ranked second, up from its No. 6 showing in 2021.

Merchant Maverick, a product comparison site for small businesses, says Texas “boasts the strongest venture capital scene” for women entrepreneurs outside California and the Northeast. The state ranked fourth in that category, with $6.5 billion invested in the past five years.

Other factors favoring Texas include:

  • Women solely lead 22 percent of all employees working for a business in Texas (No. 4).
  • Texas lacks a state income tax (tied for No. 1).

However, Texas didn’t fare well in terms of the unemployment rate (No. 36) and the rate of business ownership by women (No. 29). Other Texas data includes:

  • Average income for women business owners, $52,059 (No. 19).
  • Early startup survival rate, 81.9 percent (No. 18).

Appearing ahead of Texas in the 2023 ranking are No. 1 Colorado, No. 2 Washington, No. 3 California, and No. 4 Arizona.

Another recent ranking, this one from NorthOne, an online bank catering to small businesses, puts Texas at No. 7 among the 10 best states for women entrepreneurs.

NorthOne says Texas provides “a ton of opportunities” for woman entrepreneurs. For instance, it notches one of the highest numbers of women-owned businesses in the country at 1.4 million, 2.1 percent of which have at least 500 employees.

In this study, Texas is preceded by Colorado at No. 1, Nevada at No. 2, Virginia at No. 3, Maryland at No. 4, Florida at No. 5, and New Mexico at No. 6. The rankings are based on eight metrics, including the percentage of woman-owned businesses and the percentage of women-owned businesses with at least 500 employees.