Looking into venture capital deal growth, new coworking coming to town, and more Houston innovation news. Getty Images

Houston has seen some big headlines this month when it comes to innovation news — and you could have missed something.

From a report on venture capital funding last year and new coworking coming to town to a Houston investor selling her accelerator company, here's the latest batch of short stories in Houston innovation.

Houston sees spike in venture capital deals in 2019

Houston saw more venture capital funding in 2019 compared to 2018. Chart via crunchbase.com

Overall, 2019 was a good one for Texas venture capital deals. Austin had a record turnout of money invested in startups. Austin companies raised over $1.8 billion, which put the state capitol in the top 10 cities based on money raised, according to a report by Crunchbase.

And this Texas VC roundup on Crunchbase focused a lot of the Austin funding and didn't harp too much on the other Texas cities. But Houston's numbers are also record breaking. The Bayou City raised nearly $400 million last year — with the bulk of that being recorded in Q2 of 2019.

Houston's recorded $399.6 million in VC deals surpasses 2018's recorded funding by almost $20 million, but if you look at PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association's data, the amount is higher. According to Pitchbook, the total funding raised in 2019 in Houston deals surprasses $600 million across 98 deals.

Houston investor-founded accelerator acquired

Houston investor ​Diana Murakhovskaya has sold her New York-based accelerator program. ​Photo courtesy of The Artemis Fund

New York-based Monarq Incubator, a venture capital-focused accelerator program for women, has been acquired by Female Founders Alliance. Monarq was co-founded by Diana Murakhovskaya, one of the three co-founders of Houston-based, female-focused The Artemis Fund.

Since its founding in 2017, Monarq accelerated 32 companies that have then gone on to raise more than $10 million in venture capital. The combined company, according to a news release, now represents the largest network of women and non-binary venture-scalable founders.

"FFA and Monarq share more than just a mission – we share founder DNA," says Leslie Feinzaig, CEO of Female Founders Alliance, in the release. "Our two communities and accelerator programs were built by women founders, for women founders. We are uniquely able to build programming that accelerates the success of women in our space, and now along with founder cred, we have scale and a national footprint. I am so excited for what we can achieve in this next stage of FFA."

The acquisition means a heightened focus on The Artemis Fund for Murakhovskaya.

"Now that I am full time focused on raising and investing with Artemis, it's great to know that our community and founders will have a home and provide us with a great source of deal flow," she says in an email to InnovationMap.

A new coworking company to enter Houston with Galleria-area office

New Galleria-area coworking is coming later this year. Photo via serendipitylabs.com

Serendipity Labs Coworking, which has over 100 coworking spaces across the United States and United Kingdom, announced its plans to enter six new markets this year. Houston is among the new locations for the coworking company.

Expected top open in the fall, the Houston coworking space will be a 28,331-square-foot space on the 20th floor of the Marathon Oil Tower at 5555 San Felipe St. in the Galleria area. According to the release, Cameron Coworking, a division of Cameron Management, will be the development partner for the Houston market.

"By partnering with asset owners of office, retail and residential buildings and then managing the Labs, we bring our operational expertise and marketing power, and we assure the upscale service standards of one of the top national flexible workplace networks will be met at every location," says John Arenas, chairman and CEO of Serendipity Labs, in a news release.

MassChallenge Texas opens applications for second cohort

Applications are open for MassChallenge Texas' second Houston cohort. Courtesy of MassChallenge

At an event on January 29 in both Houston and Austin, MassChallenge Texas opened applications for its 2020 cohorts

The 4-month accelerator program is set to begin in June and online applications close March 9. Prizes include six months of free office space and up to $250,000 in equity free investment. Click here for more information.

Houston entrepreneur named to 2020 class of Presidential Leadership Scholars

Houston startup founder, Reda Hicks, has been named a Presidential Leadership Scholar. Photo via presidentialleadershipscholars.org

For this sixth year, the Presidential Leadership Scholars announced its class of veterans, educators, physicians, public servants, and corporate professionals to participate in the program. Reda Hicks, founder of GotSpot was named as one of the 60 scholars. The program began this week in Washington D.C..

"I cannot wait to work with, and learn from, these exceptional leaders," Hicks shares on LinkedIn. "And through the program, I will be working on RescueSpot, a community resiliency application of GotSpot Inc."

Another Houstonian was selected too — Ganesh Betanabhatla, who is the managing partner and chief investment officer at Ramas Capital Management.

Ion Smart Cities Accelerator opens applications for second cohort

Aatonomy, a member of the first cohort, walked away with a cash prize at Demo Day. F. Carter Smith/Station Houston

The second cohort for the Ion Smart Cities Accelerator Program has opened applications online. The first cohort, focused on resilience and mobility, is currently in pilot mode. Cohort II will be focused on water purification/quality, air quality, and clean technology.

The applications will close on Monday, February 17, and startups that are selected will be notified the week of March 2.

The program, which was announced in June, is backed by Microsoft and Intel and named its first cohort last fall. The demo day for the first cohort took place last month. The accelerator has its own space and prototyping lab in downtown Houston, which opened in September.

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16 digital health, medical device companies selected for UK, TMC accelerator

coming to Hou

For the second time, an accelerator backed by the United Kingdom and hosted by Texas Medical Center Innovation has named 16 companies to its new cohort.

In partnership with Innovate UK, TMC named the new cohort companies in an announcement this week. The companies are divided into two categories — digital health and medical device — and cover a wide range of specialties, from diagnostics and AI monitoring to non-surgical management and more.

The accelerator launched last year with its inaugural cohort with the mission of helping companies make their United States expansion by way of the TMC.

"The first cohort of startups in our accelerator program experienced TMC's capabilities in developing and advancing solutions through cross-collaboration with top minds in clinical care, commercialization and innovation," Devin Dunn, head of the Accelerator for Health Tech at TMC, says in a news release. "We are excited to continue our partnership with Innovate UK and welcome this second cohort to continue our efforts advancing life sciences technologies across the globe."

This year's program begins June 4 and will run through November. According to the TMC, last year's cohort had significant success tapping into the health tech ecosystem in Houston, including engaging with investors, setting up a go-to-market strategy, and making inaugural U.S.-based hires.

“Our Global Incubator Programme selects driven and ambitious innovators looking to scale their technologies globally," adds Jon Hazell, partnership manager for the North America and Global Incubator at Innovate UK. "We are excited for our second cohort of startups to join the programme, supported by the Texas Medical Center accelerator, where world-class mentors and programming will help our entrepreneurs understand and meet the requirements of different markets, and build the necessary partnerships, collaborations, and networks, facilitating their entry into global markets."

The selected medical device companies — and their technologies, as described by the TMC — include:

  • Cytecom – infectious diagnostic test, powered by cutting-edge optical electrophysiology, detects resistant bacteria in just 45 seconds, enabling doctors to prescribe targeted antibiotics in minutes instead of days
  • Heartfelt Technologies Ltd – the future of heart failure telemonitoring an automatic, AI supported, non-contact telemonitoring solution for heart failure patients
  • Neurovalens Ltd – creates wearable neurostimulaton devices that treat a range of conditions in an entirely non-invasive and drug-free way
  • Oxford Medical Products Limited – a proprietary hydrogel pill that acts as a non-surgical, non-pharmacological obesity treatment that will redefine the obesity treatment market
  • Phenutest – a rapid point-of-care diagnostic test for urinary tract infection, that confirms infection and appropriate antimicrobial to prescribe within 60 minutes
  • Plexaa – world's first fully wearable, sensor controlled, bra insert that can deliver safe supraphysiological preconditioning to the breast skin the night before surgery at home
  • SolasCure Limited – a wound Gel that acts as a single, effective and easy-to-use solution to overcome the challenges to transform chronic wound care
  • Trueinvivo Limited – a proprietary dosimetry (radiation measurement) system to ensure the precision and accuracy of cancer radiotherapy

The selected digital health companies — and their technologies, as described by the TMC — include:

  • Axon Diagnostics – offers a suite of solutions to support the needs of modern day diagnostic imaging services, supporting happier lives for clinicians and helping deliver better diagnostic care for all
  • Kheiron Medical Technologies – regarded as a world leader in the development of AI-enabled cancer diagnostics and monitoring
  • KiActiv – a technology-enabled digital health model for behaviour change and self-care that rethinks exercise and makes everyday movement an effective personalized medicine for better clinical outcomes
  • Memory Lane Games – turns memories into games, offering care providers a simple, fun dementia engagement app designed to trigger positive memories and improve socialisation with caregivers and people living with dementia
  • NeuroVirt Limited – combines immersive VR, AI and computer vision to gamify rehabilitation and quantify patient impairment and improvement
  • Newton’s Tree – enables healthcare providers to procure, integrate, and monitor third party AI products as part of routine care pathways through its enterprise AI platform
  • SERG Technologies – uses patented sensor technology and artificial intelligence to transform disease management into a continuous, data driven, and patient specific approach for people with Parkinson’s
  • Thymia – leverages speech, video, and behavioral analytics gathered via specially designed video games to diagnose conditions like depression, anxiety, and ADHD, alongside critical symptoms like fatigue, mood fluctuations, and memory issues, creating novel mental health biomarkers
The partnership between the U.K. and TMC began in 2018 as a biobridge between the two entities. TMC has expanded into new biobridges with other countries — most recently with The Netherlands — and also has a Danish accelerator that's also running its second cohort this summer.

Rice University inks strategic partnership with French research institution

collaboration station

Rice University and Université Paris Sciences & Lettres signed a strategic partnership agreement last week that states that the two institutions will work together on research on some of today's most pressing subject matters.

According to an announcement made on May 13 in Paris, the two schools and research hubs will collaborate on work focused on "fields of energy and climate; quantum computing and artificial intelligence; global health and medicine; and urban futures."

The partnership allows Rice to expand its presence in France, after launching its Rice Global Paris Center about two years ago.

Université PSL consists of 11 top research institutes in France and 2,900 world-class researchers and 140 research laboratories.

“We are honored and excited to partner with Paris Sciences and Lettres University and join forces to advance bold innovation and find solutions to the biggest global challenges of our time,” Rice President Reginald DesRoches said in a statement. “The unique strengths and ambitions of our faculty, students, scholarship and research are what brings us together, and our passion and hope to build a better future for all is what will drive our partnership agenda. Representing two distinct geographic, economic and cultural regions known for ingenuity and excellence, Rice and PSL’s efforts will know no bounds.”

Rice and Université PSL plan to host conferences around the four research priorities of the partnership. The first took place last week at the Rice Global Paris Center. The universities will also biannually select joint research projects to support financially.

“This is a global and cross-disciplinary partnership that will benefit from both a bottom-up, research-driven dynamic and a top-down commitment at the highest level,” PSL President Alain Fuchs said in a statement. “The quality and complementarity of the researchers from PSL and Rice who mobilized for this event give us reason to believe that this partnership will get off to a rapid and productive start. It will offer a strong framework to all the PSL schools for developing collaborations within their areas of strength and their natural partners at Rice.”

Rice launched its Rice Global Paris Center in June 2022 in a historic 16th-century building in Le Marais. At the time it, the university shared that it was intended to support Rice-organized student programs, independent researchers, and international conferences, as well as a satellite and hub for other European research activity.

"Rice University's new home in the Marais has gone from an idea to a mature relative with a robust program of faculty research summits, student opportunities, cultural events and community engagement activities," Caroline Levander, Rice's global Vice President, said at the announcement of the partnership last week.

Click here to learn more about the Global Paris Center.

Last month, University of Houston also signed a memorandum of understanding with Heriot-Watt University in Scotland to focus on hydrogen energy solutions.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Houston jumps significantly on annual list of best places to live in 2024

by the numbers

Things are looking a little brighter for Houston as the city was recently named among the top 100 best places to live in U.S. News and World Report's "Best Places to Live" list for 2024-2025.

Previously, H-Town had shockingly plummeted toward the bottom of the list as No. 140 in the 2023-2024 rankings. But the latest report has placed Houston at No. 97, suggesting substantial improvements over the last year.

U.S. News annually measures 150 top American cities for their livability and ranks them based on four major indexes: quality of life, value, desirability, and job market.

New for the 2024-2025 report, U.S. News updated its methodology to analyze city-based data rather than metropolitan area data. Secondly, the report's annual survey decided to place greater weight on a city's "value and job market" while "weights for desirability and quality of life took a slight dip" on the grading scale.

"Rising concerns about career prospects, housing affordability and increased cost of goods and services are reflected in this year’s rankings," said U.S. News loans expert and reporter Erika Giovanetti in a press release. "While quality of life remains the top priority for many Americans, a city’s value and job market are becoming increasingly important for those looking for a place to live."

There's many factors that draw folks to Houston, among them our city's diversity, the highly esteemed schools, top universities, and much more. Houston is also a great place for retirees looking to settle down without compromising on the big city lifestyle. The city truly has something for everyone.

The good news continues: Houston additionally moved up two spots to take No. 8 on the report's Best Place to Live in Texas list for 2024. The Bayou City ranked No. 10 last year.

Elsewhere in Texas
The recent focus on city-based data was likely a major factor that fueled Houston's improvement in the statewide and national rankings, but it also favorably shifted nine other Texas cities.

Austin – which previously ranked No. 40 in last year's rankings – became the only city to represent the Lone Star State among the top 10 best places to live in 2024. The Texas Capital jumped up 31 spots to claim No. 9 nationally, due to its "high desirability and job market scores," the report said.

Three cities in the Rio Grande Valley also ranked higher than Houston, suggesting that South Texas may be a better place to live than East Texas. The border towns of McAllen (No. 48) and Brownsville (No. 87) climbed into the overall top 100 this year after formerly ranking No. 137 and No. 134 last year. Meanwhile, Corpus Christi moved up from No. 132 last year to No. 77 in 2024.

Naples, Florida won the gold medal as the No. 1 best place to live in the U.S. in 2024. Rounding out the top five are Boise, Idaho (No. 2); Colorado Springs, Colorado (No. 3); Greenville, South Carolina (No. 4); and Charlotte, North Carolina (No. 5).

Here's how other Texas cities faired in 2024's Best Places to Live report:

  • No. 62 – El Paso (up from No. 128 last year)
  • No. 89 – San Antonio (up from No. 103 last year)
  • No. 95 – Dallas (up from No. 113 last year)
  • No. 99 – Beaumont (up from No. 131 last year)
  • No. 107 – Killeen (up from No. 122 last year)
The full report and its methodology can be found on realestate.usnews.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.