UH's RED Labs and Rice's OwlSpark will be hosted at the Ion over 11 weeks of programming, networking, and training as each of the 18 participating companies are introduced to Houston's innovation ecosystem. Photo courtesy of the Ion

For the 11th year, Rice University and the University of Houston have teamed up to present their summer student accelerator programs.

UH's RED Labs and Rice's OwlSpark will be hosted at the Ion over 11 weeks of programming, networking, and training as each of the 18 participating companies are introduced to Houston's innovation ecosystem.

“The collaboration the University of Houston has with Rice University gives founders in RED Labs and OwlSpark a unique opportunity to grow along their peers in the larger Houston community and really exemplifies the spirit of collaboration that the Houston business ecosystem is known for,” Managing Director of RED Labs Liana Gonzalez-Schulenberg says in a news release. “It never fails to surprise me at the end of the summer the relationships built, the support systems created and collaborations produced across our universities. By working together, we empower the next generation of entrepreneurs to work together as they turn their visions into reality and drive positive change in the community.”

The programs conclude with the Bayou Startup Showcase on August 1, an event that's open to the public. Those interested can sign up online for more information.

“We’re celebrating more than just an 11-year partnership; we’re recognizing a dynamic alliance that has been instrumental in fostering entrepreneurship and propelling Houston to the forefront of innovation,” Managing Director of OwlSpark Jessica Fleenor adds. “This partnership exemplifies our dedication to cultivating a thriving environment where entrepreneurs can connect, grow and succeed surrounded by unparalleled resources and support. We are incredibly excited to see these new ventures grow as they join our growing network and are thrilled to host our cohorts at the Ion, positioning us at the core of our city’s vibrant innovation landscape.”

Here are the companies selected for each of the two programs, as outlined in the news release:

University of Houston RED Labs Class 12

  • Root Planters develops smart indoor plant care devices designed to prevent plant death by providing automatic watering, tailored for busy individuals and gardeners looking to maintain plant health with minimal effort.
  • Burb Groceries is an online grocery retailer for people with chronic health conditions.
  • That Dude’s Bakehouse offers premium, half-pound cookies, combining choice ingredients and craftsmanship with the mission of being the best part of somebody’s day
  • Mulligan Bandit aims to redefine golf fashion, offering affordable yet high-quality clothing that seamlessly transitions from the fairway to the streets, reflecting personal style while ensuring durability and comfort.
  • Surreal Vision offers immersive mixed reality solutions that provide dynamic visualization experiences to enhance design collaboration and client presentations.
  • Agave Catering is a catering company focused on providing high-quality, gourmet boxed lunches for professionals on the go.
  • Digitally Marie is a purposeful creative agency dedicated to reducing the opportunity gap for female entrepreneurs. Through our heart-driven approach, we elevate content production embodying their brand perception with unapologetic authenticity.
  • Unison is a personal contact relationship management tool that alleviates the risk of data loss and helps to build more meaningful professional and personal relationships.
  • Brain-eNet is a platform that provides hardware and software tools to enable the development of brain-controlled Internet of Things applications.
  • Pasha Blend Collection specializes in creating modern skincare products that embodies purity, authenticity and inclusivity.
  • Arresting Motion is a brand strategy design consultancy and marketing agency that transforms Houston’s top real estate firms into the brands they deserve.
  • CalliDanna is a consulting company that coaches girls 12 to 18 to help improve their lives professionally and personally.

Rice University OwlSpark Class 12

  • EcoFleet Solutions offers rechargeable electric power units for semitrucks, powering air conditioning and cabin functions during stops without engine idling, cutting fuel costs, maintenance and emissions.
  • Houston Community Print Shop offers printmaking classes and equipment access, focusing on community building and supporting underserved areas.
  • KOQ Agency curates and organizes global tours and live entertainment opportunities for queer and ally artists in drag, music and entertainment.
  • Euvivo Diagnostics is developing a direct-to-consumer test that analyzes cell aging by examining mitochondrial performance and new aging markers, tailored for individuals with mitochondrial disorders.
  • Hair Hub provides a compilation of styling tutorials, educational content, planning tools and a comprehensive database of products tailored for Black hair to provide resources for users to perform cost-efficient DIY haircare.
  • xMAD.ai is a compression-as-a-service platform that democratizes access to LLMs (Large Language Models) by making them faster, more private, cost-effective and accessible to businesses of all sizes.
UH business students can opt into “The Entrepreneurial Genius of Taylor Swift,” a course covering the success and strategy of the billion-dollar performer's career. Photo courtesy of UH Bauer College of Business

University of Houston lines up entrepreneurship course featuring Taylor Swift's billion-dollar career

Cougar Red (Taylor's Version)

By any measure, Taylor Swift put on a masterclass with her Eras Tour this year — her Houston stop was a study in three-hours of pop-culture-perfect brand execution and fan frenzy.

Now, University of Houston is taking Tay studies to the next level with a new biz class.

Appropriately dubbed “The Entrepreneurial Genius of Taylor Swift,” the new class is part of the curriculum at coming to the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston next spring. Swfities who’re super “ready for it,” however, can get a jump on enrollment now.

Study “the 1” at a No. 1 institution

Though Swifties and Tay (and Travis) fiends will surely soak up every class hour, the program isn’t just for fans, the prof notes in a press statement. And Bauer College offers serious cred for current and new students, as its Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship has long ranked No. 1 in the U.S.

“You definitely don’t have to be a hardcore fan — a Swiftie — to learn and appreciate the entrepreneurial genius that has made Taylor Swift an international phenomenon,” notes Kelly McCormick, the Professor of Practice leading the course, citing Swift’s expertise in marketing, fan engagement, community building, and brand strategies.

Don’t hate, hate, hate, hate, hate on this Tay tutorial

Sure, Swift haters night hate on a Taylor course. But before they do, they should consider that at age 33, Swift boasts an estimated net worth of $1 billion, according to Forbes. And her aforementioned Eras Tour? Swift earned more than $780 million on the U.S. leg alone this year on the tour, which — by current estimates — cues her up to become the highest-grossing female touring artist of all time.

Her Eras Tour concert film also just became the highest-grossing concert film in North America, raking between $95 million to $97 million in ticket sales during its opening weekend — alone.

Taylor Swift Houston 2023 Eras Tour
Swift can flex a $1 billion net worth, per Forbes. Photo by Marco Torres/Marco from Houston


And then of course, her music acumen and savvy. In 2021, Swift smartly re-recorded a version of her album Fearless and launched a series of releases of her back catalog, in order to secure ownership of her first six albums.That move came after the masters (the original recordings) sold for a reported $300 million in 2019.

Here in Houston, as CultureMap reported, the Post-Tay Effect (we’re making that a thing) had a lasting economic effect, notbaly for areas pet and food nonprofits.

Hardcore business aside, the class Still, the course will be Taylor-made for Swifties. McCormick, who also serves as managing director for the university’s startup accelerator RED Labs, has themed each session around a different album — or Era, obvi for fans — of Swift’s career.

What to expect on the “mornin' of your very first day”

So, when students take a deep breath and walk through the door of their very first day (obligatory “Fifteen,” callout) they will score friendship bracelet gifts — a huge Swiftie phenomenon — and will be treated to surprise songs during breaks and even Easter eggs hidden in class content. (That’s a clever nod to Swift, who regularly hides clues, callbacks, and “oh yeaaahhhh” moments for fans in her music videos, album artwork, and social media posts).

As for the Tay inspo, McCormick says she has been a Swift fan since the early days of mega-hits “Our Song” and “Love Story.” But like so many who were blown away by the sheer Tay Machine during the Houston Eras Tour stop in April, the professor quickly noted entrepreneurship lessons to be learned over Swift’s in her 17-year career.

Taylor Swift Houston
The professor says Swift's dazzling Eras Tour stop in Houston inspired the class. Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images/Taylor Swift Twitter


“I saw the show and loved it,” McCormick adds. “And I realized I actually didn’t know that much about her career. I became absolutely enamored basically overnight and started getting into her whole discography. Taylor is truly impressive!”

She added: “Never have I ever — like ever — been so engrossed in someone’s career after so little time.” (Should anyone doubt all the Tay references, McCormick’s “never have I ever — like ever” comments is shoutout to Swift’s most popular singles, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Very clever.)

Travis-Tay included?

But perhaps the top Tay lesson is how to ensure satisfied customers.

“The number one business lesson students can learn from Taylor is the way she treats her fans,” McCormick notes. “She is beloved because she truly does so much to make sure they are happy, appreciated and feel like they are important to her. If every company acted that way about their customers — they’d have way more customers.”

Oh, and, no word — and we didn’t ask, for the record — if Kansas City Chiefs tight end/Swift squeeze Travis Kelce is part of the curriculum. Also no word if, to quote “Fifteen,” students will “sit in class next to a redhead named Abigail.”

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Four Houston accelerators will be working together this summer to advance nearly 30 university-associated startups. Photo via UH.edu

Houston universities reveal teams for summer accelerators

bayou startups

The University of Houston and Rice University have announced the cohorts for their summer accelerators that advance university-founded startups and small businesses.

The two schools run four programs in tandem with each other every summer for about a decade. There are nearly 30 companies this year being accelerated across the four programs, which are:

  • Rice's OwlSpark is focused on early-stage startup teams.
  • UH's RED Labs is focused on early-stage startup teams.
  • Rice's BlueLaunch is focused on non-tech small businesses.
  • UH's RED Launch is focused on non-tech small businesses.

"A very cool part of the program is that we partner every summer with Rice University's OwlSpark and Blue Launch," says Liana Gonzalez-Schulenberg, managing director of RED Labs. "It creates this really incredible network across the universities and allows both schools to bolster and benefit from each other.

"We share staff, we share mentors, we share speakers, we co-host the demo day, and we even share the catering bill," she continues. "It's a really special part of the program that I think has brought endless value to the founders, the universities, and Houston."

The 12-week program takes each of the teams — all of which have a university-affiliated founder, from undergrad to faculty — through key programming and mentorship. The final event includes a pitch day, called the Bayou Startup Showcase, where all of the companies share their business plans they've created through the program.

“I’m excited to support these new ventures with highly curated offerings and rich mentorship, propelling them to commercial success,” said Jessica Fleenor, managing director of BlueLaunch and OwlSpark. "We have built a long-standing culture of advocacy and collaboration, and look forward to upholding that in our largest cohort to date."

The selected companies for the four programs are as follows.

RED Labs (cohort 11)

  • We Felt It 3-D prints customized modifications to mobility devices like canes, walkers, and wheelchairs that maximizes comfort during use.
  • Zoop makes nutrition easy, clean and sustainable smoothie premixes which can be consumed anywhere and anytime by just mixing it with any of the preferred mixer (Water, Vegan milk, Milk, etc.)
  • Orbit is an application that allows users to understand the stock market through practice and training.
  • Team X is creating a company around nanoporous membrane technologies that recovers metals from wastewater and brine.

OwlSpark (cohort 11)

  • Terradote will manufacture cost-competitive, petroleum-free chemicals using captured carbon dioxide, methane and renewable bio-based materials.
  • Biomethanator’s biofilm bioreactors utilize biomethanation to convert industrial-waste carbon dioxide to methane, which can be used as fuel or in other industrial applications.
  • TaurusVascular is developing a minimally invasive catheter for addressing the most pressing complication of endovascular aortic aneurysm repair: endoleaks.
  • Voythos offers a mobile physician companion that monitors electronic medical records, prompting action and initiating care workflows.
  • AiKYNETIX is developing a video analytics platform for human motion insights, focusing on a mobile running lab for runners and coaches.
  • AllStars is building an affect-sensitive educational tool for self-studying and blended classroom learning.
  • EurekaHub is developing a marketplace where data and research scientists can publish, manage, share and revise analytical models for data sets across diverse applications.
  • ScoutBetter is an end-to-end recruiting platform that connects students with corporate campuses and provides recruiters access to university talent.

RED Launch (cohort 2)

  • CurioSweets is a vegan dessert brand that provides wholesale desserts and services including: consultation; recipe development; and contract baking of their product.
  • SpaceCityVinyl is a vehicle wrapping business that offers a quick and non permanent color change of vehicles.
  • Venus by Design is a handmade jewelry company
  • First Byte Digital consulting firm that helps mom and pop restaurants and non-profits establish a robust online presence by offering a wide range of digital conversion services.
  • 2tinys designs, prints, and cuts stickers with the plan of expanding into art prints and stationery items.
  • Lacey's Art paints dog portrait artwork. They partner with shelters to find models (and provide some help to getting the dog adopted), and then sells the prints.

BlueLaunch (cohort 2)

  • Archway Family Medicine provides medical care to patients through a monthly membership model known as direct primary care.
  • rdy helps communities recover from disasters faster and more equitably by working with local organizations to plan for them.
  • 610Smokehouse is a mobile food service and catering company that serves “Texan Fusion,” a unique cuisine that combines traditional Texas barbecue with diverse Houston food.
  • SerendipityPicnic is a unique picnic with all the goodies and essentials wrapped in a beautiful, lightweight, easy-to-carry and reusable “BlanKIT.”
  • La Mer Macaron offers an assortment of homemade French macarons.
  • TenTwelve provides residential construction and remodeling services.
  • DHA America customizes, designs and sells powder-coated and galvanized fence panels, posts and accessories.
  • All About Baby provides bespoke tableware for babies transitioning to solid foods.
  • MeowPlanet is opening a cat lounge.

Rice University and the University of Houston have opened applications for its inaugural cohort for a new small business accelerators. Photo by Hero Images

2 Houston universities team up to premiere small business accelerators

apply now

After years of supporting university-affiliated tech startups, two Houston colleges are launching a new program to support small businesses.

University of Houston and Rice University have announced two new programs — RED Launch and BlueLaunch, respectively — to run alongside its tech startup programs. While RED Labs and OwlSpark are geared toward technology startups, RED Launch and BlueLaunch focus on small businesses. The programs are open to University of Houston and Rice University affiliates who are interested in starting or growing a small business.

"Since inception, RED Labs programming focused mostly on tech entrepreneurship," says Kelly McCormick, managing director of RED Labs. "A few years ago, we began to build out course offerings at the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship for students interested in small businesses.

"Through those courses, I saw incredible engagement and enthusiasm from students interested in starting a small business, but recognized the need for intensive support beyond classes," she continues.

McCormick says that last summer, UH piloted the first iteration of RED Launch with a small group of UH students, and now UH has brought in Rice to the initiative as well.

"This year, we formalized and will expand the program, and we’re teaming up with the Rice Alliance at Rice University to make the program even stronger," she says.

The two organizations have been working together each summer on accelerating student-run startups for about a decade now, and these new programs are just the next step for the collaborators.

Applications for the program are due April 1. UH Cougars can apply by clicking here, and Rice Owls can submit their application here. For 12 weeks this summer, selected participants will receive comprehensive training and mentorship, access to resources, and at the conclusion of the program, the opportunity to showcase their businesses to the greater Houston community. The small business accelerators will tackle business necessities in the following areas: accounting, finance, legal, marketing, and sales.

From enlightening talks to anniversary celebrations, here's where you need to be in August. Getty Images

10 can't-miss Houston business and innovation events in August

where to be

This month, Houstonians have yet another good batch of in-person and online innovation events — from Zoom panels to conferences — and you and your tech network need to know about them.

Here's a roundup of virtual events not to miss this month — like demo days, workshops, conventions, and more.

Note: This post might be updated to add more events.

August 4 — Bayou Startup Showcase

Join Rice University and the University of Houston to celebrate the launch of the newest startups from OwlSpark and RED Labs. The Eighth Annual Bayou Startup Showcase will have founders from Class 9 showcase their summer progress. Come listen to pitches, network and get a first look at Houston's newest startups.

The event is on Wednesday, August 4, at 6 pm. It's free and happening at The Cannon (1334 Brittmoore Rd). Click here to register.

August 5 — Ask-Me-Anything Event With Carin Luna-Ostaseski: Tackling Roadblocks as a Solopreneur

A Hello Alice alum and first-generation Cuban American, Carin Luna-Ostaseski has truly achieved the unexpected, launching her one-woman operation through crowdfunding and becoming one of the first Hispanic entrepreneurs in history to create a scotch whisky brand. During the virtual event, she'll answer all of your questions, offer tips on navigating uncharted territory in business, and share details on the newly launched Entrepreneurial Spirit Fund by SIA Scotch that's awarding $10,000 grants to small business owners of color.

The event is on Thursday, August 5, at 1:30 pm. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

August 10 — FTE Show: Creating a Digitally Enabled Innovation Community that Works with Jon Lambert and Lawson Gow

The way entrepreneurial communities interact and collaborate today cannot keep pace with the ever increasing speed of innovation. What are best ways to leverage physical and virtual hub interactions to create a digitally enabled innovation community with that works? Join The Cannon Founder Lawson Gow and CEO Jon Lambert as they share specifics around what they are trying, where they are getting traction and where they are most challenged.

The event is on Tuesday, August 10, at noon. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

August 10-13 — HealthTech Beyond Borders

This online event created to offer business opportunities and global collaboration focused on innovation and technology in medicine between companies in Chile and the United States. Join the International Summit to explore the future and impact of new technologies in the health sector.

The event is on Tuesday, August 10. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

August 11 — Open Project Night: Building an Equitable, Inclusive and Resilient Houston

Impact Hub Houston is proud to bring you a monthly opportunity to come together to work on solutions for some of Houston's most pressing issues. Our city is full of changemakers across all ages, cultures, skillsets, and industries. This is your chance to conned and collaborate for the greater good.

The event is on Wednesday, August 11, at 5 pm. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

August 11 — Women in AI USA: WaiACCELERATE 2021 Demo Day

Ethical leadership & business acceleration program, WaiACCELERAT USA, aims to bridge the gender gap in the industry and targets female innovators looking to start a business in the fields of AI, Machine Learning and Data Science. With the final Pitch Event "ACCELER-AI-TE!" organized in VR, we will celebrate 40+ impact and commercially-proof early-stage startups and their founders

The event is on Wednesday, August 11, at 6 pm. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

August 12-13 — EVOLVE 2021: How AI is Transforming Industry

Join industry leaders from the world's largest and most innovative companies for this 2-day hybrid event featuring both technical and business presentations focused on the real-world value of Artificial Intelligence. Evolve will provide a unique, interactive experience where you will learn from and engage with thought leaders from across North America.

The event is on Thursday, August 12, to Friday, August 13. It's free and happening at Houston Marriott Sugar Land and online. Click here to register.

August 17 — Texas Startup Scene & Ask Me Anything with Wogbe Ofori

Are you an entrepreneur starting a new company? Recently moved your company to Texas? Want to find out how to connect with other entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors in the startup ecosystem? Join Capital Factory to hear an overview from experienced entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, investors, and community partners at Intro to Texas Startup Scene & Ask Me Anything. Get a chance to introduce yourself and ask any questions on entrepreneurship and other related topics.

The event is on Tuesday, August 17, at 2 pm. It's free and happening online Click here to register.

August 18 — Tips for Working with a Gen Z Intern

Ampersand CEO, Allie Danziger, will speak to business owners and founders on the benefits of hiring an intern for your growing business, and tips for managing a remote, or in person, intern. It has to be a lot more than just "getting coffee" in order to maximize the experience on both sides and Allie will talk through tips on clear communication, ideal assignments, best way to structure the relationship and more. She will answer attendees questions, live, and discuss real-life scenarios the aspiring professionals and business partners in Ampersand have faced.

The event is on Wednesday, August 18, at 11 am. It's free and happening at The Cannon (1334 Brittmoore Rd). Click here to register.

August 19 — LatinX in Tech presented by Accenture

Capital Factory is dedicated to increasing diversity in the tech community and making its co-working space an inclusive environment for people of all backgrounds and identities. Attendees can look forward to a keynote address from a serial entrepreneur or investor, insightful discussion sessions, a startup showcase pitch competition, and informative panels.

The event is on Thursday, August 19, at noon. It's free and happening online Click here to register.

August 25 — The Cannon + Dell Pitch Party

Calling all member startups that are fundraising or are planning to open a round in 2021. The Cannon has partnered with Dell to host a virtual Pitch Party. Prizes will include up to $10k in Dell Equipment and the opportunity to pitch in the winners round later this year. If you would like to learn more and be considered to pitch, please fill out the application here.

The event is on Wednesday, August 25, at noon. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

University of Houston's RED Labs and Rice University's OwlSpark, which operate in tandem every summer, have had to re-imagine their accelerator programs in light of COVID-19. Photo courtesy of OwlSpark and RED Labs

Houston university accelerators launch latest cohort virtually due to the coronavirus

online only

It'll be a different kind of summer for two early-stage, university-affiliated accelerator programs that work in tandem to grow a cohort of startups.

University of Houston's RED Labs and Rice University's OwlSpark are re-imagining their programs this summer to make the most out of a virtual accelerator, which begins today, May 21, with 17 teams of startups.

"No doubt that COVID-19 will have a big impact on our program," says Kerri Smith, managing director of OwlSpark. "In the long run, there will always be the likely requirement of human-to-human interaction in the startup world — particular when it comes to generating business, meeting with customers, and securing investments — but from the training aspect, I think we are going to be able to provide something of value."

Smith says she has worked with Kelly McCormick, managing director of RED Labs, in preparing for this virtual programming in order to maintain the same level of support for the startups by using tools like Zoom, Skype, the Google Suite, and more.

McCormick, who is also an instructor at UH, has had the opportunity to test out having guest speakers in her class last semester and found that the virtual aspect was an opportunity to reach speakers that would otherwise be unavailable to come to campus.

"With challenges comes opportunities, and I think we're going to be able to deliver the same impactful content that we want to, just in a different way," McCormick says.

One challenge for the cohort will be conducting the customer engagement part of the experience virtually. Founders, Smith says, will have to focus on online customer discovery. Similarly, the startup pitch training will have to pivot to focus on pitching to a webcam.

"We've worked hard to design an experience around the reality that they are currently navigating, because it's a different reality right now," Smith says.

"Our primary goal is to create a culture of advocacy among our two cohorts, but also to help them develop some personal resiliency," Smith continues. "Challenging times reveal character in people and helping them develop some personal resiliency skills is going to come along with some of the things we are working with this summer."

The two programs were planned to have a new home in The Cannon Tower downtown this summer, which would have allows for face-to-face networking and collaboration. McCormick says they've planned virtual trivia, socials, and lunches to try to recreate the camaraderie of working together in a remote capacity.

"There's potential that we'll have some events in person, but that's really based on the guidance of our universities," McCormick says. "We'd love to have some opportunities in person, but it's really a matter if what's safe, and we're not going to require it."

Also new this year for Class 8 is a pilot program that incorporates startups from another university. Eight of the 17 teams in the cohort are from UH, while the other nine are representing Rice. However, through a partnership with the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University, three of Rice's teams hail from A&M.

"It's an experiment to expand the program by inviting other university teams," Smith says, adding that the partnership also allows the accelerator to tap into A&M's network of advisers. "Depending on the data at the end of the summer and the experience and value add, we'll evaluate whether or not that's something we want to continue doing."

The new virtual nature of the program allows for remote access for those founders based in College Station, as well as the founders who, due to campus shutdowns, were sent home mid semester in light of COVID-19.

The recruiting process was also done virtually, and McCormick says she did see a decrease in applications compared to last year — but the quality of the applicants was strong.

"There were definitely some difficult decisions," McCormick says. "The teams that did apply were a high caliber. They were really dedicated to going through the program — whatever it might looked like."

The program takes place over 12 weeks and concludes with a pitch event called the Bayou City Showcase. At this point, the event, which is usually live-streamed and held in front of an audience, is planned to still take place, however, McCormick and Smith say they aren't sure if there will be a physical event or if it will be online only.

Below is a list of descriptions for the 17 teams and the solutions they are providing.

  • an affordable, portable, imaging system capable of diagnosing diabetic retinopathy for low-resourced and underserved communities
  • an agricultural platform for use in urban settings that enables horticulturists to measure and record plant growth, detect disease, and recommend corrective actions
  • a suite of imaging and software tools that detect bleeding vessels in real-time surgery enabling surgeons to precisely locate and prevent life-threatening hemorrhages
  • an imaging device that enables healthcare professionals performing endovascular procedures to accurately visualize vascular access in a patient
  • a screening device that predicts biological hazards in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics without the use of animal models
  • an exercise platform for use in analyzing, critiquing, and correcting the form of individuals and athletes performing stationary exercises
  • an interactive content platform that uses data analytics to enable creators and viewers to more selectively choose content
  • a non-invasive skincare system that profiles the molecular concentration of the skin and creates customized formulations of products
  • a centralized pharmaceutical resource that enables women to make personalized and more informed decisions in contraceptive care
  • an advanced, improved diagnostic tool for optometrists
  • a user friendly toothbrush that monitors oral health
  • a portable cooling device that provides relief for symptoms of menopause
  • a physical therapy device that aids individuals with arm injuries in recovering their mobility quickly
  • a software that uses existing wifi to detect and alert help when an individual falls in their home
  • an improved air filter that decreases the amount of time users have to change the filter
  • a program that helps individuals invest in dividend producing stocks
  • a device that attaches to wheelchairs and raises the user so they can reach higher surfaces
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a podcast with the founder of a new venture firm, a former astronaut and recent award recipient, and a health care innovator with fresh funding.

Zach Ellis, founder and managing partner of South Loop Ventures

Zach Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that South Loop Ventures plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston has a lot of the right ingredients for commercialization and scaling up companies, so when Zach Ellis moved to town to stand up a venture capital firm that made investments in diverse founders, he decided to go about it in an innovative way.

South Loop Ventures, which Ellis launched two years ago, invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups across health care, climatetech, aerospace, sports, and fintech. While the first handful of investments, which have already been made, are into Houston-based companies, Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that the firm plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale.

"Any investor wants to feel like they are looking at the best possible investment opportunities in which to deploy capital," Ellis says on the show. "So that's reason No. 1 to cast your net as widely as possible.

"At the same time, you want to give any investment that you make greatest chances of success," he continues. "The biggest factor of success outside of the team and the capital you give them, is the customers that they can call upon. In bringing targeted companies to Houston or connecting them with Houston, you introduce the opportunity for them to achieve rapid scale and work with world-class partners very efficiently." Read more.


Toby R. Hamilton, founder and CEO of Hamilton Health Box

Dr. Toby Hamilton has secured $10 million to grow his company. Photo via tmc.edu

A Houston company that is working on a value-based model for primary care has fresh funding to support its mission.

Hamilton Health Box announced the completion of a $10 million series A funding round led by 1588 Ventures with participation from Memorial Hermann Health System, Impact Ventures by Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the Sullivan Brothers.

The company, founded in 2019 by Dr. Toby R. Hamilton, will use the funding to fuel its expansion into rural areas to help assist those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs. Read more.

Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and center director at the NASA's Johnson Space Center

Ellen Ochoa was recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and for being the first Hispanic woman in space. Photo via NASA

Two astronauts recently received Presidential Medals of Freedom from President Joe Biden for their leadership in space.

Ellen Ochoa, the former center director and astronaut at the NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Jane Rigby, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, were honored at the White House on May 3.

Ochoa spent 30 years with NASA, which included being the 11th director of JSC, deputy center director of JSC, and director of Flight Crew Operations. She served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993, and became the first Hispanic woman in space. She flew four more times to space with STS-66, STS-96, STS-110, and more.

“I’m so grateful for all my amazing NASA colleagues who shared my career journey with me,” Ochoa says in a NASA news release. Read more.

Houston health care institutions receive $22M to attract top recruits

coming to Hou

Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine has received a total of $12 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas to attract two prominent researchers.

The two grants, which are $6 million each, are earmarked for recruitment of Thomas Milner and Radek Skoda. The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced the grants May 14.

Milner, an expert in photomedicine for surgery and diagnostics, is a professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine and the university’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

In 2013, Milner was named Inventor of the Year by the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, he was a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. One of his major achievements is co-development of the MasSpec Pen, a handheld device that identifies cancerous tissue within 10 seconds during surgical procedures.

Skoda is a professor of molecular medicine in the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel, both in Switzerland. He specializes in developing treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are a group of blood diseases including leukemia.

Other recruitment grants provided by the institute to Houston-area organizations are:

  • $4 million for recruitment of Susan Bullman to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was an assistant professor at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, where she studied the connection between microbes and cancer.
  • $4 million for recruitment of Oren Rom to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Rom is an assistant professor of pathology and translational pathobiology at Louisiana State University Shreveport.
  • Nearly $2 million for recruitment of Lauren Hagler to conduct RNA cancer biology at Texas A&M University. She is a postdoctoral scholar in biochemistry at Stanford University.

The institute also awarded grants to five companies in the Houston area:

  • $4.7 million to 7 Hills Pharma for development of immunotherapies to treat cancer and prevent infectious diseases.
  • $4.5 million to Indapta Therapeutics for the Phase 1 trial of a cell therapy for treatment of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • $2.75 million to Bectas Therapeutics for development of antibodies and biomarkers to overcome a type of resistance T-cell checkpoint therapy.
  • $2.69 million to MS Pen Technologies for development of technology that differentiates between normal tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery.
  • $2.58 million to Crossbridge Bio for development of an antibody-drug combination to treat certain solid tumors.