This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Grant Watkins and Keely McEnery of Earn Your Freedom, Richard Seline of the Resilience Manufacturing Hub, and Tim Latimer of Fervo Energy. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to four local innovators across industries — from financial edtech to geothermal energy — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Grant Watkins and Keely McEnery, co-founders of Earn Your Freedom

Grant Watkins and Keely McEnery, co-founders of Earn Your Freedom, join the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photos courtesy of EYF

Houston-based Earn Your Freedom combines edtech, fintech, and gaming, as the co-founders, Grant Watkins and Keely McEnery explain on last week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast.

Both Watkins and McEnery have overcome personal finance obstacles, as they share on the show, and they aren't alone. Sixty-seven percent of Americans are considered financially illiterate, McEnery says, and 60 percent lives paycheck to paycheck.

"It's becoming more and more apparent how financially illiterate our country is," she continues. "It's a different mindset. People could be making $100,000 a year but if they don't know how to manage their money, they're still going to be in a cycle of not being financially free."

EYF's solution is a comprehensive, entertaining way for high school students to learn. And the timing is great, since Texas recently passed a bill about providing financial literacy education in high schools. Read more.

Richard Seline, co-founder and managing director of the Resilience Innovation Hub

A 130,000-square-foot Resilience Manufacturing Hub is coming to the Second Ward. Photo courtesy

Houston will soon have a 130,000-square-foot Resilience Manufacturing Hub that will house functions such as R&D, manufacturing, and assembly for products aimed at improving the resilience of homes, office buildings, warehouses, and other components of the “built environment.”

“We are looking for any product or technology solution that can reduce the impact from the next generation of disasters … by helping people thrive, not just survive, in their own community,” says Richard Seline, co-founder and managing director of the Houston-based Resilience Innovation Hub. The innovation hub is a partner in the manufacturing hub.

Seline says the manufacturing hub, with an estimated price tag of $32 million, will directly employ about 60 people. He expects the facility to either generate or “upskill” about 240 off-site jobs. Read more.

Tim Latimer, CEO and co-founder of Fervo Energy

Houston-based Fervo Energy shared the results of its commercial pilot project with Google. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston-based Fervo Energy announced this week that its commercial pilot project has resulted in continuous carbon-free geothermal energy production. The full-scale commercial pilot, Project Red, is in northern Nevada and made possible through a 2021 partnership with Google.

“By applying drilling technology from the oil and gas industry, we have proven that we can produce 24/7 carbon-free energy resources in new geographies across the world," Tim Latimer, Fervo Energy CEO and co-founder, says in a news release. "The incredible results we share today are the product of many years of dedicated work and commitment from Fervo employees and industry partners, especially Google." Read more.

The 130,000-square-foot Resilience Manufacturing Hub is coming to the Second Ward. Photo houston.org

$32M resilience-focused hub to rise in Houston's East End

coming soon

A first-of-its-kind manufacturing hub designed to “future proof” residential, commercial, industrial, and public sector infrastructure is coming to Houston.

The 130,000-square-foot Resilience Manufacturing Hub will house functions such as R&D, manufacturing, and assembly for products aimed at improving the resilience of homes, office buildings, warehouses, and other components of the “built environment.”

“We are looking for any product or technology solution that can reduce the impact from the next generation of disasters … by helping people thrive, not just survive, in their own community,” says Richard Seline, co-founder and managing director of the Houston-based Resilience Innovation Hub. The innovation hub is a partner in the manufacturing hub.

Seline says the manufacturing hub, with an estimated price tag of $32 million, will directly employ about 60 people. He expects the facility to either generate or “upskill” about 240 off-site jobs.

The manufacturing hub will be built adjacent to the 300,000-square-foot East End Maker Hub, which is opened in Houston’s Second Ward neighborhood two years ago. Seline says five companies already have expressed interest in being tenants at the manufacturing hub, which is set to open by next summer.

The East End Maker Hub, a public-private endeavor, opened in the summer of 2021. Photo by Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

“We know that the supply chains keep failing over and over again in regard to responding to and rebuilding after disasters. This is a way to address that,” Seline says of the manufacturing hub.

Aside from the innovation hub and East End Maker Hub, partners in the manufacturing venture are the nonprofit Urban Partnerships Community Development Corp. (UPC) and modular construction company VEMAS. UPC is based in Houston, and VEMAS has a Houston office.

“The Resilience Manufacturing Hub is one of four pillars in UPC’s vision for an Invest Houston strategy to grow our economy from within by directly impacting middle-income employment — vital for the 1 million jobs projected as a gap in greater Houston’s long-term competitiveness,” says Patrick Ezzell, president and chairman of UPC and founder of the East End Maker Hub.

The manufacturing hub will work hand in hand with the innovation hub. The innovation hub assesses and addresses risks triggered by climate-produced, manmade, pandemic-related and cybersecurity threats. Hub participants work on innovations aimed at alleviating these risks.

In 2012, the National Academy of Sciences defined resilience as “the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse events.” Those events include hurricanes and floods.

The resilience movement got a substantial boost last year thanks to passage of the federal Community Disaster Resilience Zones Act. The law allows for designation of resilience zones in communities that are at high risk of natural disasters and have limited resources. These zones will qualify for federal funding earmarked for resilience efforts.

Harris County scores nearly 98 out of 100 on the National Risk Index, generated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), putting it into the “very high” risk category for natural hazards.

Yet Harris County ekes out a score of 12.73 out of 100 for community resilience, landing it in the “very low” category. This means the county has a poor ability to prepare for natural hazards, adapt to changing conditions, and withstand and recover from disruptions.

Richard Seline is the co-founder and managing director of the Houston-based Resilience Innovation Hub. Photo courtesy

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Richard Seline of the Resilience Innovation Hub, Joy Jones of Code Wiz, and Joseph Powell of the University of Houston. Photos courtesy

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from energy transition to resiliency — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Richard Seline, co-founder of the Resilience Innovation Hub

Richard Seline joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to explain what all Houston has accomplished within resilience innovation — as well as what's next for the city. Photo courtesy of Richard Seline

For Richard Seline, a major advocate for resilience innovation across Houston and beyond, 2022 was a year of recognizing new technologies and processes — as well as threats — to resiliency.

However, 2023 is the year to implement, he says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast.

"What really happened in 2022 is the recognition that there are enough technologies, equipment, and data science tools that if you were to deploy all of that more efficiently and effectively, you're going to get a one-to-six better cost benefit. It's kind of a no-brainer," says Seline, co-founder of the Resilience Innovation Hub, a national organization headquartered in Houston. Read more.

Joy Jones, owner of Code Wiz Oak Forest

Joy Jones is opening her Oak Forest location of Code Wiz later this month. Screenshot via Code Wiz

A Houstonian has switched up her career to focus on inspiring and equipping children STEM-focused skills.

Joy Jones, who has worked for a decade in the corporate world, is starting the new year with a new career — this one focused on her passion of providing more STEM programming access to students. In 2021, she came across Code Wiz, a coding school franchise based in Massachusetts with 19 locations across the country, and met with Ruth Agbaji, CEO and "nerd-in-chief" of the company.

“Talking with Ruth and hearing the story of her mission to touch 1 million kids through Code Wiz, I found exactly what I’ve been looking for, a mission that aligned with mine,” says Jones, in a news release. Read more.

Joseph Powell, director of the University of Houston Energy Transition Institute

Former Shell Chief Scientist Joseph Powell has joined UH to lead its new Energy Transition Institute. Photo via uh.edu

The University of Houston has announced the first leader of its Shell-backed Energy Transition Institute.

Joseph Powell has been named the founding director of the institute, which was founded following a $10 million donation from Shell in spring of last year. Powell is the former chief scientist for Shell and member of the National Academy of Engineering, according to a news release from UH.

“What excites me about my new role is the opportunity to work with students, faculty and industry to make a difference on problems that truly matter," Powell says in the release. "Who could pass that up? Imagine the difficulties that arise when you don’t have access to energy. Read more.

Richard Seline joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to explain what all Houston has accomplished within resilience innovation — as well as what's next for the city. Photo courtesy of Richard Seline

Why this Houston innovator believes 2023 will be a year for resiliency innovation implementation

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 168

For Richard Seline, a major advocate for resilience innovation across Houston and beyond, 2022 was a year of recognizing new technologies and processes — as well as threats — to resiliency.

However, 2023 is the year to implement, he says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast.

"What really happened in 2022 is the recognition that there are enough technologies, equipment, and data science tools that if you were to deploy all of that more efficiently and effectively, you're going to get a one-to-six better cost benefit. It's kind of a no-brainer," says Seline, co-founder of the Resilience Innovation Hub, a national organization headquartered in Houston.

One big win of 2022 was Houston Community College announcing its Resilience Center of Excellence program, including a 65,000-square-foot, $30 million Resiliency Operations Center, which will be built on a five-acre site HCC’s Northeast campus. The complex is scheduled to open in 2024. The programming, which is supported by JP Morgan Chase, will be dedicated to preparing a resilient workforce.

A prepared workforce is one part of the equation. The other is elevating and supporting new companies and technologies that can have an impact within resiliency, which touches a myriad of industries — sustainability, construction, smart city, communication, and more.

Seline and his collaborators have plans to roll out a program to connect these resiliency innovators with the right funding, network connections, and more. Seline says he doesn't want to create a whole new accelerator program. Rather, he wants to create an organization that connects alumni from existing accelerator and incubators — like MassChallenge, Greentown Labs, gener8tor, and others — to act as an additional network and resource for resiliency.

"The Resilience Venture Lab would be the finishing school, so to speak," he explains, adding that the program can help startup founders find funding, mentors, early customers, and more in an industry vertical the founder might not have considered expanding into before.

After years of resilience innovation rising in need and awareness, Seline says the stars have aligned for execution this year.

"We think that 2023 is the year of implementation," Seline says on the show. "It's all aligning within the resources, the insurance, the incentives, new codes and regulations."

Seline shares more about what all he expects to see in 2023 in terms of resilience innovation in the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


Together, the city and HCC will train Houstonians in resiliency preparedness. Image via Getty Images

City of Houston announces partnership college on 5th anniversary of Hurricane Harvey

preparing the city of Houston

Last week, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner looked back on the past five years since Hurricane Harvey and made a lofty goal to provide the community with resiliency training.

The city of Houston and Houston Community College signed a memorandum of understanding that will address the city's goal to train 500,000 citizens, employees, small businesses, volunteers, and first responders in new resiliency training programs starting this fall.

The agreement was signed last week at the "Embracing Resiliency Symposium" hosted by the Resilience Innovation Hub, Amegy Bank, and HCC in front of 175 business, civic, community, education, and government leaders attending.

“I am pleased to announce the City of Houston’s partnership with Houston Community College’s new Resilience Center of Excellence and the Operations Training Facility and all the many ways we will collectively pave the path for a stronger and more prepared citizens, workforce, and community and a more resilient future,” Mayor Turner says at the event.

“Five years back, as we faced the wrath and impacts of Hurricane Harvey, it was a moment of reckoning for us as a city. It spurred us to think more cohesively about response and recovery; and most importantly, it urged us to think about building forward from recovery, from response towards resilience," he continues.

Starting this fall, the Houston community will have access to the following seven resiliency courses:

  • Resiliency 101 + Community Emergency Response Training (CERT)
  • Disaster Case Management
  • Facilities and Infrastructure
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Drones, Data Science, and Internet of Things
  • Public Safety and Rescue
  • Medical Triage

An additional 30 courses and programs will follow in 2023.

“As Mayor Turner recently stated, the lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey and subsequent disasters have identified one common take-away: When we work together as a team, Greater Houston is always resilient,” HCC Chancellor Cesar Maldonado says at the event. “In light of this observation, we must remain vigilant so these disasters will not continue to harm our families, our neighborhoods, our companies, our facilities and the community-at-large."

Earlier this summer, HCC announced that it is developing the Resilience Center of Excellence to aid the city’s resilience campaign. At the heart of this project is the 65,000-square-foot, $30 million Resiliency Operations Center, which will be built on a five-acre site HCC’s Northeast campus. The complex is scheduled to open in 2024.

"The HCC Resiliency Center of Excellence and Operations Training Facility will contribute to addressing preparedness and long-term mitigation from future floods, storms, snow and ice, pandemics and other challenges that have cost the region in the loss of lives, community, operations, and economic competitiveness," Maldonado continues.

HCC is working on a new center focused on resiliency on its Northeast Campus. Image via HCC

Houston college system plans to open $30M resiliency-focused center

to the rescue

Houston’s initiative to protect the city from catastrophes is getting a big boost from Houston Community College.

The college is developing the Resilience Center of Excellence to aid the city’s resilience campaign. At the heart of this project is the 65,000-square-foot, $30 million Resiliency Operations Center, which will be built on a five-acre site HCC’s Northeast campus. The complex is scheduled to open in 2024.

HCC estimates the operations center will train about 3,000 to 4,000 local first responders, including police officers and firefighters, during the first three years of operation. They’ll be instructed to prepare for, manage, and respond to weather, health and manmade hazards such as hurricanes, floods, fires, chemical spills, and winter freezes.

According to The Texas Tribune, the operations center will include flood-simulation features like a 39-foot-wide swift water rescue channel, a 15-foot-deep dive area, and a 100-foot-long “rocky gorge” of boulders.

The college says the first-in-the-nation Resilience Center of Excellence will enable residents, employers, civic organizations, neighborhoods, and small businesses to obtain education and certification aimed at improving resilience efforts.

“Our objective is to protect the well-being of our citizens and our communities and increase economic stability,” Cesar Maldonado, chancellor of HCC, said when the project was announced.

Among the programs under the Resiliency Center of Excellence umbrella will be non-credit courses focusing on public safety and rescue, disaster management, medical triage, and debris removal.

Meanwhile, the basic Resilience 101 program will be available to businesses and community organizations, and the emergency response program is geared toward individuals, families, and neighborhoods.

HCC’s initiative meshes with the City of Houston’s Resilient Houston, a strategy launched in 2020 that’s designed to protect Houston against disasters. As part of this strategy, the city has hired a chief resilience and sustainability officer, Priya Zachariah.

“Every action we take and investment we make should continue to improve our collective ability to withstand the unexpected shocks and disruptions when they arrive — from hurricanes to global pandemics, to extreme heat or extreme cold,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said last year. “The time is now to stop doing things the way we’ve always done them because the threats are too unpredictable.”

In an InnovationMap guest column published in February 2021, Richard Seline, co-founder of the Houston-based Resilience Innovation Hub, wrote that the focus of resilience initiatives should be pre-disaster risk mitigation.

“There is still work to be done from a legislative and governmental perspective, but more and more innovators — especially in Houston — are proving to be essential in creating a better future for the next historic disaster we will face,” Seline wrote.

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Houston e-commerce unicorn secures $130M in financing

scaling up

Houston-based Cart.com, which operates a multichannel commerce platform, has secured $105 million in debt refinancing from investment manager BlackRock.

The debt refinancing follows a recent $25 million series C extension round, bringing Cart.com’s series C total to $85 million. The scaleup’s valuation now stands at $1.2 billion, making it one of the few $1 billion-plus “unicorns” in the Houston area.

“Scaleup” refers to a startup that has achieved tremendous growth and has maintained a stable workforce, among other positive milestones. Airbnb, Peloton, and Uber are prime examples of businesses that evolved from startup to scaleup.

Cart.com says the new term loan facility from BlackRock consolidates its venture debt into one package “at competitive terms.” Those terms weren’t disclosed.

The company says the refinancing will enable it to expand into new markets and improve its technology, including its Constellation OMS order management system.

“Cart.com is one of the fastest-growing providers of commerce and logistics solutions today, and I’m excited to partner with BlackRock as we continue to aggressively invest to help our customers operate more efficiently,” Omair Tariq, the company’s founder and CEO, says in a news release.

Through a network of 14 fulfillment centers, Cart.com supports over 6,000 customers and 75 million orders per year.

"BlackRock is pleased to support Cart.com as it advances its mission to unify digital and physical commerce infrastructure," says Keon Reed, a director at BlackRock. “This latest facility underscores our confidence in the company’s differentiated product offerings and financial strategy as it enters its next stage of growth.”

Elon Musk says he's moving SpaceX, X headquarters from California to Texas

cha-cha-changes

Billionaire Elon Musk says he's moving the headquarters of SpaceX and social media company X to Texas from California.

Musk posted on X Tuesday that he plans on moving SpaceX from Hawthorne, California, to the company's rocket launch site dubbed Starbase in Texas. X will move to Austin from San Francisco.

He called a new law signed Monday by California Gov. Gavin Newsom that bars school districts from requiring staff to notify parents of their child’s gender identification change the “final straw.”

“I did make it clear to Governor Newsom about a year ago that laws of this nature would force families and companies to leave California to protect their children,” Musk wrote.

Tesla, where Musk is CEO, moved its corporate headquarters to Austin from Palo Alto, California in 2021.

Musk has also said that he has moved his residence from California to Texas, where there is no state personal income tax.

SpaceX builds and launches its massive Starship rockets from the southern tip of Texas at Boca Chica Beach, near the Mexican border at a site called Starbase. The company’s smaller Falcon 9 rockets take off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Southern California.

It’s just below South Padre Island, and about 20 miles from Brownsville.

Play it back: This Houston innovator is on a mission to develop tech for the moon

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 244

Editor's note: This week on the Houston Innovators Podcast, we’re revisiting a conversation with Tim Crain, the co-founder and CTO at Intuitive Machines, that originally ran in October of 2023.

If you haven't noticed, the moon is having a bit of a moment — and Tim Crain of Intuitive Machines is here for it.

For the past five or so years, NASA and the federal government have introduced and strengthened initiatives to support innovation of technology to be used to get to and explore the moon.

NASA, which is currently focused on its Artemis program that's sending four missions to the moon, also launched the Commercial Lunar Payload Services that's working with several American companies, including Intuitive Machines, to deliver science and technology to the lunar surface.

"Around 2018 or 2019, the moon came back into favor as a destination for American space policy, and it came back in such a way that there's a directive at the national level — at a level above NASA — to explore and develop the moon as a national priority," Crain says in the episode.



On the show, Crain explains the history of Intuitive Machines, which has taken an indirect path to where it is today. The company was founded in 2013 by Crain and co-founders CEO Steve Altemus and Chairman Kamal Ghaffarian as a space-focused think tank. Crain says they learned how to run a business and meet customers' needs and expectations, but they never fell in love with any of the early technologies and ideas they developed — from long-range drones to precision drilling technologies.

But the company answered NASA's call for moon technology development, and Intuitive Machines won three of the NASA contracts so far, representing three missions for NASA.

"We dipped our toe in the 'let's develop the moon' river and promptly got pulled all the way in," Crain says. "We left our think tank, broad, multi-sector efforts behind, and really pivoted at that point to focus entirely on NASA's CLPS needs. ... The timing really could not have been any better."

Since recording the podcast, Intuitive Machines celebrated a historic mission that landed the first lunar lander on the surface of the moon in over 50 years — and the first commercially operated mission ever. The company is also working on a $30 million project for NASA to develop lunar lander technology.

This week, Intuitive Machines announced a successful test result for engine technology to be used in the lunar lander project.