Kerri Smith of the Rice Alliance joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss Rice's Clean Energy Accelerator. Photo courtesy of Rice

Kerri Smith knows accelerators. Through her over 18 years at Rice Alliance, she's been responsible for overseeing several and was on the founding leadership team of Houston's first energy tech startup accelerator, SURGE. After years of focusing you accelerating Rice University's student-focused program, Owl Spark, she's transitioned back into the energy tech space.

"I've worked with many types of founders. There's not one unique characteristic that everyone has," Smith says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Our goal is to help move them along and help them move the needle. At the end of the day, we want them to have a good experience and to meet their goals and objectives."

The Rice Alliance's Clean Energy Accelerator launched last summer with its inaugural cohort of 12 cleantech startups, which represented energy sectors from solar and wind innovations to hydrogen, geothermal, and more. Smith says the startups represented a wide range of stages and were from all over — only two companies were from Houston originally. The out-of-town companies were able to make critical partnerships in town and set up a presence and a home here.

"We were able to build a family-like culture among our group, and that was something that was wildly appreciative," Smith, who serves as executive director of the program, says.

Applications for Class 2 of CEA are open until May 31. While the program will offer the same access to mentorship and opportunities, the program will change slightly. CEA will focus on seed and series A-stage companies and will be a hybrid program. Throughout the 10 weeks, which begins in the fall instead of the summer this year, founders will visit Houston three times at the beginning, middle, and the end of the accelerator. Each startup will receive a grant to cover the expenses of the equity-free program.

CEA is just one part of a greater ecosystem of innovation under the umbrella of Rice University, which includes the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, The Ion Houston, Owl Spark, and more. All these entities also play into the greater Houston area's innovation ecosystem.

"Rice Alliance has a strong history of demonstrating collaboration with a number of organizations," Smith says. "I think one of the primary benefits that we have in these collaborative opportunities is to ensure that we are collectively building a capable and diverse pipeline of talent to solve for these problems and provide them with access to experiencing all of the benefits of our ecosystem."

With CEA specifically, some of these collaborations include working with Greentown Houston, which is just next door to the program's home at The Ion, and the Greater Houston Partnership's Houston Energy Transition Initiative.

"We're a cog in the wheel. We do really well with that. We play well with others – in ways that the founder has a good experience and can benefit," Smith says.

Smith shares more about what she's looking for in the second cohort of CEA on the podcast episode, as well as what she sees as Houston's role in the energy transition. Listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

Craig Taylor has been named 2022 Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year by the Rice Business Veterans Association and has made it to the finals for EY's Entrepreneur Of The Year 2022. Photo courtesy of Iapetus

Houston energy entrepreneur recognized for 2 leadership awards

vet rep

Houston’s Craig Taylor is basking in the entrepreneurial spotlight.

On May 10, Taylor, founder and CEO of Houston-based Iapetus Holdings, and Tejpal Singh, co-founder and chief operating officer, were named Entrepreneur Of The Year 2022 finalists in the program’s Central South region. That region includes the Houston area. Professional services giant Ernest & Young sponsors the program.

Meanwhile, Taylor last month was named 2022 Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year by the Rice Business Veterans Association at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business.

Iapetus Holdings is a minority- and veteran-owned portfolio of eight self-funded, multimillion-dollar companies in the energy sector.

“When you set off to become a self-funded entrepreneur, you start with a vision and a ton of grit, but you never really have assurance of the fact that you’re going to be successful,” Taylor says in a news release. “The road to business success takes many turns and that’s why, to find ourselves among those honored with this distinction, to be among the EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalists, is so meaningful.”

Singh says he and Taylor “have much greater ambitions” for Iapetus as well as Atlas Scholars, the nonprofit they launched to provide internships and scholarships to high school students.

“It has taken a ton of dedication and effort to realize our ambition of building this group of energy solutions businesses, creating this number of jobs, serving this quantity and quality of clients,” Singh says.

Regional Entrepreneur Of The Year winners will be announced June 23.

The Entrepreneur Of The Year nod follows Taylor’s acceptance April 23 of Rice’s Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year honor.

Navy veteran Charles “Reid” Schrodel, an officer with Rice Business Veterans Association, says Taylor was chosen for the honor because of his success in business and philanthropy.

“For the Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year award, “we were looking for veteran entrepreneurs that are successful in their field, and we wanted to find a vet entrepreneur whose organization also gave back to their communities,” Schrodel says.

Taylor received the award during the Rice Veterans Business Battle competition. He and Alex Danielides, head of business development at Iapetus Holdings, were judges for the competition. In the competition, 16 early stage companies vied for funding. The 2022 winners were Libre, Opera Bioscience, and Bonappesweet.

In a news release, Taylor notes that veterans who own businesses face an array of challenges.

“Being an entrepreneur is not easy, but the Navy instilled in me a strong sense of responsibility and grit, which are critical characteristics of a successful entrepreneur,” he says.

Businesses under the Iapetus umbrella are:

  • Atlas Commodities, a commodity brokerage firm.
  • Atlas Field Services, which provides safety inspections and audits for energy providers.
  • Atlas Retail Energy, a provider of energy management services for commercial and industrial customers.
  • Gold Coast Utility Specialists, which provides risk management services for energy suppliers.
  • Hyperion Safety Environmental Solutions, whose services include safety programming and environmental planning.
  • Iapetus Infrastructure Services, which encompasses five of the holding company’s eight subsidiaries.
  • Soaring Eagle Technologies, a provider of mapping services.
  • UATI (Unmanned Aviation Training Institute), which trains drone operators.

Collectively, annual revenue for the eight subsidiaries is around $100 million.

“Our customers rely on Iapetus employees who are innovating and are making a difference on the most critical issues of our times. We’re affecting everything from energy security to sustainability to infrastructure reliability, and we do so as a cohesive group of diverse perspectives working toward common goals,” Taylor said in a 2021 news release.

“Our companies are working closely with utilities on strategies to help prevent risks, plan vegetation management, keep the lights on and employees safe,” he added. “We’re also helping commercial and industrial clients procure energy efficiently and sustainably, while providing international energy trade brokerage services in this intense-demand landscape.”

From research and venture capital funding to startup growth and accelerator applications opened, here's what you need to know in Houston innovation news. Photo via Getty Images

Houston beauty startup raises $1M, medtech accelerator opens apps, and more local innovation news

short stories

The month of May has started strong with Houston innovation news, and there might be some headlines you might have missed.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston startups and tech, local universities share big moves in cybersecurity and plant research, a Houston entrepreneur raises extra seed funding, and more.

Houston medical technology accelerator opens applications

This medtech startup accelerator has applications open. Graphic via proximacro.com

M1 MedTech, Proxima Clinical Research's medical technology accelerator is accepting applications for its fall cohort. The program is seeking five to seven early-stage medical device companies for the three-month program. The cohort companies will have investment opportunities up to $100,000 as a combination of both cash and in-kind services.

“Our program is unique in that it combines acceleration capital, company building expertise, and the regulatory and clinical services of a top CRO,” says Larry Lawson, a venture partner and investor with M1, in the news release. “Access to the M1 founders’ network, both within and outside of the Texas Medical Center, sets these companies up for success. There’s no better group to build a MedTech company with, period.”

M1 MedTech, which was announced last year, was created to support early-stage medical device companies with a unique coaching process that will include a curated educational program, interactive workshops where participants can continually build out specific company deliverables, and tailored one-on-one mentoring.

“Many MedTech companies are launched by innovative first-time founders with strong scientific and medical expertise, but who have never taken a regulated product to market or built a business. After working with so many companies at various stages of this journey to market, both with Proxima CRO and with accelerators from across the country, we realized there was a gap that needed to be filled for these rising founders. They not only need regulatory and clinical assistance from experts with hundreds of success stories in this field, we found they also need assistance with design, manufacturing, business, IP, and so much more,” says Isabella Schmitt, RAC, Director of Regulatory Affairs for Proxima CRO and Principle at M1. “These rising founders need to know what they don’t know; so, we put a lot of thought into what emerging companies and rising executives really need, and from that, we built the M1 curriculum.”

Applications will remain open until May 31. To apply for the Fall 2022 cohort or to learn more about M1 MedTech, visit m1medtech.com.

Houston entrepreneur adds $1M to seed round

Houston-based Upgrade has raised additional seed funding. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston-based Upgrade Boutique — which uses technology to connect women with high-quality wigs and hair extensions — extended its seed round by $1 million, Fast Company reported. The round's initial seed leaders included Houston-based venture capital firms Artemis Fund and Mercury Fund, as well as Logitech president and CEO Bracken P. Darrell and ANIM.

“This [investment] will enable us to scale even faster and continue to invest in tools and resources that will improve the consumer experience, and help stylists operate more efficiently,” Winters tells Fast Company. “Based on feedback from the stylists on our platform, we see this as a natural development in the company’s evolution.”

University of Houston joins cybersecurity initiative

UH joins group that's advancing cybersecurity. Image via Getty Images

The University of Houston has joined a consortium that's funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to launch a virtual institute that will recruit and train the next cybersecurity generation that will protect entities from cyber warfare, cyber espionage, and attacks on the electromagnetic spectrum.

The virtual institute is called VICEROY — Virtual Institutes for Cyber and Electromagnetic Spectrum Research and Employ — DECREE and will be led by Northeastern University and offered across five universities, including UH, Northern Arizona University, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of South Carolina.

“The VICEROY DECREE virtual institute consortium model is transformational. It brings together the best offerings from multiple institutions to meet the workforce training needs in these domains," says Hanadi Rifai, Moores Professor of civil and environmental engineering and UH team lead on the project, in the news release.

One major focus for the program is the electromagnetic spectrum, which includes radio waves, and is a critical enabler for communications, navigation, radar, training and other military operations. The DoD has been seeking to hire more than 8,000 cyber workers to help defend the virtual space.

"We recognize the importance and need for workforce training in cybersecurity, electromagnetism, cryptography and data science. These are areas of specific focus and expertise on our campus,” says Paula Myrick Short, UH senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, in the release.

The two-year program starts in fall 2022 and is funded by a $1.5 million award from the Griffiss Institute, a nonprofit talent and technology accelerator for DoD and its academic, government, and industry partners around the world.

Local composting company moves into new Houston space and expands to Austin

Moonshot has expanded locally and statewide. Photo courtesy of Moonshot

Houston-based Moonshot Composting has announced its relocation to a 8,225-square-foot space in Northside Village at 1410 Bigelow St. The former Yellow Cab outpost is over five times the size of the originally location.

Additionally, this month Moonshot will open its doors in the greater Austin area with a facility in Creedmoor, just south of Austin. Moonshot's first commercial customer was Austin-headquartered Tacodeli.

The company has grown its business to nearly 500 subscribers, including 40 commercials accounts, as well as seven full-time and four part-time employees. Moonshot is diverting 30,000 pounds of food waste a week, with a total of nearly 1,000,000 pounds diverted since July 2020, per a news release.

“We are excited about our growth and all the individuals and companies getting on board to get food waste out of landfills and onto composting sites,” says Chris Wood, Moonshot principal and co-founder, in the release. “Our new space will make for more efficient operations all around.”

Moonshot Composting's commercial subscribers include Rice University, Houston Baptist University, The Awty International School, ConocoPhillips, Snooze Eatery, Ostia, and Amli Residential.

Rice University biologist wins NIH award

This Rice University scientist has received national recognition for her work plant cell analysis. Photo courtesy of Rice

A Rice University postdoctoral fellow and molecular and cell biologist has received a prestigious National Institutes of Health award.

Durre Muhammad of Rice Academy won the MOSAIC (Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers) K99/R00 award, which is intended to help postdoctoral researchers transition into careers while enhancing diversity within the academic biomedical research workforce, according to a news release from Rice. She's only the fourth individual from Rice to receive this recognition.

The first two years of the award will support the biologist's work in Bonnie Bartel's lab. She is working on defining the mechanisms by which cells in plants identify and eliminate damaged or obsolete organelles known as peroxisomes, which also play important roles in human aging.

“Our lab in general works on all things peroxisome, and I mainly focus on the latter stage when it’s ready for degradation,” Muhammad says in the release. “We identify the signals and different mechanisms involved in the process of decay.”

Muhammad joined Rice in 2018. She earned her Ph.D. in plant and microbial biology at North Carolina State University and her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of Illinois Chicago. She also has her MBA from Benedictine University. She received an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biology in 2019.

“Durre is a fantastic scientist who has brought new perspectives and approaches to my lab,” says Bartel, the Ralph and Dorothy Looney Professor of BioSciences. “We are delighted that NIH has recognized her accomplishments and potential with this award.”

Here's your one-stop shop for innovation events in Houston this month. Photo via Getty Images

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

Where to be

It's May, and as Houston heats up ahead of summer, so does the innovation ecosystem with hot events, panels, networking opportunities, and more not to miss. Here's a rundown of what all to throw on your calendar for May.

This article will be updated as more business and tech events are announced.

FEATURED EVENT: May 18 — Navigating Technology Transfer in Houston

Research within Houston institutions is fueling early-stage innovation across the city. Universities and hospital systems are tasked with cultivating and supporting innovators, researchers, and entrepreneurs so that their innovations can advance from ideation to commercialization.

The event is Wednesday, May 18, 6 to 8 pm, at UH Technology Bridge (Building 4, Innovation Center Room 230 - 2nd Floor, 5000 Gulf Freeway). Click here to register.

May 2-5 — Offshore Technology Conference

The 2022 OTC conference will be the first fully in-person conference since 2019 — and will include a new cleantech addition. The Energy Transition Pavilion will showcase technological advances in alternative energy, including efforts to promote energy decarbonization and sustainability. OTC describes the pavilion as a “go-to meeting place for conversation and dialogue around the energy transition.”

The conference is Monday, May 2, to Thursday, May 5, at NRG Park (1 NRG Pkwy). Click here to register.

May 3 — 2022 Rice Alliance Energy Venture Day

During the week of the Offshore Technology Conference, the Rice Alliance Energy Venture Day will feature pitches from 40 energy ventures. At the conclusion of the program, companies will be announced “Most Promising Companies” voted on by the audience.

The event is Tuesday, May 3, 2 to 5:30 pm, at the Ion (4201 Main St.). Click here to register.

May 3 — Oceanit 2022 Energy Transformation Technology Showcase

From disruptive innovations to scalable turnkey technology solutions, Oceanit will demonstrate the latest in advanced nanocomposites, hydrogen technologies, subsea broadband, smart materials, novel approaches to AI, and more – technologies aimed at transforming the way we engage in climate challenges through the lens of EDGE, Oceanit’s endeavor to address an array of next-gen energy challenges like carbon sequestration, new energy sources like green hydrogen, energy efficiency, and predictive and prescriptive maintenance. Join the company on May 3rd for live technology demonstrations, discussions, food, and drinks.

The event is Tuesday, May 3, 5 to 9 pm, at Greentown Houston (4200 San Jacinto St.). Click here to register.

May 5 — Legal Launch Services Luncheon with Baker Botts & Bunker Labs at The Ion

Join Bunker Labs - Houston for a comprehensive panel discussion and networking luncheon sponsored by Legal Launch Services. In 2020, the international law firm Baker Botts formed an affinity group for military Veterans, called “BB Vets.” The group serves as a network and resource for all firm personnel who served in the military, provide opportunities for professional and personal growth through mentorships, client engagement and community outreach, and raise awareness of the issues unique to Veterans and military families.

The event is Thursday, May 5, 1 to 2:30 pm, at the Ion (4201 Main St.). Click here to register.

May 9 — Innovation Districts and the Future of Cities

Across the country, public, private, university, and community partners are investing in innovation districts that attract talent, business, and investors by connecting anchor institutions with start-ups, business incubators, and accelerators. Join the ion for an engaging conversation and Q&A with leaders representing some of the nation’s most acclaimed epicenters advancing inclusive economic and workforce development. This panel will focus on how these world-class facilities across Houston, Atlanta, New York City, and beyond can learn from each other and advance the future of resilient, equitable, and livable cities.

The event is Monday, May 9, 1 to 2:15 pm, at the Ion (4201 Main St.). Click here to register.

May 10 — Energy 2.0

Energy 2.0 is the UNconference where attendees celebrate diverse perspectives, technologies, people, and the community at large who are driving the energy transition forward. Ally Energy's platform is for the workforce, leaders, investors, policymakers, and communities to share ideas to transform business at this pivotal time. E2Dot0 is where unique perspectives, generations, backgrounds, art, science, and technology collide.

The event is Tuesday, May 10, 8 am to 6 pm, at Greentown Labs (4200 San Jacinto St.). Click here to register.

May 11 — Houston Startupalooza

As a part of the Ion Activation Festival, Houston Startupalooza will celebrate the Future of HOU and showcase Houston-area startups. Houston Startupalooza is a startup crawl-style event hosted with Ion Acceleration Hub, Capital Factory, DivInc and others. Get ready to meet and greet with the next big companies in Houston.

The event is Wednesday, May 11, 5 to 7 pm, at the Ion (4201 Main St.). Click here to register.

May 12 — Space Health: Surviving in the Final Frontier

Stop in for a first look at the new documentary, Space Health: Surviving in the Final Frontier, spearheaded by the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH). Stick around to hear from a panel of experts, including the executive director of TRISH and the producer of the documentary, discuss the past, present and future of space health research, science and innovation through NASA’s Human Research Program as well as demo health-in-space solutions currently used in space and on Earth.

The event is Thursday, May 12, 4:30 to 8 pm, at the Ion (4201 Main St.). Click here to register.

May 12 — May Transition On Tap: Member Resource Fair

This month's Transition on Tap is our Member Resource Fair edition, bringing together the individuals behind the more than $1M worth of member resources provided to the Greentown startup community. This includes discounts or free access to a host of software providers, pro bono support from legal firms, shared tools and equipment for prototyping, university partnerships, and business development, education, and fundraising tools. It is an exciting opportunity to connect with the companies and ecosystem members taking action in supporting our startups to scale in climatetech.

The event is Thursday, May 12, 3 to 7 pm, at Greentown Houston (4200 San Jacinto St.). Click here to register.

May 19 — Pearland Innovation Hub Launch Party

In partnership with the Pearland Economic Development Corporation and The Cannon, the Pearland Innovation Hub exists to support Pearland, Texas' small business community by providing entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses the resources they need to start, scale and succeed. Hear from leadership team members of the Pearland Economic Development Corporation and The Cannon as well as the Pearland Navigator about the goals for the Hub and how you can get involved.

The event is Thursday, May 19, 10:30 am to 1:30 pm, at BAKFISH Brewing Company (1231 Broadway Street). Click here to register.

May 19-20 — Women in Tech Texas

Calling all female tech professionals. Women in Tech Texas is welcoming 1,000 tech leaders, decision makers, innovators, and pioneers from the most successful tech companies and disruptive startups, to celebrate the power of resilience.

The event is Thursday, May 19, and Friday, May 20, at Hilton Americas (1600 Lamar St.) or online. Click here to register.

May 20 — Halliburton Labs Finalists Pitch Day

Join Halliburton Labs for a hybrid event where attendees can attend in person at The Ion Houston or virtually online for a full program of innovative ideas, discussion, and inspiration — all centered on the startup finalists who are advancing the future of clean energy. The event will include a lively keynote discussion with Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech, hosted by Walter Isaacson, Halliburton Labs Advisory Board Member and Leonard Lauder Professor of American History and Values at Tulane.

The event is Friday, May 20, 9 am to 12:30 pm, at the Ion (4201 Main St.) or online. Click here to register.

May 20 — State of Houston's Global Economy

The State of Houston’s Global Economy provides an analysis of global business and economic trends and their impact on our regional market. The Partnership’s Senior Vice President of Research, Patrick Jankowski, will present the 2022 Global Houston publication, offering insights on the Houston region's leading international trade partners and other global business data.The event explores how Houston's international ties impact the regional and national economy through presentations from leading economists and business experts.

The event is Friday, May 20, 10:30 am to 1:30 pm, at the Omni Hotel (4 Riverway). Click here to register.

May 26 — SPARK Award Luncheon

Houston-based alliantgroup is hosting a celebration of its SPARK Award Finalists, in partnership with HISD. The company will recognize our outstanding science teachers for 2022 with a luncheon and award ceremony, where they will name our grand prize winner.

The event is Thursday, May 26, 11:30 am to 1 pm, at the alliantgroup (3009 Post Oak Blvd, Suite 2000). Click here to register.

Six Rice University student-led startups pitched and were awarded $75,000 in equity-free funding. Photo courtesy of Rice

Rice University student startup challenge names winning teams

winner, winner

Rice University's six student startup teams competed for thousands of dollars in investment prizes, and one company came out on top — but a few other companies walked away with fresh funding too.

The 2022 H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge doled out $75,000 to student-founded companies at Rice last week. Helix Earth Technologies, which has developed a filter that helps limit water waste in power plants, and its founder, Rawand Rasheed, a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering at Rice University, won first place ans $35,000. The company been testing its technology on the power plants on campus.

The second-place team was EpiFresh, which created a protein-based coating doubles the shelf-life of fruit and vegetables, won $25,000. Guildata, which provides global health organizations with data that shows the greatest return on investment, won third place and $10,000.

The competition also included three additional awards:

  • Guildata won the $1,000 RISE@Rice: The Sen Social Pioneer Prize
  • SkySpace won the $1,500 Frank Liu Jr. Prize for Creative Innovations
  • Aqualight Materials won the $2,500 Chevron Tech Ventures Climate Innovations Prize
  • Berman Foods, an artisanal plant-based cheese and spread provider, won the $1,500 Norman E. Leebron Audience Choice Award

This year's competition saw participation from almost 200 students and a record 84 teams. The Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship whittled those entries down for judges, which included Thomas Ball, co-founder and managing director at Next Coast Ventures; Lisa Besserman, managing director at Expa; and Xiaodi Zhang, chief product officer at 1stDibs. On April 20, six finalists pitched in the championship round in five-minute pitches followed by seven minutes of questions.

Additionally, all competitors received personalized mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs, investors, and subject matter experts. The program started in 2017 with 15 student-run companies vying for a win. This year's NRLC was sponsored by Mercury Fund, T-Minus Solutions, and Chevron Technology Ventures.

The 22nd annual Rice Business Plan Competition named its winners across life science, clean energy, software, and more. Photo via Rice University/Twitter

Rice University competition doles out nearly $2M in cash prizes to student startups

winner, winner

Rice University brought back its international student startup competition to its in-person format in a big way, giving out nearly $2 million in investment plus thousands more in-kind prizes to over a dozen winning teams.

The 2022 Rice Business Plan Competition took place April 7-9 on campus, ending in a banquet and awards presentation at the Marriott Marquis on Saturday. Earlier this year, Rice announced the 42 student teams competing for the awards. The student competitors represent 31 universities — including three from European universities. The 42 teams were narrowed down from over 400 applicants and divided into five categories: energy, cleantech and sustainability; life sciences and health care solutions; consumer products and services; hard tech; and digital enterprise.

Over 250 judges, mentors, and investors were involved in the competition, naming seven finalists — each receiving thousands of dollars in investment funding.

Here were this year's finalists — and what they walked away with:

  • LIDROTEC from RWTH Aachen University, a cutting-edge machine that can better cut microchips for the semiconductor industry, is the big winner this year, taking home the $350,000 GOOSE Capital Investment Grand Prize. The team also won: the Softeq Venture Studio Prize ($50,000 cash, $75,000 in-kind), the TiE Houston Angels Investment Prize ($100,000), RBPC Alumnus, Thomas Healy, Investment Prize ($50,000), the Eagle Investors Prise ($5,000), Best Elevator Pitch - Hard Tech ($500), and RG Advisors CFO Consulting In-Kind Prize. The company also received a $6,700 in-kind prize from BakerBotts and an in-kind $25,000 from RG Advisory. The company's prize totaled over $682,200 in investment and in-kind awards.
  • The second place winner was Hoth Intelligence of University of Pittsburgh, an artificial intelligence platform for health care providers, securing a $100,000 investment prize. The company also won the Owl Investment Prize ($155,000), the HAN Investment Prize ($100,000), and the Pearland EDC Spirit of Entrepreneurship Prize ($25,000). The company also received a a $6,700 in-kind prize from BakerBotts. The company's prize totaled $386,700 in investment awards.
  • Invitris from the Technical University of Munich — a synthetic biology startup targeting antibiotic-resistant bacteria — won third place, which came with a $50,000 award. The team also won the nCourage Courageous Women Entrepreneur Investment Prize ($40,000), the Best Elevator Pitch - Life Science award ($500), and a $6,700 in-kind prize from BakerBotts. bringing its total earnings to $97,200.
  • Winning fourth place and a $5,000 prize was LymphaSense of Johns Hopkins, a medical device startup that's created a wearable lymphedema detection device for at-risk patients. The company also won the TMC Innovation Healthcare Investment Prize ($250,000 and entry into the TMC accelerator) and the Nixon Institute Prize ($3,000). The company's total winnings was $258,000.
  • INIA Biosciences from Boston University — a health tech startup that's created a bioelectric wearable device for kidney donor recipients — won fifth place and $5,000 in prize money.
  • The sixth place winner was Bold Move Beverages, a canned coffee cocktail company from the University of Texas at Austin, which won $5,000 for placing sixth and $10,000 from the RBPC Alumnus, Thomas Healy, Investment Prize. The company won a total of $15,000.
  • Lastly for the finalists, Anise Health of Harvard University, a digital health startups with an inclusive, data-driven platform for culturally-adapted mental health treatment, won seventh place and the $5,000 prize. The company also won first place in the wildcard round, which came with a $2,000 Edward H. Molter Memorial Prize. Anise walked away with $7,000 total.
Several companies won monetary prizes outside of the seven finalists. Here's what other student-founded companies in the competition won:
  • Mallard Bay Outdoors from Louisiana State University, an online marketplace for securely booking outdoor activities, won $216,500 in cash and in-kind prizes. The company won the Owl Investment Prize ($65,000), the Softeq Venture Studio Prize ($50,000 cash, $75,000 in-kind), the RBPC Alumnus, Thomas Healy, Investment Prize ($25,000), the Anbarci Family Company Showcase Prize ($1,000), and the Best Elevator Pitch - Consumer ($500).
  • TransCrypts from the University of Toronto and Harvard University, a secure blockchain platform for sharing employee documents, won two awards — the Owl Investment Prize ($50,000) and the Best Elevator Pitch - Digital ($500) — for a total of $50,500 in prizes.
  • Advanced Optronics of Carnegie Mellon University, a health tech company that develops smart sensors to improve patient outcomes, won two awards — the Pediatric Device Prize ($25,000) and the OFW Law FDA Regulatory Strategy In-Kind Prize — for a total of more than $25,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.
  • EpiSLS — a novel medical device startup that's automating in-vivo allergy testing — of the University of Michigan won the $25,000 Pediatric Device Prize.
  • Farm-to-closet women's apparel brand Pareto of Stanford University won the $10,000 nCourage Courageous Women Entrepreneur Investment Prize.
  • EpiFresh of Rice University, which developed a protective produce coating material that reduces food waste, won three awards for a total of $27,000. The company won the Energy, Cleantech & Sustainability Prize ($25,000), the Anbarci Family Company Showcase Prize ($1,000), and the Overall Best Elevator Pitch ($1,000).
  • Mantel of MIT, which is developing a high temperature liquid phase carbon capture material, won two awards for a total of $28,000 in prizes. The company won the New Climate Ventures Investment Prize ($25,000) and the DK Innovation Prize ($3,000).
  • Invictus BCI — a health tech startup building a noninvasive brain computer interface tools — from MIT won the the RBPC Alumni Network NABACO Prize for a total of $10,000 in winnings.
  • Health care fintech solution Woobie of Brigham Young University won the $25,000 Urban Capital Network Investment Prize.
  • KLAW Industries of Binghamton University, which has designed a way to recycle glass into concrete, won the Anbarci Family Company Showcase Prize ($1,000) and the Best Elevator Pitch - Energy ($500) prizes for a total of $1,500 in awards.
  • Acorn Genetics of Northwestern University, which is better optimizing genetic data for patients, won second place for the wildcard round, which came with the Edward H. Molter Memorial Prize ($1,750).
  • AI-powered stroke prevention platform PLAKK from McGill University won third place for the wildcard round, which came with the Edward H. Molter Memorial Prize ($1,500).
These startups join the ranks of 269 successful RBPC alumni companies — with 50 exits, five IPOs, and over $4.6 billion raised. RBPC was established in 2001.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Following $50M gift,Tilman Fertitta reveals goals for eponymous medical school at University of Houston

Q&A

As Houston’s most high-profile billionaire and owner of the posh 5-star Post Oak Hotel and Houston Rockets, Tilman J. Fertitta has become synonymous with over-the-top opulence and big-time entertainment.

But the CEO of the massive Feritta Entertainment empire’s latest move has nothing to do with penthouses or point guards, but rather a legacy, game-changing appropriation meant to aid his home state’s health.

The longtime UH board member and former chairman and his family have just pledged $50 million to the University of Houston College of Medicine. In turn, the new medical school has been christened the Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine.

The projected school, upon completion. Rendering courtesy of University of Houston

This landmark gift aims to address the state’s critical primary care physician shortage, (especially in low-income and underserved communities), as well as attract innovation-focused scholars, UH notes.

Additionally, the grant is meant to further clinical and translational research, with an emphasis on population health, behavioral health, community engagement, and the social determinants of health, according to a press release.

Here is how the Fertitta family gift will be distributed:

  • $10 million funds five endowed chairs for faculty hires who are considered national stars in their fields with a focus on health care innovation. This portion of the gift will be matched one-to-one as part of the University’s “$100 Million Challenge” for chairs and professorships, doubling the endowed principal to $20 million.
  • $10 million establishes an endowed scholarship fund to support endowed graduate research stipends/fellowships for medical students.
  • $10 million will cover start-up costs for the Fertitta Family College of Medicine to enhance research activities including facilities, equipment, program costs and graduate research stipends/fellowships.
  • $20 million will create the Fertitta Dean’s Endowed Fund to support research-enhancing activities.

No stranger to writing big checks, Fertitta donated $20 million to UH Athletics — the largest individual donation ever — in 2016 to transform UH’s basketball arena into the now high-tech Fertitta Center.

CultureMap caught up with the CEO (who just sold his Golden Nugget gaming for $1.6 billion), best-selling author, and Billion Dollar Buyer to discuss his landmark gift.

CultureMap: Congratulations on this legacy grant, which has been a long time coming. What does this gift mean to you, now that it’s finally official?

Tilman Fertitta: This was a vision of our chancellors and, you know, I’m on my third, six-year term and not been the chairman for eight years — and we started working on this, seven, eight years ago.

To be able to be in the beginning and the nucleus, and the idea, and what we wanted, and to get the approval from Austin—to watch it come to fruition, how often does somebody get to do a naming gift at the same time they had a lot to do with the creation of the school? So, it was very special in my heart.

CM: Many know you as the CEO of a hospitality empire, author, and even TV personality. But not many know of your commitment to healthcare.


TF: I think there’s one thing in this world that we definitely should always be treated equally on, and that's that’s equal health care for all. This medical school will serve the whole community.

We’re trying to recruit students who want to be primary physicians who will take care of the community that we live in. It’s just something that was very important to me in my whole family.

CM: Academia, scholarship, and research aside, this could essentially be looked at as seed capital for a fledgling operation. Is that a fair assessment?

TF: I know where you’re going with this and yes, it’s no different than business.

I have the vision to know that being in nearly the third largest city in America and a top 100 university in the United States — as University of Houston is according to U.S. News & World Report — that I know what this is going to be in 50 years. It’s no different than looking at another business that you start and you can have the vision to see how successful it'll be in the years to come.

Being on the ground floor of the University of Houston Medical School and being a part of it from its inception, and to help the seed money that will attract other money, I know that in the years to come what a special nationwide medical school this is going to be — because it’s in one of the great cities of America.

So, to be a part of it today and still be a part of it when I’m not here 50 years from now, maybe even sooner than that [laughs], you know, it’s going to be something very special to always be attached to.

CM: Other Houston medical schools here have distinctions in pivotal research or groundbreaking procedures. Is there a specific direction you’d like UH Med to take, going forward?

TF: Honestly, you know, what I’ve been saying? There’s a significant shortage of primary care physicians, not only in the country, but in the state of Texas. We ranked number 47th in the nation.

What we need in the state of Texas, as well in Houston and everywhere, is primary care physicians to take care of your everyday people—and to see them to know if you need a specialist.

I hope that this medical school looks back and we see that they’re graduating more primary care physicians than any other university in the United States and that's our goal. We’re going to be a med school of the community.

CM: You have zero problem with issuing directives, Tilman. What’s your message to the first graduating class, the one that will initially benefit from this $50 million gold mine?

TF: Go out and take care of the people.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Creative Houston art duo unveils dreamy new tech world in downtown's hottest destination

simulation stimulation

Aclever, Houston-based duo has unveiled a new digital art experience at downtown’s hottest hub. Creative technologist Billy Baccam and multidisciplinary artist Alex Ramos, founders of Input Output Creative Media Lab, have launched “Simulation,” the first artist residency at Post Houston. The show runs through June 30.

The creative team has transformed part of POST Houston's X atrium into a creative media lab. There, Baccam and Ramos have experimented with various kinds of emerging technologies to prototype and develop art experiences.

Mediums in the show include projection mapping, 3D printing, body tracking, camera vision, augmented reality, LEDs, and computer simulation, per a press release.

The “Simulation” layout utilizes the glass wall as an interface for the public to experience the art. Internally, viewers can see an amalgamation of machinery, wires, gizmos, and gadgets similar to the inner workings of a computer.

Externally, viewers can explore and interact with the art through the glass wall via body tracking sensors, augmented reality via QR codes, and just by merely watching. Various books, movies, and other memorabilia have been scattered throughout the space to showcase inspiration on the subject matter of simulations and their influence on culture, a release notes.

“We’re super excited to be able to share the art we have diligently been working on for ‘Simulation,’” the team notes in a statement. “We’ve been able to explore a variety of new mediums such as 3D printing and augmented reality while also getting a chance to dive deeper into our previous works based on projection mapping, interactivity, and computer simulations. As we continue to create, learn, and iterate, the pieces will also evolve to reflect our growth. We thank the public for engaging with our work and bringing about moments of joy and wonder.”

For more information on the duo, visit www.inputoutput.space or @1nput0utput on Instagram.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.