A Houston startup is making mobile food ordering a whole lot easier within health care facilities. Photo by Jonas Leupe on Unsplash

A Houston tech company has launched its mobile ordering app, the company announced last week.

Rivalry Tech, which created sEATz, an in-seat food delivery platform for sports and entertainment venues, has launched myEATZ in the App Store and Google Play. The platform is designed for facilities with 24/7/365 dining needs, and the app's initial focus is on the health care industry.

Health care employees work long shifts and have to optimize their break time. With the myEATZ app, these workers can order ahead and skip the line at nearby eateries. For Rivalry Tech's co-founder and CEO, Aaron Knape, being able to provide this tool to health care workers is a personal win for him.

“Being married to a nurse, and living next door to the largest medical center in the world, I’ve seen the challenges faced by healthcare workers the past few years," he says in a news release. "To offset long hours and short breaks, the myEATz platform can truly give time back to healthcare workers by letting them skip the line.”

Outside of health care, myEATz has also identified opportunities within the hospitality industry. Last year, myEATz launched at Margaritaville Lake Conroe to allow guests to mobile order food and beverage directly to their pool chair. The expansion is in its second phase with plans to rollout into other hotels.

Originally founded as sEATz in 2018 by Knape, Marshall Law, and Craig Ceccanti, Rivalry Tech raised $3.5 million in November. The round was led by Houston-based Sightcast, with participation from Houston-based Softeq Venture Studio, Rice University’s Valhalla Investment Group, and more.

The myEATz app is available now. Image courtesy of Rivalry Tech

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Betsy Furler of For All Abilities, Marshall Law and Aaron Knape of Rivalry Tech, and 11 Houston Innovation Awards winners. 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 over a dozen local innovators across industries — from cognitive tech to mobile ordering — recently making headlines in Houston innovation. That's right it's a special edition of this Monday feature. Scroll to see the 11 honorees from the Houston Innovation Awards Gala.

Betsy Furler, co-founder and CEO of For All Abilities

Betsy Furler, co-founder and CEO of For All Abilities, joins this week's Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo courtesy of For All Abilities

The fact that people's cognitive abilities differ widely is not exactly new information, but with new technologies and information about the subject, communities are able to learn better and more efficient ways of coping with neurodiversity — especially in the workplace. Betsy Furler, founder and CEO of Houston-based For All Abilities, is working on a unique approach to these challenges.

After its initial assessment, For All Abilities, which operates as a subscription software model for businesses, provides employees with curated low or no-cost apps and efficiency tools. While her work is mission-driven, Furler says on the show she was very intentional on starting her organization as a for-profit tech startup.

"It really makes sense from a business perspective to support your employees this way," she says. Click here to read more.

Marshall Law and Aaron Knape of Rivalry Technologies

Rivalry Tech's co-founders — Marshall Law and Aaron Knape — share news of the company's latest round of investment. Photo courtesy of Rivalry Tech

Rivalry Tech, originally founded as sEATz and tackling mobile ordering in sports venues, has raised $3.5 million following expanding with a new product, myEATz, that targets the health care, leisure, and business industries. The round was led by Houston-based Sightcast, with participation from Houston-based Softeq Venture Studio, Rice University’s Valhalla Investment Group, and more.

Co-Founders Aaron Knape, Marshall Law, and Craig Ceccanti launched the company in 2018. The idea came to Law after he missed catching a home run ball in the 2017 World Series because he was stuck in a long line waiting for concessions.

“We have built an amazing mobile ordering platform over the last four years for some of the best teams in professional and collegiate sports. It is exciting to see our success in sports and entertainment translate into opportunities in other industries. People want the best mobile ordering experience no matter where they are. That is exactly what we provide,” says Law. Click here to read more.

Meet the startup founders, mentors, investors, and other innovation leaders honored at the Houston Innovation Awards Gala

The 2022 Houston Innovation Awards revealed its big winners across 11 categories. Photos courtesy

Last Wednesday, InnovationMap and Houston Exponential announced the winners of the 2022 Houston Innovation Awards Gala. Eleven founders, mentors, investors, and more took home wins. Click here to read more.

Rivalry Tech's co-founders — Marshall Law and Aaron Knape — share news of the company's latest round of investment. Photo courtesy of Rivalry Tech

Houston tech startup raises $3.5M following industry expansion

money moves

A Houston-based company that optimizes mobile ordering for large venues has closed its latest round of funding.

Rivalry Tech, originally founded as sEATz and tackling mobile ordering in sports venues, has raised $3.5 million following expanding with a new product, myEATz, that targets the health care, leisure, and business industries. The round was led by Houston-based Sightcast, with participation from Houston-based Softeq Venture Studio, Rice University’s Valhalla Investment Group, and more.

“Sightcast Capital Partners looks to invest in strong, founder-led companies that bring a forward-thinking solution to everyday problems," says Neal Simpson, managing partner of Sightcast Capital Partners, in a news release. "In Rivalry Tech, we saw a team that recognized an opportunity to streamline the way in which food and beverage transactions occur in the healthcare, leisure, sports, and entertainment markets. Their two-sided approach of using technology as a tool to increase vendor profitability and also positively influence consumer experience is what immediately attracted us to this opportunity."

The company also recently announced it joined Softeq Venture Studio's latest accelerator cohort that was unveiled last month.

“As we begin scaling our customer base, Softeq was the perfect choice as both an investment and development partner. With their focus on innovation combined with their extensive experience in enterprise software and hardware, we believe they can strategically elevate us to the next level,” says Aaron Knape, CEO and co-founder of Rivalry Tech.

Knape and his co-founders — Marshall Law and Craig Ceccanti — launched the company in 2018. The idea came to Law after he missed catching a home run ball in the 2017 World Series because he was stuck in a long line waiting for concessions.

“We have built an amazing mobile ordering platform over the last four years for some of the best teams in professional and collegiate sports. It is exciting to see our success in sports and entertainment translate into opportunities in other industries. People want the best mobile ordering experience no matter where they are. That is exactly what we provide,” says Law.

Want to work for one of the top startups in Houston? These ones are hiring. Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

Here's which of the 2022 Houston Innovation Awards finalists are hiring

Growing biz

After scouring Houston for the best of the Houston innovation ecosystem and evaluating dozens of companies, InnovationMap and Houston Exponential have announced the finalists that will be honored at the 2022 Houston Innovation Awards. But which of these companies are growing their teams?

Turns out, almost all of them have open positions — some planning to double their teams over the next year. In fact, the 30 companies that make up the cohort of finalists are looking for over 150 new employees — some have these positions open now and others are seeking these new team members over the next 12 months.

Click here to get your tickets to the 2022 Houston Innovation Awards Gala.
Let's look at how many new hires these top startups are looking for.

Double-digit growth

When it comes to the awards finalists looking to scale their team by 10 or more new employees, five companies are looking to enter this type of hiring spree. Blue People, a finalist in the BIPOC-Founded Category, is hiring 25 new employees. The company was founded in 2015 in Mexico and relocated its primary operations to Houston in 2020. Blue People, which develops software innovation for tis clients, has over 150 employees — seven of whom, including C-level executives, are based in Houston. Some of the company's new hires will be based in town.

Another company that's also relocated its operations to Houston recently and is growing its team significantly is Venus Aerospace, creator of a hypersonic spaceplane capable of one-hour global travel. Venus, a finalist in the New to Hou category, currently has a team of 60 people and is based out of the Houston Spaceport. The company is hiring an additional 20 people.

Fast-growing B2B Software finalist Solidatus — a data management software solution — has 16 open positions, including five in the US. According to the company, they hope to have reached a headcount of about 140 within the next 12 months — up from their current 110 employees.

NanoTech, a Green Impact finalist and materials science company, is looking to nearly double its team of 20 to add an additional 15 new employees.

Competing in the People's Choice category, LevelField Financial — a financial service platform that serves customers interested in the digital asset class — is looking to hire 10 people to join its team of 19 employees.

Steady as she grows

Six Houston Innovation Awards finalists are in the process of adding more than a few new team members. Rivalry Technologies, a finalist in the B2B Software and People's Choice categories, is hiring seven people to join its team of 13. The company created a mobile ordering solution — called sEATz — for arenas and recently rebranded and expanded to provide the technology to other industries.

Founded in New Orleans and relocated to the Houston area last year, Fluence Analytics has a total of 30 employees and is looking to hire an additional six new team members. The company, which created a real-time analytics solution for the chemicals industry, is also a finalist in two categories: Hardtech and New to Hou.

Biotech company Cemvita Factory — both a Green Impact and People's choice finalist — has already scaled to employ 75 team members. Now, the company is hiring an additional five more.

Encina Development Group — circular chemicals company for the consumer products and packaging, pharmaceuticals, construction, and other industries — is also looking to add five more team members to its 30 employees. The company is a finalist in the Green Impact category.

Another Green Impact finalist is IncentiFind, a database for green building incentives that's transforming real estate, is hiring five new employees to almost double their team of eight.

INGU, a New to Hou finalist, is a pipeline inspection solution to achieve Net Zero and ESG compliance for the water and oil and gas pipeline infrastructure. The company is seeking five new team members to join its 19 employees based in Houston and Canada.

Seeking selectively

The following awards finalists are looking to grow their teams by just a handful or so — between one and four — of new hires:

Find out which of these employers take home the win at the November 9 gala at the Ion. Click here to RSVP.

Here's your latest roundup of Houston startup and innovation news you may have missed. Photo via Getty Images

Mobile ordering rolls out at resort, Houston VC's latest investment, and more local innovation news

short stories

We're on the other side of the hill that is Houston's summer, but the Bayou City's still hot — especially in terms of innovation news, and there might be some headlines you may have missed.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston startups and tech, a Houston venture capital fund has made its latest investment, Houston startups share big updates, and more.

Rivalry Technology rolls out mobile ordering at hot summer spot

You can now order poolside at this Houston-area resort. Image courtesy of Rivalry Tech

Lounging at Margaritaville Lake Resort at Lake Conroe was just made easier by Rivalry Tech, a Houston-based mobile ordering platform company. Rivalry Tech upgraded poolside ordering with its myEATz. According to a news release, customers can now order food and drinks from the 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar and Lone Palm Bar via a custom QR code system for each lounge chair and table to increase operational efficiency for the Margaritaville Lake Resort staff.

“We wanted to be sure the rollout of the myEATz mobile ordering platform was helpful to the Margaritaville staff, not a hindrance to their existing process. We created custom QR codes and a color coded map to easily identify where the mobile orders are going,” says Charles Willis, COO of Rivalry Tech, in the release.

Rivalry, which provides mobile ordering at numerous sports stadiums and venues with sEATz, expanded into hospitality this year.

“The Rivalry Tech team helped us to seamlessly implement mobile ordering at Margaritaville Lake Resort. They created the marketing materials, established custom QR codes, uploaded mentors and trained our staff onsite. The whole process has been easy and collaborative,” says Amit Sen, director food and beverage for Margaritaville Lake Resort, in the release.

Mercury Fund invests in ReturnLogic's latest round

Mercury has led the latest fundraising round from a SaaS company. Image via Getty Images

Houston-based venture capital firm Mercury led Phillidelphia-based SaaS company ReturnLogic's $8.5 million series A funding round, which also had participation from Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Fund, White Rose Ventures, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners. The fresh funding will help the company double its workforce, accelerate product development, and expand Application Programming Interface capabilities, according to a news release.

Founded by CEO Peter Sobotta, Return Logic's SaaS platform, which can be plugged into existing e-commerce platforms, helps to enhance management of returns and prevent the challenging financial impacts of returns.

“While retailers have largely mastered forward logistics to get products into customers hands, the returns process remains an under-addressed, resource-draining problem that eats away at brands’ profits,” says Blair Garrou, managing director of Mercury, in a news release. “ReturnLogic is something entirely new to this market and uniquely built on Peter Sobotta’s deep operational experience in reverse logistics and supply chain management.

"While serving in the U.S. Navy, Peter specialized in reverse logistics and gained extensive expertise in ecommerce operations," Garrou continues. "With Peter at the helm, ReturnLogic’s innovative API-first returns solution is well-positioned to tackle the ever-growing operational returns problem facing retailers. We are excited to partner with Peter and his team as they continue to solve this massive problem for online retailers.”

Fluence Analytics named a top advanced manufacturing startup

Fluence Analytics was selected as one of 50 startups recognized. Graphic courtesy

Fluence Analytics, an analytics and process control solutions platform for the polymer and biopharmaceutical industries, was named as a Top 50 global advanced manufacturing startup by CB Insights. The Inaugural list breaks down 16 different cohorts, narrowed down from more than 6,000 companies who either submitted an application or were nominated. Fluence Analytics was one of three companies featured in the R&D Optimization category.

"Our team is very excited that our real-time process analytics, optimization and control products for the polymer and biopharma industries are included among such elite startups," says Jay Manouchehri, CEO of Fluence Analytics, in a statement to InnovationMap. "We wish to thank CB Insights for including Fluence Analytics in its inaugural list of the Top 50 global advanced manufacturing startups, as well as our customers and investors for supporting the development and roll-out of our transformative technology solutions."

Fluence Analytics moved to the Houston area from New Orleans last year. The company's tech platform allows for optimization and control products to polymer and biopharmaceutical customers worldwide.

HTX Labs secures $1.7M contract to expand within United States Air Force

HTX Labs' EMPACT product will be further developed to support the Air Force. Image courtesy of HTX Labs

HTX Labs, a Houston-based company that designs extended reality training for military and business purposes, that it has been awarded a $1.7 million Small Business Innovation Research Phase II Tactical Funding Increase with the US Air Force to enhance and operationalize to its product, EMPACT Immersive Learning Platform, in support of training modernization.

“We are very thankful to AFWERX and AFDT for this great opportunity to play an increasingly important role in helping the USAF accelerate training modernization," says Chris Verret, president HTX Labs, in a news release. "This TACFI award shows continued confidence in HTX Labs, with a strong commitment to accelerate usage and adoption of EMPACT.”

HTX Labs will leverage this contract to expand EMPACT's ability to rapidly create and distribute interactive, immersive training, collaborating closely with Advanced Force Development Technologies, per the release.

OpenStax to publish free edition of updated science textbook

OpenStax is growing its access to free online textbooks. Image via openstax.org

OpenStax, a tech initiative from Rice University that uploads free learning resources, has announced it will publish the 10th edition of an organic chemistry textbook by Cornell University professor emeritus John McMurry.

“This is a watershed moment for OpenStax and the open educational resources (OER) movement,” says Richard Baraniuk, founder and director of OpenStax, in a news release. “This publication will quickly provide a free, openly licensed, high-quality resource to hundreds of thousands of students in the U.S. taking organic chemistry, removing what can be a considerable cost and access barrier.”

Usually a big expense for organic chemistry students, McMurry, with the support of publisher Cengage, made the decision to offer the latest edition online as a tribute to his son, Peter McMurry, who died in 2019 after a long struggle with cystic fibrosis.

“If Peter were still alive, I have no doubt that he would want me to work on this 10th edition with a publisher that made the book free to students,” McMurry says in the release. “To make this possible, I am not receiving any payment for this book, and generous supporters have covered not only the production costs but have also made a donation of $500,000 to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to help find a cure for this terrible disease.”

This growing mobile ordering startup has rebranded to represent its growth. Photo courtesy of sEATz

Growing Houston sportstech company rebrands following platform expansion

the rivalry is on

The Houston startup that enabled in-seat food and beverage ordering at stadiums has grown over the past few years — and the company has entered into its new era with a rebrand.

Houston-based sEATz expanded this year to evolve its technology to enable optimized mobile ordering within hospitals. Launching that new platform, called myEATz, led to a need for a defined parent company to account for the growing company. Rivalry Technology will be run by the same sEATz and myEATz team.

“I always knew that sEATz would grow into something special," says Rivalry Tech CEO and Co-Founder Aaron Knape in a news release. "As we continue to expand and grow, our brand has also grown with it. With sEATz holding sway over Sports and Entertainment, and the myEATz platform making rapid inroads into healthcare, business dining and leisure, the Rivalry Tech branding will help pull it all together.”

The rebrand comes with a new logo, website, and social media accounts. Rivalry's chief of staff, Megan Fier, designed the new logo with sEATz's original design and colors in mind.

“Knowing how recognized the sEATz brand has become, I needed to design the Rivalry Tech logo to compliment that," she says in the release. "The dual arrows pointing together represent our two platform brands. The orange sEATz half shows where we started while the navy blue myEATz shows where we are going.”

The new website also showcases both brands with information for those interested in both platforms.

“Prior to our rebrand, we had two separate websites presenting as two separate companies," Fier says. "I wanted our website to be our go-to place for both sEATz and myEATz, to show that cohesion and showcase the depth of our offerings as Rivalry Tech. The new Rivalry Tech website shares our products, tells our story, and gives site visitors a place to connect to our team all in one website. Afterall, we are more than just mobile ordering.”

The name reflects the three sEATz co-founders' alma maters: Knape graduated from Texas A&M University, Marshall Law from the University of Texas, and Craig Ceccanti from Louisiana State University.

“An Aggie, a Longhorn, and an LSU Tiger walked into a bar," Knape explains, "and it was the only name on which we could agree.“

Founded in 2018, the company has raised two seed rounds — one in 2019 and another amid the pandemic in 2020. Following that funding, Knape previously told InnovationMap that he's focused on the company's growth.

"I tell the team that we're kind of coming out of stealth mode — I know we're not in a true stealth mode, but we haven't spent a lot of money on sales and marketing," Knape says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Now it's time to start putting that emphasis on who we are, that we're here, and we're ready to take over."

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Houston biopharma company launches equity crowdfunding campaign

money moves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Texas ranks as a top state for female entrepreneurs

women in business

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

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

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

Other factors favoring Texas include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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