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

Here are the 10 Houston startups that closed venture capital investment in the fourth quarter of last year. Photo via Getty Images

10 Houston startups start 2023 with fresh venture capital funding

money moves

Houston startups saw a busy last quarter when it came to funding in 2022. From seed to series C, 10 Houston startups wrapped up the year with investment round closings.

In case you missed some of these headlines, InnovationMap has rounded up these 10 deals based on previous reporting. Scroll through to see which Houston startups are catching the eyes — and cashing the checks — of investors.

Houston-based virtual reality startup raises $3.2M in first outside capital round

VR training startup, HTX Labs, has raised funding from an outside investor for the first time. Courtesy of HTX Labs

HTX Labs, a Houston-based company that designs extended reality training for military and business purposes, announced last week that it has raised its first outside capital.

The company has received a $3.2 million investment from Cypress Growth Capital. Founded in 2017, HTX Labs — developer of the EMPACT Immersive Learning Platform — has been granted funding from the Department of Defense as well as grown its client base of commercial Enterprises. The platform uses virtual and extended reality that "enables organizations to rapidly create, deploy, measure, and sustain cost-effective, secure, and centralized immersive training programs, all within engaging, fully interactive virtual environments," per a news release.

“We have been looking to secure outside capital to accelerate the growth of our EMPACT platform and customer base but we hadn’t found the right partner who provided an investment vehicle that matched our needs,“ says HTX Labs CEO Scott Schneider in the release. “We found everything we were looking for in Cypress Growth Capital. They have a non-dilutive funding model that aligns with our capital expectations and have the level of experience that really makes this smart money." Read more.

Houston-based travel tech startup raises nearly $1M to continue expansion

A Houston company has raised additional funding as it grows its encrypted lodging booking platform. Photo via Gustavo Fring/Pexels

A travel booking technology company that's looking to alleviate some of the stresses of finding and making hotel reservations has raised additional seed funding.

Houston-based Pinktada has raised additional funding to the tune of $975,000. Ireland-based Selenean Capital contributed to the seed funding round, joining the company's previous investor True Global Ventures 4 Plus, which has invested $2 million to date. According to Crunchbase data, the latest investment brings the company's total to $3.9 million.

“Selenean Capital’s approach to partnership is identifying real world future needs and then working relentlessly to achieve those goals," says Davin Browne, Selenean’s CEO, in a news release. "Pinktada encapsulates this perfectly with a transformational approach to the hotel booking model built around a brilliant team. We look forward to the partnership and journey with them." Read more.

Houston microgrid tech company announces $150 investment

Houston-based VoltaGrid provides small-scale, self-contained microgrids that can operate independently of major power grids or in tandem with other microgrids. Photo via voltagrid.com

VoltaGrid, a Bellaire-based startup that specializes in distributed power generation via microgrids, has hauled in $150 million in equity funding.

Founded in 2020, VoltaGrid provides small-scale, self-contained microgrids that can operate independently of major power grids or in tandem with other microgrids. VoltaGrid’s product consists of natural gas engines, portable energy storage, natural gas processing and grid power connectivity.

Investors in the $150 million round include the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments), Longbow Capital, Walter Ventures, and Pilot Company (operator of more than 800 retail and fueling locations in the U.S. and Canada). The $150 million round comes less than a year after VoltaGrid announced a $100 million round featuring the same investors.Read more.

Houston SaaS company raises $15M series B, announces latest release

Houston-based GoCo.io has raised fresh funding and launched the latest version of its platform. Courtesy of GoCo

A Houston startup that is optimizing human resource operations for small businesses has raised fresh funding from an Austin-based venture capital investor.

GoCo.io raised $15 million in September in a funding round led by ATX Venture Partners. Founded in 2015, the company has raised $27.5 million to date, including its $7 million series A in 2019.

The fresh funding will be used to continue expanding on the company's software services operations and upgrades to its product, which is is modernizing HR, benefits, and payroll.

“We believe that GoCo is the company best positioned to provide HR departments at SMBs with the most flexible employee management software,” says Chris Shonk, general partner at ATX Venture Partners, in a news release. “In a crowded marketplace, GoCo clearly rises to the top with its ease-of-use, flexibility and unparalleled customization. Read more.

Houston tech startup raises $3.5M following industry expansion

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

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." Read more.

Houston unicorn chemicals company raises $200M series D

Solugen closed its series D funding round at $200 million. Photo via Getty Images

Houston-based Solugen has announced its latest round of investment to the tune of $200 million. The company, which reached unicorn status after its $357 million series C round last year, uses its patented Bioforge processes to produce "green" chemicals from bio-based feedstocks.

"Solugen is reimagining the chemistry of everyday life with enzymes found in nature. We make chemicals better, faster, cheaper, and without fossil fuels from right here in Houston, Texas. Whether you care about the climate, local competitiveness, or just plain old profits, we have good news: it's working," the company states in its news release. Read more.

Houston company closes $76M series C round to fuel its mission of reducing carbon emissions

Syzygy Plasmonics has raised a series C round of funding. Photo courtesy of Syzygy

A Houston-based company that is electrifying chemical manufacturing has closed its largest round of funding to date.

Syzygy Plasmonics closed a $76 million series C financing round led by New York-based Carbon Direct Capital. The round included participation from Aramco Ventures, Chevron Technology Ventures, LOTTE CHEMICAL, and Toyota Ventures. The company's existing investors joining the round included EVOK Innovations, The Engine, Equinor Ventures, Goose Capital, Horizons Ventures, Pan American Energy, and Sumitomo Corporation of Americas. According to a news release, Carbon Direct Capital will join Syzygy's board and serve as the series C director.

"We were very attracted to the multiple use cases for the Syzygy reactor and the lifetime-value of each Syzygy customer," says Jonathan Goldberg, Carbon Direct Capital's CEO, in the release. "Emissions from hydrogen production total more than 900 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Syzygy's photocatalysis technology is a key solution to decarbonize hydrogen production as well as other critical industries." Read more.

Houston SaaS startup raises $6M seed

Houston-based SynMax has closed its first round of funding. Photo via Getty Images

A Houston-based satellite data analytics company is celebrating an oversubscribed round of recent funding.

SynMax announced this week that it closed its seed round at $6 million with an oversubscription of $2 million. The startup is providing geospatial intelligence software as a service to customers within the energy and maritime industries. The technology combines earth observation imagery and key data sources for predictive analytics and artificial intelligence.

The company reports that all of the investment came from SynMax customers. The round was led by Houston-based Skylar Capital, an investment management firm focused on the natural gas market. Read more.

Houston health tech startup secures $27M in financing

A Houston startup that created a remote monitoring and care platform has raised millions in financing. Image via michealthcare.com

A virtual health care and analytics provider startup has closed its latest round of funding for a total of $27 million in financing.

Medical Informatics Corp. closed a $17 million series B co-led by Maryland-based Catalio Capital Management and California-based Intel Capital. The financing also includes an additional $10 million in debt led by Catalio through Catalio’s structured equity strategy, according to a news release.

“We are excited to have had this round co-led by Catalio and Intel Capital," says Emma Fauss, CEO and co-founder of MIC, in the release. "Catalio brings significant financial and technical resources, while Intel Capital possesses strong operational and industry experience, and we look forward to continuing to leverage both firms’ expertise as we continue to scale.” Read more.

Houston sportstech platform raises $1.3M seed round

This Houston startup has fresh funding to build out its data intelligence platform. Photo via aim7.com

How many times have you forced yourself to do an arduous workout when you just weren’t feeling it? Despite what some trainers will tell you, you probably didn’t feel any better after. Sports scientist Dr. Erik Korem could have told you that, but more importantly, so could his creation, AIM7.

Marketed as “the fastest, easiest way to change your habits and improve your health,” Korem just raised a $1.3 million seed round that will bring his ambitious app to consumers in its beta form early next month.

The data intelligence platform would know that on a day that you’re stressed, that Peloton tabata ride might not be in your best interest. How? “The data from your Apple Watch or your Fitbit is just data. ‘I walked 7000 steps or I slept 8 hours,’” explains Korem. “We are the recommendation engine that makes this usable for you.” Read more.

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

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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."

Craig Ceccanti joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to share what he's learned in his time as an entrepreneur in Houston — and what he's focused on now. Photo courtesy of Craig Ceccanti

Serial Houston entrepreneur's latest venture combines his passions for startups and software

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In 2020, Craig Ceccanti sat down to consider what his next career move would be. Former CEO and co-founder of national franchise Pinot's Palette and a co-founder of Houston sports tech startup sEATz, Ceccanti wanted a passion project.

His background is in software and computer science and, with years of experience in entrepreneurship, he decided a combination of his passions would be a software-focused consulting firm for startups and growing businesses. He founded T-Minus Solutions in November of 2020.

Ceccanti says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast that at Pinot's Palette, he built the software himself, using freelancers to help build out and support his work. These developers were inconsistent and never lasted long, and Ceccanti says he experienced this challenge again when developing sEATz's software. He had the idea of providing a more reliable software outsourcing service for companies.

"I love technology and mentoring other entrepreneurs — those were two big factors," Ceccanti says on the show. "So, starting a consulting agency where we could help startups and mid sized-growth companies build custom software was kind of my perfect unicorn."

T-Minus Solutions, which is bootstrapped so far, has a team of six employees, and Ceccanti says they are specifically focused on working with impactful businesses. As a passion project, he explains he's less driven by revenue and more focused on the help and guidance he can provide his clients, whether it's building software for them or helping navigate a major business decision.

"Our statement is to empower entrepreneurs," he explains. "We want to make the accessibility to technology easy for them and have a trusted technology partner for them to come to."

Ceccanti, who's a mentor at Rice University, is dedicated to helping fellow Houston entrepreneurs and aspiring founders. He says over the years as he's doled out advice over coffee or beers, he got the idea to write down some of his lessons learned. The book, “A Founder’s Guide to A Software Startup,” is expected to release later this year.

Originally from Louisiana, Ceccanti — who moved to Houston after Hurricane Katrina — is enthusiastic about Houston's innovation ecosystem. He says he's seen so much progress for startups and entrepreneurs, and Houston has so many industries represented here — something extremely valuable when it comes to access to consumers.

"Houston is really unique — when you think about Dallas and Austin or even the West Coast or the Northeast — with the demand of our consumerbase. You can test out anything here — you can't say that about Austin or Dallas the way you can here," Ceccanti says. "Industrial, medical, consumer, retail, restaurant — you're in the right place. If you can make it work here, it's going to do good."

He shares more about the his career — from franchising to tech startups — as well as why he's bullish on Houston's business economy on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


A new report finds that the Lone Star State is ideal for female entrepreneurs — and more Houston innovation news. Photo via Getty Images

Texas ranks as top state for female entrepreneurs, Houston startup wins VC competition, and more

short stories

Houston is starting summer strong 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, the Lone Star State ranks in the top 10 best states for women in business, a software startup rolls out a new tool, $5,000 small business grants are up for grabs, and more.

Texas named a top state for female entrepreneurs

The Lone Star State is prime for women entrepreneurs. Graphic courtesy

Banking platform NorthOne has ranked the top 10 states for women in entrepreneurship. Colorado took the No. 1 spot, but Texas ranked at No. 7. The report factored in data across eight metrics for all 50 US states including percentage of women-owned businesses, percentage of women-owned businesses with over 500 employees, number of women-owned businesses, startup survival rate, women-to-men pay ratio, unemployment rate for women, overall unemployment rate, and more.

According to the report, Texas has seen a boom in business growth over the last couple of years. The Lone Star State ranks seventh nationally for the percentage of new businesses at 18.18 percent and has the second highest startup survival rate in our top 10 at 79.63 percent.

"Texas offers a ton of opportunities for female entrepreneurs, too. It has one of the highest numbers of women-owned businesses in the country at a whopping 1.4 million, 2.11 percent of which have over 500 employees," reads the blog post. "That’s the fourth highest overall compared to all 50 states."

Pandata Tech selected for prestigious space innovation program

Pandata Tech is headed for St. Louis. Photos courtesy of Pandata

Pandata Tech was selected from hundreds of national applicants to join a first-of-its-kind program from the United States Government's National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in partnership with Missouri Technology Corporation and St. Louis-based Capital Innovators.

The 13-week hybrid program will be held at NGA's Moonshot Labs in St. Louis. Eight companies have been selected for the third cohort, and they are tasked with tackling the NGA's four mission imperatives.

Pandata Tech's Data Quality Method (DQM) platform addresses the NGA's mission of Data Access and Data Integrity.

"We are grateful and excited to work directly with a team at NGA to explore multiple use cases that address internal cybersecurity risks and data validation," says Jessica Reitmeier, co-founder of Pandata Tech.

sEATz wins visiting VC competition

This Houston startup is headed to D.C. Photo courtesy

Revolution Ventures visited Houston and was hosted by the HX Venture Fund. On the visit, investors got a peek into the Houston innovation ecosystem, meet startups, and more. Managing Partner Tige Savage, who spoke with InnovationMap ahead of his visit, posed a challenge to startups to showcase their dream day in Houston. The winner would receive a trip to Washington D.C., where Revolution is based, and the Revolution team would return to the Bayou City to execute the dream day.

Houston-based in-venue mobile ordering solution sEATz won the competition with its submission, which included visiting Houston's sports stadiums, experiencing NASA, drinking at breweries, and BBQ. The submission can be viewed here.

Liongard expands its offerings

Houston-based Liongard's Roar technology is helping its customers get all their IT services under one umbrella. Image via Getty Images

Houston-based IT software and automation platform Liongard announced its collaboration with Gradient MSP to automate billing reconciliation. The new tool allows users to pull actual usage data from the customer systems and manage complex billing details more efficiently.

“We’re excited to streamline our Partners’ operations with an automated billing reconciliation solution that’s powerful and intuitive,” says Matt Miller, Liongard's vice president of product, in a news release. “We have the data that partners need to automate this manual process and partnering with Gradient to fully automate that workflow saves MSPs time and money.”

Liongard and Gradient MSP have been testing the integration for several months and have received rave reviews from their Partners.

“We’ve already been through our first billing cycle and I’m eager to deploy more inspectors and creatively address other reconciliation needs with the use of custom metrics,” says Brandon Myers, CEO at IMS Solutions Group. "In the end, the combined customization allows us to address unique situations. We all win together.”

Hello Alice launches latest fund opportunity

Hello Alice is giving out $5,000 grants to small businesses. Photo by Hero Images

Hello Alice has announced its latest round of the $5,000 Small Business Growth Fund. The fund provides the capital entrepreneurs need to make their next big move. Each recipient will receive a $5,000 grant, provided by Mastercard, to accelerate their growth and help make 2022 the year of their small business.

Eligible businesses must:

• Be a for-profit business

• Have less than $1 million in 2021 gross annual revenue

• Have a commitment to their customers and community

• Have a clear plan for use of funds If you applied and were not selected for a previous round of the program, you are welcome to submit a new application.

Hello Alice will evaluate applications based on any new information and judge it against a new pool of applicants. The deadline for this round is May 20, 2022, at 5 pm. Apply now.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

How to utilize AI and ChatGPT to increase employee productivity, according to this Houston expert

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We are crossing a Rubicon. A point of no return. The birth of Chat GPT has opened a world of possibilities not seen before. Though artificial intelligence has been a part of our lives for many years, it has now taken a form that will become more universal. And nowhere will it be more prevalent than in the workplace. Companies all around the world are using this technology to transform the way we work and the offices we inhabit. The race is on.

Many companies are already using AI to drastically change their office design and the way they work. Those that haven’t embraced it are now faced with a choice – to incorporate the AI revolution into their business, tactics, and workspace or get left behind. Luckily, the companies that are utilizing AI and ChatGPT have proven several ways that the technology can benefit their workflow and company culture, including:

  • Speech recognition capabilities
  • Task automation
  • Improved workplace design

In this article, we will explore each of these benefits and how they are helping businesses enhance productivity, support their employees, and transform their offices.

Voice to Text Capabilities

Companies are using AI to support employees by alleviating mundane tasks that can lead to burnout, starting with typing. AI-powered speech recognition software enables employees to use their voice to respond to emails, create reports, and fill out forms. This type of solution is effective because the average typing speed is in the 40 words per minute range. However, speech-to-text entries are about three times faster and more accurate. Additionally, the technology can reduce repetitive stress injuries and eliminate barriers for employees with disabilities.

Task Automation

AI-powered technologies can also automate other tasks like generating meeting summaries and minutes. This can save time and ensure that critical information is not missed. ChatGPT can even automate the scheduling of meetings and appointments. Shaffra, a company in Dubai, is utilizing the chatbot’s services to free up time and resources for more creative and strategic work. Other startups like Growdash are leveraging ChatGPT to provide insights into why a particular marketing campaign has not performed well and how it can be improved.

ChatGPT also helps streamline processes, such as onboarding new hires. By providing an accessible, centralized repository of information, ChatGPT can help employees reduce decision-making time and improve accountability. With its visibility into task completion, the technology also encourages remote workers to stay engaged, speeding up workflows.

Improved Workplace Design

ChatGPT is also impacting workplace real estate by influencing design choices. With the rise of virtual communication, businesses are reconsidering the layout of physical workspaces. ChatGPT can help inform these decisions by analyzing employee feedback and identifying patterns in communication and collaboration. This data can be used to design workspaces that are optimized for productivity, improving employee satisfaction, and reducing turnover.

At Telstra, Australia's leading telecommunications company, CEO Vicki Brady identified AI as a key part of the company's 2025 strategy and has already implemented various AI technologies to improve customer service, network security, and software development. This in turn could lead to a need for more versatile and adaptable workspaces that can accommodate different work styles and preferences.

Conclusion

It is important to note that AI technologies are not perfect. Users have stated that AI may occasionally give inaccurate responses or have untrustworthy information sources. But the benefits of using AI-powered technologies to support employee throughput and well-being still outweigh the risks.

As companies navigate a rapidly changing global landscape, technological advancements can play a critical role in ensuring their success. From automating tedious tasks to enabling remote work, artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT and speech recognition platforms have become vital assets for optimizing workplace efficiency and processes. Ultimately, the success of any business lies in its ability to adapt to ever-changing technologies, and ChatGPT is undoubtedly leading the way.

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Matt Norberg is the associate technical designer at Gensler.

This is how much money you need to live comfortably in Houston, new study finds

money wise

Inflation is high, interest rates are skyrocketing, and honestly, just existing is expensive. Whether it be the price of eggs or a new car, trying to have a financially stable life in one of America’s largest metropolitan areas is becoming more and more difficult.

So, how much money do you need to make to live comfortably in the greater Houston area? Approximately $62,260 a year post-tax, according to a new study by financial tech company SmartAsset.

That’s over an $11,000-plus increase from their previous annual report, where Houston residents only needed to make $51,148 a year post-tax to live comfortably in the area.

Their experts collected data from MIT’s Living Wage Calculator to determine the cost of living for a childless individual in the 25 largest American metro areas. They also used the 50/30/20 budgeting strategy to figure out what a “comfortable lifestyle” meant for the purpose of their study: 50 percent of their income goes to a person’s needs/living expenses, 30 percent to a person’s wants, and 20 percent for their savings or paying down debt.

To live a financially stable life, a childless Houstonian would need to spend $31,130 of their salary on their living expenses, $18,678 for discretionary expenses, and put $12,452 toward their savings or debt payments.

Susannah Snider, SmartAsset’s managing editor of financial education, says in the study that budgeting should be the “bedrock of many people’s financial plans.”

“And it’s especially essential to understand and track your spending when the cost of everyday items is rising,” said Snider. “Being able to stick to a 50/30/20 budget means you have enough to fund short- and long-term goals while paying for essential living expenses.”

To live comfortably in the largest metro areas in the United States, on average, an individual would need to make $68,499 a year after taxes, which is a 20 percent increase from 2022. And, according to the report, salaries aren't rising like inflation.

"While salaries increased 5.1 percent between December 2021 and December 2022, wage growth couldn’t keep up with inflation, which averaged 8 percent in 2022," per SmartAsset.

In other Texas metro areas, like Dallas and San Antonio, a person would need to make $64,742 and $59,270, respectively, a year post-tax.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Spring cohort announced for Houston tech company's startup accelerator

ready to grow

A Houston tech company has announced the latest cohort of its accelerator program, bringing the total number of startups supported by the company to 63.

Softeq Development Corp., a technology services development company, named 14 new startups joining its three-month spring Softeq Venture Studio cohort.

“We are so proud of the success we have had with the Softeq Venture Studio, helping to support and secure funding for 63 startups to date through the Softeq Venture Fund," says Christopher A. Howard, founder and CEO of Softeq. "With 23 of 89 founders coming from outside of the U.S., we demonstrate Houston’s growing influence as a startup hub where entrepreneurs can find a welcoming innovation community, a strong talent base, and world-class research facilities."

The spring 2023 cohort for Softeq includes:

  • Houston-based AIM7, data intelligence platform that unlocks wearable and mHealth data to provide customized and predictive wellness solutions.
  • Avendly, based in Providence, Rhode Island, makes robotic automation for restaurants to help, not supplant humans. Its first of many products is Mixibot, an integrated back-bar cocktail vending system.
  • Founded in Austin, ClioVis, is meeting today’s content-creator students where they are and how they learn. The company provides unique experiential learning tools designed for today’s content-creator students who learn by doing, not lectures.
  • Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, Flometrica, is a digital health solution featuring "use anywhere" devices to remotely monitor and diagnose various urinary tract problems through analysis of different urine parameters.
  • Gophr, from Lake Charles, Louisiana, is a technology-driven logistics company that provides tailored and efficient delivery solutions for various industries, individuals, and businesses of all sizes.
  • Chicago-based KarChing puts cash in teens’ hands for safe driving. The only app built for parents, teens, and insurance companies that rewards drivers for phone- and distraction-free behavior behind the wheel.
  • Houston-founded Meander collects travel customer satisfaction micro-surveys as people go about their trips. The research platform rewards travelers for sharing their pics, videos, and insights.
  • MEedia, based in Sacramento, California, puts a professional press conference event in your pocket. Individuals can create broadcast-worthy interactive shareable content with just their phone.
  • MeterLeader, from Huntington Beach, California, gamifies saving energy in homes by using real-time utility data and behavioral science. We're like a Fitbit challenge for your home, but instead of steps we measure kWh, therm, and CO2 reductions.
  • Houston-based PayOnDelivery, integrates secure payment with delivery for markets like Craigslist and Facebook. It’s low-hassle, fraud-free buying and selling for peer-to-peer marketplaces.
  • Another Lake Charles business, Picasso Analytics has a platform that can reduce delays and save oil refiners and petrochem owners 10 to 15 percent on multi-million dollar turnaround events by providing a single source of truth integrating the schedule, time entry, and shop status.
  • Sarasota, Florida-based Toivoa develops software-based therapies for people with disabilities who experience mental health disorders. On track for FDA approval, the platform is prescription-based, clinically validated, and delivered on your phone.
  • UpBrainery Technologies, founded in Houston, helps students explore careers through digital experiences. AI guides their interests in career paths and credentials their achievements for employers and colleges.
  • Also from Houston, WellWorth (https://wellworthapp.com/), is a financial modeling SaaS platform that helps upstream oil and gas finance leaders improve their decision-making around raising, managing, and deploying capital.

Softeq Venture Studio launched over a year ago with its inaugural cohort in 2021, and the fund was launched last year. Since launch, Softeq has raised 80 percent of its inaugural $40 million Softeq Venture Fund and made investments in 63 startups. Softeq has also reformatted its accelerator program to include two cohort classes per year, allowing for more time to be spent with the Venture Studio and its cohort startups.