Digital Wildcatters just raised $2.5 million in funding. Image courtesy

With $2.5 million in fresh funding, Digital Wildcatters is on its way to keep empowering the evolving energy workforce.

Digital Wildcatters, a Houston company that's providing a community for the next generation of energy professionals, has closed its seed plus funding round at $2.5 million. The round by energy industry veteran Chuck Yates, who also hosts his podcast "Chuck Yates Needs a Job" on the Digital Wildcatters' podcast network.

"Our industry's survival depends on recruiting the next generation of energy workers. We must adapt to their digital, content-rich world, as we currently lag behind, like a VHS tape in a Netflix world. Digital Wildcatters is our path to modernization," Yates, based in Richmond, Texas, says in the news release.

Diamondback Energy and ProFrac also contributed to the round, which closed on December 1 and follows up on the company's $2 million seed round raised from angel investors in 2021.

The fresh funding will go toward further development and commercialization of Collide, an energy industry professional networking app, which launched this fall. The app aims to help advance and support the industry through professional development connection, job portal, and an AI-backed content search engine for industry information.

"Our mission is to empower the next generation of energy professionals to advance their careers and collaboratively address the global energy crisis," Collin McLelland, co-founder and CEO of Digital Wildcatters, says in the release. "We are incredibly grateful to have an investor base that not only believes in our vision but also supports our endeavor to craft innovative products that will redefine the future of the energy industry."

McLelland co-founded Digital Wildcatters with Jake Corley. The two started the Oil and Gas Startups podcast in 2019.

After growing in Chicago and raising funding, Partum Health selected Houston to expand its femtech platform. Photo via Getty Image

Growing femtech company chooses Houston for first out-of-state expansion

moving in

A startup dedicated to comprehensive pregnancy, birth and postpartum care has expanded from its Chicago birthplace to Houston.

Last summer, Partum Health raised $3.1 million in seed funding, which makes it possible for the company to begin a nationwide expansion. That begins in Space City.

“We looked at states where there is work to do on outcomes for maternal health. Texas rose to the top and Houston, in many ways is fairly close to Chicago, our home city. The really thriving healthcare ecosystem attracted us as well,” CEO and Co-Founder Meghan Doyle tells InnovationMap.

As a mom of a seven-year-old and a nine-year-old herself, Doyle says that she experienced the gap firsthand in what’s available to women beyond what her obstetrician or midwife does.

“You had to work really hard to cobble together the care you needed. It was a matter of putting together my personal experiences of realizing it’s not just me, it’s systematic,” says Doyle. “I couldn’t get that problem out of my head.”

Neither could her co-founder and head of operations, Matt Rogers, a father of twins whose family had to navigate the NICU and life-threatening complications. They started working together on the business in earnest during the COVID shutdown and debuted Partum Health at the beginning of 2021.

Partum has begun partnering with obstetricians and midwives to help select complementary care that includes lactation support, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health services, nutrition counseling and doula care. What’s unique about the plan is that, from aiding in behavioral health problems to addressing nutritional issues, the user’s team is distributed around the Houston area and are fully virtual. Physical therapy and other services that must be done in-person may take place either in-home or at third-party locations.

“We’re still in the process of credentialing with insurance companies,” says Doyle.

In Illinois, Partum is already working with BlueCross BlueShield, United Healthcare, Aetna and Cigna for clinical care, so Doyle says she is confident that those companies will soon follow suit in Texas.

While hiring a team in Houston that includes a client care lead, Doyle says that Partum is simultaneously providing services and getting to know the market better. They’re also building more bundled models of care to better assist users in their new landscape.

Doyle and Partum Healthcare participated in the Ignite Healthcare Network’s 2023 program, which concluded last week with a pitch competition. Ignite helps female healthcare founders to connect with mentors and other industry experts that will help them navigate the health tech ecosystem. Doyle was one of nine finalists, but did not place in the top three. But she says the program has helped prepare her for success nonetheless.

“In our world, you’re always pitching,” she admits.

The next steps for Partum include a 2024 rife with expansion. Because building relationships with insurance happens on a state-by-state basis, the company will be able to help women around Texas soon after the company is comfortably established in Houston. The Dallas-Fort Worth area will likely be first, followed by Austin and San Antonio.

“We know there’s a huge gap in access to care that may mean evolving a little bit and reaching out across the state,” Doyle says.

Last month, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission reported that 90 percent of the state’s pregnancy-related deaths are preventable. With access to care like what Partum provides, those complications could become a thing of the past.

Industrial Data Labs announced the close of its $1.5 million seed round of funding. Photo via Getty Images

Houston AI startup raises $1.5M seed round of funding

money moves

A Houston startup that's on a mission to transform and expedite data processing for its industrial clients has raised seed funding.

Industrial Data Labs announced this week that it's closed a $1.5 million seed round of funding. The company has created an applied artificial intelligence technology for the pipe, valve, fitting, and flange, or PVF, industry's inside sales team. The terms of the seed round were not disclosed.

"Our groundbreaking AI-Powered Inside Sales Copilot is transforming the way inside sales teams operate in the PVF industry," Marty Dytrych, co-founder and CEO of Industrial Data Labs, says in a news release. "By embedding our solution into existing BOM and MRO workflows, we empower teams to achieve unmatched efficiency, accuracy, and sales performance.”

Dytrych founded the company with COO Aaron deOliveira and CTO Tige Richardson in 2020. Per the release, Industrial Data Labs will use the funding to continue growing to continue delivering its "solutions that enhance efficiency and create new opportunities" within the PVF industry.

The company did not disclose its seed investors, but reported that Marshal Kushniruk is among the investors and is a member of the company's board of directors.

"Industrial Data Labs' innovative application of AI technology has the potential to bring significant transformation to the industrial sales landscape," Kushniruk says in the release. We are thrilled to support their mission and drive impactful change within the PVF industry.”

Mark Janzen is an early investor in Industrial Data Labs.

"Industrial Data Labs is at the forefront of Applied AI solutions in the industrial sector," he adds. "We believe their commitment to delivering unparalleled value to clients through their Inside Sales Copilot will have a lasting impact on the industry.”

A Houston fintech startup is aiming to modernize banking and investing — and has received fresh funding to do it. Photo via Getty Images

Houston fintech startup raises $8M seed round led by local VC

fresh funds

A Houston startup has raised millions for its fintech platform — and the company didn't have to go very far to find its lead investor.

Brassica Technologies Inc. closed its seed round at $8 million with Houston-based Mercury Fund leading the round. Valor Equity Partners, Long Journey Ventures, NGC Fund, Neowiz, Broadhaven Ventures, Armyn Capital, VC3DAO, Alpha Asset Management (Korea), and other global FinTech investors participated in the round as well.

The startup's platform has "institutional-grade solutions for the new era of private investing and alternative assets," per the release. Serving the alternative assets industry, Brassica's tools can easily integrate with any operating system to provide proprietary technology and unique regulatory licenses. The technology aims to modernize key banking and investing infrastructure to help enterprises safely grow their business and protect their customer assets.

With its "investment infrastructure as a service" model, Brassica was co-founded in 2021 by two familiar faces in Houston's fintech scene. CEO Youngro Lee and CTO Bob Dunton were behind NextSeed, a crowdfunding platform that allowed businesses to raise investment funding online. The startup was acquired in 2020 by Republic, where Lee currently serves as executive vice president and head of Asia.

“The future of finance will depend on the ability of trustworthy institutions to provide secure and seamless transitions between traditional financial services and web3 innovations while complying with strict regulations and still providing great customer experience,” says Lee in the news release.

“Today’s infrastructure solutions for alternative assets are often cobbled together through multiple incompatible vendors in a complex regulatory environment, which often creates unreasonable risk, errors, and single points of failure for market participants," he continues. "We started Brassica to address this fundamental problem and provide solutions to enable innovators in both traditional and web3 industries to build properly within a constantly evolving global regulatory framework.”

Along with the seed round news, the company has announced that Brassica Trust Company, its wholly-owned subsidiary, has received a Trust Charter by the Wyoming State Banking Board.

“The revolution of the private markets is here, and it is clear that the traditional, legacy infrastructure currently in place is not designed for the present and future investment world,” says Blair Garrou, managing director at Mercury Fund, in the release. “Brassica’s API-forward, institutional grade solutions make investing in private and digital assets more trustworthy, compliant, and secure than ever before, further bridging the gap between the worlds of traditional and decentralized finance. Their highly qualified and experienced senior business, legal, and technology executive team makes Brassica well-positioned to usher in this new era of alternative investments. We are proud to support Brassica on their ongoing mission to democratize finance globally.”

The company plans to use the funding to grow its product, engineering, business development, and customer success teams, per the news release, as well as develop a trust operations team in Wyoming. Current leadership includes former execs from Republic, Cleary Gottlieb, Kirkland Ellis, Morgan Stanley, Custodia Bank, LedgerX, Prime Trust, JP Morgan Chase, and M1 Finance.

Youngro Lee has announced funding for his latest fintech endeavor. Photo courtesy

It's not quite of strong of a start for Houston startups raising venture capital funding compared to last year. Photo via Getty Images

Here's what Houston startups have raised in funding so far this year

money tracker

While Houston startups saw a busy first quarter of 2023 — including IPOs in the space and biotech arenas — funding activity fell somewhat flat.

According to InnovationMap reporting, five startups have raised funding this year so far — which is less than half of the number of deals at the same time last year. Last year in the first quarter, 11 startups announced funding deals to the tune of $140 million. This year, startups raised around $106 million across five deals.

Tech-enabled manufacturing startup based in Houston secures $42M in growth financing

MacroFab has secured fresh investment to the tune of $42 million. Photo via macrofab.com

A Houston company has nearly doubled its total raised with its latest funding round.

MacroFab, a Houston-based electronics manufacturing platform, has announced $42 million in new growth capital led by Foundry and joined by BMW i Ventures, as well as existing investors Edison Partners and ATX Venture Partners. The platform was first launched by Misha Govshteyn and Chris Church in 2015.

“Given MacroFab’s compelling solutions to electronics manufacturing challenges and Foundry’s successful history with parallel companies, our investment is a perfect fit," Foundry Partner Seth Levine says in a news release. "This is a unique opportunity to be part of next generation cloud manufacturing and we’re excited to be joining forces with Misha and his team." Read the full story.

Houston e-commerce company raises another $40M round to support growth

P97 Networks has again raised $40 million to support its growth. Photo via Getty Images

For the second time in just over a year, a Houston business that provides mobile commerce and digital marketing to the mobility and fuel industries has raised $40 million.

P97 Networks, which has developed a cloud-based mobile commerce platform that helps brands securely do business with customers, announced that it has closed its series C round at $40 million. The equity financing round was led by Portage and included participation from existing investors. The fresh funding will go to support growth strategy.

"In this highly connected world, retail brands are looking for new ways to increase consumer engagement — the power of network effects in the digital world will be a key contributor to revenue growth and margins," says Donald Frieden, CEO of P97 Networks, in a news release. "With consumers of all ages further adopting mobile payment solutions, we are proud to have built the leading connected commerce and digital marketing platform for the convenience retail, energy marketing, and transportation industry." Read the full story.

Houston med device startup raises $18M, prepares to hire

BiVACOR has received fresh funding from its investors to further develop its artificial heart. Photo courtesy of BiVACOR

A Houston medical device company that is developing an artificial heart announced it has received investment funding to the tune of $18 million.

BiVACOR's investment round was led by Boston-based Cormorant Asset Management and Australia's OneVentures's Healthcare Fund III. According to the company, the funding will be deployed to continue research and development, hiring executives, and support the path to first in human trials.

“We are extremely grateful for the ongoing support from our core investors," says Thomas Vassiliades, who was named CEO of BiVACOR last year, in a news release. "This additional commitment further validates our technology and the need for improved options to treat end-stage biventricular heart failure." Read the full article.

Houston health tech company closes $3M series A

Prana Thoracic, an innovative startup in the lung cancer diagnostics space, has raised its series A round of investment. Photo via LinkedIn

It's been just under six months since the launch of Prana Thoracic, a Houston health tech startup tackling lung cancer diagnostics, and the company has already secured its next round of investment funding.

Prana Thoracic, a medical device company developing a tool for early interception of lung cancer, announced last week that it closed a $3 million series A financing round led by Florida-based New World Angels with participation from Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc., Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the University City Science Center’s Phase 1 Ventures.

In August, the company received a $3 million award from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas. All of Prana Thoracic's funding is being used to develop the unique diagnostic product and the company's path to first-in-human clinical studies.

“Our technology provides a definitive answer to patients with lung nodules and allows physicians to intervene earlier in the lung cancer patient’s journey,” says Joanna Nathan, CEO, and co-founder of Prana, in a news release. “Our team is grateful to have the support of our investors and excited to leverage this financing to accelerate our technology to the bedside.” Read the full story.

Houston climate tech startup closes $3M seed led by Shell

DexMat, a Houston-based materials science startup with tech originating at Rice University, has raised $3 million. Image via Getty Images

A material science startup with technology originating at Rice University has announced it has closed its seed round of funding.

DexMat raised $3 million in funding in a round led by Shell Ventures with participation from Overture Ventures, Climate Avengers and several individuals. The company transforms hydrocarbons, renewable fuels, and captured carbon into its flagship product Galvorn.

“DexMat presents an opportunity to capture methane, an abundant and inexpensive resource, and use it to replace materials such as steel, aluminum, and copper with a more sustainable option. We are excited to be part of DexMat’s journey going forward and to realize their ambitions,” says Aimee LaFleur, investment principal at Shell, in a news release.Read the full story.

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

Houston sportstech platform raises $1.3M seed round

fresh funding

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.”

When using AIM7, there’s no sticking to a set schedule of workouts. With both short term and long term goals in mind, the technology tells you what your body needs when you need it. On a day that your health tracking device notes that you haven’t slept well and your body is stressed, Korem says, the run you had planned may be replaced by a more realistic 20 minutes of yoga.

Korem’s team member, Dr. Chris Morris coined the term “fluid periodization” and has published academic work on the concept.

“Just because you have something written on paper doesn’t mean that your body is going to adapt to that stress,” says Korem. In the sports world, that means tailoring workouts to the immediate situation — and reaping improvements in performance.

Korem should know. He’s been using this concept for years as a High Performance director for both college and professional football teams, a trainer for gold medal Olympians and even working with the United States Department of Defense. In 2016, then-GM of the Houston Texans, Rick Smith, hired Korem to work his magic on his team as one of pro football’s first directors of sports science. His time with the Texans ended in 2018, but it provided him with a key investor—Smith himself.

The $1.3 million, which Korem says AIM7 will use to hire more engineers to add to his team, owes much to his success at last month’s Houston-based Dress Up Buttercup pitch contest, Build Up Buttercup. Hosted by local fashion blogger and influencer Dede Raad and her husband, Ted, the contest gave Korem a forum to share his story.

“I didn’t quite understand the scope of it,” he admits. “I didn’t realize it was going to be this full ‘Shark Tank’ thing, but I prepared and memorized my pitch. It’s just game time, right?”

Other investors include John Jarrett of Academy Sports and Outdoors, former Cleveland Browns coach Freddie Kitchens, and Jamaican track-and-field Olympian Veronica Campbell Brown, whom Korem has trained for years.

Currently, AIM7 boasts a remote team of five full-time employees as well as many more part-time helpers. As the brand, which Korem started in 2020, takes off, Korem says, “My dream is to build a standalone health and wellness tech company in Houston… I want to set up something really special in Houston.”

Erik Korem founded AIM7, which just closed $1.3 million in seed funding. Photo via aim7.com

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Houston-based sustainable chemical manufacturing secures $213.6M to support new facility

scaling up

Houston-based Solugen has secured financing from the U.S. Department of Energy's Loan Programs Office to support its mission of producing clean chemicals.

The LPO's $213.6 million loan guarantee will go toward the construction of the company's 500,000-square-foot Bioforge Marshall facility in Southwest Minnesota, which broke ground in April and will produce bio-based chemical products to be used in wastewater treatment, construction, agriculture, and the energy sector. According to Solugen, the facility is expected to reduce annual carbon emissions by up to 18 million kilograms.

"American manufacturing is at a turning point, and we are proud to have the opportunity to work with the DOE in bringing critical chemical production capabilities onshore to communities like Marshall," Gaurab Chakrabarti, CEO of Solugen, says in a news release. "By scaling cutting-edge technologies, we are meeting domestic demand for innovative solutions and setting global standards for sustainable biomanufacturing."

The new facility, originally announced last year, is expected to go online in the fall of 2025 and will create up to 100 temporary construction jobs as well as 56 full-time manufacturing jobs once the facility is up and running.

"Today’s announcement reflects President Biden’s commitment to building a thriving bioeconomy that benefits all Americans and ensures the United States leads the world in emerging biomass industries," the DOE writes in its announcement.

Bioforge Marshall is a scaled-up version of the company's first project, Bioforge Houston, which has been operating since 2021 and will continue to act as Solugen's research and development and innovation center.

"Scaling our Bioforge platform is not only a technological advancement, but a strategic move to fortify the domestic supply chain for critical chemicals," adds Sean Hunt, CTO of Solugen. "This project will serve as a model for how innovative technologies can revive American industries and maintain our competitive edge on a global scale."

Solugen will be required to meet certain DOE standards to move forward with the financing. Additionally, the company has created partnerships with regional educational and workforce development organizations for training and recruiting.

Founded in 2016, the Houston company has raised over $600 million, per Crunchbase, and clinched unicorn status with a $1 billion valuation in 2021. Last month, Solugen ranked at No. 36 on CNBC’s annual Disruptor 50 list, and in 2023, Chakrabarti and Hunt were named winners at the EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards.

Houston university awards grant to Texas accelerator to support sports tech

game on

Rice University awarded DivInc. an $800,000 grant this month to support its work in sports technology.

The Texas-based company, which operates numerous accelerators, focuses on BIPOC and female founders working toward social and economic equity through entrepreneurship. The grant from Rice is part of "several financial commitments" the university is making to support inclusivity at the Ion District.

DivInc runs its Sports Tech Accelerator out of The Ion, which recently named its latest cohort for the 2024 Sports Tech Accelerator.

“We’ve been in Houston since 2021, so we’re extremely honored and grateful to partner with Rice University,” Preston James, CEO and founder of DivInc, said in a statement. “Leveraging the top university sports management program in the U.S., Rice’s highly ranked sports medicine and sport analytics programs, we’re providing exceptional value to our portfolio of companies ... Sports tech is a vast and rapidly growing industry that represents a tremendous opportunity for diverse founders.”

Among the 10 companies selected for DivInc's current 12-week sports accelerator are a cash-back powered marketplace designed for the golf industry, a scouting automation software, an artificial intelligence company that collects real-time biometrics on athletes, and others.

Selected founders can receive up to $100,000 and access to curriculum, as well as mentorship from executives from the Houston Rockets, Houston Astros, San Antonio Spurs, Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, Mercury Fund, The Collectiv, HTX Sports Tech and more.

“We have strategically created one of the nation’s premier accelerator programs in Houston, Texas, dedicated to supporting BIPOC and women founders driving innovation in the sports industry by leveraging best practices and insights from stakeholders within the sports tech ecosystem,” Ashley DeWalt, DivInc’s managing director of startups and programs, said in a statement.

DivInc also launched its first DWeb for Social Impact Accelerator from the Ion last fall. The 12-week intensive hybrid program sponsored by Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web, supported nine companies, all of whom integrate Web3 technologies into their impact entrepreneurship, and each of the companies selected were awarded a non-dilutive $10,000 grant to use during the course of the program.

Houston e-waste recycling business advances sustainability mission with new accreditation

seeing green

An innovative Houston company focused on sustainable tech recycling has expanded.

CompuCycle describes its unique Plastics Recycling System as the first and only certified, single solution e-waste recycling business. The company's unique process can now break down discarded technology products into single polymers that can then be reused in the manufacturing process.

“Properly managing all components of electronics is a cornerstone of sustainability and environmental responsibility,” Kelly Adels Hess, CEO of CompuCycle, says in a news release. “Making single polymer plastics that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can reuse to produce new electronics or other products, while adhering to international recycling standards, is a gamechanger for domestic companies and those that need their plastics shipped globally.”

As of now, CompuCycle reports that it's the only service in the country that can provide a recycling solution for both metals and plastics in-house. The company has met the Environmental Protection Agency’s two accredited certification standards, e-Stewards and R2 certification requirements, per the release.

“We saw an opportunity to solve an industry challenge by creating the first domestic, sustainable, single-solution e-waste plastics program that reduces the amount of plastic negatively impacting the environment, while also making it advantageous for companies to recycle and reuse. It’s truly a win for everyone involved,” adds Clive Hess, president at CompuCycle.

CompuCycle, which has over a 20-year history, added recycling electronics to its toolkit in 2019. While CompuCycle has focused on responsible electronics disposal since Kelly's father-in-law, John Hess, founded the company in 1996, certain recent events have increased the need to recycle more efficiently.

"China is no longer accepting scrap, which is where a lot of materials would go after it was dismantled," Kelly told InnovationMap in 2019. "That's why we've created this solution to be able to responsibly handle it here in the U.S."

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.