Here's your latest roundup of Houston innovation news you may have missed. Photo by Tim Leviston/Getty Images

Houston's cooling down, but the city's innovation news is heating up, and there might be some headlines you may have missed.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston startups and tech, a Houston startup has a new C-level exec, two innovators join a international cohort of leaders, and more.

NanoTech names new chief commercial officer

Carrie Horazeck is now the chief commercial officer for NanoTech. Photo courtesy of NanoTech

Houston-based materials science company NanoTech Inc. has appointed Carrie Horazeck as chief commercial officer for the startup, which created a fireproofing and carbon reduction through cool roof coatings. In her new role, Horazeck will lead marketing and sales strategy for the growing company.

“I’ve been a fan of NanoTech since I first met co-founder and CEO Mike Francis at a Halliburton Labs event last year," Horazeck says in a statement. “It’s an incredible team, with an incredible product. They are on the precipice of major growth and I’m very honored to be a part of that journey.”

Prior to NanoTech, Horazeck spent 11 years in management consulting helping to grow her clients' businesses, staying tuned into consumer trends and behaviors to guide product development and intelligent marketing strategy. She's worked with a wide range of industries and clients including Samsung, General Mills, Newell Brands, Coca-Cola, Unilever, American Express, British American Tobacco, Anheuser-Busch, and the Department of Education in New York City. Most recently, she led commercial development and market penetration strategy for an Austin based startup in the renewable energy space.

"We are excited to have Carrie join the NanoTech team. She is going to help us get one step closer to our goal of reducing carbon emissions with our cool roof coating and fireproofing critical infrastructure," says Francis in the statement.

2 Houstonians named to global cohort

Houstonians Allie Danziger and Natasha McDaniel were announced to be joining the Fall 2022 Milestone Makers cohort. Photos courtesy

Two Houston innovators have been named to Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center's Fall 2022 Milestone Makers cohort, which selects individuals addressing the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals.

The virtual, 12-week program provides individualized mentorship and executive coaching, as well as access to the Center’s vast network of industry experts to help each founder with his or her milestone. The new cohort was selected through application process, and all hope to improve the lives of and support communities across the globe. The two Houstonians in the current cohort include:

  • Allie Danziger of Ampersand, which enhances employee retention by ensuring mastery in key skills required for entry-level professionals.
  • Natasha McDaniel of Lit for Life, which offers culturally relevant reading and writing resources as well as family coaching and educational consulting services.

Applications are open for the Winter 2023 program are now open.

Houston robotics company to ring the bell on Wall Street

The Nasdaq Bell Ringing Ceremony for Nauticus Robotics, Inc. will take place this Thursday. Image via LinkedIn

Houston-based Nauticus Robotics, which went public last month via SPAC, is due to ring the Nasdaq bell on Wall Street.

The company, which now trades under the $KITT ticker, will have its bell ringing ceremony beginning at 2:45 p.m. CT on October 20 and can be viewed via this link.

Nauticus continues to be led by CEO Nicolaus Radford and the current executive team.

“The closing of this business combination represents a pivotal milestone in our company’s history as we take public our pursuit of transforming the ocean robotics industry with autonomous systems,” Radford, who founded what was known as Houston Mechatronics in 2014, said in a news release about the IPO. “Not only is the ocean a tremendous economic engine, but it is also the epicenter for building a sustainable future.”

UH named 2022 Hispanic Serving Institution Leader by U.S. Fulbright program

UH — and its students — have been recognized by the Fulbright organization. Photo courtesy of UH

For the second year in a row, the University of Houston has been named as a 2022 Fulbright Hispanic Serving Institution Leader.

“As the state’s premier Hispanic-Serving Institution and a top Fulbright producer, the University of Houston strives to ensure an environment of inclusion and success for all,” said UH President Renu Khator. “This recognition is yet another milestone that reinforces what so many already know about our institution … that our students are supported both culturally and academically.”

The recognition was announced the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities annual conference in San Diego on Oct. 10.

The University of Houston recently announced 10 student Fulbright recipients, each prepared to travel far and wide to gain international insights, according to the news release. Since 2018, nearly 50 Fulbright scholarships have been awarded to UH students.

“Enhancing learning and research experiences for students and faculty through the Fulbright Program is important to expanding the University’s international footprint,” says Michael Pelletier, executive director of UH’s Institute for Global Engagement in the release.

Texas investor named among outstanding women in clean energy

Phoebe Wang was honored for her work at Shell Ventures. Photo via LinkedIn

The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced the nine winners of the 2022 Clean Energy Education & Empowerment Awards that honors women for outstanding leadership and accomplishments in clean energy.

“For too long, there has been a significant gender gap in the energy sector, meaning half the population have had a minimized impact on one of our most important industries,” says U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm in a news release. “As we transition to a clean energy economy, we will have to tap into the pool of amazing women working in energy and grow their ranks. That’s why DOE is proud to recognize the winners of this year’s C3E Awards, a diverse group of changemaking women tackling some of the biggest challenges in energy.”

Among the honorees, Phoebe Wang, formerly of Shell Ventures and based in Texas, was recognized in the business category. Wang "leads investments in early- and late-stage startups working on technologies to accelerate the energy transition in the areas of hydrogen, carbon capture utilization and storage, energy storage, mobility, and power," per the release. In the past decade, she has invested more than $150 million startups and has been closely involved in the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. Last week, Wang was announced to be joining the Amazon Climate Pledge Fund as investment partner.

Now in its 11th year, the C3E Inititive led by the DOE — in collaboration with the MIT Energy Initiative, Stanford University’s Precourt Institute for Energy, and the Texas A&M Energy Institute — will award each winner with a cash gift of $8,000 and national recognition of their efforts.

The city's top power players within Houston's energy innovation ecosystem joined virtual SXSW to weigh in on hot topics — from ESG to the future of the industry's workforce. Photos courtesy

Overheard: Houston innovators discuss ESG, energy transition, cleantech and more at SXSW

Eavesdropping online

The first day of SXSW 2021 — a virtual edition of the Austin-based conference — is on the books, and Houston innovators were no strangers to attendees' screens thanks to Houston House put on by the Greater Houston Partnership.

Day one of the two days of programming focused on all things energy — power storage, corporate venture, ESG, the future of the workforce, and so much more — with interviews hosted by me, Natalie Harms, editor of InnovationMap. Missed out on the fun? Catch up with a few overheard moments from Houston House or stream the full interviews below.

“Successful entrepreneurs are critical for re-investing in the community, and we’re trying to nurture that base now.” — Kirk Coburn, investment director at Shell Ventures

Video courtesy of the Greater Houston Partnership

What are the roles of energy corporations when it comes to innovation development? And what else does a successful innovation ecosystem need? At a virtual SXSW Houston House panel, panelists Kirk Coburn, investment director of Shell Ventures, and Bill Collins, founder and CEO of LO3 Energy, discuss the role of corporate innovation and venture support and the future of energy security. Click here to watch the full interview.

“If we’re going to improve performance in the energy industry, we are going to have to work better together and collaborate together.” — Al Carnrite, president and CEO of Carnrite Group

Video courtesy of the Greater Houston Partnership

Environmental, social, and governance, aka ESG, has the power to disrupt the energy transition and has already made a huge impact on energy company's short- and long-term goals. At a virtual SXSW Houston House panel, Andrew Bruce, founder and CEO, of Data Gumbo, and Al Carnrite, president and CEO of Carnrite Group discuss the emergence of ESG and how it's affecting the global energy transition. Click here to watch the full interview.

“While Houston remains the energy capital of the world, Houston is much, much more than oil and gas. Innovators in Houston are leading the charge towards creating a lower carbon future.” — Mayor Sylvester Turner

Video courtesy of the Greater Houston Partnership

How's business in Houston? At a virtual SXSW Houston House HOU Talk, Mayor Sylvester Turner gives an update on how the innovation ecosystem has developed over his tenure. Click here to watch the full interview.

"Houston is a renewable energy capital that no one knows about — in addition to being the energy capital.” — Emily Reichert, CEO at Greentown Labs

Video courtesy of the Greater Houston Partnership

In order to maintain its role as the energy capital of the world, Houston needs to advance its role in clean energy innovation. Greentown Labs, which is opening its new Houston facility in just a matter of months, will help move that needle locally. At a virtual SXSW Houston House HOU Talk, Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs, shares how Greentown Houston will act as a convener and a place to spark cleantech innovation. Click here to watch the full interview.

“We think material science is the new tech boom. And Houston is the place to be for it.” — Mike Francis, CEO and co-founder of NanoTech

Video courtesy of the Greater Houston Partnership

Houston's no stranger to engineering and physical science. Over the past several decades, the city has accumulated major hard tech businesses and talent within oil and gas. Now, it's time to lean on that infrastructure to allow for a hard tech and material science revolution. At a virtual SXSW Houston House panel, Dale Winger, managing director at Halliburton Labs, and Mike Francis, CEO and co-founder of Nanotech, discuss how materials science plays a major role in advancing the energy transition. Click here to watch the full interview.

“This isn’t your daddy’s oil patch. This is an opportunity where we can really leverage the people we have in the city to drive us forward.” — Katie Mehnert, founder and CEO of Ally

Video courtesy of the Greater Houston Partnership

What does the future of the energy workforce look like? For one, it looks way different from decades past. At a virtual SXSW Houston House HOU Talk, Katie Mehnert, founder and CEO of ALLY, weighs in on how diversity — racial, gendered, and even generational — is extremely key moving the industry forward. Click here to watch the full interview.

“We are seeing now this inflection point where there is this next build out of utility. Texas in particular is a great proving ground.” — Doug Moorehead, managing partner and CTO of Broad Reach Power

Video courtesy of the Greater Houston Partnership

On the heels of the state's worst winter storm power outage, the energy and power industries are rethinking weatherization and power storage for the future. At a virtual SXSW Houston House HOU Talk, Doug Moorehead, managing partner and CTO of Broad Reach Power, discusses the future of energy storage and how profoundly important it is toward preventing another winter storm power outage like Texas experienced in February. Click here to watch the full interview.

Houston Exponential has announced the 38 finalists for the inaugural Listies Awards. Photo via Getty Images

Exclusive: HX names finalists for inaugural Houston innovation awards

the listies go to...

Ever wonder what Houston startups and innovators are the best of the best? Here's your chance to figure it out. The inaugural Listies awards program has named its finalists.

The Listies, brought to you by Houston Exponential in partnership with InnovationMap, will name the winning companies and people across 12 awards on November 20 at 3 pm at a virtual event as a part of Impact Hub's annual The Houston Innovation Summit (THIS). Click here to register for the free event.

Nominations were open until Friday, November 6, and then a group of judges made up of members of the Houston innovation ecosystem reviewed the submissions to settle on the finalists. Below, in alphabetical order, the 38 finalists are listed for each category.

DEI champion

  • Heath Butler
  • Maria Maso
  • Grace Rodriguez

Individual contributor

  • Michael Matthews
  • Slawek Omylski
  • Brad True

Mentor of the year

  • Keith Kreuer
  • Wade Pinder
  • Landi Spearman

Outstanding leadership

  • Stephanie Campbell
  • Grace Rodriguez
  • Roberta Schwartz

Corporate innovation

  • Chevron Technology Ventures
  • Houston Methodist
  • Shell Ventures

Investor of the year

  • CSL Capital Management
  • Golden Section VC (GSTVC)
  • Integr8d Capital

SDO superstar

  • MassChallenge Houston
  • Rice Alliance
  • TMCx

Welcome to Houston

  • Greentown Labs
  • TestCard
  • Win-Win

Civic engagement

  • Annapurna
  • Luminare
  • McMac Cx

COVID pivot/phoenix

  • Luminare
  • re:3D
  • sEATz

People choice

  • INK
  • Liongard
  • Luminare
  • re:3D
  • Topl

Soonicorn

  • GoExpedi
  • Liongard
  • Medical Informatics Corp.
Houston-based Innowatts closed its Series B funding round — a $18.2 million commitment from the likes of Energy Impact Partners, Shell Ventures, and more. Photo via innowattts.com

Houston AI-enabled retail energy platform receives $18.2M investment

Follow the money

Houston-based Innowatts has closed its Series B funding round lead by Energy Impact Partners. The company, which enables artificial intelligence through its retail energy technology platform, secured a $18.2 million investment. Current funders also include Shell Ventures, Iberdrola, and Energy and Environment Investment (EEI Japan) — which all three supported the company in its Series A — along with new investor Evergy Ventures.

The funds will be used to grow the company's eUtilityTMplatform technology — a B2B cloud-based software tool to help retail energy providers better deliver quality energy services and insights to clients. The eUtilityTM platform already processes meter data from over 21 million customers globally and across 13 regional energy markets, according to the release.

"Competing in today's complex and evolving marketplace requires utility companies use data and intelligence to drive business and customer value," says Siddhartha Sachdeva, founder and CEO of Innowatts, in a release. "Energy Impact Partners, along with its coalition of innovative utility investors, appreciates the role that the eUtilityTM platform can play in creating a smarter, more efficient energy value chain. We're excited to have EIP join us on the next phase of our journey in building the digital utility of the future."

The company is "poised to become a key building block in the software-driven, intelligent grid of the future," says Michael Donnelly, partner and chief risk officer at EIP in the release.

"We invest in companies driving the transformation of the energy sector towards an increasingly decarbonized, digitized, and electrified future – solutions that our utility partners can commercialize at scale and have the greatest impact," Donnelly continues.

Innowatts' $6 million Series A round closed in August 2017. Shell Ventures lead that round.

"Utilities have the opportunity to deliver more value to customers, at lower costs and with greater personalization than ever before, while helping streamline the complex energy marketplace," says Geert van de Wouw, vice president Shell Ventures, in a release. "The predictive customer intelligence and digital solutions provided by Innowatts' eUtilityTM platform is central to executing that vision."

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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.