DivInc has launched its new female-focused accelerator and named its first cohort. Photo via Getty Images

DivInc, an Austin-based accelerator for women and people of color, announced today that it has launched its first Women in Tech HTX cohort in partnership with female-focused co-working space SheSpace.

The nine women-led companies will join DivInc's 11th cohort and the first to operate out of Houston. Founders will receive $10,000 in non-dilutive funding upon completion of a 12-week curriculum, which includes in-depth workshops that aim to help the founders "make a year's worth of progress in just three months," Amanda Moya, DivInc’s Houston program director, said in a statement.

According to DivInc, the aim of the accelerator is to support more female-led startups in the Houston area (which the company says it has seen an emergence of in the last two years) and connect them with its network of VCs.

Founders will be paired with mentors from Microsoft and Google to support their next phases of development. DivInc and SheSpace will also provide stipends for founders in need of childcare assistance.

A committee consisting of representatives from Mercury, Artemis Fund, Microsoft, and several other partners helped select the group of founders considering market size, scalability, industry need, and other factors.

Members of the fall cohort include:

Weekly workshops will take place at SheSpace, an all-women coworking space developed by Stephanie Tsuru that opened in the Heights in 2020. The accelerator is also supported by Houston Houston partners J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Verizon, The Ion and Mercury.

DivInc will introduce the accepted companies at a happy hour on Thursday, Sept. 22 at The Ion. Those interested in attending can RSVP online.

"With several of these companies coming from outside of Texas, we’re looking forward to the founders making organic connections and learning more about what Houston has to offer," Moya added.

SheSpace will host the accelerator. Image via shespacehtx.com

SheSpace announces its expansion — and more Houston innovation news you may have missed. Photo courtesy of SheSpace

Halliburton company raises $10M, gBETA opens apps, Houston coworking space expands, and more innovation news

Short stories

It's been a busy summer for the Houston innovation ecosystem, and for this reason, local startup and tech news may have fallen through some of the cracks.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston innovation, a Halliburton Labs member company raises a series A, SheSpace is growing, gBETA is looking for its next cohort, and more.

Halliburton company raises $10 million

Halliburton Labs opens next round of applications

A Halliburton Labs company has raised fresh funding. Photo courtesy of Halliburton

Enexor Energy, one of Houston-based Halliburton Labs' participant companies, secured a $10 million investment from BorgWarner. The energy transition startup provides on-site, renewable energy, and carbon conversion solutions to help solve the world's organic waste and plastic waste problems.

"At Enexor, we all share a mutual passion for technological innovation and leaving a lasting legacy that betters humanity for generations long after we are gone," says Lee Jestings, founder and CEO of Enexor BioEnergy, in a news release. "We are thrilled to have a company like BorgWarner, that shares the same passion and is driven by a similar mission, invest so heavily in our company. I imagine this partnership will be fruitful for both of our companies and, more importantly, the world."

Enexor joined Halliburton Labs in February.

SheSpace announces expansion

For women by women: New coworking space to open in Houston

SheSpace is expanding its coworking spot. Image via shespacehtx.com

SheSpace is adding 1,500 square feet for a total of 7,500 square feet in the same spot it opened in November of last year (2799 Katy Freeway). The expansion will add supplementary event areas and 13 single and duo offices to its existing facilities, which includes 12 private offices, two event spaces, conference rooms, a fitness space, and a podcast studio.

"When our members succeed, we succeed," says founder Stephanie Tsuru, in a news release. "SheSpace grows because our members are growing and expanding in their respective businesses, and our expansion is a win for not only our members but all females."

According to the release, SheSpace's current facilities are at 100 percent capacity.

gBETA opens latest cohort applications

Early-stage startup accelerator names latest Houston cohort

Apps are open for gBETA. Photo courtesy of gBETA

Applications are open for gBETA's latest cohort. The early-stage program, which is a part of the nationally ranked startup accelerator gener8tor, is a free, seven-week accelerator for companies with local roots. Each program is capped at five teams, and requires no fees and no equity.

The deadline to apply is September 17, and the program will run from October 18 to December 17. Here is a direct link to view the application and apply.

Houston company joins Austin-based accelerator

Lodgeur

Lodgeur was accepted into Sputnik ATX. Photo courtesy of Lodguer

Houston-based Lodgeur has been selected for Austin-based accelerator Sputnik's summer 2021 cohort. Only five companies comprise the cohort — paired down from over 750 applications.

Lodgeur, co-founded by Brooke Bornick and Sebastien Long, allows apartment owners a chance to maximize rental income by providing turnkey flexible living service. Earlier this year, the company was named a MassChallenge - Houston finalist, as well as a semi-finalist in the Venture Houston 2021 Pitch Competition.

The five companies will go through three months of training and $100,000 in seed funding.

"What sets our program apart is the amount and caliber of mentoring our companies receive," says Dr. Oksana Malysheva, CEO and managing partner of Sputnik ATX, in a news release. "Sputnik ATX invests in the future; putting financial resources to work, training and advising founders who are skating to where the puck will be and helping them reach their full potential. Our newest cohort will change the food we eat, modernize how we find a place to live, expand a new type of lodging, help returning citizens maintain access to critical health care, and provide everyone the opportunity to be their best emotional and physical self."

SBA doles out $130 million in grants

money Houston ranks No. 3 on list of cities with the most people in financial distress amid COVID-19

SBA is doling out millions to hard-hit businesses. Photo via Getty Images

Earlier this month, the U.S. Small Business Administration awarded over $7.5 billion in Shuttered Venue Operators Grants (SVOG) to more than 10,000 small businesses, nonprofits, and venues. In Houston alone, over 120 businesses received more than $130 million in grant funding.

"Houston is one of only a few U.S. cities with permanent professional opera, ballet, music, and theater organizations— all considered world-class— as well as many highly rated museums, cinemas and entertainment venues," says district director, Tim Jeffcoat. "Through SBA's SVOG program, we have supplied important lifeline funding to organizations from all of these performing arts categories to rapidly restore operations and bring top-level entertainment back to Houston."

The news of SheSpace's launch in Houston was among this year's top lifestule innovaton stories. Image via shespacehtx.com

These are Houston's top lifestyle innovation stories this year

2020 in review

Editor's note: As 2020 comes to a close, InnovationMap is looking back at the year's top stories in Houston innovation. When it came to the lifestyle innovation — whether that be B2C startups or real estate — in Houston, five stories trended among readers.

5 innovative gift ideas from Houston startups

Support Houston startups by shopping local this holiday season. Photos courtesy

The holidays are fully upon us, and in the spirit of giving, why not give a little business to local startups as you shop for friends and family this year?

Browse this year's roundup of Houston startup-created gift ideas below, and then click here to check out last year's gift ideas too for eight more options for you. Click here to continue reading.

New Houston tech startup launches to streamline afterlife planning

The Postage is a new company that uses technology to help ease the experience of afterlife responsibilities for family members. Photo courtesy of The Postage

Three years ago, Emily Cisek was struck with immense grief when she lost three family members back to back. She says she learned first-hand how arduous the process of wrapping up someone's life is and how it can take away from the grieving process.

"I saw the frustrations in my family," she explains, as she grappled with the passing of both her grandmothers and her cousin's young child.

Cisek says in that moment she thought, "Wow, there's got to be a better way so that people have a resource to get a plan and walk through the process so that when you do lose someone, there is a really easy way to manage that."

Cisek's realization planted a seed and she has the idea for The Postage, a digital platform that helps collect information and digital assets in one place to ease with affair planning. Click here to continue reading.

For women by women: New coworking space to open in Houston

SheSpace is planning to open in a new mixed-use facility just south of Interstate 10 near downtown. Image via shespacehtx.com

To Stephanie Tsuru, there is strength in numbers — especially, when women are involved.

"Women coming together is powerful," explains Tsuru, the founder of SheSpace, an all-women coworking space coming soon to The Heights that seeks to build a collective community of entrepreneurs and business professionals.

Mentorship and motivation were always part of Tsuru's purpose since the start of her career. Her background in healthcare and rehab gave her insight into how powerful mindset can be in a person's growth.

"I have always been involved and really driven by motivational psychology," she says.

Her affinity for mentorship continued as she went on to coach women in her own life. With her 35 years of life experience, Tsuru feels there is "no substitute for wisdom." Her passion for cultivating relationships and inspiring other women led her to want to create an environment where women could network and learn from mentors and peers. Click here to continue reading.

Houston rent prices rise as COVID-19 impacts local housing market

Houston rents actually rose in May. Sky Noir Photography by Bill Dickinson/Getty Images

The impact of COVID-19 has not been lost on the Houston housing market, with home sales dipping and rents rising. Here's a look at the current landscape.

In May, single-family home leases were up a solid 12 percent, notes the Houston Board of Realtors. This coincided with rising Houston rents.

According to Abodo's report, the median rent for a one-bedroom unit rose 0.51 percent month-over-month to $1,179, while two-bedroom rents gained 1.24 percent to a median $1,466. While one month's numbers don't necessarily mean a rental price spike, instead of Houston experiencing a COVID-19 price recession, we are currently seeing the opposite. Click here to continue reading.

Houston entrepreneur designs clothing that benefits skin health

Emeline Kuhner-Stout, founder of Élastique Athletics, wanted to create a product that was easy to wear and benefitted lymphatic health. Photo courtesy of Élastique Athletics

A few years ago, Emeline Kuhner-Stout, a French ex-pat, was figuring out life as a new mom in a new city. She found her new life in Houston to be sedentary and all consumed with taking care of her baby. Her only time for herself were her daily trips to the gym, and she wanted to make it worth her while.

"There were so many more things I wanted to do for myself, and I just didn't have the time," Kuhner-Stout tells InnovationMap. "It would be so much more efficient if there was a way to combine [elements] to make products that would perform for us."

She noticed at this time that people were starting to care about what they wear to the gym, and she was also looking into the causes of cellulite. Kuhner-Stout and her husband, Myron, who's a patent attorney, started doing some research and found that there weren't any products that existed at the confluence of activewear and skincare.

Élastique Athletics was born to fill that need. Click here to continue reading.

SheSpace is planning to open in a new mixed-use facility just south of Interstate 10 near downtown. Image via shespacehtx.com

For women by women: New coworking space to open in Houston

new to hou

To Stephanie Tsuru, there is strength in numbers — especially, when women are involved.

"Women coming together is powerful," explains Tsuru, the founder of SheSpace, an all-women coworking space coming soon to The Heights that seeks to build a collective community of entrepreneurs and business professionals.

Mentorship and motivation were always part of Tsuru's purpose since the start of her career. Her background in healthcare and rehab gave her insight into how powerful mindset can be in a person's growth.

"I have always been involved and really driven by motivational psychology," she says.

Her affinity for mentorship continued as she went on to coach women in her own life. With her 35 years of life experience, Tsuru feels there is "no substitute for wisdom." Her passion for cultivating relationships and inspiring other women led her to want to create an environment where women could network and learn from mentors and peers.

"I really was passionate about leveraging mentoring on a big scale," she says.

From idea to innovation

SheSpace is run by Stephanie Tsuru and her daughter-in-law Katie. Photo courtesy of SheSpace

After a trip to Israel, Tsuru met two best friends — an Israeli woman and Palestinian woman — who teamed up to help at a local women's center. After touring the space and witnessing the collaboration, she left inspired.

"I was so blown away by what was happening in the center," she muses, "I knew I had to have a space for women."

She partnered with her daughter-in-law, Katie, who has assumed the role of CFO. She compares their relationship to the "Old Masters and Young Geniuses" model, first written about by David Galenson. While Tsuru brings the "life experience and wisdom," her daughter-in-law is the young innovator.

"She just looks at the world a little bit fresher," she admits, "This is the perfect combination."

For women, by women

The space was designed and set up by female professionals. Image via shespacehtx.com

Browse through architectural renderings and you'll find a chic industrial space with pops of color at every turn. An energizing palette of green, pink, orange and yellow effervescently leap from the walls. The space is donned with graphic patterns and motivational virtues that preach collaboration and empowerment. Behind every piece of drywall and design is the work of a woman.

"I started enlisting the best and the brightest females I could find. Now there's a team of about 23 women that have all come together in their various domains to put this together," she explains. From the architect to the drywall company, the soon-to-open space is entirely built by women-led companies.

Finding women in some industries was no easy feat for Tsuru, who was committed to her mission of empowering and collaborating with women for SheSpace's production. From the IT networking to the construction manager, every external and internal working of the company is female.

"I set out doing this not having any idea how hard it is to find women in some of these areas," she explains, "We are so proud to say that it's all women."

Intentionality in design

SheSpace will have a cafe for refueling. Image via shespacehtx.com

Female intentionality doesn't mean an all-pink space—it's designs focused on women to help excel their productivity. From a lactation room to the artwork, women are at the center of the design.

According to the Office on Women's Health, no employer is required to have a lactation room, which is an issue that can plague working moms. From bathrooms to storage closets, women in some companies have had to be creative while the workforce catches up to design needs.

SheSpace created a lactation room, designed with a lock for privacy and individual, portable fridges available for nursing women to store breast milk.

"It's the prettiest room, it's beautiful, calming it's very serene. Women can go in there and just kind of catch their breath and use their breast pump," says Tsuru.

Personal and professional branding has become a central role in business ownership. The influencer space is 77 percent women, and continues to grow with the emergence of platforms like TikTok. SheSpace is equipped with a professional podcast recording room as well as an influencer nook.

The space also exhibits the talents of women by incorporating an book niche featuring all-female authors as well as a "SheShop," a pop-up shop where female-business owners can showcase and sell their products.

The power of female collaboration

SheSpace will have several rooms for different purposes — meetings, podcasting, privacy, etc. Image via shespacehtx.com

Coworking spaces have been on the rise in Houston over the last several years. From popular global brands like WeWork to small startups, the trend has consistently been on the rise.

Rather than compete with to co-ed spaces, Tsuru has kept women in mind from the beginning. "Women tend to dream smaller than men. While we strenuously support small businesses, the trend we see is women often do not aim high enough. When networking with women in positions of power we see a measurable shift in goals," she explains.

The comradery of women working alongside each other is a huge asset in Tsuru's eyes.

"Women understand women. There is an implicit understanding that already exists that you don't have to explain," she explains, noting that shared experienced bring women together.

There's also an understanding that women can be themselves without having to face the judgment of their male peers.

"It's also a comfort level that women can be themselves, that they can act [like] themselves. They don't have to talk a certain way. They don't have to sit a certain way. They find their voice when they're surrounded by women," shares Tsuru.

Tapping into collaboration, Tsuru is most excited for the educational workshops and networking opportunities that will come to the space. From public speaking to organizing finances, the space has an agenda planned for its upcoming launch.

"It's all about building confidence and you're in a nice supported environment. It's the perfect place to do that," explains Tsuru. "With that comes everything else, the networking and the flow of ideas...it's a huge resource center. No matter who you're looking for, we have a resource directory," she continues.

Transitioning amid COVID-19

SheSpace will be opening in Lower Heights, a 24-acre mixed-use district. Image courtesy of Gulf Coast Commercial Group

One of the benefits of being built during a pandemic, is the ability to keep new social distancing rules and considerations in mind. While Tsuru and her team have been able to anticipate life in a COVID-19 world, they've adjusted the space to include features like a lock on the lactation room door and individualized amenities.

As SheSpace has transitioned, so are women going through the pandemic and other phases of their lives. "There are all these women that are now office-less. They couldn't afford the overhead of the big office and where were they going to go?" says Tsuru. Women who want a space outside of their home five days a week can also utilize the vibrant, collaborative space and make it their own.

Above all, Tsuru hopes the space can be an aid to the women of Houston. "We're just in a moment of interruption, just the entire nation. I do think this is going to be a big place of healing for women," she shares.

SheSpace will be located at 2799 Katy Freeway in the Lower Heights district. Follow SheSpace to stay updated on the details of its launch.

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Houston company premieres new platform for gig economy workforce

tech support

As the independent workforce continues to grow, a Houston-based company is aiming to connect these workers with companies that match their specific needs with a new digital platform.

FlexTek, a 14-year old recruiting and staffing company, launched a first gig site tailored to the needs of the individual worker. The platform, Workz360, is built to be able to manage projects, maintain quality control, and manage billing and year-end financial reporting.The company is also working to expanding the platform to provide infrastructure to assist independent workers with education, access to savings programs, tax compliance through vetted third-party CPA firms, and hopes in the future to assist with access to liability and medical insurance.

With a younger workforce and a shifting economy, the “gig economy,” which is another way to describe how people can earn a living as a 1099 worker, offers an alternative option to the corporate grind in a post-pandemic workscape. Chief Marketing Officer Bill Penczak of Workz360 calls this era “Gig 2.0,” and attributes the success of this type of workforce to how during the COVID-19 pandemic people learned how to work, and thrive in non-traditional work environments. The site also boasts the fact it won’t take a bite out of the worker’s pay, which could be an attractive sell for many since other sites can take up to 65 percent of profit.

“In the past few years, with the advent of gig job platforms, the Independent workers have been squeezed by gig work platforms taking a disproportionate amount of the workers’ income,” said FlexTek CEO and founder Stephen Morel in a news release. “As a result, there has been what we refer to as ‘pay padding,’ a phenomenon in which workers are raising their hourly or project rates to compensate for the bite taken by other platforms.

"Workz360 is designed to promote greater transparency, and we believe the net result will be for workers to thrive and companies to save money by using the platform,” he continues.

As the workforce has continued to change over the years, a third of the current U.S. workforce are independent workers according to FlexTek, workers have gained the ability to have more freedom where and how they work. Workz360 aims to cater to this workforce by believing in a simple mantra of treating your workers well.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about this, but we like the Southwest Airlines model,” Penczak tells InnovationMap. “Southwest Airlines treats their people very well, and as a result those employees treat the passengers really well. We believe the same thing holds true. If we can provide resources, and transparency, and not take a bite out of what the gig worker is charging, then we will get the best and the brightest people since they feel like they won’t be taken advantage of. We think there is an opportunity to be a little different and put the people first.”

NASA launches new research projects toward astronauts on ISS

ready to research

For the 26th time, SpaceX has sent up supplies to the International Space Station, facilitating several new research projects that will bring valuable information to the future of space.

On Saturday at 1:20 pm, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched on the Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida — bringing with it more than 7,700 pounds of science experiments, crew supplies, and other cargo. The anticipated docking time is Sunday morning, and the cargo spacecraft will remain aboard the ISS for 45 days, according to a news release from NASA.

Among the supplies delivered to the seven international astronauts residing on the ISS are six research experiments — from health tech to vegetation. Here's a glimpse of the new projects sent up to the scientists in orbit:

Moon Microscope

Image via NASA.gov

Seeing as astronauts are 254 miles away from a hospital on Earth — and astronauts on the moon would be almost 1,000 times further — the need for health technology in space is top of mind for researchers. One new device, the Moon Microscope, has just been sent up to provide in-flight medical diagnosis. The device includes a portable hand-held microscope and a small self-contained blood sample staining tool, which can communicate information to Earth for diagnosis.

"The kit could provide diagnostic capabilities for crew members in space or on the surface of the Moon or Mars," reads a news release. "The hardware also may provide a variety of other capabilities, such as testing water, food, and surfaces for contamination and imaging lunar surface samples."

Fresh produce production

Salads simply aren't on the ISS menu, but fresh technology might be changing that. Researchers have been testing a plant growth unit on station known as Veggie, which has successfully grown a variety of leafy greens, and the latest addition is Veg-05 — focused on growing dwarf tomatoes.

Expanded solar panels

Thanks to SpaceX's 22nd commercial resupply mission in 2021, the ISS installed Roll-Out Solar Arrays. Headed to the ISS is the second of three packages to complete the panels that will increase power for the station by 20 to 30 percent. This technology was first tested in space in 2017 and is a key ingredient in future ISS and lunar development.

Construction innovation

Image via NASA.gov

Due to the difference of gravity — and lack thereof — astronauts have had to rethink constructing structures in space. Through a process called extrusion, liquid resin is used to create shapes and forms that cannot be created on Earth. Photocurable resin, which uses light to harden the material into its final form, is injected into pre-made flexible forms and a camera captures footage of the process, per the news release.

"The capability for using these forms could enable in-space construction of structures such as space stations, solar arrays, and equipment," reads the release. "The experiment is packed inside a Nanoracks Black Box with several other experiments from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab and is sponsored by the ISS National Lab."

Transition goggles

It's a bizarre transition to go from one gravity field to another — and one that can affect spatial orientation, head-eye and hand-eye coordination, balance, and locomotion, and cause some crew members to experience space motion sickness, according to the release.

"The Falcon Goggles hardware captures high-speed video of a subject’s eyes, providing precise data on ocular alignment and balance," reads the release.

On-demand nutrients

Image via NASA.gov

NASA is already thinking about long-term space missions, and vitamins, nutrients, and pharmaceuticals have limited shelf-life. The latest installment in the five-year BioNutrients program is BioNutrients-2 , which tests a system for producing key nutrients from yogurt, a fermented milk product known as kefir, and a yeast-based beverage, per the release.

"The researchers also are working to find efficient ways to use local resources to make bulk products such as plastics, construction binders, and feedstock chemicals. Such technologies are designed to reduce launch costs and increase self-sufficiency, extending the horizons of human exploration," reads the release.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from esports to biomaterials — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Zimri Hinshaw, CEO of BUCHA BIO

Zimri T. Hinshaw, CEO of BUCHA BIO, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss how he's planning to scale his biomaterials startup to reduce plastic waste. Photo courtesy of BUCHA BIO

After raising a seed round of funding, BUCHA BIO is gearing up to move into its new facility. The biomaterials company was founded in New York City in 2020, but CEO Zimri T. Hinshaw shares how he started looking for a new headquarters for the company — one that was more affordable, had a solid talent pool, and offered a better quality of life for employees. He narrowed it down from over 20 cities to two — San Diego and Houston — before ultimately deciding on the Bayou City.

Since officially relocating, Hinshaw says he's fully committed to the city's innovation ecosystem. BUCHA BIO has a presence at the University of Houston, Greentown Labs, and the East End Maker Hub — where the startup is building out a new space to fit the growing team.

"By the end of this month, our laboratories will be up and running, we'll have office space adjacent, as well as chemical storage," Hinshaw says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. Listen to the episode and read more.

Kelly Klein, development director of Easter Seals Greater Houston

A nonprofit organization has rolled out an esports platform and event to raise awareness and funding for those with disabilities. Photo via Easter Seals

For many video games is getaway from reality, but for those with disabilities — thanks to a nonprofit organization —gaming can mean a lot more. On Saturday Dec. 3 — International Day of Persons with Disabilities — from 1 to 9 pm, Easter Seals Greater Houston will be joining forces with ES Gaming for the inaugural Game4Access Streamathon.

Gaming helps enhance cognitive skills, motor skills, improve mental well-being, and can help reduce feelings of social isolation due to the interactive nature of playing with others.

“This is really a unique way for (people) to form a community without having to leave their house, and being part of an inclusive environment,” says Kelly Klein, development director of Easter Seals Greater Houston. ”The adaptive equipment and specialized technology just does so many miraculous things for people with disabilities on so many levels — not just gaming. With gaming, it is an entrance into a whole new world.” Read more.

John Mooz, senior managing director at Hines

Levit Green has announced its latest to-be tenant. Photo courtesy

Levit Green, a 53-acre mixed-use life science district next to the Texas Medical Center and expected to deliver this year, has leased approximately 10,000 square feet of commercial lab and office space to Sino Biological Inc. The Bejing-based company is an international reagent supplier and service provider. Houston-based real estate investor, development, and property manager Hines announced the new lease in partnership with 2ML Real Estate Interests and Harrison Street.

“Levit Green was meticulously designed to provide best-in-class life science space that can accommodate a multitude of uses. Welcoming Sino Biological is a testament to the market need for sophisticated, flexible space that allows diversified firms to perform a variety of research,” says John Mooz, senior managing director at Hines, in a press release. “Sino is an excellent addition to the district’s growing life science ecosystem, and we look forward to supporting their continued growth and success.” Read more.Read more.