This Houston-based SPAC has announced the tech company it plans to merge with. Photo courtesy of Gow Media

A Houston SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company, has announced the company it plans to merge with in the new year.

Beaumont-based Infrared Cameras Holdings Inc., a provider of thermal imaging platforms, and Houston-based SportsMap Tech Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: SMAP), a publicly-traded SPAC with $117 million held in trust, announced their agreement for ICI to IPO via SPAC.

Originally announced in the fall of last year, the blank-check company is led by David Gow, CEO and chairman. Gow is also chairman and CEO of Gow Media, which owns digital media outlets SportsMap, CultureMap, and InnovationMap, as well as the SportsMap Radio Network, ESPN 97.5 and 92.5.

The deal will close in the first half of 2023, according to a news release, and the combined company will be renamed Infrared Cameras Holdings Inc. and will be listed on NASDAQ under a new ticker symbol.

“ICI is extremely excited to partner with David Gow and SportsMap as we continue to deliver our innovative software and hardware solutions," says Gary Strahan, founder and CEO of ICI, in the release. "We believe our software and sensor technology can change the way companies across industries perform predictive maintenance to ensure reliability, environmental integrity, and safety through AI and machine learning.”

Strahan will continue to serve as CEO of the combined company, and Gow will become chairman of the board. The transaction values the combined company at a pre-money equity valuation of $100 million, according to the release, and existing ICI shareholders will roll 100 percent of their equity into the combined company as part of the transaction.

“We believe ICI is poised for strong growth," Gow says in the release. "The company has a strong value proposition, detecting the overheating of equipment in industrial settings. ICI also has assembled a strong management team to execute on the opportunity. We are delighted to combine our SPAC with ICI.”

Founded in 1995, ICI provides infrared and imaging technology — as well as service, training, and equipment repairs — to various businesses and individuals across industries.

The deal between Intuitive Machines and a SPAC is expected to close in the first quarter of 2023 and would value the combined company at $815 million. Photo courtesy of Intuitive Machines

Houston-based space tech company to go public via SPAC merger

M&A

A Houston-based space exploration company that’s been tapped by NASA to take cargo to the moon plans to go public through a SPAC merger with a New York-based shell company.

Intuitive Machines LLC, founded in 2013, aims to merge with New York City-based Inflection Point Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). Once the merger is completed, shares of the combined company (Intuitive Machines) will trade on the Nasdaq stock market under the ticker symbol LUNR.

The deal, expected to close in the first quarter of 2023, would value the combined company at $815 million.

Inflection Point Acquisition’s IPO last year raised $300 million. A SPAC is a publicly traded shell company without any business operations whose only goal is to merge with or acquire another company.

Intuitive Machines is experiencing dramatic growth in revenue. The company forecasts annual revenue will reach $102 million in 2022, $291 million in 2023, and $759 million in 2024. The company has a backlog of $262 million in NASA contracts.

NASA announced in 2019 that Intuitive Machines was one of three companies being awarded contracts to carry cargo to the lunar surface ahead of an intended mission to the moon. That mission, dubbed Artemis, won’t happen until at least 2026. Intuitive Machines also plans to deliver commercial payloads to the moon.

Intuitive Machines is developing lunar landers and other space-related technology and equipment.

“We are building on a nearly 10-year operating history, a solid foundation of contracted business, a highly capital efficient model, and fiscal discipline, [which are] hallmarks we intend to continue,” says Erik Sallee, chief financial officer of Intuitive Machines.

To fuel growth, the combined company has secured commitments for $55 million in capital from entities affiliated with Inflection Point’s sponsor and from a founder of Intuitive Machines, as well as a $50 million equity facility from CF Principal Investments LLC, an affiliate of financial services provider Cantor Fitzgerald & Co.

In another move to support growth, Intuitive Machines is relocating next year from its current facility at the Houston Spaceport to a new 125,000-square-foot building on a 12.5 acres at the spaceport.

Kam Ghaffarian, co-founder and executive chairman of Intuitive Machines, says the company seeks to capitalize on an expanding space exploration market whose major players include SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and Orbital Sciences.

Steve Altemus, co-founder, president, and CEO of Intuitive Machines, says his company hopes to become “a foundation of U.S. space exploration.”

“Each successive mission will allow us to extend our advantage as we deliver satellites to lunar orbit, deliver systems to the lunar surface, and collect critical scientific and engineering data,” Altemus says.

Intuitive Machines is based in the Houston area. Photo courtesy of Intuitive Machines

Houston-based Nauticus Robotics has hit the public market. Image via Nauticus

Houston-based robotics tech company goes public via SPAC

ipo-ed

Fresh off its September 13 debut as a publicly traded company, Webster-based Nauticus Robotics Inc. is aiming for $90 million in revenue next year as it dives deeper into the ocean economy.

The stock of Nauticus now trades on the NASDAQ market under the ticker symbol KITT. Nauticus went public following its SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) merger with New York City-based CleanTech Acquisition Corp., a “blank check” company that went public in July 2021 through a $150 million IPO. The SPAC deal was valued at $560 million when it was announced in December.

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,” says Radford, who founded what was known as Houston Mechatronics in 2014. “Not only is the ocean a tremendous economic engine, but it is also the epicenter for building a sustainable future.”

That “tremendous economic engine” is valued at $2.5 trillion.

Radford says money from the sale of Nauticus shares will enable the company to move closer toward developing a fleet of subsea and surface robots that can perform an array of ocean-related tasks.

Nauticus’ ToolKITT autonomy software powers the company’s robotic fleet of Aquanauts and Hydronauts. Nauticus hopes to ultimately replace human-operated ships that deploy other submersible vehicles with its better-for-the-environment robotic fleet. The company envisions widespread use of its RaaS platform by the oil and gas, offshore renewables, and government sectors.

Nauticus estimated its 2021 revenue stood at $8.2 million. It forecasts next year’s revenue will reach $90 million.

The company is staking out its position in an emerging sector known as robotics as a service, or RaaS. The RaaS model lets companies lease robotic devices through a cloud-based subscription service. The global RaaS market was valued at $14.5 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach $44 billion by 2028, according to market research company Fact & Factors.

In August, Nauticus announced a deal with energy conglomerate Shell to advance ways to obtain subsea integrity data using Nauticus robots and technology. Three months earlier, Nauticus unveiled a strategic partnership with consulting and engineering giant Wood.

“The passion and conviction of our team at Nauticus has fueled the creation of a truly disruptive and innovative company in the ocean space, and we are eager to take the next step in our growth trajectory as a public company,” Radford said in December. “A substantial core of our team has been together, first starting at NASA and now at Nauticus, for 15 to 20 years, and I am inspired by their relentless pursuit toward this dream.”

Nicolaus Radford is the founder of Nauticus Robotics Inc. Photo courtesy

A new SPAC, SportsMap Tech Acquisition Corp., went public this week. Photo courtesy of Gow Media

Houston entrepreneur launches $100M SPAC, plans to target sports tech

IPO-ed

A new SPAC — a special purpose acquisition company — has officially started trading this week, targeting $100 million in investment and looking for an innovative sports tech company to back.

SportsMap Tech Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: SMAPU) announced its initial public offering of 10,000,000 units at a price to the public of $10 per unit, and trading began on October 19. The blank-check company is led by David Gow, CEO and chairman. Gow is also chairman and CEO of Gow Media, which owns digital media outlets SportsMap, CultureMap, AutomotiveMap, and InnovationMap, as well as the SportsMap Radio Network, ESPN 97.5 and 92.5.

The SPAC, which has potential for oversubscription, plans to find a sports tech business to acquire, specifically in one of four categories within the industry: fan engagement, health and wellness, esports, or fantasy/gambling.

"With the IPO complete, we now begin the search for a company to acquire in the sports tech industry, which we define as the realm where technology is transforming sports," says Gow. "We have not been able to talk with target companies yet, but have been doing our homework to develop a list. We also plan to tap into the extensive relationships of our board."

The company is backed by an all-star team making up the board, including Oliver Luck, Reid Ryan, David Graf, and Steve Webster.

"We have assembled a really strong board," Gow says. "In addition to his great tenure at the Astros, Reid has founded banks, served as president of a minor league team and has been investing in sports tech through his family office. Oliver has held positions across multiples sports at both the professional and collegiate levels. David Graf is the founder and CEO of a very successful sports tech company, HUDL. And Steve Webster has had an extraordinary track record in business, as one of the savviest PE and public company investors in Houston.

"The group has a great complement of financial, operations, and transactions experience," he continues.

Leadership for the company also includes David Gow's son, Lawson Gow, who founded the coworking and entrepreneurship hub, The Cannon. He will serve as chief strategy officer for SportsMap Tech Acquisition Corp. Jacob Swain will be the CFO of the SPAC.

David Gow (right) is the chairman and CEO of the new SPAC, and Reid Ryan will serve on the board. Photo by Michele Lee Sparks/Archer Sparks

Andrew White (left) and Blair Garrou are at the helm of the new black check company. Photos courtesy

Houston VC leaders announce SPAC with $175M IPO

blank check

A blank check company has hit the Nasdaq today with a $175 million initial public offering.

Mercury Ecommerce Acquisition Corp. announced its IPO of 17,500,000 units at a price of $10 per unit to be listed on The Nasdaq Capital Market with the ticker symbol "MEACU" beginning today,

The company is led by Chairman Blair Garrou, managing director of Mercury Fund, and President and CEO Andrew White, a limited partner of Mercury Fund and president of Sweat Equity Partners.

According to a press release from the SPAC, the company was "formed for the purpose of effecting a merger, share exchange, asset acquisition, share purchase, reorganization, or similar business combination with one or more businesses or entities."

"While the company may pursue an investment opportunity in any business or industry, it intends to focus its search for a target business or businesses in the e-commerce technology and tech-enabled services industry in North America," reads the release.

A close is expected by the company on July 30, subject to customary closing conditions. Needham & Company is managing the offering.

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2 Houston suburbs roll onto top-15 spots on U-Haul’s list of growing cities

on the move

More movers hauled their belongings to Texas than any other state last year. And those headed to the Greater Houston area were mostly pointed toward Missouri City and Conroe, according to a new study.

In its recently released annual growth report, U-Haul ranks Missouri City and Conroe at No. 13 and No. 19, respectively among U.S. cities with the most inbound moves via U-Haul trucks in 2022. Richardson was the only other Texas cities to make the list coming in at No. 15.

Texas ranks No. 1 overall as the state with the most in-bound moves using U-Haul trucks. This is the second year in a row and the fifth year since 2016 that Texas has earned the distinction.

“The 2022 trends in migration followed very similar patterns to 2021 with Texas, Florida, the Carolinas and the Southwest continuing to see solid growth,” U-Haul international president John Taylor says in a news release. “We still have areas with strong demand for one-way rentals. While overall migration in 2021 was record-breaking, we continue to experience significant customer demand to move out of some geographic areas to destinations at the top of our growth list.”

U-Haul determines the top 25 cities by analyzing more than 2 million one-way U-Haul transactions over the calendar year. Then the company calculated the net gain of one-way U-Haul trucks entering a specific area versus departing from that area. The top U-Haul growth states are determined the same way.

The studies note that U-Haul migration trends do not directly correlate to population or economic growth — but they are an “effective gauge” of how well cities and states are attracting and maintaining residents.

Missouri City is known for its convenient location only minutes from downtown Houston. The city’s proximity to major freeways, rail lines, the Port of Houston, and Bush and Hobby Airports links its businesses with customers “around the nation and the world,” per its website.

The No. 19-ranked city of Conroe is “the perfect blend of starry nights and city lights,” according to the Visit Conroe website. Conroe offers plenty of outdoor activities, as it is bordered by Lake Conroe, Sam Houston National Forest and W. Goodrich Jones State Forest. But it also has a busy downtown area with breweries, theaters, shopping and live music.

To view U-Haul’s full growth cities report, click here.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston-based creator economy platform goes live nationally

so clutch

An app that originally launched on Houston college campuses has announced it's now live nationwide.

Clutch founders Madison Long and Simone May set out to make it easier for the younger generation to earn money with their skill sets. After launching a beta at local universities last fall, Clutch's digital marketplace is now live for others to join in.

The platform connects brands to its network of creators for reliable and authentic work — everything from social media management, video creation, video editing, content creation, graphic design projects, and more. With weekly payments to creators and an inclusive platform for users on both sides of the equation, Clutch aims to make digital collaboration easier and more reliable for everyone.

“We’re thrilled to bring our product to market to make sustainable, authentic lifestyles available to everyone through the creator economy," says May, CTO and co-founder of Clutch. "We’re honored to be part of the thriving innovation community here in Houston and get to bring more on-your-own-terms work opportunities to all creators and businesses through our platform.”

In its beta, Clutch facilitated collaborations for over 200 student creators and 50 brands — such as DIGITS and nama. The company is founded with a mission of "democratizing access to information and technology and elevating the next generation for all people," according to a news release from Clutch. In the beta, 75 percent of the creators were people of color and around half of the businesses were owned by women and people of color.

“As a Clutch Creator, I set my own pricing, schedule and services when collaborating on projects for brands,” says Cathy Syfert, a creator through Clutch. “Clutch Creators embrace the benefits of being a brand ambassador as we create content about the products we love, but do it on behalf of the brands to help the brands grow authentically."

The newly launched product has the following features:

  • Creator profile, where users can share their services, pricing, and skills and review inquiries from brands.
  • Curated matching from the Clutch admin team.
  • Collab initiation, where users can accept or reject incoming collab requests with brands.
  • Collab management — communication, timing, review cycles — all within the platform.
  • In-app payments with a weekly amount selected by the creators themselves.
  • Seamless cancellation for both brands and creators.
Clutch raised $1.2 million in seed funding from Precursor Ventures, Capital Factory, HearstLab, and more. Clutch was originally founded as Campus Concierge in 2021 and has gone through the DivInc Houston program at the Ion.

Madison Long, left, and Simone May co-founded Clutch. Photo courtesy of Clutch

Houston expert: Space tourism is the future — do we have the workforce to run it?

guest column

Throughout history, humans have always been fascinated in exploring and traveling around the world, taking them to many exotic places far and away. On the same token, ever since the dimension of space travel has been inaugurated with multiple private companies launching rockets into space, it has become an agenda to make space travel public and accessible to all. We believe that space travel is the next frontier for tourism just like for our forefathers world travel to faraway places was the next frontier, for recreational and adventure purposes.

In a world racing on technology, we can picture flying cars, invisible doors, and international cuisine in space. With this rapid expansion of the land, the idea of space tourism has stirred the space industry to think about running businesses, start trade, and set up universalization beyond the ring of the earth. It is no longer science fiction but our immediate future. However, the true question remains. Who will be responsible for all of it? Are we training the right workforce that is needed to build and run all of this?

Space tourism is an exciting idea in theory, traveling to extra-terrestrial destinations, exploring new planets, all by being in an anti-gravitational environment. Through these diminishing borders and rapid advancements soon we'll be living the space life, all the virtual, metaverse gigs coming to reality. But before that let's explore space tourism and how the solar system will welcome humans.

What is Space tourism?

Ever since 1967, Apollo opened the getaway of space travel and the technological intervention spun to rise. Just like nomad tourism, space tourism is human space travel for commercializing interstellar for leisure or pleasurable adventures of the unknown. Space has different levels of horizons, according to research, orbital space has high speeds of 17,400 mph to allow the rocket to orbit around the Earth without falling onto the land. While lunar space tourism goes into subcortical flights and brings people back at a slower speed.

Studies have shown that in the upcoming years, commercial space exploration will hike up the economical database, by generating more than expected revenue. On these grounds, space tourism won't be limited to suborbital flights but rather take onto orbital flights, this revolutionary expenditure will change the future.

Everything aligns when the right team works together endlessly to reach the stars. The space exploration will only take place with enthusiastic and empowered individuals catering towards their roles.

Astronomers, space scientists, meteorologists, plasma physicists, aerospace engineers, avionics technicians, technical writers, space producers, and more will work in the field to make this space dream come true.

The attraction of Space exploration

Curiosity is the gateway to the seven wonders of the world. Humans are born with novelty-seeking, the drive to explore the unknown and push boundaries. This exploration has benefited society in a million ways, from making bulbs to jets.

The attraction towards exploring the space stems from the same desire for novelty seeking. We want to answer the most difficult questions about the universe, is there only darkness beyond that sky? Can we live on another planet if ours die? To address the challenges of space and the world, we have created new technologies, industries, and a union worldwide. This shows how vital space exploration is to humans. Many astronauts dwell on the idea of seeing the iconic thin blue outline of our planet, the quintessential experience makes the astronaut go back and back. However, are we entering this dimension with the right skills? Is our future workforce ready to take need the best

Who will lead the path?

The main question that still goes unanswered is who will run space tourism. When it comes to the future, there are infinite options. One decision and you will fly into an endless sky.

This expenditure has opened multiple career opportunities for the future workforce to take on for diversification and exploration of space. Currently, we cannot predict how people will find meaning and improve their lives through space tourism, but it will be a soul-awakening experience. According to experts, travelers would prefer a livelihood in space for which companies are working day and night to figure out accommodation and properties. The ideas include having space hotels, offices, research labs, and tents for operations.

Lastly, space tourism is just a start, we are moving into a dimensional field of physics and astronomy to create new opportunities and ground-breaking inventions to explore the untouchable. The new era of more refined and thoroughly accessed careers are on the rise, let's see how the world evolves in the next 10 years.

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Ghazal Qureshi is the founder and CEO of UpBrainery, a Houston-based immersive educational technology platform that taps into neuroscience research-based programs to provide adaptive learning and individualized pathways for students at home or in the classroom.