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

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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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Deadline extended: InnovationMap, HX open nominations for new combined awards gala

calling all innovators

Update: The deadline for nominations have been extended to midnight on Sunday, October 2.

InnovationMap is back to honor local startups and innovators — and this time, we've upped the ante.

Houston Exponential and InnovationMap have teamed up to combine their annual awards and event efforts to premiere a brand new program. The Houston Innovation Awards Gala on Wednesday, November 9, at The Ion will be a comprehensive event honoring Houston founders, innovators, investors, and more. InnovationMap and HX, which was acquired earlier this year, are in the same network of ownership.

Nominations are open online until midnight October 2, and nominees will have until October 11 to complete an additional application that will be emailed to nominees directly. A group of industry experts and Houston innovation leaders will review those submissions and determine finalists and winners across 11 categories. The categories for this year's awards are:

  • BIPOC-Owned Business honoring an innovative company founded or co-founded by BIPOC representation
  • Female-Owned Business honoring an innovative company founded or co-founded by a woman
  • Hardtech Business honoring an innovative company developing and commercializing a physical technology across life science, energy, space, and beyond
  • B2B Software Business honoring an innovative company developing and programming a digital solution to impact the business sector
  • Green Impact Business honoring an innovative company providing a solution within renewables, climatetech, clean energy, alternative materials, and beyond
  • Smart City Business honoring an innovative company providing a tech solution within transportation, infrastructure, data, and beyond
  • New to Hou honoring an innovative company, accelerator, or investor that has relocated its primary operations to Houston within the past three years
  • DEI Champion honoring an individual who is leading impactful diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and progress within Houston and their organization
  • Investor of the Year honoring an individual who is leading venture capital or angel investing
  • Mentor of the Year honoring an individual who dedicates their time and expertise to guide and support to budding entrepreneurs
  • People's Choice: Startup of the Year selected via an interactive voting portal during of the event
Nominees can be submitted to multiple categories.

Additionally, the awards gala will honor an innovator who's made a lasting impact on the Houston innovation community. While you may nominate an individual for the Trailblazer Award via the online form, the judging committee will not require applications or nominations for this category and will be considering potential honorees from the ecosystem at large. If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities, please reach out to cbuckner@houstonexponential.org.

Last year, InnovationMap introduced its awards program and named 28 finalists and honored the nine winners on September 8. Click here to see more from last year's event.

Tickets for the November 9 event are available online. Early bird tickets will be $60 per person and startup founders will be able to attend for $25.

Click here to submit a nomination or see form below.


Major corporation opens hub for global decarbonization in Houston

seeing green

Management consulting giant McKinsey & Co. plans to spend $100 million over the next decade to pump up Houston’s decarbonization economy.

McKinsey says the initiative will, among other things, focus on:

  • Promoting innovations like carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) and green hydrogen
  • Revamping business models for carbon-heavy companies
  • Ramping up the community of local startups involved in energy transition
  • Developing talent to work on decarbonization

As part of this program, McKinsey has set up a decarbonization hub in its Houston office, at 609 Main St.

“Decarbonization will lead to a new chapter of economic development, while also addressing a critical problem of climate change,” McKinsey partner Nikhil Ati says.

Global decarbonization efforts over the next three decades will require a $100 trillion investment, according to Utility Dive. Houston, home to 40 percent of publicly traded oil and gas companies, stands to gain a substantial share of that opportunity.

McKinsey’s Houston office has worked for several years on Houston’s energy transition initiatives. For instance, the firm helped produce a study and a whitepaper on energy transition here. The whitepaper outlines Houston’s future as the “epicenter of a global clean hydrogen hub.”

“Texas is the nation’s largest renewable energy producer, home to half of the nation’s hydrogen pipelines, and its companies have unparalleled capabilities in building and operating complex projects,” McKinsey senior partner Filipe Barbosa says. “This is Houston’s moment in time on the global stage.”

McKinsey estimates a Houston-based global hub for clean hydrogen that’s in place by 2050 could generate 180,000 jobs and create an economic impact of $100 billion.

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 photonics to robotics — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship

Brad Burke joins this week's Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via alliance.rice.edu

Collaboration has made a world of a difference for growing Houston's innovation ecosystem, according to Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship.

"I think Houston has this culture of collaboration that I suspect that some other major cities don't have in the same way," Burke says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "And while we're a big city, the entrepreneurial ecosystem feels like a small network of a lot of people who work really well together."

Burke has played a major role in the collaboration of Houston for the past 20 years leading the Rice Alliance, which coordinates many event programs and accelerators — including the Rice Business Plan Competition, energy and life science forums, the Clean Energy Accelerator, Owl Spark, Blue Launch, and more. Click here to read more.

Trevor Best, CEO and co-founder of Syzygy Plasmonics

A new partnership for Houston-based Syzygy will generate 1.2 million tons of clean hydrogen each year in South Korea by 2030. Image via Syzygy

Houston-area energy tech startup Syzygy Plasmonics is part of a new partnership that will develop a fully electric chemical reactor for production of clean hydrogen in South Korea.

The reactor will be installed in the second half of 2023 at Lotte Fine Chemical’s facilities in Ulsan, South Korea. Lotte Fine Chemical, Lotte Chemical, and Sumitomo Corporation of Americas are Syzygy’s partners in this venture.

“Simply improving existing tech isn’t enough to reach the world’s decarbonization goals. Stopping climate change will require industries to reimagine what is possible,” Syzygy co-founder and CEO Trevor Best says in a news release. “Our technology expands the accepted paradigms of chemical engineering. We have demonstrated the ability to replace heat from combustion with renewable electricity in the manufacture of foundational chemicals like hydrogen.” Click here to read more.

Nicolaus Radford, CEO and founder of Nauticus Robotics

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

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.” Click here to read more.