A deal that's been a year in the making has officially closed. Photo via Getty Images

A sports tech-focused special purpose acquisition company has sealed the deal on its acquisition of a company with thermal imaging and sensing platform technology.

SportsMap Tech Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: SMAP) announced the close of its acquisition of Beaumont-based Infrared Cameras Holdings Inc. (ICI), which will be the name of the combined company. The new ticker symbol for the combined company’s common stock and public warrants will be ticker symbols “MSAI” and “MSAIW,” respectively.

“The close of the business combination represents a monumental milestone for our company, as we view the business to be well-suited for the public market," Infrared Cameras’ CEO Gary Strahan says in a news release. Strahan and his executive team will continue to lead the company.

Originally announced in the fall of 2021, the $100 million blank-check company is led by David Gow, CEO and chairman. Gow is also chairman of Gow Media, which owns digital media outlets InnovationMap, EnergyCapitalHTX, SportsMap, and CultureMap, as well as the SportsMap Radio Network, ESPN 97.5 and 92.5.

The SPAC revealed it would be acquiring ICI just over a year ago. According to the news release, SMAP’s stockholders approved the deal at a special meeting held on December 8.

"I’m happy to complete the business transaction, and equally excited to see Gary and his team deliver a unique product and solution to a diversified sub-set of market verticals," Gow says in the release. "We view this event to serve as the initial catalyst for the Company to deliver long-term shareholder returns.”

ICI's technology includes a patented single pane-of-glass view that can be used to monitor and analyze live imaging and sensing data across industries, including monitoring overheating equipment and methane gas leaks in the oil patch. ICI provides both the physical technology as well as a software-as-a-service component. Following the close of the deal, ICI reports that it will be focused on "new customer expansion, becoming a global online retailer, solidifying operational excellence, and continual improvements" to its technology.

“We have built a diversified integrated thermal imaging and sensing platform that is enhanced by our cloud-enabled technology, allowing for improved operations and critical asset protection," Strahan says. "We believe the support of investors as a public entity will aid our ultimate strategic objective of driving growth through increased enterprise customers, while, over time, positively transforming our margins as a result of our SaaS unit economics.”

Intuitive Machines will be listed on Nasdaq beginning tomorrow, February 14. Photo via intuitivemachines.com

Houston space tech startup closes deal to IPO

now trading

It's official. This Houston company is live in the public market.

Intuitive Machines, a space tech company based in Southeast Houston, announced that it has completed the transaction to merge with Inflection Point Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company traded on Nasdaq.

“We are excited to begin this new chapter as a publicly traded company,” says Steve Altemus, co-founder, president, and CEO of Intuitive Machines, in a news release. “Intuitive Machines is in a leading position to replace footprints with a foothold in the development of lunar space. With our launch into the public sphere through Inflection Point, we have reached new heights financially and opened the doors for even greater exploration and innovation for the progress of humanity.”

The transaction, which was originally announced in September, was approved by Inflection Point’s shareholders in a general meeting on February 8. As a result of the deal, the company will receive around $55 million of committed capital from an affiliate of its sponsor and company founders, the release states.

“Today marks an incredible milestone for Intuitive Machines, and we will continue to support them on their historic voyage as a public company,” says Michael Blitzer, co-CEO of Inflection Point, in the release. “The company is exceptionally well positioned to capitalize on growing commercial and governmental interests in space, and it has been a privilege to partner with the Company as it positions itself as a strategic national asset.”

Per the release, Inflection Point has been renamed “Intuitive Machines, Inc.” and trading will begin on February 14. Intuitive Machines’ common stock and warrants planned to trade on Nasdaq under the ticker symbols “LUNR” and “LUNRW,” respectively.

“Intuitive Machines is playing a critical role in America’s return to the Moon by providing technologies and services to establish long-term lunar infrastructure and commerce,” says Kam Ghaffarian, Ph. D., co-founder and executive chairman of Intuitive Machines, in the release. “This merger accelerates and strengthens Intuitive Machines’ strategic plan to help expedite a thriving commercial ecosystem for space for the benefit of human civilization.”

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

Houston SPAC announces merger with Beaumont-based tech company in deal valued at $100M

speaking of spacs

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

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New Houston venture studio emerges to target early-stage hardtech, energy transition startups

funding the future

The way Doug Lee looks at it, there are two areas within the energy transition attracting capital. With his new venture studio, he hopes to target an often overlooked area that's critical for driving forward net-zero goals.

Lee describes investment activity taking place in the digital and software world — early stage technology that's looking to make the industry smarter. But, on the other end of the spectrum, investment activity can be found on massive infrastructure projects.

While both areas need funding, Lee has started his new venture studio, Flathead Forge, to target early-stage hardtech technologies.

“We are really getting at the early stage companies that are trying to develop technologies at the intersection of legacy industries that we believe can become more sustainable and the energy transition — where we are going. It’s not an ‘if’ or ‘or’ — we believe these things intersect,” he tells EnergyCapital.

Specifically, Lee's expertise is within the water and industrial gas space. For around 15 years, he's made investments in this area, which he describes as crucial to the energy transition.

“Almost every energy transition technology that you can point to has some critical dependency on water or gas,” he says. “We believe that if we don’t solve for those things, the other projects won’t survive.”

Lee, and his brother, Dave, are evolving their family office to adopt a venture studio model. They also sold off Azoto Energy, a Canadian oilfield nitrogen cryogenic services business, in December.

“We ourselves are going through a transition like our energy is going through a transition,” he says. “We are transitioning into a single family office into a venture studio. By doing so, we want to focus all of our access and resources into this focus.”

At this point, Flathead Forge has seven portfolio companies and around 15 corporations they are working with to identify their needs and potential opportunities. Lee says he's gearing up to secure a $100 million fund.

Flathead also has 40 advisers and mentors, which Lee calls sherpas — a nod to the Flathead Valley region in Montana, which inspired the firm's name.

“We’re going to help you carry up, we’re going to tie ourselves to the same rope as you, and if you fall off the mountain, we’re falling off with you,” Lee says of his hands-on approach, which he says sets Flathead apart from other studios.

Another thing that's differentiating Flathead Forge from its competition — it's dedication to giving back.

“We’ve set aside a quarter of our carried interest for scholarships and grants,” Lee says.

The funds will go to scholarships for future engineers interested in the energy transition, as well as grants for researchers studying high-potential technologies.

“We’re putting our own money where our mouth is,” Lee says of his thesis for Flathead Forge.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Houston-based lunar mission's rocky landing and what it means for America's return to the moon

houston, we have a problem

A private U.S. lunar lander tipped over at touchdown and ended up on its side near the moon’s south pole, hampering communications, company officials said Friday.

Intuitive Machines initially believed its six-footed lander, Odysseus, was upright after Thursday's touchdown. But CEO Steve Altemus said Friday the craft “caught a foot in the surface," falling onto its side and, quite possibly, leaning against a rock. He said it was coming in too fast and may have snapped a leg.

“So far, we have quite a bit of operational capability even though we’re tipped over," he told reporters.

But some antennas were pointed toward the surface, limiting flight controllers' ability to get data down, Altemus said. The antennas were stationed high on the 14-foot (4.3-meter) lander to facilitate communications at the hilly, cratered and shadowed south polar region.

Odysseus — the first U.S. lander in more than 50 years — is thought to be within a few miles (kilometers) of its intended landing site near the Malapert A crater, less than 200 miles (300 kilometers) from the south pole. NASA, the main customer, wanted to get as close as possible to the pole to scout out the area before astronauts show up later this decade.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will attempt to pinpoint the lander's location, as it flies overhead this weekend.

With Thursday’s touchdown, Intuitive Machines became the first private business to pull off a moon landing, a feat previously achieved by only five countries. Japan was the latest country to score a landing, but its lander also ended up on its side last month.

Odysseus' mission was sponsored in large part by NASA, whose experiments were on board. NASA paid $118 million for the delivery under a program meant to jump-start the lunar economy.

One of the NASA experiments was pressed into service when the lander's navigation system did not kick in. Intuitive Machines caught the problem in advance when it tried to use its lasers to improve the lander's orbit. Otherwise, flight controllers would not have discovered the failure until it was too late, just five minutes before touchdown.

“Serendipity is absolutely the right word,” mission director Tim Crain said.

It turns out that a switch was not flipped before flight, preventing the system's activation in space.

Launched last week from Florida, Odysseus took an extra lap around the moon Thursday to allow time for the last-minute switch to NASA's laser system, which saved the day, officials noted.

Another experiment, a cube with four cameras, was supposed to pop off 30 seconds before touchdown to capture pictures of Odysseus’ landing. But Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s EagleCam was deliberately powered off during the final descent because of the navigation switch and stayed attached to the lander.

Embry-Riddle's Troy Henderson said his team will try to release EagleCam in the coming days, so it can photograph the lander from roughly 26 feet (8 meters) away.

"Getting that final picture of the lander on the surface is still an incredibly important task for us,” Henderson told The Associated Press.

Intuitive Machines anticipates just another week of operations on the moon for the solar-powered lander — nine or 10 days at most — before lunar nightfall hits.

The company was the second business to aim for the moon under NASA's commercial lunar services program. Last month, Pittsburgh's Astrobotic Technology gave it a shot, but a fuel leak on the lander cut the mission short and the craft ended up crashing back to Earth.

Until Thursday, the U.S. had not landed on the moon since Apollo 17's Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt closed out NASA's famed moon-landing program in December 1972. NASA's new effort to return astronauts to the moon is named Artemis after Apollo's mythological twin sister. The first Artemis crew landing is planned for 2026 at the earliest.

3 female Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Welcome to another Monday edition of Innovators to Know. Today I'm introducing you to three Houstonians to read up about — three individuals behind recent innovation and startup news stories in Houston as reported by InnovationMap. Learn more about them and their recent news below by clicking on each article.

Emma Konet, co-founder and CTO of Tierra Climate

Emma Konet, co-founder and CTO of Tierra Climate, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via LinkedIn

If the energy transition is going to be successful, the energy storage space needs to be equipped to support both the increased volume of energy needed and new energies. And Emma Konet and her software company, Tierra Climate, are targeting one part of the equation: the market.

"To me, it's very clear that we need to build a lot of energy storage in order to transition the grid," Konet says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "The problems that I saw were really on the market side of things." Read more.

Cindy Taff, CEO of Sage Geosystems

Houston-based Sage Geosystems announced the first close of $17 million round led by Chesapeake Energy Corp. Photo courtesy of Sage

A Houston geothermal startup has announced the close of its series A round of funding.

Houston-based Sage Geosystems announced the first close of $17 million round led by Chesapeake Energy Corp. The proceeds aim to fund its first commercial geopressured geothermal system facility, which will be built in Texas in Q4 of 2024. According to the company, the facility will be the first of its kind.

“The first close of our Series A funding and our commercial facility are significant milestones in our mission to make geopressured geothermal system technologies a reality,” Cindy Taff, CEO of Sage Geosystems, says. Read more.

Clemmie Martin, chief of staff at The Cannon

With seven locations across the Houston area, The Cannon's digital technology allows its members a streamlined connection. Photo courtesy of The Cannon

After collaborating over the years, The Cannon has acquired a Houston startup's digital platform technology to become a "physical-digital hybrid" community.

Village Insights, a Houston startup, worked with The Cannon to create and launch its digital community platform Cannon Connect. Now, The Cannon has officially acquired the business. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“The integration of a world-class onsite member experience and Cannon Connect’s superior virtual resource network creates a seamless, streamlined environment for member organizations,” Clemmie Martin, The Cannon’s newly appointed chief of staff, says in the release. “Cannon Connect and this acquisition have paved new pathways to access and success for all.” Read more.