This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Marc Nathan of Michael Best, Teresa Thomas of Deloitte, and Luis Arregoces of Blue People. Photos courtesy

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.

Marc Nathan, senior director of market development at Michael Best

Headed to SXSW? Marc Nathan shares what you need to know. Photo via Michael Best

Tens of thousands of people are descending upon Austin for SXSW — many of whom are ambitious startup founders. For Houston entrepreneurs, there's a lot to consider before heading down the street to Austin, and Marc Nathan can help.

The native Houstonian, who works with startups as senior director of market development at Michael Best and is based in Austin, has attended the conference for over 20 years. Every year, he assembles a comprehensive SXSW guide including round up of must-attend events, tips, and more.

He joined the Houston Innovators Podcast this week to provide his thoughts on how Houston founders can make the most of the tech-focused Interactive track — or the unofficial experiences taking place around Austin.

"You do not need a badge to enjoy and get the most out of SXSW," Nathan says, explaining that having a badge is ideal for a first timer experience. "For struggling founders who are typically broke, if you can swing the travel to get to Austin — getting here, staying here, and eating here, which are all not very cheap to start with — if you can swing that, then a badge is not that critical." Read more.

Teresa Thomas, vice chair and national sector leader for energy and chemicals at Deloitte

Teresa Thomas, newly named vice chair and national sector leader for energy and chemicals at Deloitte, shares her vision in an interview. Photo via LinkedIn

Deloitte is undergoing a leadership shift — and this evolution for the nearly 200-year-old company directly affects its Houston office and the energy transition line of business.

Earlier this year, Teresa Thomas was named vice chair and national sector leader for energy and chemicals at Deloitte. Based in Houston, she will also serve as an advisory partner and leader in Deloitte & Touche LLP's Risk & Financial Advisory energy and chemicals practice. She succeeds Amy Chronis, partner at Deloitte LLP, who will continue to serve within the energy and chemicals practice until her retirement in June 2024. Read more.

Luis Arregoces, chief artificial intelligence officer at Blue People

Blue People has named Luis Arregoces as the company’s first chief artificial intelligence officer. Photo courtesy of Blue People

A Houston-based software company has named its first chief artificial intelligence officer.

Blue People has named Luis Arregoces as the company’s CAIO. With 20 years of experience, Arregoces has led AI projects for global Fortune 100 companies in various industries.

“I am honored to join Blue People and be a part of this historic moment,” Arregoces says in a news release. ”Together, we have the opportunity to shape the future of AI in Houston and beyond. AI’s versatility and transformative potential make it indispensable across all industries to drive innovations, efficiency, and competitiveness.” Read more.

Headed to SXSW? Here's what you need to know. Photo courtesy of SXSW

Podcast: The Houston founder's guide to navigating SXSW 2024

houston innovators podcast episode 227

Tens of thousands of people are descending upon Austin for SXSW — many of whom are ambitious startup founders. For Houston entrepreneurs, there's a lot to consider before heading down the street to Austin, and Marc Nathan can help.

The native Houstonian, who works with startups as senior director of market development at Michael Best and is based in Austin, has attended the conference for over 20 years. Every year, he assembles a comprehensive SXSW guide including round up of must-attend events, tips, and more.

He joined the Houston Innovators Podcast this week to provide his thoughts on how Houston founders can make the most of the tech-focused Interactive track — or the unofficial experiences taking place around Austin.

"You do not need a badge to enjoy and get the most out of SXSW," Nathan says, explaining that having a badge is ideal for a first timer experience. "For struggling founders who are typically broke, if you can swing the travel to get to Austin — getting here, staying here, and eating here, which are all not very cheap to start with — if you can swing that, then a badge is not that critical."

He also reminds founders that getting an invite to speak on a panel, pitch in the competition, or volunteering can score you a free or discounted badge.

On the show, Nathan shares more tips — from registering to everything you're even remotely interested in to making sure you have on your comfiest walking shoes and bring your external phone charger — on the podcast, but explains that there's really one big mistake new SXSW attendees should avoid.

"The biggest mistake I see year after year — and it's really an entrepreneur problem — but don't be too sales-y. Listen before you talk," Nathan says. "Everybody at SX is going to get it — they are going to understand the language you're speaking. It's not like explaining what your startup is to your 80-year-old grandmother. But you gotta give them a reason and a way to help you."

Headed out to SXSW? Here are a few Houston-focused events to attend.

March 9 - A $20 Trillion Challenge: Financing the Energy Transition (badge required)

A couple of Houstonians join the panel of a topic that is very prevalent in the energy capital of the world: funding of the energy transition. Juliana Garaizar joins the conversation on Saturday, March 9, at 4 pm.

March 10 - How NASA Supports Startups and Individuals to Collaborate on its Mission (badge required)

Last month, a Houston tech company launched a lunar lander in collaboration with NASA — and that's just one of countless examples of NASA's work with tech and startup companies. Join NASA for a panel discussing innovative partnerships on Sunday, March 10, at 4 pm.

March 11 - Houston House @ SXSW 2024 (badge required)

On Monday, March 11, at the LINE Hotel, the Greater Houston Partnership is hosting four panels and a happy hour. More info on the full-day event, which features over a dozen Houston-based experts, startup founders, and more, is available online.

March 12 - Women in VC Breakfast (registration required)

Houston Women in VC and Austin Women in VC are teaming up to host a breakfast with partners JP Morgan Chase and Born Global Ventures for all the female investors headed to SXSW on Tuesday, March 12, at 9 am. Request your registration online.

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Innovative coastline project on Bolivar Peninsula receives federal funding

flood mitigation

The Galveston’s Coastal Barrier Project recently received federal funding to the tune of $500,000 to support construction on its flood mitigation plans for the area previously devastated by Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Known as Ike Dike, the proposed project includes implementing the Galveston Bay Storm Surge Barrier System, including eight Gulf and Bay defense projects. The Bolivar Roads Gate System, a two-mile-long closure structure situated between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula, is included in the plans and would protect against storm surge volumes entering the bay.

The funding support comes from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and will go toward the preconstruction engineering and design phase of Ecosystem Restoration feature G-28, the first segment of the Bolivar Peninsula and West Bay Gulf Intracoastal Waterway Shoreline and Island Protection.

Coastal Barrier Project - Galveston Projects

The project also includes protection of critical fish and wildlife habitat against coastal storms and erosion.

“The Coastal Texas Project is one of the largest projects in the history of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” says Col. Rhett A. Blackmon, USACE Galveston District commander, in a statement. “This project is important to the nation for many reasons. Not only will it reduce risk to the vulnerable populations along the Texas coast, but it will also protect vital ecosystems and economically critical infrastructure vital to the U.S. supply chain and the many global industries located here.”

Hurricane Ike resulted in over $30 billion in storm-related damages to the Texas coast, reports the Coastal Barrier Project, and created a debris line 15 feet tall and 40 miles long in Chambers County. The estimated economic disruption due to Hurricane Ike exceeded $150 billion, FEMA reported.

The project is estimated to take two years to complete after construction starts and will cost between $4 billion and $6 billion, reports Texas A&M University at Galveston.

Houston organization selects research on future foods in space health to receive $1M in funding

research and development

What would we eat if we were forced to decamp to another planet? The most immediate challenges faced by the food industry and astronauts exploring outside Earth are being addressed by The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Space Medicine’s newest project.

Earlier this month, TRISH announced the initial selection for its Space Health Ingress Program (SHIP) solicitation. Working with California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Baylor-based program chose “Future Foods for Space: Mobilizing the Future Foods Community to Accelerate Advances in Space Health,” led by Dr. Denneal Jamison-McClung at the University of California, Davis.

“TRISH is bringing in new ideas and investigators to propel space health research,” says Catherine Domingo, TRISH operations lead and research administration associate at Baylor College of Medicine, in the release. “We have long believed that new researchers with fresh perspectives drive innovation and advance human space exploration and SHIP builds on TRISH’s existing efforts to recruit and support new investigators in the space health research field, potentially yielding and high-impact ideas to protect space explorers.”

The goal of the project is to develop sustainable food products and ingredients that could fuel future space travelers on long-term voyages, or even habitation beyond our home planet.

Jamison-McClung and her team’s goal is to enact food-related space health research and inspire the community thereof by mobilizing academic and food-industry researchers who have not previously engaged with the realm of space exploration. Besides growing and developing food products, the project will also address production, storage, and delivery of the nutrition created by the team.

To that end, Jamison-McClung and her recruits will receive $1 million over the course of two years. The goal of the SHIP solicitation is to work with first-time NASA investigators, bringing new minds to the forefront of the space health research world.

“As we look to enable safer space exploration and habitation for humans, it is clear that food and nutrition are foundational,” says Dr. Asha S. Collins, chair of the SHIP advisory board, in a press release. “We’re excited to see how accelerating innovation in food science for space health could also result in food-related innovations for people on Earth in remote areas and food deserts.”

Clean energy nonprofit CEO to step down, search for replacement to begin

moving on

Greentown Labs, which is co-located in the Boston and Houston areas, has announced its current CEO is stepping down after less than a year in the position.

The nonprofit's CEO and President Kevin Knobloch announced that he will be stepping down at the end of July 2024. Knobloch assumed his role last September, previously serving as chief of staff of the United States Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s second term.

“It has been an honor to lead this incredible team and organization, and a true privilege to get to know many of our brilliant startup founders," Knobloch says in the news release. “Greentown is a proven leader in supporting early-stage climatetech companies and I can’t wait to see all that it will accomplish in the coming years.”

The news of Knobloch's departure comes just over a month after the organization announced that it was eliminating 30 percent of its staff, which affected 12 roles in Boston and six in Houston.

According the Greentown, its board of directors is expected to launch a national search for its next CEO.

“On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I want to thank Kevin for his efforts to strengthen the foundation of Greentown Labs and for charting the next chapter for the organization through a strategic refresh process,” says Dawn James, Greentown Labs Board Chair, in the release. “His thoughtful leadership will leave a lasting impact on the team and community for years to come.”

Knobloch reportedly shifted Greentown's sponsorship relationships with oil companies, sparking "friction within the organization," according to the Houston Chronicle, which also reported that Knobloch said he intends to return to his clean energy consulting firm.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.