UH business students can opt into “The Entrepreneurial Genius of Taylor Swift,” a course covering the success and strategy of the billion-dollar performer's career. Photo courtesy of UH Bauer College of Business

By any measure, Taylor Swift put on a masterclass with her Eras Tour this year — her Houston stop was a study in three-hours of pop-culture-perfect brand execution and fan frenzy.

Now, University of Houston is taking Tay studies to the next level with a new biz class.

Appropriately dubbed “The Entrepreneurial Genius of Taylor Swift,” the new class is part of the curriculum at coming to the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston next spring. Swfities who’re super “ready for it,” however, can get a jump on enrollment now.

Study “the 1” at a No. 1 institution

Though Swifties and Tay (and Travis) fiends will surely soak up every class hour, the program isn’t just for fans, the prof notes in a press statement. And Bauer College offers serious cred for current and new students, as its Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship has long ranked No. 1 in the U.S.

“You definitely don’t have to be a hardcore fan — a Swiftie — to learn and appreciate the entrepreneurial genius that has made Taylor Swift an international phenomenon,” notes Kelly McCormick, the Professor of Practice leading the course, citing Swift’s expertise in marketing, fan engagement, community building, and brand strategies.

Don’t hate, hate, hate, hate, hate on this Tay tutorial

Sure, Swift haters night hate on a Taylor course. But before they do, they should consider that at age 33, Swift boasts an estimated net worth of $1 billion, according to Forbes. And her aforementioned Eras Tour? Swift earned more than $780 million on the U.S. leg alone this year on the tour, which — by current estimates — cues her up to become the highest-grossing female touring artist of all time.

Her Eras Tour concert film also just became the highest-grossing concert film in North America, raking between $95 million to $97 million in ticket sales during its opening weekend — alone.

Taylor Swift Houston 2023 Eras Tour
Swift can flex a $1 billion net worth, per Forbes. Photo by Marco Torres/Marco from Houston


And then of course, her music acumen and savvy. In 2021, Swift smartly re-recorded a version of her album Fearless and launched a series of releases of her back catalog, in order to secure ownership of her first six albums.That move came after the masters (the original recordings) sold for a reported $300 million in 2019.

Here in Houston, as CultureMap reported, the Post-Tay Effect (we’re making that a thing) had a lasting economic effect, notbaly for areas pet and food nonprofits.

Hardcore business aside, the class Still, the course will be Taylor-made for Swifties. McCormick, who also serves as managing director for the university’s startup accelerator RED Labs, has themed each session around a different album — or Era, obvi for fans — of Swift’s career.

What to expect on the “mornin' of your very first day”

So, when students take a deep breath and walk through the door of their very first day (obligatory “Fifteen,” callout) they will score friendship bracelet gifts — a huge Swiftie phenomenon — and will be treated to surprise songs during breaks and even Easter eggs hidden in class content. (That’s a clever nod to Swift, who regularly hides clues, callbacks, and “oh yeaaahhhh” moments for fans in her music videos, album artwork, and social media posts).

As for the Tay inspo, McCormick says she has been a Swift fan since the early days of mega-hits “Our Song” and “Love Story.” But like so many who were blown away by the sheer Tay Machine during the Houston Eras Tour stop in April, the professor quickly noted entrepreneurship lessons to be learned over Swift’s in her 17-year career.

Taylor Swift Houston
The professor says Swift's dazzling Eras Tour stop in Houston inspired the class. Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images/Taylor Swift Twitter


“I saw the show and loved it,” McCormick adds. “And I realized I actually didn’t know that much about her career. I became absolutely enamored basically overnight and started getting into her whole discography. Taylor is truly impressive!”

She added: “Never have I ever — like ever — been so engrossed in someone’s career after so little time.” (Should anyone doubt all the Tay references, McCormick’s “never have I ever — like ever” comments is shoutout to Swift’s most popular singles, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Very clever.)

Travis-Tay included?

But perhaps the top Tay lesson is how to ensure satisfied customers.

“The number one business lesson students can learn from Taylor is the way she treats her fans,” McCormick notes. “She is beloved because she truly does so much to make sure they are happy, appreciated and feel like they are important to her. If every company acted that way about their customers — they’d have way more customers.”

Oh, and, no word — and we didn’t ask, for the record — if Kansas City Chiefs tight end/Swift squeeze Travis Kelce is part of the curriculum. Also no word if, to quote “Fifteen,” students will “sit in class next to a redhead named Abigail.”

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Houston cardiac health startup raises $43 million series B to grow AI-backed platform

money moves

A Houston-based tech company that has a product line of software solutions for cardiac health has raised funding.

Octagos Health, the parent company of Atlas AI — a software platform for cardiac devices like pacemakers, defibrillators, ambulatory monitors and consumer wearables — has announced a $43 million series B raise that will bring their technology to many more hearts.

Morgan Stanley Investment Capital led the investment, which also included funds from Mucker Capital and other continuing strategic investors. The goal of the raise is to supply funds to accelerate Atlas AI’s growth across the United States and to expand into other areas of care, including ambulatory monitors, consumer wearables, and sleep.

"This investment will enable us to accelerate enhancements to our platform, in addition to scaling our commercial team and operations. We are currently the only company that helps cardiology practices migrate their historical data from legacy software providers and fully integrates with any EHR (exertion heart rate) system. We do this while enabling customized reporting supported by patient and practice decision-support analytics," says Eric Olsen, COO of Octagos Health, in a press release.

Octagos Health was founded by a team of healthcare pros including CEO Shanti Bansal, a cardiologist and founder of Houston Heart Rhythm, an atrial fibrillation center. The goal was to find a new way to deal with the massive amount of data that clinicians encounter each day in a way that combines software and the work of human doctors.

According to the Octagos Health website, “Our solution allows clinicians to focus on other ways of delivering meaningful healthcare and more efficiently manage their remotely monitored patients.”

It works thanks to customizable reporting features that allow patients’ healthcare teams to get help while monitoring them, but to do it precisely as they would if they were crunching numbers themselves.

"We are excited to partner with Octagos Health and support their vision of transforming cardiac care," says Melissa Daniels, managing director of Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital. "Octagos Health has demonstrated exceptional growth and innovation in a critical area of healthcare. We believe their platform and vertically integrated software and services significantly improve patient care and streamline cardiac monitoring processes for healthcare providers."

Will Hsu, co-founder and partner of Mucker Capital, agrees. “Octagos Health is poised for scale – industry leading gross margins, a very sticky product that doctors and clinical staff love, and a market ready for disruption with artificial intelligence. This is the new wave for diagnostic care,” he says. And with this raise, it will be available to even more clinicians and patients across the country.

Houston biotech company expands leadership as it commercializes sustainable products

joining the team

Houston-based biotech company Cemvita recently tapped two executives to help commercialize its sustainable fuel made from carbon waste.

Nádia Skorupa Parachin came aboard as vice president of industrial biotechnology, and Phil Garcia was promoted to vice president of commercialization.

Parachin most recently oversaw several projects at Boston-based biotech company Ginkjo Bioworks. She previously co-founded Brazilian biotech startup Integra Bioprocessos.

Parachin will lead the Cemvita team that’s developing technology for production of bio-manufactured oil.

“It’s a fantastic moment, as we’re poised to take our prototyping to the next level, and all under the innovative direction of our co-founder Tara Karimi,” Parachin says in a news release. “We will be bringing something truly remarkable to market and ensuring it’s cost-effective.”

Moji Karimi, co-founder and CEO of Cemvita, says the hiring of Parachin represents “the natural next step” toward commercializing the startup’s carbon-to-oil process.

“Her background prepared her to bring the best out of the scientists at the inflection point of commercialization — really bringing things to life,” says Moji Karimi, Tara’s brother.

Parachin joins Garcia on Cemvita’s executive team.

Before being promoted to vice president of commercialization, Garcia was the startup’s commercial director and business development manager. He has a background in engineering and business development.

Founded in 2017, Cemvita recently announced a breakthrough that enables production of large quantities of oil derived from carbon waste.

In 2023, United Airlines agreed to buy up to one billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from Cemvita’s first full-scale plant over the course of 20 years.

Cemvita’s investors include the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund, an investment arm of Chicago-based United; Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based energy company Occidental Petroleum; and Japanese equipment and machinery manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a logistics startup founder, a marketing expert, and a solar energy innovator.

Matthew Costello, CEO and co-founder of Voyager Portal

Houston logistics SaaS innovator is making waves with its expanded maritime shipping platform. Photo courtesy of Voyager

For several years now, Matthew Costello has been navigating the maritime shipping industry looking for problems to solve for customers with his company, Voyager Portal.

Initially, that meant designing a software platform to enhance communications and organization of the many massive and intricate global shipments happening every day. Founded in 2018 by Costello and COO Bret Smart, Voyager Portal became a integral tool for the industry that helps users manage the full lifecycle of their voyages — from planning to delivery.

"The software landscape has changed tremendously in the maritime space. Back in 2018, we were one of a small handful of technology startups in this space," Costello, who serves as CEO of Voyager, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Now that's changed. ... There's really a huge wave of innovation happening in maritime right now." Read more.

Arielle Rogg, principal and founder of Rogg Enterprises

Arielle Rogg writes in a guest column for InnovationMap about AI in the workforce. Photo via LinkedIn

Arielle Rogg isn't worried about artificial intelligence coming for her job. In fact, she has three reasons why, and she outlines them in a guest column for InnovationMap.

"The advent of AI pushes us humans to acquire new skills and hone our existing abilities so we can work alongside these evolving technologies in a collaborative fashion. AI augments human capabilities rather than replacing us. I believe it will help our society embrace lifelong learning, creating new industries and jobs that have never existed before," she writes in the piece. Read more.

Nathan Childress, founder of Solar Slice

Solar Slice Founder Nathan Childress says his new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet. Photo via LinkedIn

Nuclear engineer and entrepreneur Nathan Childress wants consumers to capture their own ray of sunlight to brighten the prospect of making clean energy a bigger part of the power grid. That's why he founded Solar Slice. The new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet.

Although trained in nuclear power plant design, solar power drew his interest as a cheaper and more accessible alternative, and Childress tells InnovationMap that he thinks that the transition to cleaner energy, in Texas especially, needs to step up.

Recent studies show that 80 to 90 percent of the money invested into fighting climate change “aren’t going to things that people actually consider helpful,” Childress says, adding that “they’re more just projects that sound good, that are not actually taking any action." Read more.