Mercedes-Benz HPC North America says it will build EV charging hubs at most Buc-ee’s stores, starting with about 30 hubs by the end of 2024. Buc-ee's/Facebook

Buc-ee’s, the beloved Lake Jackson-based chain of convenience stores, has plugged into a partnership with a Mercedes-Benz business unit to install electric vehicle charging stations at Buc-ee’s locations.

Mercedes-Benz HPC North America says it will build EV charging hubs at most Buc-ee’s stores, starting with about 30 hubs by the end of 2024. Some Buc-ee’s hubs already are being set up and are scheduled to begin supplying EV power by the end of this year.

Mercedes-Benz HPC, a subsidiary of the German automaker, is developing a U.S. and Canadian network of EV charging stations. All of the stations will run solely on renewable energy.

“Buc-ee’s values people and partnerships,” Jeff Nadalo, general counsel at Buc-ee’s, says in a news release. “Our new collaboration with Mercedes-Benz HPC North America will continue our traditions of elevated customer convenience and excellent service that have won the hearts, trust, and business of millions in the South for more than 40 years.”

Buc-ee’s — hailed for its squeaky-clean restrooms, abundance of fuel pumps, and unique food — operates 34 supersized convenience stores in Texas and 12 locations in other states. Another seven locations are under construction in Texas, Colorado, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Missouri.

“Mercedes-Benz HPC North America's collaboration with Buc-ee’s represents an important moment in our pursuit of a national charging network that sets a new standard in both convenience and quality,” says Andrew Cornelia, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz HPC.

“Within a remarkably short period,” Cornelia adds, “we’ve made significant strides towards opening several charging hubs at Buc-ee’s travel centers. Buc-ee’s strategic locations along major travel routes, combined with their commitment to clean and accessible amenities, aligns perfectly with our vision.”

In January 2023, Mercedes-Benz announced plans to install 10,000 EV chargers worldwide, including North America, Europe, and China. Mercedes-Benz drivers will be able to book a charging station from their car, but the network will be available to all motorists.

“The locations and surroundings of the Mercedes-Benz charging hubs will be carefully selected with wider customer needs in mind. Our best possible charging experience will therefore come with food outlets and restrooms situated nearby,” says Mercedes-Benz HPC.

Each hub will feature four to 12 chargers and ultimately as many as 30 chargers.

Mercedes-Benz says more than $1 billion is being invested in the North American charging network, which is set to be completed by 2029 or 2030. The cost will be split between the automaker and solar power producer MN8 Energy, a New York City-based spinoff of banking giant Goldman Sachs.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

The HyVelocity Hub, representing the Gulf Coast region, will receive $1.2 billion to strengthen and further build out the region's hydrogen production. Photo via Getty Images

Houston-area selected among 7 regions for $7B federal hydrogen hub investment

hi, hydrogen

A Houston-area project got the green light as one of the seven regions to receive a part of the $7 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to advance domestic hydrogen production.

President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm named the seven regions to receive funding in a White House statement today. The Gulf Coast's project, HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub, will receive up to $1.2 billion — the most any hub will receive, per the release.

“As I’ve stated repeatedly over the past years, we are uniquely positioned to lead a transformational clean hydrogen hub that will deliver economic growth and good jobs, including in historically underserved communities," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says in a news release. "HyVelocity will also help scale up national and world clean hydrogen economies, resulting in significant decarbonization gains. I’d also like to thank all the partners who came together to create HyVelocity Hub in a true spirit of public-private collaboration.”

Backed by industry partners AES Corporation, Air Liquide, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Mitsubishi Power Americas, Ørsted, and Sempra Infrastructure, the HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub will connect more than 1,000 miles of hydrogen pipelines, 48 hydrogen production facilities, and dozens of hydrogen end-use applications across Texas and Southwest Louisiana. The hub is planning for large-scale hydrogen production through both natural gas with carbon capture and renewables-powered electrolysis.

The project is spearheaded by GTI Energy and other organizing participants, including the University of Texas at Austin, The Center for Houston’s Future, Houston Advanced Research Center, and around 90 other supporting partners from academia, industry, government, and beyond.

“Prioritizing strong community engagement and demonstrating an innovation ecosystem, the HyVelocity Hub will improve local air quality and create equitable access to clean, reliable, affordable energy for communities across the Gulf Coast region,” says Paula A. Gant, president and CEO of GTI Energy, in a news release.

According to the White House's announcement, the hub will create 45,000 direct jobs — 35,000 in construction jobs and 10,000 permanent jobs. The other selected hubs — and the impact they are expected to have, include:

  • Tied with HyVelocity in terms of funding amount, the California Hydrogen Hub — Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES) — will also receive up to $1.2 billion to create 220,000 direct jobs—130,000 in construction jobs and 90,000 permanent jobs. The project is expected to target decarbonizing public transportation, heavy duty trucking, and port operations.
  • The Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen (MachH2), spanning Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, will receive up to $1 billion. This region's efforts will be directed at optimizing hydrogen use in steel and glass production, power generation, refining, heavy-duty transportation, and sustainable aviation fuel. It's expected to create 13,600 direct jobs—12,100 in construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs.
  • Receiving up to $1 billion and targeting Washington, Oregon, and Montana, the Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Hub — named PNW H2— will produce clean hydrogen from renewable sources and will create over 10,000 direct jobs—8,050 in construction jobs and 350 permanent jobs.
  • The Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2), which will be located in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, will tap into existing infrastructure to use low-cost natural gas to produce low-cost clean hydrogen and permanently and safely store the associated carbon emissions. The project, which will receive up to $925 million, will create 21,000 direct jobs—including more than 18,000 in construction and more than 3,000 permanent jobs.
  • Spanning Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, the Heartland Hydrogen Hub will receive up to $925 million and create around 3,880 direct jobs–3,067 in construction jobs and 703 permanent jobs — to decarbonize the agricultural sector’s production of fertilizer, decrease the regional cost of clean hydrogen, and advance hydrogen use in electric generation and for cold climate space heating.
  • Lastly, the Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2), which will include Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey, hopes to repurposing historic oil infrastructure to develop renewable hydrogen production facilities from renewable and nuclear electricity. The hub, which will receive up to $750 million, anticipates creating 20,800 direct jobs—14,400 in construction jobs and 6,400 permanent jobs.

These seven clean hydrogen hubs are expected to catalyze more than $40 billion in private investment, per the White house, and bring the total public and private investment in hydrogen hubs to nearly $50 billion. Collectively, they aim to produce more than three million metric tons of clean hydrogen annually — which reaches nearly one third of the 2030 U.S. clean hydrogen production goal. Additionally, the hubs will eliminate 25 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from end uses each year. That's roughly equivalent to annual emissions of over 5.5 million gasoline-powered cars.

“Unlocking the full potential of hydrogen—a versatile fuel that can be made from almost any energy resource in virtually every part of the country—is crucial to achieving President Biden’s goal of American industry powered by American clean energy, ensuring less volatility and more affordable clean energy options for American families and businesses,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm says in the release. “With this historic investment, the Biden-Harris Administration is laying the foundation for a new, American-led industry that will propel the global clean energy transition while creating high quality jobs and delivering healthier communities in every pocket of the nation.”

HyVelocity has been a vision amongst Houston energy leaders for over a year, announcing its bid for regional hydrogen hub funding last November. Another Houston-based clean energy project was recently named a semi-finalist for National Science Foundation funding.

“We are excited to get to work making HyVelocity come to life,” Brett Perlman, president and CEO of Center for Houston’s Future, says in the release. “We look forward to spurring economic growth and development, creating jobs, and reducing emissions in ways that will benefit local communities and the Gulf Coast region as a whole. HyVelocity will be a model for creating a clean hydrogen ecosystem in an inclusive and equitable manner.”

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Nurses deserve all the love. Photo by Patty Brito on Unsplash

Texas earns healthy rating as 2nd best state for nurses, Forbes says

health care heroes

With a global pandemic in the rearview and an aging workforce reaching retirement in larger proportions, strong healthcare is becoming increasingly crucial in the United States.

Nurses are in great demand throughout the nation and can make significant impacts in a state like Texas, which was just named the No. 2 best state for nurses in a study by Forbes Advisor.

Texas currently employs more than 231,000 nurses, the second-highest number in the country behind California's 325,620 nurses. Florida rounds out the top three with more than 197,000 nurses employed.

There are several factors to keep in mind when considering a career as a nurse, but one has been in a lot of recent discourse: the salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says nurses in the U.S. earn a median salary of $81,220 per year. While healthcare company Trusted Health places a Texas nurse's annual salary at $74,540 - lower than places like Florida and California, adjusted cost of living can make Texas more attractive.

"Salary is a significant factor in any professional’s career decisions, but it’s not the only one to weigh when deciding where to work," the report's author wrote. "You should also consider job availability, economic demand, and licensing processes before settling on a place to grow your career."

Regarding job availability, Projections Central estimates there will be a demand for more than 16,000 nursing positions in Texas between 2020 and 2030 - the second-best job outlook in the U.S.

Texas is also part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), which can help nurses transfer their licenses from other states.

"NLC members grant RNs multi-state licenses, which allow them to practice in any NLC-participating state without jumping through the hoops of meeting a new state’s specific licensing guidelines," the report says. "NLC nurses can offer their skills to another compact state in the event of a crisis and provide telehealth services across compact states."

The full report can be found on forbes.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

San Antonio, Austin, and the space in between could be the state's next big mega-metro. Photo by Matthew LeJune on Unsplash

Surprising new documentary explores emerging Texas mega-metro that could rival Houston

bigger in texas

It's no secret that Austin and San Antonio are becoming some of the biggest cities in Texas, and that together, they just might rival the likes of Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth one day.

A new documentary called San Antonio-Austin: The Emerging Mega-Metro takes a deep dive into the booming 80-mile region between the Central Texas cities

Produced by KLRN, San Antonio's local PBS station, the program centers on the region's growth and the challenges that arise with such rapid expansion, such as water scarcity, environmental impacts, and increasingly common transportation and traffic woes.

They're issues that Houston residents know well, as the city's population continues to explode at a staggering rate.

"We know the area between San Antonio and Austin is growing at a tremendously rapid pace, but what is really happening is the development of a mega-metro that will be one of the biggest economic powerhouses in the world," says Shari St. Clair, the documentary's executive producer, in a release.

“We delve into the questions that need to be asked right now — how do we retain quality of life as we grow? How do we build a sustainable workforce?" St. Clair continues. "And, can San Antonio and Austin truly join forces and work together to make the most of this incredible opportunity?"

The hour-long documentary is hosted by former San Antonio mayor Henry Cisneros, who also authored The Texas Triangle: An Emerging Power in the Global Economy. The special highlights several prominent Central Texas leaders, including interviews with Austin Mayor Kirk Watson, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenburg, U.S. Congressman Greg Casar, and more.

As Texas is also a state of committed sports fans, the idea of a mega-metro between Austin and San Antonio is additionally explored through a sports lens. The documentary interviewed legends like Nolan Ryan, Sean Elliot, and Spurs Chairman Peter J. Holt.

San Antonio-Austin: The Emerging Mega-Metro can be watched online at klrn.org.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

TexPower's founders — Board Chairman Arumugam Manthiram, CTO Wangda Li, and CEO Evan Erickson, respectively — celebrated the opening of the company's new lab space. Photo courtesy of TexPower

Houston startup with revolutionary battery technology opens new labs

power move

A Houston startup founded off research out of a Texas university has cut the ribbon on its new lab space.

TexPower EV Technologies Inc. celebrated the opening of its 6,000-square-foot laboratory and three-ton-per-year pilot production line at a ribbon-cutting event last week. The Northwest Houston site is located at 6935 Brittmoore Rd.

The new space will help the company further commercialize its cobalt-free lithium-ion cathode, lithium nickel manganese aluminum oxide (NMA). The technology is game changing for the electrification of the United States, including the rapid adoption of electric vehicles.

Currently, the country is experiencing a supply chain crisis, says Evan Erickson, co-founder and CEO of the company, at the event. Most of the world's cobalt, a material traditionally used in lithium-ion cathodes, is sourced primarily from the Congo and refinement is mostly controlled by China, he explains.

For these reasons, Cathodes are the most expensive component of lithium-ion batteries. But TexPower has a unique technology to solve this supply chain issue, and now with its new labs, is one step closer to commercialization of its materials.

TexPower spun out of the University of Texas at Austin in 2019. The company was co-founded by Erickson with CTO Wangda Li and Board Chairman Arumugam Manthiram, a professor at UT whose lithium-ion battery research fuels the foundation of the company.

“We want to point out how lucky we are — as a company and as scientists," Erickson says at the ribbon cutting event. "It’s not common that you see something you work on in academia turn into something that can become commercially successful.”

Prior to the newly built labs, TexPower operated out of the University of Houston's Tech Bridge. The company intends to raise additional funding to support its expansion.

According to the company, the new three-ton-per-year pilot line is the first step toward building a manufacturing facility that's capable of producing up to 50 times more the amount of cathode with a goal to impact markets such as defense, power tools, and eVTOL.

CEO Evan Erickson celebrated the new lab space opening last week

Photo courtesy of TexPower

Texans are especially stressed-out at work. Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Frazzled Texans are the 9th most stressed-out people in America, new report says

BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT

From a global pandemic to rising inflation and interest rates, there are plenty of things to be stressed about in 2023. And when they say everything is bigger in Texas, that includes the stress levels.

Texas was ranked the ninth most stressed state of 2023, according to the latest report from personal finance website WalletHub. WalletHub compared all 50 states across 41 metrics to determine every state’s worries on certain issues, such as work, money, or family-related stress. The report is timed to April being National Stress Awareness Month, as designated by the National Institutes of Health.

In the overall work-related stress category, the Lone Star State ranked No. 5. Texas employees specifically have the highest stress levels in the nation when it comes to their average hours worked per week. That probably includes Houston, which was named the No. 1 most stressful city to work in. Two fellow Southern states – Mississippi (No. 4) and Louisiana (No. 3) – had higher work-related stress levels, while Wyoming (No. 2), and Alaska (No. 1) earned the top two spots.

Texas also ranked No. 5 in overall family-related stress. The states that have higher family-related stress include North Carolina (No. 4), New York (No. 3), Nevada (No. 2), and New Mexico (No. 1).

In the category of health and safety-related stress, Texas ranked just outside the top 10 at No. 11. Most Texans aren’t quite feeling it when it comes to financial stress, ranking in the middle of the metaphorical stress road at No. 23. However, Houstonites are feeling that financial squeeze if they want to live comfortably in the city.

The good news? Texans aren't quite as stressed as they were in spring of 2021, when the state placed No. 6 in the same study. (At that time, COVID-19 was still raging, and vaccines had just become available.)

Leah C. Hibel, a professor of human development and family studies at the University of California, Davis, says much of the financial stress individuals experience is a result of systemic issues, not because of how an individual lives his or her life.

“[It’s] due to rising housing costs, rising food costs, and stagnant wages,” she explained. “Individuals can try to live in places where the cost of living is lower and wages are higher, or where food, child care, and other expenses are subsidized through state programs. Individuals can take on additional work and cut extra expenses, but sometimes these fixes are beyond what an individual can do.”

The top 10 most stressed states are:

  • No. 1 – Mississippi
  • No. 2 – Louisiana
  • No. 3 – New Mexico
  • No. 4 – West Virginia
  • No. 5 – Nevada
  • No. 6 – Arkansas
  • No. 7 – Alabama
  • No. 8 – Kentucky
  • No. 9 – Texas
  • No. 10 – Oklahoma

The full report can be found on wallethub.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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4 Houston life science startups secure over $40M in CPRIT funding

cha-ching

Four Houston bioscience startups have collected nearly $43 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).

Here’s a list of the four startups, the amount and purpose of each grant, and some background information about each company.

Stingray Therapeutics

CPRIT grant amount: $13,881,458

Purpose of grant: Clinical trial to evaluate an immunotherapy known as SR-8541A for treatment of advanced or metastatic solid tumors.

Company background: Stingray received a $2 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award in 2022. In conjunction with the award, Mohan Kaadige, a research associate professor at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, joined Stringray as the principal SR-8541A investigator.

“I … believe we have great potential to alleviate cancer suffering in the near future with this exciting technology,” says Kaadige.

March Biosciences

CPRIT grant amount: $13,358,637

Purpose of grant: Clinical trial to evaluate a T-cell immunotherapy (MB-105) for treatment of certain types of relapsed lymphoma.

Company background: March Biosciences, a Baylor College of Medicine spinout, recently received $4.8 million in funding from Cancer Focus Fund, affiliated with Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center.

“The breadth and quality of the support we are receiving from our local partners and institutions underscore Houston’s increasing prominence as a worldwide leader in cancer R&D and clinical research,” says Sarah Hein, co-founder and CEO of March Biosciences.

Mongoose Bio

CPRIT grant amount: $10,621,053

Purpose of grant: Development of T-cell therapies targeting solid-tumor cancer.

Company background: Mongoose founder Cassian Lee, a professor and researcher at MD Anderson, is a CPRIT scholar and a participant in Texas Medical Center Innovation’s 2023 Accelerator for Cancer Therapeutics.

“Mongoose Bio is a first-rate example of the use of CPRIT funds to fund a disruptive cell gene therapy … therapeutic with deep roots and origins in Texas. This innovation will benefit patients with solid tumors not just in Texas but the rest of the world,” says CPRIT.

FixNip

CPRIT grant amount: $4,844,088

Purpose of grant: Clinical study and manufacturing of a silicone implant that creates a soft, natural-looking nipple for women with breast cancer who’ve undergone post-mastectomy breast reconstruction. The clinical study will be done at MD Anderson.

Company background: In conjunction with the CPRIT grant, FixNip is moving its headquarters from Israel to Houston. Austin-based CPRIT became aware of FixNip during a May 2022 trade trip to Israel by the organization’s CEO, Wayne Roberts.

“Loss of nipple projection is the most pervasive problem across all currently existing nipple reconstruction solutions,” says FixNip.

Aside from the grants for the four Houston startups, CPRIT handed out two grants for recruitment of two cancer researchers to Houston:

  • $6 million grant to recruit Dr. Leonido Luznik of Johns Hopkins University to the Baylor College of Medicine. Luznik’s research focuses on allogeneic blood and marrow transplantation (alloBMT), a treatment for blood cancers.
  • $1.99 million grant to recruit Swiss researcher Christina Tringides to Rice University. Tringides is working on a “groundbreaking” treatment for brain tumors, says CPRIT.

Houston-founded unicorn logistics company returns HQ to the Bayou City

coming home

While originally founded in Houston in 2020, Cart.com has called Austin home for the past two years. Now, the scaling software company is coming home.

Cart.com, a tech company providing commerce and logistical solutions for businesses, announced today that its corporate headquarters has returned to Houston amid its rapid growth.

“I couldn’t be happier to bring Cart.com back home to Houston as we continue to revolutionize how merchants sell and fulfill products to meet customers anywhere they are,” Cart.com Founder and CEO Omair Tariq says in a news release. “The idea for Cart.com was born in Houston and we’ve always maintained a strong local presence with the majority of our executive team and board based here. As our customer mix increasingly moves upmarket and our own needs evolve, I’m confident Houston has what we need as we look towards the next stage of Cart.com’s growth story.”

The company has raised over $400 million in venture funding over the past three years, and has grown a customer base of 6,000 users, supporting over $8 billion in gross merchandise value, according to Cart.com. After making several acquisitions, the company also operates 14 fulfillment centers nationwide.

Cart.com's most recent raise, a $60 million series C round this summer, was announced to support an international expansion. Last year, the company secured $240 million in equity and debt funding.

According to the release, the relocation comes at a time of "unprecedented growth" for the business, which calls out Houston's central location, transportation infrastructure, and dynamic business community.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Cart.com home and proud to have one of the country’s fastest-growing unicorns back in Houston,” Bob Harvey, president and CEO of Greater Houston Partnership, in the release. “Cart.com’s homecoming is a testament to why companies repeatedly choose Houston to scale their business with its diverse and dynamic economy along with its unparalleled talent pool that cuts across technology, professional services and global trade. We’re excited to support Cart.com’s continued growth and look forward to the company’s contribution to Houston’s growing tech community.”

Earlier this month, Tariq was named a regional winner in the Entrepreneur Of The Year program, run by professional services firm EY. He was one of 11 Houston-based executives named in the Gulf South region and now will move on to national Entrepreneur Of The Year program.

Houston founders named winners for 2023 Entrepreneur of the Year awards

winner, winner

Houston’s Gaurab Chakrabarti and Sean Hunt, the founders of the transformative chemical manufacturing company Solugen, have been named EY’s US National Award winners for Entrepreneur of the Year.

Solugen, also recently named a finalist in the 2023 Houston Innovation Awards, is an environmentally friendly approach that relies on smaller chemical refineries that helps in reducing costs and transportation-related emissions. Some of their noted accomplishments includes innovations like the proprietary reactor, dubbed the Bioforge, which is a carbon-negative molecule factory and manufacturing process produces zero wastewater or emissions compared with traditional petrochemical refineries.The Bioforge uses a chemienzymatic process in converting plant-sourced substances into essential materials that can be used instead of fossil fuels.

Chakrabarti and Hunt were originally named regional winners in this year's competition this summer along with nine other Houston entrepreneurs.

Founded in 2016 by Hunt and Gaurab Chakrabarti, Solugen has raised over $600 million from investors like Sasol that believe in the technology's potential. The company is valued at reportedly over $2 billion. Solugen is headquartered in Houston, not because it is the hometown of Chakrabarti, but for what Houston brings to the company.

“There’s no way our business could succeed in the Bay Area," Chakrabarti said in a 2023 interview at SXSW where he detailed the offers Hunt and he received to move the business out of state. “For our business, if you look at the density of chemical engineers, the density of our potential customers, and the density of people who know how to do enzyme engineering, Houston happened to be that perfect trifecta for us.”

Even though they are headquartered in Houston, Solugen recently secured plans to expand to the Midwest, as in November they announced its newest strategic partnership with sustainable solutions company ADM (NYSE:ADM) in Marshall, Minnesota. The partnership includes plans for Solugen to build a 500,000-square-foot biomanufacturing facility next to an existing ADM facility , with the two companies working together on producing biomaterials to replace fossil fuel products.

“The strategic partnership with ADM will allow Solugen to bring our chemienzymatic process to a commercial scale and meet existing customer demand for our high-performance, cost-competitive, sustainable products,” Chakrabarti said in a news release. “As one of the few scaled-up and de-risked biomanufacturing assets in the country, Solugen’s Bioforge platform is helping bolster domestic capabilities and supply chains that are critical in ensuring the U.S. reaches its ambitious climate targets.”

For Chakrabarti and Hunt, Solugen was born out of a 12-year friendship, and the journey began after a friendly card game. After an entrepreneurship contest at MIT, which earned them second place and a $10,000 prize, they invested the winnings to work on what would become Solugen, a proof-of-concept reactor with materials bought from a local home improvement store.

"We had a conviction that we were building something that could be impactful to the rest of the world,” Chakrabarti said at SXSW in 2023.