This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Jon Lambert of The Cannon, Ken Cowan of Enchanted Rock, and Richard Wilson of the University of Houston. Photos courtesy

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 podcast with the CEO of a community-focused coworking space, a professor joining a major health care research project, and a guest columnist with advice on navigating the energy transition.

Jon Lambert, CEO of The Cannon

Jon Lambert, CEO of The Cannon, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss the growth of The Cannon, including its newest location. Photo courtesy of The Cannon

For the past five years as CEO, Jon Lambert has faced some challenges leading The Cannon — from navigating a global pandemic to the subsequent evolved real estate market. But now, the coworking and community building company is poised for even more growth — especially with its ninth location opening up this month — thanks to its community-driven mission.

The Cannon Memorial opens its doors on Monday, May 13, with a week of free coworking and events. And while the new space, developed in partnership with MetroNational, is open for leasing, Lambert says on the Houston Innovators Podcast the first and foremost, The Cannon is a community.

"The Cannon wasn't created as a real estate play — we got into coworking because as we started supporting the community and asking the question of, 'what can we do for you?,' one of the highlights was, 'hey, we need space to work,'" he says on the show. "For us, we were going to provide space because that's one of the key needs of this community.

"Our measurement of success is not the buildings we have or the occupancy even — it's what's the success of the companies that are part of the community," he continues. Click here to read more.


Ken Cowan, senior vice president of Enchanted Rock

Ken Cowan writes a guest column for InnovationMap. Photo courtesy

As senior vice president of Enchanted Rock, a Houston-based provider of microgrid technology, Ken Cowan has seen how energy resilience has emerged as a key strategy for businesses across industries, as he writes in a guest column for InnovationMap.

"Executives must recognize the strategic imperative of investing in resilient energy infrastructure like microgrid systems, which can provide a competitive advantage against organizations that do not have similar measures in place," he writes. "In doing so, they can navigate uncertainty with confidence, set their business up for future success, and emerge stronger and more resilient than ever before."

In the piece, he explores the value proposition and other benefits to making these changes. Click here to read more.

Richard Willson, Huffington-Woestemeyer Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Houston

Richard Willson (center) and his team are working to develop a mix-and-read antibody measurement system that uses fluorescent materials to determine the amount of antibody present in a sample. Photo via UH.edu

An engineering project at the University of Houston has been selected to join a $10 million effort to bring biopharmaceutical manufacturing into the future. The National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL) chose the lab of Richard Willson, Huffington-Woestemeyer Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at UH, as one of eight development projects that it will fund.

Willson and his team are working to develop a mix-and-read antibody measurement system that uses fluorescent materials to determine the amount of antibody present in a sample. The funding for this project is $200,000. This is the first grant UH has received from NIIMBL.

“In the course of the manufacturing processes, it's important to know the concentration of antibody in your sample and this measurement needs to be made many times in a typical manufacturing process,” said Willson in a press release. In the realm of fluorescents, he is also working to pioneer the use of glow sticks to detect biothreats for the U.S. Navy. His discoveries include a fluorescent material that emits one color of light when excited with another color of light. Click here to read more.

Jon Lambert, CEO of The Cannon, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss the growth of The Cannon, including its newest location. Photo courtesy of The Cannon

How this community-focused coworking concept plans to continue growth around Houston and beyond

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 235

For the past five years as CEO, Jon Lambert has faced some challenges leading The Cannon — from navigating a global pandemic to the subsequent evolved real estate market. But now, the coworking and community building company is poised for even more growth — especially with its ninth location opening up this month — thanks to its community-driven mission.

The Cannon Memorial opens its doors on Monday, May 13, with a week of free coworking and events. And while the new space, developed in partnership with MetroNational, is open for leasing, Lambert says on the Houston Innovators Podcast the first and foremost, The Cannon is a community.

"The Cannon wasn't created as a real estate play — we got into coworking because as we started supporting the community and asking the question of, 'what can we do for you?,' one of the highlights was, 'hey, we need space to work,'" he says on the show. "For us, we were going to provide space because that's one of the key needs of this community.

"Our measurement of success is not the buildings we have or the occupancy even — it's what's the success of the companies that are part of the community," he continues.


Lambert shares more about The Cannon's community-focused growth by giving Fulshear as an example. The new community west of Houston isn't currently working on developing a coworking facility yet, but from a programming and digital perspective, The Cannon has established a presence.

"The first phase of the project is to just mobilize the startup and early-stage business community in Fulshear and see what kind of energy and vibe we can create there and connect them to The Cannon's resources and community," Lambert says. "That's our big-picture vision. We can build a new node of community — through a new real estate opportunity, economic development or university relationship — that's beneficial in itself, but that node gets connected to everything else."

With a recent acquisition, The Cannon has further grown its ability to engage its communities digitally. In February, Village Insights, a community management platform, was acquired by The Cannon, onboarding its core employees and further integrating the platform it was already using.

When it comes to its next expansion, The Cannon has a lot of opportunity both around and beyond Houston, Lambert says.

"Any direction is an opportunity and possibility," he says. "I would project that by the end of the year, we'll probably be having another conversation about what The Cannon's doing in other cities as well — for the benefit of The Cannon Community in Houston."

Introducing — The Cannon Memorial, which is opening its doors on Monday, May 13. Photo courtesy of The Cannon

Photos: The Cannon announces opening of newest location in Memorial

ready to cowork

The Cannon is gearing up to open its latest location featuring coworking and community events and programming.

The coworking concept, which announced The Cannon Memorial earlier this year, will officially open the new location on Monday, May 13, with a full week of community-focused events. The new location was developed in partnership with MetroNational, the real estate developer behind 300-acre mixed-use development in West Houston.

“MetroNational has long been recognized for offering exceptionally located, high quality, well amenitized office space,” says Anne Marie Ratliff, vice president of Asset Management at MetroNational, in a news release. “The Cannon Memorial diversifies our existing office portfolio to provide flexible space solutions for the evolving needs of the business community.”

The Cannon Memorial has 39 furnished offices, flex user space, dedicated seating, lockable storage, a fully stocked kitchen with complimentary coffee, and five bookable meeting rooms. Members will also receive 24/7-access to the facilities and free parking in the attached garage.

Beginning May 13 and running through May 17, potential members can try out the coworking space for free, as well as attend daily events:

  • Monday, May 13: Coffee & Community (2 to 3 pm)
  • Tuesday, May 14: Community Lunch (11:30 am to 12:30 pm)
  • Wednesday, May 15: Open House and Happy Hour (4 – 6 pm)
  • Thursday, May 16: Therapeutic Thursday with 15-minute massages (noon to 2 pm)
  • Friday, May 17: Cowboy Breakfast (9 to 10 am)

"As we open the doors to our next innovation focused workspace, we couldn't be more thrilled to share this moment with our community," says Jon Lambert, CEO of The Cannon. "This week marks not just the inauguration of a new physical space, but the realization of a shared vision and the culmination of an exceptional partnership with our partners at MetroNational. More than just a space, The Cannon Memorial will be an environment where innovation thrives.”

The Cannon Memorial has 39 furnished offices.

Photo courtesy of The Cannon

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Emma Konet of Tierra Climate, Cindy Taff of Sage Geosystems, and Clemmie Martin of The Cannon. Photos courtesy

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.

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

Houston coworking company acquires digital community platform

M&A moves

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 combined commitment to support innovation communities—large and small—is evident,” Andrew Ramirez, who served as CEO for Village Insights ahead of the acquisition, says in a news release. “Village Insights and The Cannon merged to align efforts and cultivate local, regional and global innovation communities. Combining our value propositions represents a significant leap forward for the populations that we serve.”

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

“The Cannon’s hub network stretches from The Woodlands to Galveston and across the 13-county region, with a membership base of more than 900 companies and 3,000 employees,” Jon Lambert, CEO of The Cannon, adds. “The digital extension of our physical footprint brings comprehensive innovation and business development support to communities that need it the most. Cannon Connect’s virtual- connection capabilities stand to remarkably expand our universe of ecosystem opportunities.”

Village Insights was founded in 2020. According to the release, the acquisition began in December, and members of the Village Insights core leadership team have rolled onto new roles at The Cannon.

“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.”

Houston's coworking space is growing. Photo courtesy of The Cannon

Houston sees growth in coworking space, rises in national ranks for 2023

growing and flexing

Houston continues to grow its coworking space across the city — and the progress is notable just between the first and second quarters of 2023, a recent report shows.

When it comes to coworking space growth, Houston saw an increase of 16 percent between June and March of 2023, reports CoworkingCafe. This stat means Houston outpaced the national average, which is 10 percent. Houston, which now has a reported 208 coworking and flex office space facilities, edged out Boston in the overall rankings of cities based on number of coworking spaces.

Houston ranks No. 7 now behind Manhattan, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Dallas - Fort Worth, and Atlanta, respectively.

When it came to the amount of space coworkers in Houston have, the Bayou City reported "an equally impressive expansion in terms of square footage," reads the report, "the market logged the highest increase in this metric and ended at more than 4,160,000 square feet of coworking space."

Nationally, coworking space totals 120 million square feet, which is a 6 percent increase between Q1 and Q2 and about 1.74 percent of the total office space nationwide.

While Houston saw growth in its coworking space, half of the top 25 markets for coworking have seen decreases in 2023 so far. Philadelphia, Seattle, the Bay Area, and Denver saw a decreased square footage average, but this trend isn't reflected when it comes to the number of coworking spots, which "likely equates to an increased focus on smaller coworking spaces across the nation," the report finds.

"With falling property values in some cities and rising interest rates, the commercial real estate industry is at a crossroads," says Doug Ressler, business intelligence manager at Yardi Matrix, in the report. "Many companies still aren't certain the number of employees who will be in their physical office space in the near or long term. That has led to firms doing smaller projects with startups, like pilot tests, instead of larger-scale purchases."

In January, Texas coworking company Common Desk announced its sixth Houston-area location. Common Desk also shared that it's expanding in the Ion last December, and that construction is ongoing.

The Cannon, a Houston-based coworking company, its latest locations in Fish Creek and The Woodlands, which is a partnership with Amegy Bank.

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Houston family's $20M donation drives neurodegeneration research

big impact

Neurodegeneration is one of the cruelest ways to age, but one Houston family is sharing its wealth to invigorate research with the goal of eradicating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

This month, Laurence Belfer announced that his family, led by oil tycoon Robert Belfer, had donated an additional $20 million to the Belfer Neurodegeneration Consortium, a multi-institutional initiative that targets the study and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

This latest sum brings the family’s donations to BNDC to $53.5 million over a little more than a decade. The Belfer family’s recent donation will be matched by institutional philanthropic efforts, meaning BNDC will actually be $40 million richer.

BNDC was formed in 2012 to help scientists gain stronger awareness of neurodegenerative disease biology and its potential treatments. It incorporates not only The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, but also Baylor College of Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

It is the BNDC’s lofty objective to develop five new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders over the next 10 years, with two treatments to demonstrate clinical efficacy.

“Our goal is ambitious, but having access to the vast clinical trial expertise at MD Anderson ensures our therapeutics can improve the lives of patients everywhere,” BNDC Executive Director Jim Ray says in a press release. “The key elements for success are in place: a powerful research model, a winning collaborative team and a robust translational pipeline, all in the right place at the right time.”

It may seem out of place that this research is happening at MD Anderson, but scientists are delving into the intersection between cancer and neurological disease through the hospital’s Cancer Neuroscience Program.

“Since the consortium was formed, we have made tremendous progress in our understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of neurodegenerative diseases and in translating those findings into effective targeted drugs and diagnostics for patients,” Ray continues. “Yet, we still have more work to do. Alzheimer's disease is already the most expensive disease in the United States. As our population continues to age, addressing quality-of-life issues and other challenges of treating and living with age-associated diseases must become a priority.”

And for the magnanimous Belfer family, it already is.

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 podcast with the founder of a new venture firm, a former astronaut and recent award recipient, and a health care innovator with fresh funding.

Zach Ellis, founder and managing partner of South Loop Ventures

Zach Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that South Loop Ventures plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston has a lot of the right ingredients for commercialization and scaling up companies, so when Zach Ellis moved to town to stand up a venture capital firm that made investments in diverse founders, he decided to go about it in an innovative way.

South Loop Ventures, which Ellis launched two years ago, invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups across health care, climatetech, aerospace, sports, and fintech. While the first handful of investments, which have already been made, are into Houston-based companies, Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that the firm plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale.

"Any investor wants to feel like they are looking at the best possible investment opportunities in which to deploy capital," Ellis says on the show. "So that's reason No. 1 to cast your net as widely as possible.

"At the same time, you want to give any investment that you make greatest chances of success," he continues. "The biggest factor of success outside of the team and the capital you give them, is the customers that they can call upon. In bringing targeted companies to Houston or connecting them with Houston, you introduce the opportunity for them to achieve rapid scale and work with world-class partners very efficiently." Read more.


Toby R. Hamilton, founder and CEO of Hamilton Health Box

Dr. Toby Hamilton has secured $10 million to grow his company. Photo via tmc.edu

A Houston company that is working on a value-based model for primary care has fresh funding to support its mission.

Hamilton Health Box announced the completion of a $10 million series A funding round led by 1588 Ventures with participation from Memorial Hermann Health System, Impact Ventures by Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the Sullivan Brothers.

The company, founded in 2019 by Dr. Toby R. Hamilton, will use the funding to fuel its expansion into rural areas to help assist those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs. Read more.

Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and center director at the NASA's Johnson Space Center

Ellen Ochoa was recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and for being the first Hispanic woman in space. Photo via NASA

Two astronauts recently received Presidential Medals of Freedom from President Joe Biden for their leadership in space.

Ellen Ochoa, the former center director and astronaut at the NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Jane Rigby, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, were honored at the White House on May 3.

Ochoa spent 30 years with NASA, which included being the 11th director of JSC, deputy center director of JSC, and director of Flight Crew Operations. She served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993, and became the first Hispanic woman in space. She flew four more times to space with STS-66, STS-96, STS-110, and more.

“I’m so grateful for all my amazing NASA colleagues who shared my career journey with me,” Ochoa says in a NASA news release. Read more.

Houston health care institutions receive $22M to attract top recruits

coming to Hou

Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine has received a total of $12 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas to attract two prominent researchers.

The two grants, which are $6 million each, are earmarked for recruitment of Thomas Milner and Radek Skoda. The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced the grants May 14.

Milner, an expert in photomedicine for surgery and diagnostics, is a professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine and the university’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

In 2013, Milner was named Inventor of the Year by the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, he was a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. One of his major achievements is co-development of the MasSpec Pen, a handheld device that identifies cancerous tissue within 10 seconds during surgical procedures.

Skoda is a professor of molecular medicine in the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel, both in Switzerland. He specializes in developing treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are a group of blood diseases including leukemia.

Other recruitment grants provided by the institute to Houston-area organizations are:

  • $4 million for recruitment of Susan Bullman to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was an assistant professor at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, where she studied the connection between microbes and cancer.
  • $4 million for recruitment of Oren Rom to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Rom is an assistant professor of pathology and translational pathobiology at Louisiana State University Shreveport.
  • Nearly $2 million for recruitment of Lauren Hagler to conduct RNA cancer biology at Texas A&M University. She is a postdoctoral scholar in biochemistry at Stanford University.

The institute also awarded grants to five companies in the Houston area:

  • $4.7 million to 7 Hills Pharma for development of immunotherapies to treat cancer and prevent infectious diseases.
  • $4.5 million to Indapta Therapeutics for the Phase 1 trial of a cell therapy for treatment of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • $2.75 million to Bectas Therapeutics for development of antibodies and biomarkers to overcome a type of resistance T-cell checkpoint therapy.
  • $2.69 million to MS Pen Technologies for development of technology that differentiates between normal tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery.
  • $2.58 million to Crossbridge Bio for development of an antibody-drug combination to treat certain solid tumors.