The Ion has announced its latest corporate partner — and more Houston innovation news. Photo courtesy of the Ion

As Houston ramps up for fall, the city's innovation news has followed suit, and there might be some headlines you may have missed.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston startups and tech, Houston investors announce new deals in sports and energy tech, veterans can apply for new grant program, and more.

The Ion announces latest partner

The Ion has named its latest partner. Image courtesy of the Ion

The Ion Houston announced that Switzerland Transocean has joined on as an affiliate partner. The oil and gas company joins other corporate partners — including Chevron, Baker Botts, Microsoft, and more — in providing programming and resources for the Ion community and taking a seat at the Ion’s Roundtable.

Transocean's Houston office is in the Energy Corridor.

Houston-based Codenotary has expanded its series B fundraising round

Codenotary's software enables tools for notarization and verification of the software development life cycle. Photo via Getty Images

A Houston software startup that raised $12.5 million earlier this year has announced additional funding of $6 million. Codenotary, whose technology helps secure software supply chains, closed its series B round in January. The fresh funding brings the company's total investment raised to $24 million — thanks to investors Bluwat and Elaia.leaders and following a series A round that was announced in 2020.

Codenotary, formerly known as vChain, was founded in 2018 by CEO Moshe Bar and CTO Dennis Zimmer. The additional capital, which will go towards scaling up sales in the U.S. and Europe as well as entering the Asian market, was raised as an extension of the series B round.

“Software supply chains are under constant attack and so every enterprise is looking for effective ways to protect their valuable software assets,” says Bar in a news release. “The additional capital will help us expand faster – increasing our ability to roll out additional features and build out our worldwide sales efforts that includes our partner network. Not every startup company is able to do that right now but we’re fortunate to have good growth and the right investors behind us.”

Houston-based energy investor announces latest portfolio company

Here's Energy Transition Ventures' latest investment. Image via Getty Images

Energy Transition Ventures, a Houston-based investment firm, has announced its latest investment. ETV led Rutgers University-spinout RenewCO2's $2 million seed round.The startup has created a "novel catalyst technology to convert carbon from hard-to-abate sectors and transform it into a feedstock for carbon-negative, plastic monomers at a fraction of the cost of plastics derived from fossil sources," per a news release.

Including this latest seed round, the New Jersey-based cleantech company has raised $10 million in grants and investment. RenewCO2 hops to start supplying its eCUT electrolysis systems to customers by 2025.

"Converting CO2 directly into negative carbon products is a game changer for the climate. With low-cost renewable power, combined falling costs and advancements in electrolysis, the RenewCO2 has the opportunity to be world-changing," says Neal Dikeman, co-founder and partner of Energy Transition Ventures. "They are completely rewriting how we make plastic and chemical products and how these industries will handle carbon emissions, regardless of the price of carbon or credits. We are excited about power to chemicals and working to use renewable energy to make CO2 the low-cost chemicals feedstock of the future, not the present pollutant."

Grants open for veterans

Veteran-owned businesses can apply for this grant. ​Photo via Getty Images

National nonprofit Founders First CDC, which exists to empower expansion in diverse founder-led, revenue-generating businesses, has announced that applications are open online for qualified individuals to apply to its 2022 Stephen L. Tadlock Fund – a grant program to support U.S. veteran small business owners. Twenty-five veterans will receive a $1,000 grant.

To be eligible, the company’s founder must be a U.S. military veteran, have an active U.S.-based business, and employ between 2 and 50 employees, per a news release. Applications are open through October 18, and recipients will be announced on Veterans Day, November 11, 2022.

“Given the current state of our economy, small business owners are feeling the brunt of the rising cost of living, inflation and the challenges to provide goods and services for their customers,” says Shaylon Scott, executive director of Founders First, in the news release. “As our founder, Kim Folsom has strong ties to the military through her brother’s service in the U.S. Navy, this particular grant is incredibly special to Founders First, as we’re able to help veteran business owners by investing in their businesses during uncertain economic times. Grants such as these, no matter how large or small of an investment, are a vital and impactful way to help sustain businesses and provide growth opportunities, and we are incredibly proud to support veterans throughout the country during this critical time.”

The judging committee for the Stephen L. Tadlock Grant includes a panel of distinguished veterans, representing multiple branches of service.

Local investment group focuses next fund on sports tech

UCN is focused on sports tech. Image via UCN

The Urban Capital Network — a Houston-based organization focused on democratizing startup investment — has focused its most recent fund on sports tech. The fund, which will raise $500,000 to $1 million, will focus on sports tech businesses, including the first two investments in National Cycling League and Screen Skinz. The National Cycling League is innovating cycling with real and virtual interaction. Screen Skinz has created a new kind of screen protector and has been licensed by several sports entities. UCN investors can be a part of the fund for as little as $5,000.

The new Dream Lab from Teach For America Houston will take 25 ninth graders to the Ion for a mini-innovation accelerator. Image courtesy of TFA

National nonprofit launches Houston innovation lab for kids

dreaming up innovation

Teach For America's Houston chapter has announced a new initiative for children to check out educational opportunities within innovation.

TFA Houston's Network Learning and Innovation Hub is opening a new space, called The Dream Lab. The lab is a set of immersive spaces where students leverage their imagination and creativity to innovate and solve problems affecting their communities.

“The Dream Lab is one of the novel ways we’re re-imagining the ways we meet the needs of Houston’s most vulnerable students and communities,” says Sarah Essama, founder of The Dream Lab and director of social innovation at Teach For America Houston, in a news release. “It introduces a non-traditional approach to learning so that students are better equipped to handle the complexities of an ever-changing world.”

This Friday, the new concept is rolling out to high school students in partnership with DivInc Houston, a nonprofit focused on social and economic equity in entrepreneurship, and 25 ninth graders will get to spend the day at the Ion for a mini-innovation accelerator. The students will be tasked to creatively solve problems in their own communities.

“If there is anything we have learned over the last two and a half years, it’s the need to be innovative, and it’s a skill we must teach our younger generations so they can be adequately prepared for the future,” says Tiffany Cuellar Needham, executive director of Teach For America Houston, in the release. “We look forward to growing The Dream Lab initiative as we continue exploring ways to re-invent and re-imagine what schools can look like for students.”

TFA, which has operated out of Houston for over 30 years, has hosted two other Dream Labs for fourth graders in Houston. Those students were tasked with using technology to design their innovative dream space, and TFA Houston receved positive feedback from participants.

The Dream Lab is right in line with Teach For America Houston’s quest to create educational equity for all students regardless of their socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.

“All students should have access to education that prepares them to become leaders and change-makers of tomorrow. While we have made great progress on this front, we know we have a lot more work ahead of us. Programs like Dream Lab will help us realize our mission of ensuring that one day all children in our country will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education,” says Essama.

Aramco Americas has been named a founding partner at The Ion. Courtesy of Rice University

Energy company joins Ion Houston as founding partner

new collaboration

A leading energy company has announced a new partnership with an innovation hub in the heart of Houston.

Aramco Americas, the U.S. subsidiary of Aramco, has joined as a founding partner of The Ion. Through the partnership, the two organizations will create educational programming, events, workforce development opportunities, energy transition leadership, and more. The partnership will take place over the next three years.

“The addition of Aramco as a founding partner of The Ion is another step forward in the realization of our vision of The Ion as a globally connected innovation hub that brings new possibilities to the people of Houston,” says Rice University President David Leebron in a news release. “We know the aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs of Houston will benefit from Aramco’s engagement, for which we are grateful.”

Aramco has named Jim Sledzik, managing director of Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures North America, to The Ion Leadership Advisory Roundtable to lead the partnership and help shape programming and offer insights on strategic direction. Aramco will also participate in The Ion Prototyping Lab, which opened earlier this year, and The Ion Investor Studio.

“Aramco’s commitment to innovation is reflected throughout our business operations,” says Nabeel I. AlAfaleg, president and CEO of Aramco Americas, in the release. “Partnerships like The Ion accelerate innovation, champion new ideas, and build a culture to address global energy challenges.”

Aramco joins the Ion’s other founding partners: Baker Botts, Microsoft, and Chevron Technology Ventures.

“I am excited to welcome Aramco as a Founding Partner to expand Houston’s technology and innovation ecosystem,” says Jan E. Odegard, executive director of The Ion, in the release. “Aramco’s involvement not only enables us to continue expanding our support toward inclusive and sustainable economic growth, but expand our reach globally, amplifying Houston as a high-growth technology ecosystem for energy, health, manufacturing, space, and transportation.”

The Ion is a 266,000-square-foot building developed and managed by Rice Management Company and anchors the 16-acre Innovation District in Midtown.

The Ion Prototyping Lab is now open and will be powered by TXRX. Photo by Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

Ion Houston opens unique prototyping lab, names TXRX as partner

new to hou

Midtown Houston's innovation hub has unveiled its latest building feature and named its operation partner for the space.

The Ion opened its The Ion Prototyping Lab with the announcement that Houston nonprofit TXRX Labs will be the operator of the lab. The IPL’s 6,500 square-foot space will include access to tools — such as laser cutters, CNC mills and lathes, electronics assembly equipment, and 3D printers — as well as programming, training, and support.

“The Houston community’s growing need for these services has led to our growth from a small community organization to a partnership with Houston’s leading center for innovation, The Ion,” says Roland von Kurnatowski, president of TXRX Labs, in a news release. “With our presence at The Ion and in its Prototyping Lab, we are able to join together innovative ideas and technology to create a social and collaborative space to support tomorrow’s entrepreneurs' needs and challenges.”

Founded in 2008 and based in the East End Maker Hub, TXRX Labs provides community-focused engineering and fabrication services and job training programs. The nonprofit's goal is to make Houston a major 21st-century manufacturing hub.

The new space within the 266,000 square-foot innovation hub was designed by Gensler and is "the largest open corporate and startup-aligned prototyping space in Houston," according to the release.

“As part of Gensler’s contributions to the development of The Ion, we strategically designed the Prototyping Lab to function as a dedicated space for innovators and entrepreneurs to collaborate,” says Vincent Flickinger, senior associate and design director of Gensler Houston. “The Ion Prototyping Lab is equipped with tools for prototyping robotics and other energy focused innovations and cultivates an entirely new way of doing business in a reimagined, historic building and with one of Houston’s fastest-growing innovators, TXRX. We look forward to introducing the IPL’s offerings to the public.”

The IPL is the latest opening for The Ion. Last summer, the hub, which is opened and managed by Rice Management Company, opened its coworking space. The next openings to expect are an investor studio and several restaurant concepts, including Late August, The Lymbar, and more. Common Bond On-The-Go, located on the main floor of the Ion, opened this week too.

“With its close proximity to Houston’s Central Business District and The Texas Medical Center, The Ion is thrilled to provide the Houston tech community the Prototyping Lab operated by TXRX as an essential resource for businesses,” says Jan E. Odegard, executive director of The Ion, in the release. “The Ion serves as a driver and convener of activity, while TXRX's successful model of hands-on training and technological innovation is being leveraged to jumpstart the activity of entrepreneurs, corporations, and researchers. You think it, we make it.”

Members will have daily access to the IPL from 9 am to 5 pm. The cost of the membership has not been announced, but IPL will offer grant opportunities, per the release. All members must first complete a safety and skills training course.

A rendering previews Second Draught. Courtesy of The Ion

The Ion Houston serves up new tenant for its Midtown innovation hub

brewing innovation

Rice University's new innovation district will include a place to kick back and have a beer. The Ion announced that it has added Second Draught to its roster of bars and restaurants.

Slated to open early next year, Second Draught will feature selections from Houston's ever-growing roster of craft beer breweries. The intimate, 2,000-square-foot space will be located on The Ion's street level and feature a wraparound bar.

Owners Sarah Pope and Adam Cryer bring plenty of craft beer credibility to their new project. The husband-and-wife duo also own Baileson Brewing Company, a nano-brewery near Rice Village, which gives them a unique perspective on Second Draught's ability to promote local producers.

"This environment is all about incubating startups and giving creators the support to succeed," Cryer said in a statement. "We want to do the same for Houston's craft beer scene. Call us the incuBrewer."

As the saying goes, "in wine, there is truth," so the possibilities for what The Ion's tenants could discover after an IPA or two seems virtually limitless.

"We hope to be another community gathering place where people can meet, connect, drink beer, and brainstorm," Pope added. "The next technology breakthrough idea could very well happen on a napkin in our bar, so we want to make sure it's a place where people want to be."

Second Draught joins The Ion's dynamic mix of food and beverage concepts. In addition to the craft beer bar, the space will be home to Late August, an Afro-Asian restaurant from Top Chef finalist Dawn Burrell and Lucille's chef-owner Chris Williams; The Lymbar, a bar-forward, small plates concept from chef David Cordua; and Common Bond On-The-Go. Popular food truck STUFF'd Wings will open its first brick-and-mortar location in the former Shipley's Do-Nuts space across the street.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

The Ion has officially opened its coworking space on the second floor of the Midtown building. Rendering courtesy of Common Desk

The Ion Houston announces opening of its coworking space

calling all coworkers

The Ion Houston's coworking space — roughly four times the size of a typical Walgreens drugstore — opened this week ready to welcome its pre-leased tenants and potential coworkers alike.

The coworking space, Common Desk, occupies 58,400 square feet on the second floor of The Ion. That represents about one-fifth of the 266,000-square-foot Ion complex.

Amenities at Common Desk include craft coffee from local purveyors, unlimited conference room bookings, access to all shared areas on the second floor, private chat booths, full kitchens, and break areas.

Other tenants at The Ion include Chevron Technology Ventures and Microsoft. The Ion opened earlier this year, occupying the former Sears store in Midtown following a $100 million conversion. It's part of the 16-acre Innovation District, being developed by Rice University and the City of Houston.

"We can't wait for our new Common Desk tenants and members across their network to experience the magic that's being made here," Jan Odegard, executive director of The Ion, says in a news release. "Just as The Ion, alongside developer Rice Management Company, set out to build an innovation community and hub different from anything the nation has ever seen, Common Desk set out to build its biggest and most innovative space yet."

Dallas-based Common Desk specializes in flexible office space. Its location at The Ion is the company's largest flex office space to date.

"Common Desk has joined the ranks of some of the nation's top companies to cultivate an authentic, game-changing community destined to transform Houston's innovation ecoscape," says Dawson Williams, head of growth and partnerships at Common Desk.

Members of the Common Desk location at The Ion also can use the company's three other coworking spaces in Houston, as well as it locations in Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, and North Carolina.

Common Desk's coworking space has several options for leasing. Photos courtesy of Common Desk

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Houstonian designs new experiences to encourage innovation in students

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 154

As director of social innovation at Teach For America Houston, it's Sarah Essama's job to come up with new ways for the organization to support both students and teachers. But, as she explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast this week, Essama realized a huge lesson modern students needed was to learn this innovation process themselves.

Part of being an educator is to prepare students for tomorrow, Essama explains, but with rapid technology development and adaption, no one knows what the future will hold for the job market or the world in general. The best way to prepare the future generation of the workforce is to teach them how to innovate, think differently, and adapt to new ways of doing things.

"That's what people are looking for right now — people who can provide out-of-the-box solutions to problems," Essama says on the show.

This line of thinking turned into Essama founding The Dream Lab, powered by Teach for America Houston.

"The Dream Lab is a set of immersive design spaces where young people leverage their imagination and creativity to innovate and solve problems within their community," she explains.

Last month, the new concept rolled out to high school students in partnership with DivInc Houston, a nonprofit focused on social and economic equity in entrepreneurship, and 21 ninth graders spent the day at the Ion for a mini-innovation accelerator and design showcase.

Strategically, Essama tapped into the Houston innovation ecosystem with the intent of showcasing the community.

"Innovation to me is being able to create something that has never been seen or done before — and that has a very important purpose," she says. "Exposing ourselves to innovation and people who think this way — and learning from them —is key to be able to be competitive tomorrow."

Essama says this program is still in the development phase. She's been testing out the concept with fourth graders and now ninth graders. She hopes the full program will be up and running by next fall.

She shares more details about the grant and the future of The Dream Lab on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

Houston-based virtual reality startup raises $3.2M in first outside capital round

fresh funding

HTX Labs, a Houston-based company that designs extended reality training for military and business purposes, announced last week that it has raised its first outside capital.

The company has received a $3.2 million investment from Cypress Growth Capital. Founded in 2017, HTX Labs — developer of the EMPACT Immersive Learning Platform — has been granted funding from the Department of Defense as well as grown its client base of commercial Enterprises. The platform uses virtual and extended reality that "enables organizations to rapidly create, deploy, measure, and sustain cost-effective, secure, and centralized immersive training programs, all within engaging, fully interactive virtual environments," per a news release.

“We have been looking to secure outside capital to accelerate the growth of our EMPACT platform and customer base but we hadn’t found the right partner who provided an investment vehicle that matched our needs,“ says HTX Labs CEO Scott Schneider in the release. “We found everything we were looking for in Cypress Growth Capital. They have a non-dilutive funding model that aligns with our capital expectations and have the level of experience that really makes this smart money.

"Cypress has a decade-long track record of success in helping emerging software and services companies achieve scale," he continues. "It is clear that the team’s collective entrepreneurial and operating experience will be of tremendous benefit to us as we focus on expanding our customer base in a very intentional way.”

The fresh funding will go toward growing and scaling the company's operations — both within the current Department of Defense and expansion opportunities into key commercial markets, like heavy industry, manufacturing, and higher education. Additionally, the funding will support increased customer adoption.

“Scott and his team have built an exceptional business that is poised for dramatic growth,” says Cypress Partner Pat McCaffrey in the release. “HTX Labs’ modern, immersive training solution provides clients with a force multiplier for modernizing training and an unmatched ROI.”

Houston's biggest benefactors gift massive $50M to pivotal Rice University institute

big money

Houston’s most generous couple has once again gifted a massive sum to a local institution. Rich and Nancy Kinder’s Kinder Foundation has donated $50 million to Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, the organization announced.

The Kinder's generous grant will assist the institute’s focus on what it dubs “inclusive prosperity” — that is, “ensuring that everyone can contribute to Houston's success and share in its opportunities.”

This new grant follows the approximately $30 million he Kinder Foundation previously gifted Rice’s Kinder Institute and its affiliates to facilitate its headquarters.

“Over the past decade, the Kinder Institute has played an integral role in shaping Houston,” said Rich Kinder, chairman of the Kinder Foundation. “However, we can do more to inform and more directly address the challenges our communities face, particularly in the areas of housing, education, economic mobility, health and population research.”

To that end, the Kinders’ funds will ensure the institute can assist its partners regardless of their ability to pay for research. Funds will also help the institute respond to community research needs quickly during times of crisis — such as a catastrophic storm or pandemic — when funds aren’t readily available.

Kinder Institute director Ruth López Turley calls the grant “a gift to all of Houston,” speaking to the institute’s work to improve lives through data, research, engagement and action.

“Inclusive prosperity doesn’t just happen spontaneously,” she noted in a statement. “It requires an explicit effort informed by research. Lots of organizations are working hard to make things better, but most of them have very limited research capacity, and that’s what the Kinder Institute is primed to do.”

Founded in 2010, the institute has evolved into a leader in research, data, and policy analysis of critical issues such as housing, transportation, and education. The institute also releases the familiar Kinder Houston Area Survey, which charts significant changes in the way area residents perceive and understand Houston’s ongoing challenges and opportunities.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.