Post Oak Motor Cars now accepts Dogecoin and Bitcoin as payment. Photo courtesy of Fertitta Entertainment

Post Oak Motor Cars is now accepting dogecoin, a cryptocurrency that recently gained new heights of popularity following support from Tesla founder Elon Musk, as a form of payment. New Bugatti, Bentley, Karma, and Rolls-Royce vehicles are sold at the boutique sales location next to Houston's only five-star hotel, The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston.

This is the second form of cryptocurrency the Houston dealership has accepted. In 2018, Post Oak Motor Cars announced that it would allow customers to pay using bitcoin after integrating cryptocurrency processor Bitpay into its payment system.

Dogecoin was created in 2013 by software engineers from IBM and Adobe. In 2014, the currency briefly passed Bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies in trading volume. Fast forward to 2020 when a TikTok trend encouraged people to purchase dogecoin in an effort to get the value to $1. By January 2021 Musk, Gene Simmons, Snoop Dogg, and GameStop short squeeze Redditors were all in on the buying binge pushing dogecoin's value to new heights.

Buy Sport, Premium and Luxury cars with Bitcoin from Post Oak Motor Cars. www.youtube.com


In March of this year, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban announced that the team would allow the public to purchase tickets and products with the digital currency. Within two days, the Mavs had carried out over 20,000 Dogecoin transactions.

Last week, dogecoin's value was up 400 percent week-over-week, hitting an all-time high of $0.46 valuation on April 16. It is currently the fifth-highest valued cryptocurrency and its value is up 6,000 percent year-to-date. According to CNN, the total value of the dogecoins in circulation is nearly $50 billion.

Post Oak Motor Cars is owned by businessman Tilman Fertitta, CEO of Fertitta Entertainment. The billionaire is also the the chairman, CEO, and owner of Landry's, Inc. and owner of the Houston Rockets NBA team. The Rockets online shop currently allows customers to purchase items using Bitpay. Bitpay facilitates transactions for users wishing to complete a purchase using Bitcoin, Dogecoin, and other cryptocurrencies.

Buyers are currently able to buy a Tesla using Bitcoin, but despite Musk's appreciation for the brand faced by a Shiba Inu, dogecoin is not currently accepted as a form of payment.

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This article was originally run on AutomotiveMap.

Tilman Fertitta is taking Landry's public. Photo by J. Thomas Ford

Tilman Fertitta takes much of his empire public in massive $6.6 billion merger

going public

Tilman Fertitta is about to become even wealthier. The Houston billionaire announced that his company, Fertitta Entertainment, will go public via a merger with FAST Acquisition Corp. (NYSE: FST).

In total, the deal will be worth approximately $6.6 billion. It includes over 500 restaurant locations — ranging from Saltgrass Steakhouse to Mastro's — five Golden Nugget Hotel and Casinos, and Fertitta's stake in Golden Nugget Online Gaming. That valuation is based on projected earnings of $648 million in 2022.

Fertitta will own 60 percent of the company and will serve as its president, chairman, and CEO. Prior to the transaction, Forbes estimated Fertitta's net worth at $4.1 billion. His stake in the new company will grow that amount by $2 billion.

The merger does not include Fertitta's other hotels, such as The Post Oak, his properties in Galveston such as the Pleasure Pier, or the Houston Rockets.

Landry's operated as a public company until 2010, when Fertitta took it private. Going public now allows the company to pursue acquisitions and take advantage of opportunities presented by the downturn is both restaurants and casinos as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The new company will benefit from both the increase in casino and online gaming taking place across the country as well as decreased competition due to restaurant closures, it states in a press release.

"I want to do big gaming deals," Fertitta told Bloomberg News. "Thirty years ago there was gambling in two states. Now we're approving new states for online almost on a weekly basis."

Merging with FAST instead of going through a traditional IPO allows the transaction to be completed more quickly. The deal is expected to be finalized in the second quarter of 2021.

"After I compared the opportunities provided by a transaction with FAST, versus the traditional IPO route, it became abundantly clear that we could access the capital markets with more certainty and speed if we did a deal with FAST," Fertitta said in a statement. "At the end of the day, the decision to do a deal with FAST was a no-brainer."

Institutional investors will contribute $1.2 billion and own 35 percent of the company. FAST will contribute the $200 million it raised via an initial public offering; its sponsors will own 1 percent of the company. Public investors will own 4-percent. Shares in FAST are up 4 percent at the time of publication.

Fertitta has arranged a merger with a special purpose acquisition company before. In 2020, Golden Nugget Online Gaming, Inc. (NASDAQ: GNOG) went public via a similar transaction. It's currently trading at approximately $18 per share.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

The Coogs have scored some serious cash. Photo courtesy of University of Houston

University of Houston roars with massive $1.2 billion raised in new campaign

Cougar cash

The University of Houston Cougars have a reason to roar this fall. The school has announced a massive fundraising feat of $1.2 billion for scholarships, professorships, facilities, and programs as part of the "Here, We Go" initiative that closed on August 31.

Specifically, the campaign raised $1,235,427,334. The final tally was announced by UH System Chancellor and UH president Renu Khator during her 12th annual fall address on October 28., where she thanked high-profile donors and volunteer campaign co-chairs Tilman J. Fertitta ('78), Beth Madison ('72), John L. Nau III, and Marvin E. Odum III (M.B.A. '95).

The campaign, which surpassed the $1 billion milestone in 2019, some 18 months ahead of schedule, was designed to strategically transform UH System universities with priorities to support student scholarships and fellowships, build state-of-the-art facilities, attract and retain top faculty, advance academic programs, workforce training and research, and build a nationally relevant athletics program, according to a press release. It began in 2012 and launched publicly in January 2017, before concluding in August of this year.

More than 187,000 donors, including 133,000 new donors contributed to the campaign, highlighting the pride felt by alumni and friends. Donations came from all 50 states and 46 countries, according to the school.

Donation highlights include:

  • $50 million gift from an anonymous donor — the campaign's single largest contribution to hire faculty and establish four new institutes in the areas of energy, infrastructure, precision medicine, and global engagement.
  • $20 million from Tilman J. Fertitta for renovation and construction of the Fertitta Center, a 7,100-seat multi-purpose arena that is home to the Houston Cougars men's and women's basketball teams and the women's volleyball team.
  • $20 million from the John P. McGovern Foundation benefitting arts students and faculty. The Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts was named in honor of the gift.
  • $17 million from Andy and Andrea Diamond to create the Diamond Family Scholars program which offers financial, academic and mentoring support for students aging out of the foster care system.
  • $16 million from the John M. O'Quinn Foundation to support the UH Law Center and construction of its new state-of-the-art building, the John M. O'Quinn Law Building.
  • $15 million thanks to Humana Inc. to launch the Humana Integrated Health System Sciences Institute and help defray start-up and operational costs for the UH College of Medicine, as well as fund endowed chairs at several UH colleges.
  • $13 million from the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Family Foundation to the nation's No. 1 undergraduate entrepreneurship program at the C.T. Bauer College of Business with a total expected impact of $15 million with matching gift.

"You inspired us to dream big, challenged us to be relevant and forced us to stay focused," said Khator, in a statement. "You led us from all directions, often making calls for us and introducing us to people who cared about Houston and our role in Houston's future."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Rich Kinder, and his wife, Nancy, join an impressive list of Texans on the 2020 edition of the Forbes 400. Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group

10 Houston billionaires bank spots on Forbes' 2020 list of richest Americans

show me the money

In a booming, opportunity city full of tycoons, which billionaire reigns supreme? That honor goes to Richard Kinder, the pipeline mogul worth $6.2 billion — who is also a familiar name in philanthropic circles as a chief benefactor of Memorial Park. Locals may also recognize his name on the new Museum of Fine Arts, Houston building.

Kinder, and his wife, Nancy, join an impressive list of Texans on the 2020 edition of the Forbes 400, which ranks the 400 richest Americans and was released September 8. (See their methodology here.) "Pandemic be damned: America's 400 richest are worth a record $3.2 trillion, up $240 billion from a year ago, aided by a stock market that has defied the virus," Forbes writes.

Around Houston, the richest-of-the-rich list looks similar to recent years. Here's how local billionaires rank nationally in 2020 and how their wealth has fared:

Houston:

  • Richard Kinder — $6.2 billion, No. 103. Last year: $7.5 billion.
  • Pipeline heirs Dannine Avara, Scott Duncan, Milane Frantz, and Randa Duncan Williams — $4.8 billion each, No. 139. Last year: $6.3 billion.
  • Houston Rockets owner and restaurant kingpin Tilman Fertitta — $4.1 billion, No. 181. Last year: $4.9 billion.
  • Toyota titan Dan Friedkin of Houston — $4.1 billion, No. 181. Last year: $4 billion.
  • Houston Texans co-founder Janice McNair — $3.9 billion, No. 197. Last year: $4 billion.
  • Houston energy executive Jeffery Hildebrand — $3.6 billion, No. 222. Last year: $3.8 billion.
  • Former hedge fund manager John Arnold — $3.3 billion, No. 249. Last year: $3.3 billion.

Meanwhile, Walmart heiress Alice Walton of Fort Worth has retained her status as the richest Texan and America's richest woman in 2020, with a net worth estimated this year at $62.3 billion. That compares with $51.4 billion in 2019.

Walton moved up from No. 11 last year to No. 10 this year in the Forbes ranking of the richest Americans.

From 2019 to 2020, Walton's net worth jumped by $10.9 billion. To give you an idea of how much money that is, the size of the economy in Africa's Republic of Congo totaled $10.8 billion in 2019. Walton's entire net worth is slightly more than the size of the Costa Rican economy (nearly $61.8 billion in 2019).

Here's the regional breakdown for Texas' remaining Forbes 400 billionaires.

Dallas-Fort Worth:

  • Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones — $8.6 billion, No. 56. Last year: $8.6 billion.
  • Dallas banker and real estate investor Andy Beal — $7.6 billion, No. 67. Last year: $9.8 billion.
  • Fort Worth oil and gas heir Robert Bass — $4.8 billion, No. 139. Last year: $4.9 billion.
  • Dallas oil and gas heir Ray Lee Hunt — $4.6 billion, No. 154. Last year: $5.2 billion.
  • Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban — $4.2 billion, No. 177. Last year: $4.1 billion.
  • Margot Birmingham Perot, widow of Dallas tech entrepreneur Ross Perot — $4 billion, No. 186. Last year: $4.2 billion.
  • Fort Worth private equity titan David Bonderman — $4 billion, No. 186. Last year: $3.7 billion.
  • Omni Hotels and Gold's Gym king Robert Rowling of Dallas — $3.9 billion, No. 197. Last year: $5.5 billion.
  • Oil and gas chief Trevor Rees-Jones of Dallas — $3.5 billion, No. 228. Last year: $3.7 billion.
  • Dallas pipeline executive Kelcy Warren — $2.8 billion, No. 299. Last year: $4.3 billion.
  • Dallas real estate honcho H. Ross Perot Jr. — $2.5 billion, No. 339. Last year: $2.2 billion.
  • Fort Worth oil heir Sid Bass — $2.3 billion, No. 359. Last year: $3.1 billion.
  • Dallas banker Gerald Ford — $2.1 billion, No. 391. Last year: $2.3 billion.

Austin:

  • Michael Dell, tech magnate — $35.6 billion, No. 18. Last year: $32.3 billion.
  • Robert Smith, private equity entrepreneur — $6.2 billion, No. 125. Last year: $5 billion.
  • Bert "Tito" Beveridge, vodka tycoon — $4.6 billion, No. 154. Last year: $4.2 billion.
  • Thai Lee, tech entrepreneur — $3.1 billion, No. 268. Last year: $3 billion.
  • Joe Liemandt, software entrepreneur — $3 billion, No. 278. Last year: $3 billion.
  • John Paul DeJoria, hair care and tequila mogul — $2.7 billion, No. 319. Last year: $3.1 billion.
  • Jim Breyer, venture capitalist — $2.4 billion, No. 353. Last year: $2.5 billion. (Breyer recently relocated from Silicon Valley to Austin).
  • Brian Sheth, private equity entrepreneur — $2.3 billion, No. 359. Last year: $2.2 billion.

Of note, in just one year, Dell's net worth soared by $3.3 billion — more than the entire net worth of fellow Austin billionaire Thai Lee. The chairman and CEO of the Round Rock-based tech company that bears his name is Austin's richest resident.

Elsewhere in Texas:

  • Walmart heiress Ann Walton Kroenke — $8.4 billion, No. 58. Last year: $7.5 billion.
  • Real estate, sports, and entertainment big shot Stan Kroenke — $8.3 billion, No. 59. Last year: $9.7 billion. (The Kroenkes live on a massive ranch near the North Texas town of Vernon.)
  • Investor and former grocery distributor Drayton McLane Jr. of Temple — $2.8 billion, No. 299. Last year: $2.6 billion. McLane is former owner of the Houston Astros.
  • Hearing-aid mogul Bill Austin of Brownsville — $2.2 billion, No. 378. Last year: $2.4 billion.
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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston entrepreneur Megan Eddings' activewear brand has received national attention. Courtesy of Accel Lifestyle

Houston entrepreneur snags national spotlight and mentorship from Tilman Fertitta

featuring founders

Fashion and science have more in common than you think: Just ask Accel Lifestyle founder and CEO Megan Eddings, who spent three years developing the Prema fabric used in the ethical and environmentally friendly activewear brand she launched in Houston.

"I've always loved science. I've always been fascinated by things you can't see which is, to me, science and chemistry," Eddings tells CultureMap.

Her fascination with fashion and science has paid off: Eddings is one of 40 selected entrepreneurs across the United States to participate in Inc. Magazine's Founders Project. In honor of Inc.'s 40th anniversary, it launched the year-long project. Designed to assist entrepreneurs to grow their business, the initiative will match 40 established entrepreneurs, including Houston's billionaire Tilman Fertitta, MailChimp's Ben Chestnut, and Drybar's Ali Webb to provide advice, access to capital, marketing guidance, and other valuable assets.

Eddings says she was blown away and couldn't wait to learn about the new mentor-mentee relationship. "I was super excited to be paired with Tilman Fertitta," she says.

Fertitta, the sole owner of Fertitta Entertainment, the restaurant giant Landry's, the Golden Nugget Casinos and Hotels, and the NBA's Houston Rockets tells CultureMap he, "enjoyed meeting Megan and learning more about her unique product. She will surely be another successful Houston entrepreneur and look forward to following her growth."

Eddings says Fertitta has already shared his expertise as she continues pitching Accel Lifestyle to national retailers.

"We've already had a few conversations," she says. "One was about wholesale versus retail, which was printed in the November issue, and there was a video interview published on Inc.com."

With a degree in chemistry from the University of Virginia and experience working in labs at UVA and Brown University, Eddings put her education to use after pondering why her husband's sweaty gym clothes weren't coming out clean.

Her anti-stink fabric ensures consumers are less likely to throw away their clothing, which is a strong focus for the brand — not contributing to the landfill epidemic. With antimicrobial properties, the proprietary fabric is ideal for various industries besides fitness, including hospitality, medical, automotive, and more.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Trending this week on InnovationMap is news about a new electric vehicle initiative from the mayor's office, three Houston innovators to know, and more. Photo by PeopleImages

5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week

What's trending

Editor's note: If you zoned out of Houston innovation news this week — perhaps distracted by baseball post-season games — we've got you covered. Some of the highlights include a new electric vehicle initiative from the mayor's office, updates from The Ion, and the Houstonians with the deepest pockets.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

Samantha Lewis, Tilman Fertitta, and Tiffany Masterson are this week's innovators to know in Houston. Courtesy images

Houston entrepreneurs never cease to impress, leaving a mark on the city for their business minds, creativity, and overall gumption. This week's three innovators to know are no exception.

From a startup venture capitalist and Houston's most recognizable billionaire to a local mom that created — and now sold — a skincare line with a cult following, these are this week's innovative Houstonians to keep an eye on. Continue reading.

Station Houston CEO to lead operations at The Ion

The Rice Management Company has created a new operations organization for The Ion and has selected Gabriella Rowe to lead it. Courtesy of Rice University

A Houston innovation leader is switching sides of the table to support on a highly anticipated entrepreneurial hub.

Rice Management Company has created an operating organization for The Ion and has named Gabriella Rowe as the executive director. Rowe has served as CEO of Station Houston since August 2018. The Ion, which broke ground on the site of the Midtown Sears building in July, is expected to deliver early 2021. Continue reading.

Houston billionaires named to Forbes' list of richest Americans for 2019

Pipeline mogul and Memorial Park benefactor Richard Kinder (pictured with his wife, Nancy) leads the Houston billionaires. Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group

Who's the richest person in Texas? That title once again goes to Walmart heiress Alice Walton, of Fort Worth, according to the newly released Forbes 400 ranking. But seven very wealthy Houstonians also appear on the list of the 400 richest people in the country right now.

The top Houstonian on the list is Houston pipeline mogul Richard Kinder, who is tied with another Walmart heiress, Ann Walton Kroenke, for sixth place in Texas and No. 67 nationally. Forbes estimates they're each worth $7.5 billion. Continue reading.

Mayor announces major effort to reduce emissions on Houston's roadways

Through increasing awareness, affordability, and accessibility, the city of Houston hopes to grow the number of electric vehicles on Houston roads by 2030. Courtesy of EVolve Houston

The city of Houston has taken a major step toward reducing carbon emissions caused by its estimated 1.3 million vehicles that drive the city's streets daily.

Mayor Sylvester Turner announced a new partnership between the government, local businesses, and academic leaders that has created EVolve Houston. The coalition is aimed at boosting electric vehicle sales to 30 percent of new car sales in Houston by 2030. Continue reading.

A Houston entrepreneur is thinking out of the box with smart lockers for food and personal items

Dommonic Nelson wants to make sure everyone's lunches are safe. Photo via cleverboxcompany.com

Someone kept taking Dommonic Nelson's lunch. A Texas Southern University student living at home and commuting from Greenspoint, Nelson only had a few minutes to scarf down his lunches between studying Maritime Transportation. But regularly, he'd reach into the community refrigerator on campus, only to find, well, nothing.

One night, Nelson was in the shower, wondering why his lunch had been taken again, and the long journey to Clever Box Co. began. He barged into his grandfather's room — it was 2:40 in the morning — and told him he had an idea for a series of high-tech boxes designed for storing various things. The boxes could keep personal items (the Stash Box) and packages (the Happy Box) in large companies and coworking spaces, and for people to quickly pick up their food from restaurants without having to wait in line (the Yummy Box). If Nelson couldn't get his lunches back, he was going to make an entire business on making sure no one got stolen from again. Continue reading.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston startup grows C-suite, Deloitte opens awards apps, SDO names leader, and more innovation news

short stories

The Houston innovation ecosystem has been especially busy this year, and for this reason, local startup and tech news may have fallen through some of the cracks.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston innovation, local organizations announce new innovators, Deloitte opens apps for its annual tech awards, Houston Tech Rodeo prepares for its annual events, and more.

Early stage accelerator names new Houston leader

Kate Evinger will lead gBETA Houston. Photo via LinkedIn

A Houston early-stage startup accelerator has named its new director. Kate Evinger has joined gener8tor's gBETA Houston as director. She will run the third gBETA cohort in Houston, adding to the 10 alumni from the two cohorts held in 2020.

Evinger has replaced Anu Pansare, who was previously named director in February. Pansare, who replaced the accelerator's inaugural director Eléonore Cluzel, moved on to another opportunity, Evinger says.

Based in Houston's Downtown Launchpad, gBETA's third cohort of early stage startups will soon start its free 7-week program, which is designed to help participating companies gain early customer traction and develop key metrics that will make them more marketable for future investment.

Evinger has been a part of the gener8tor family since 2016 when she joined the team as associate for gBETA Madison. She was promoted to program manager in 2019 when she graduated from Indiana University with degrees in finance, entrepreneurship and corporate innovation, according to a news release.

"Downtown Launchpad's inclusive set of tools, resources and opportunities empower Houston founders to accelerate and scale their businesses to solve humankind's boldest challenges," says Robert Pieroni, director of economic development at Central Houston, in a news release. "Kate Evinger brings experience and valuable insights to the gBETA Houston program and will help us continue to support founders, Houston-based partners and the community."

Houston Tech Rodeo launches registration and names headliner

Master P will be the headlining guest for Houston Tech Rodeo. Photo courtesy of HTR

Houston Tech Rodeo, a week-long collaboration of events hosted by Houston Exponential, has opened registration and announced Percy Miller, also known as musical artist Master P, as the headliner.

Miller, who began his career as an international rap artist, later became a CEO, investor, and founder of Nemesis RR.

"I'll be sharing my journey, my secrets, my success, my feelings, and my rebuilding. Transitioning from international artist to CEO to investing in philanthropy, I want to educate you and give you that gain," says Miller in a news release. "I want to add diversity into technology and the automotive industry."

HTR kicks off May 16 at Saint Arnold Brewing Company with live music, beer, and swag bag pick ups with registration. The week concludes on May 23. Registration is free and available online.

Houston industrial blockchain company expands C-suite

Data Gumbo has a new C-level executive. Photo courtesy of Data Gumbo

Data Gumbo, a Houston-based industrial smart contract network powered by blockchain — announced that it has brought on Robin Macmillan as chief corporate development officer to lead the company's corporate development team.

"The sheer breadth of Macmillan's experience will serve as an invaluable asset to Data Gumbo as we continue to exponentially grow and mature our company into new industrial markets and further solidify our leadership in energy," says Andrew Bruce, CEO and founder of Data Gumbo, in a news release. "Macmillan has the experience to expand Data Gumbo's commercial market penetration to aid companies in undertaking digital transformation with smart contracts to reveal streamlined efficiencies and cost savings, sustainability insights across supply chains and transactional certainty in any commercial relationship."

Macmillan has over 40 years of experience in the energy industry, most recently at National Oilwell Varco and is the vice president of drilling services at the International Association of Drilling Contractors,

"There is tremendous opportunity right now to change how business is executed," says Macmillan in the release. "Data Gumbo is poised to deliver trust through automated, auditable blockchain-backed smart contracts that execute transactions in real-time. I am thrilled to be a part of the Data Gumbo executive team as the company is in a period of hyper growth into new industries, serving as a harbinger for significant digital transformation across commercial relationships and transparent, accurate sustainability impact data."

Deloitte opens annual tech awards nominations

Calling all fast-growing tech companies. Image via Deloitte

Deloitte's Technology Fast 500 awards — which celebrate the fastest growing, most innovative technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences and energy tech companies in the country — has opened applications for its 2021 program.

Applications opened online on April 9 and will remain open until June 29. Winners will be announced on November 15. The program ranks applicants based on percentage of fiscal year revenue growth and the list is compiled from applications. For more information, visit the Technology Fast 500 website.

"Each year, we are excited to see the variety of Houston's Fast 500 applicants, which represent the city's positive momentum in both diversifying its core competencies and highlighting the boom in technology innovations coming to market," says Amy Chronis, vice chair and Houston managing partner at Deloitte LLP. "We look forward to seeing what Houston's innovators will bring in 2021."

Energy incubator announces latest cohort

Fifteen energy startups are joining the Plug and Play family. Gif courtesy of Plug and Play

Plug and Play Tech Center has announced 154 startups into its 2021 summer program — 15 of which were named to the Houston-based Batch 8 Energy Program. During the course of the next three months, these companies will receive access to our corporate, venture capital, and mentor network.

The new energy cohort consists of the following companies:

Texas expert: Energy reliability and climate sustainability are not mutually exclusive

Guest Column

It's no secret that Texas has long been a leader in energy production, but it may surprise you to learn that Texas leads the nation in wind-powered generation, producing 28 percent of all US wind-powered electricity in 2019.

We're not just producing a lot of renewable energy, we're increasingly consuming it.

Contrary to the caricaturistic portrayal of Texans in mainstream culture, a recent study by the University of Houston revealed that 4 out of 5 Texans believe the climate crisis is real.

In an effort to reduce their carbon footprint, more and more households are making the decision to switch to 100 percent renewable energy. And this adoption isn't isolated to core urban areas. We're witnessing a diverse spread in smaller, more rural markets.

These reasons and more are why Bulb, one of Europe's fastest growing company that provides 100 percent renewable energy, chose Texas as its first home in the U.S. Less than a year after launching here, it's safe to say we made the right choice as we're experiencing even faster growth in Texas than we did in our early stages in the United Kingdom.

One of the many reasons Texans have rapidly adopted our simpler, cheaper and greener energy is because they no longer have to choose between being budget and climate conscious. Sadly, the progress the state has made could be knocked back following the recent winter storm.

After the nation witnessed Texas' massive outages during the winter storm, our state leaders understandably feel the pressure to "do something," quickly.

We share our leaders' determination in avoiding another crisis of this magnitude, but we fear that Texas may be heading in the wrong direction. In the mad rush to avoid another catastrophe, some regulators and politicians wrongly and disproportionately blamed renewable energy sources for the outages.

Numerous media outlets and energy experts have overwhelmingly refuted these claims. An AP fact check described the efforts to blame renewable energy sources as "false narratives." And, they're not alone in their conclusion.

According to Reuters' fact check, "These claims are misleading, as they shift blame for the crisis away from what appears, so far, to be the root cause...The state's woes mainly stem from issues surrounding its independent power grid. The cold weather affected all fuel types, not just renewables."

Determining what went wrong isn't a blame game. A proper diagnosis is essential to any problem solving. And a failure to conduct a thorough analysis could have serious consequences. Currently, a number of legislative solutions are floating around the state Capitol that would shift the blame and consequences to renewable energy.

These proposals would increase the financial burden on Texas consumers, many of whom are still recovering from the storm, and hamper new investments in renewable energy. Additionally, and perhaps even more concerning, they don't adequately address the root cause of the winter storm energy crisis, further exposing Texans to another meltdown.

Texas' leadership on renewable energy production is no small feat, and it didn't happen by chance. For two decades, our lawmakers have made strategic decisions that led to the advancement of renewable energy production, and it has paid dividends in terms of jobs, economic growth, energy reliability, sustainability and even the state's reputation.

We are at a critical juncture, but Texas doesn't have to choose between reliability, affordability and sustainability. We can offer reliable energy and green energy, stop another crisis before it happens again and move forward with renewable energy investments.

Continuing to promote policies that pushed Texas to its leadership position will unleash even more investments and innovation, which is good for Texas, good for Texans and good for the planet.

As we observe Earth Day, we would urge our leaders to consider the possibilities. Rather than turn the clock back, let's use this storm as an opportunity to innovate further.

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Vinnie Campo is the general manager for Bulb U.S., a new type of energy company that aims to make energy simpler, cheaper, and greener by providing renewable electricity to its members from Texas wind and solar. He is based in Texas.

Houston-based software startup aims to connect workers with wages in real time

there's an app for that

Could you incur an unexpected $400 expense if it hit your bank account today? According to Jeff Price, founder and CEO of Houston-based Pronto Pay, many hourly workers could not. He's set out to change that.

"When you think about it, payroll hasn't changed in nearly two centuries. As far as we can remember, you get paid weekly or bi-weekly. And that's precisely the point we're trying to solve," Price says.

A recent graduate from Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business, Price founded Pronto Pay in the first quarter of 2021. The software aims to connect hourly works with transparent access to wages earned before pay day without disrupting the employers' books. Currently the company has seven staff members, is actively hiring and is looking to expand outside of Houston soon.

Pronto Pay partners with the employers to seamlessly build out connections with their time and attendance system and payroll processor. After the company signs up, ProntoPay automatically creates an account for each employee, which allows them to view their accrued wages and withdraw their earnings instantly from the app or next-day for automated clearing house payments — all via the Pronto Pay App. When an employee wishes to withdraw funds prior to their normal pay cycle, Pronto Pay applies a small fixed fee — $2.99 — for completing the transaction. .

Come pay day, the employer's system will automatically balance the difference and route the withdrawn money back to Pronto Pay. As Price describes it, Pronto Pay aims to compete "directly with (while severely undercutting the price of) payday and other predatory lenders."

The idea was born out of a series of simple questions Price started to ask himself when he envisioned what his newborn son's first job would be earlier this year.

"My wife and I were having our son and it challenged me to ask questions like, 'Hey, why do we get paid bi-weekly? If I can Venmo 100 bucks in real time, why can't a company do that?'" Price recalls.

Apart from the impact of advanced pay, Price envisions that earned wages access will improve workplace culture and retention, too. Pronto Pay has already on-boarded users in the local staffing and warehousing markets, in the janitorial and security guard fields, and at call centers. As Price describes, Pronto Pay's clients "typically have a lot of hourly employees that struggle with employee retention and keeping folks at the same job for longer than three to 12 months."

"We're hoping that we can permanently change that employee-employer relationship," he adds. "And help those employees."

Jeff Price is the founder and CEO of Pronto Pay.