Peter Pisters is one of the top 10 CEOs, according to Glassdoor. Photo courtesy of MD Anderson

Three Houston-area CEOs are doing a exemplary job of leading, says a new report.

Dr. Peter Pisters (MD Anderson Cancer Center), Dr. Marc Boom (Houston Methodist), and Worthing Jackman (Waste Connections) appear on Glassdoor's new list of the top 100 CEOs for 2021.

Pisters scored particularly well; he ranked third overall on the prestigious list and earned a 99-percent approval rating from MD Anderson employees who shared anonymous feedback on the Glassdoor platform, which publishes reviews and salary information for employers.

Meanwhile, Boom ranked 60 overall with a 93 percent approval, while Jackman came in at 76 overall with a 92 percent approval.

Other Texas executives appearing on the new Glassdoor list are:

  • Seventh-ranked Charles Butt, CEO of San Antonio-based H-E-B (96 percent).
  • Fourth-ranked Gary Kelly, who just announced he's stepping down as CEO of Dallas-based Southwest Airlines (98 percent approval).
  • 55th-ranked Sean Yalamanchi, chairman and president of Richardson-based Infovision (93 percent approval).

"Over the past year, company leaders around the world faced unprecedented challenges to support employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Now, the employees have spoken and it's clear that these CEOs excelled and found new ways to support their people when the world of work flipped upside down," Christian Sutherland-Wong, Glassdoor's CEO, says in a news release.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Dr. Peter Pisters, president of MD Anderson, ranks high on the list of top CEOs. Photo courtesy of MD Anderson

Leading Houston healthcare executive named one of America's top CEOs

Best boss

Houston-based MD Anderson regularly garners praise for its breakthrough cancer treatments. Now, its leader is garnering attention as one of the country's top CEOs.

Dr. Peter Pisters, who's been president of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston since 2017, is among the honorees in Glassdoor's annual Employees' Choice Awards, recognizing the top 100 CEOs of 2019. Pisters ranks 47th on the list, with an impressive 94 percent approval rating from his employees. He appears in the category for large employers.

In a letter sent to faculty and staff after he was named to the position, Pisters wrote that he looked forward to collaborating with his new MD Anderson colleagues on the hospital's "profound purpose" of wiping out cancer.

"My promise to you is we will do so with a strong moral compass and principles of values-based servant leadership," Pisters wrote. "The honor of serving as your president is one that I both respect and am humbled by, and I will spare no effort in working with you to build upon and extend MD Anderson's unparalleled history of success."

Sitting atop the Glassdoor list of CEOs at large employers is Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMWare. Charles Butt, chairman and CEO of San Antonio-based H-E-B, is in second place, followed by In-N-Out Burger's Lynsi Snyder, T-Mobile's John Legere, and Adobe's Shantanu Narayen.

"Under [Butt's] leadership, the desire to constantly innovate has led to new store concepts, the creation of one of the most successful private label programs in the country, and the commitment to build out state-of-the-art digital products and services to complement H-E-B's world-class stores," the company says in a release about the Glassdoor recognition.

The remaining Texans on the Glassdoor list are all from the Dallas area: Gary Kelly, chairman and CEO of Dallas-based Southwest Airlines; Peter Strebel, president of Dallas-based Omni Hotels & Resorts; and Steve Barick, chief operating officer of Irving-based Highgate Hotels, all in the category for large employers.

Kelly, who has worked at Southwest for more than 30 years, is the highest ranked CEO in Dallas, landing at No. 35 with an approval rating of 95 percent.

At No. 58 is Strebel, who garnered an approval rating of 94 percent. He's a longtime employee of Omni; in 2018, he was promoted to president.

Barick, the longtime chief operating officer of Irving-based Highgate Hotels, claims the 97th spot with an approval rating of 90 percent.

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This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

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New Houston venture studio emerges to target early-stage hardtech, energy transition startups

funding the future

The way Doug Lee looks at it, there are two areas within the energy transition attracting capital. With his new venture studio, he hopes to target an often overlooked area that's critical for driving forward net-zero goals.

Lee describes investment activity taking place in the digital and software world — early stage technology that's looking to make the industry smarter. But, on the other end of the spectrum, investment activity can be found on massive infrastructure projects.

While both areas need funding, Lee has started his new venture studio, Flathead Forge, to target early-stage hardtech technologies.

“We are really getting at the early stage companies that are trying to develop technologies at the intersection of legacy industries that we believe can become more sustainable and the energy transition — where we are going. It’s not an ‘if’ or ‘or’ — we believe these things intersect,” he tells EnergyCapital.

Specifically, Lee's expertise is within the water and industrial gas space. For around 15 years, he's made investments in this area, which he describes as crucial to the energy transition.

“Almost every energy transition technology that you can point to has some critical dependency on water or gas,” he says. “We believe that if we don’t solve for those things, the other projects won’t survive.”

Lee, and his brother, Dave, are evolving their family office to adopt a venture studio model. They also sold off Azoto Energy, a Canadian oilfield nitrogen cryogenic services business, in December.

“We ourselves are going through a transition like our energy is going through a transition,” he says. “We are transitioning into a single family office into a venture studio. By doing so, we want to focus all of our access and resources into this focus.”

At this point, Flathead Forge has seven portfolio companies and around 15 corporations they are working with to identify their needs and potential opportunities. Lee says he's gearing up to secure a $100 million fund.

Flathead also has 40 advisers and mentors, which Lee calls sherpas — a nod to the Flathead Valley region in Montana, which inspired the firm's name.

“We’re going to help you carry up, we’re going to tie ourselves to the same rope as you, and if you fall off the mountain, we’re falling off with you,” Lee says of his hands-on approach, which he says sets Flathead apart from other studios.

Another thing that's differentiating Flathead Forge from its competition — it's dedication to giving back.

“We’ve set aside a quarter of our carried interest for scholarships and grants,” Lee says.

The funds will go to scholarships for future engineers interested in the energy transition, as well as grants for researchers studying high-potential technologies.

“We’re putting our own money where our mouth is,” Lee says of his thesis for Flathead Forge.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Houston-based lunar mission's rocky landing and what it means for America's return to the moon

houston, we have a problem

A private U.S. lunar lander tipped over at touchdown and ended up on its side near the moon’s south pole, hampering communications, company officials said Friday.

Intuitive Machines initially believed its six-footed lander, Odysseus, was upright after Thursday's touchdown. But CEO Steve Altemus said Friday the craft “caught a foot in the surface," falling onto its side and, quite possibly, leaning against a rock. He said it was coming in too fast and may have snapped a leg.

“So far, we have quite a bit of operational capability even though we’re tipped over," he told reporters.

But some antennas were pointed toward the surface, limiting flight controllers' ability to get data down, Altemus said. The antennas were stationed high on the 14-foot (4.3-meter) lander to facilitate communications at the hilly, cratered and shadowed south polar region.

Odysseus — the first U.S. lander in more than 50 years — is thought to be within a few miles (kilometers) of its intended landing site near the Malapert A crater, less than 200 miles (300 kilometers) from the south pole. NASA, the main customer, wanted to get as close as possible to the pole to scout out the area before astronauts show up later this decade.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will attempt to pinpoint the lander's location, as it flies overhead this weekend.

With Thursday’s touchdown, Intuitive Machines became the first private business to pull off a moon landing, a feat previously achieved by only five countries. Japan was the latest country to score a landing, but its lander also ended up on its side last month.

Odysseus' mission was sponsored in large part by NASA, whose experiments were on board. NASA paid $118 million for the delivery under a program meant to jump-start the lunar economy.

One of the NASA experiments was pressed into service when the lander's navigation system did not kick in. Intuitive Machines caught the problem in advance when it tried to use its lasers to improve the lander's orbit. Otherwise, flight controllers would not have discovered the failure until it was too late, just five minutes before touchdown.

“Serendipity is absolutely the right word,” mission director Tim Crain said.

It turns out that a switch was not flipped before flight, preventing the system's activation in space.

Launched last week from Florida, Odysseus took an extra lap around the moon Thursday to allow time for the last-minute switch to NASA's laser system, which saved the day, officials noted.

Another experiment, a cube with four cameras, was supposed to pop off 30 seconds before touchdown to capture pictures of Odysseus’ landing. But Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s EagleCam was deliberately powered off during the final descent because of the navigation switch and stayed attached to the lander.

Embry-Riddle's Troy Henderson said his team will try to release EagleCam in the coming days, so it can photograph the lander from roughly 26 feet (8 meters) away.

"Getting that final picture of the lander on the surface is still an incredibly important task for us,” Henderson told The Associated Press.

Intuitive Machines anticipates just another week of operations on the moon for the solar-powered lander — nine or 10 days at most — before lunar nightfall hits.

The company was the second business to aim for the moon under NASA's commercial lunar services program. Last month, Pittsburgh's Astrobotic Technology gave it a shot, but a fuel leak on the lander cut the mission short and the craft ended up crashing back to Earth.

Until Thursday, the U.S. had not landed on the moon since Apollo 17's Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt closed out NASA's famed moon-landing program in December 1972. NASA's new effort to return astronauts to the moon is named Artemis after Apollo's mythological twin sister. The first Artemis crew landing is planned for 2026 at the earliest.

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.