In today’s dynamic business landscape, veterans bring the skills and expertise to the table that translate to any industry. Photo via Getty Images

Last week, the country celebrated Veterans Day — a time to honor the men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. This day was also a time to consider, as business owners and entrepreneurs, how we support these veterans as they enter civilian life.

With only 18.5 million veterans, which accounts for seven percent of the population over 18 years old, it is an elite group. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics latest data, veterans have a nearly one percent lower unemployment rate than their nonveteran counterparts, which points to their unique skill sets, internal grit and dogged determination.

Entrepreneurs face interesting business challenges today with a tight labor market coupled with talks of a potential recession. Hiring today doesn’t have to be a daunting task when the right people are in the trenches with you. Veterans transitioning into civilian life are an often-overlooked talent pool who bring an abundance of skills, albeit sometimes non-traditional, to the workplace. They make great employees for startups due to:

Resilience

Every new business goes through a season of trial and error. Additionally, the ever-changing business environment and legislation force many businesses to quickly adapt. Veterans have learned to thrive under pressure, keep the end-goal in mind and focus under the most difficult situations. An employee who brings a sense of calm focus to an organization in growth mode, which can be chaotic, is reassuring to the business owner and they serve as a good example to fellow employees.

Intrapersonal skills

The military helps every recruit fine tune their intrapersonal skills, especially discipline, persistence and innovation. These same skills are valuable in the workplace and paramount to the success of today’s startup.

These engrained intrapersonal skills make veterans the employees entrepreneurs will rely upon. Commitments are kept and deadlines are met, hard stop. When an entrepreneur’s attention is divided, it is a relief for them to know the work will get done. Additionally, these are employees who will naturally step up as leaders, if given the opportunity to advance, and take pride in helping foster the success of the business.

Teamwork

In its simplest form, the military is a workplace made of many smaller work groups or units. Veterans know teamwork is an essential skill to master, often aided by clear and concise communication. In a military setting, however, if a team member doesn’t follow through, the consequences can be dire. While the stakes may be different, teamwork is invaluable to meeting an organization’s goals and objectives.

Versatility

The military also prepares veterans for civilian life and business today by teaching creative problem solving. These men and women quickly surmount complex circumstances and often with limited resources. The bootstrap nature of a startup environment and a tight labor market can benefit significantly from a veteran’s ability to improvise and adapt.

The multitude of skills veterans possess and have learned through their military careers allows them to quickly adopt and master new concepts. This is an extremely valuable to any small business facing limited resources and manpower. A new hire who can troubleshoot IT systems, move boxes and supplies, and manage people or clients is the best “multi-tool” for a startup.

In today’s dynamic business landscape, veterans bring the skills and expertise to the table that translate to any industry.

Veterans are a valuable resource and, once leveraged, can help employers improve the trajectory of their business.

------

Roger Nicholson is a Marine veteran and senior vice president of service operations with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources offering the most comprehensive suite of scalable HR solutions available in the marketplace.

Craig Taylor has been named 2022 Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year by the Rice Business Veterans Association and has made it to the finals for EY's Entrepreneur Of The Year 2022. Photo courtesy of Iapetus

Houston energy entrepreneur recognized for 2 leadership awards

vet rep

Houston’s Craig Taylor is basking in the entrepreneurial spotlight.

On May 10, Taylor, founder and CEO of Houston-based Iapetus Holdings, and Tejpal Singh, co-founder and chief operating officer, were named Entrepreneur Of The Year 2022 finalists in the program’s Central South region. That region includes the Houston area. Professional services giant Ernest & Young sponsors the program.

Meanwhile, Taylor last month was named 2022 Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year by the Rice Business Veterans Association at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business.

Iapetus Holdings is a minority- and veteran-owned portfolio of eight self-funded, multimillion-dollar companies in the energy sector.

“When you set off to become a self-funded entrepreneur, you start with a vision and a ton of grit, but you never really have assurance of the fact that you’re going to be successful,” Taylor says in a news release. “The road to business success takes many turns and that’s why, to find ourselves among those honored with this distinction, to be among the EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalists, is so meaningful.”

Singh says he and Taylor “have much greater ambitions” for Iapetus as well as Atlas Scholars, the nonprofit they launched to provide internships and scholarships to high school students.

“It has taken a ton of dedication and effort to realize our ambition of building this group of energy solutions businesses, creating this number of jobs, serving this quantity and quality of clients,” Singh says.

Regional Entrepreneur Of The Year winners will be announced June 23.

The Entrepreneur Of The Year nod follows Taylor’s acceptance April 23 of Rice’s Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year honor.

Navy veteran Charles “Reid” Schrodel, an officer with Rice Business Veterans Association, says Taylor was chosen for the honor because of his success in business and philanthropy.

“For the Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year award, “we were looking for veteran entrepreneurs that are successful in their field, and we wanted to find a vet entrepreneur whose organization also gave back to their communities,” Schrodel says.

Taylor received the award during the Rice Veterans Business Battle competition. He and Alex Danielides, head of business development at Iapetus Holdings, were judges for the competition. In the competition, 16 early stage companies vied for funding. The 2022 winners were Libre, Opera Bioscience, and Bonappesweet.

In a news release, Taylor notes that veterans who own businesses face an array of challenges.

“Being an entrepreneur is not easy, but the Navy instilled in me a strong sense of responsibility and grit, which are critical characteristics of a successful entrepreneur,” he says.

Businesses under the Iapetus umbrella are:

  • Atlas Commodities, a commodity brokerage firm.
  • Atlas Field Services, which provides safety inspections and audits for energy providers.
  • Atlas Retail Energy, a provider of energy management services for commercial and industrial customers.
  • Gold Coast Utility Specialists, which provides risk management services for energy suppliers.
  • Hyperion Safety Environmental Solutions, whose services include safety programming and environmental planning.
  • Iapetus Infrastructure Services, which encompasses five of the holding company’s eight subsidiaries.
  • Soaring Eagle Technologies, a provider of mapping services.
  • UATI (Unmanned Aviation Training Institute), which trains drone operators.

Collectively, annual revenue for the eight subsidiaries is around $100 million.

“Our customers rely on Iapetus employees who are innovating and are making a difference on the most critical issues of our times. We’re affecting everything from energy security to sustainability to infrastructure reliability, and we do so as a cohesive group of diverse perspectives working toward common goals,” Taylor said in a 2021 news release.

“Our companies are working closely with utilities on strategies to help prevent risks, plan vegetation management, keep the lights on and employees safe,” he added. “We’re also helping commercial and industrial clients procure energy efficiently and sustainably, while providing international energy trade brokerage services in this intense-demand landscape.”

Houston has the the second largest veteran community in America — and the energy industry is vets' top employer. Photo via Getty Images

Houston-based veterans will lead the energy transition, says this expert

guest column

Many people living in Houston don't realize that the veteran community is taking an increasing leadership role in the energy transition. The Greater Houston area is the second largest veteran community in America with over 5,500 new veterans and their families coming to Houston annually. We are the fastest growing city in America for veterans as well.

In Houston you'll find a community of veterans who create a workforce and culture of excellence -- no handouts needed here. Our city is home to innovation in many industrial sectors, and also in the veteran services market. Combined Arms is the premier technology partner for accelerating the connection of veterans to resources like employment.

Headquartered in Houston, the agency operates in a dozen states nationally with a co-working space of over 30 veteran serving nonprofits on site and 120 services online. The top employment organization for veteran employment in the country, NextOp, is also headquartered in Houston. NextOp is focused on developing a pipeline of talent directly from military installations to industrial craft trades. They have the best numbers for placement of veterans and speed to employment, perfect for accelerating the energy transition as companies are looking for talent to fill new industry roles.

The energy sector is already the largest employer of veterans in Houston. We are a vibrant community with weekly networking happy hours for white collar veterans working in the energy industry at the original Kirby Icehouse on Wednesdays, put on by Houston Veterans in Business.

With one of the highest concentrations of public companies in the country, we have over 85 public companies with employee resource groups for veterans. The leaders of these groups meet regularly to support and serve our community. We are a thriving community that has the depth of relationships and connections to foster the personal and professional growth of veterans new to Houston and those that have called Houston home their entire lives. The majority of these groups are within energy companies that are actively supporting the energy transition.

Some examples of veteran-led energy transition companies include:

  • Everpoint Services, founded by Tyler Goodell, is bringing an oilfield services model to the wind, solar, and energy storage industries along with wind blade and solar panel recycling.
  • FastGrid, founded by Eric Curry, is rapidly growing through the project engineering side of renewable energy project development across the country.
  • WindCom, led by CEO Tim Hertel, conducts wind blade repairs and servicing.
  • Blue Bear Capital, co-founded by Tim Kopra, invests in high-growth technology companies across the energy, infrastructure, and climate industries.
  • eRenewable, co-founded by Fred Davis, provides real-time online auctions for Power Purchasing Agreements (PPAs) and Virtual PPAs.
  • Last Dollar Trucking, co-founded by Nate Reeve, focused on the transport of the massive number of wind blades entering texas ports.
  • JAG Argueta, founded by Keith Argueta, provides accounting and fractional CFO services to cleantech startups.
  • Digital Wildcatters, co-founded by Jake Corley, building the "Barstool Sports of Energy"
  • Amberjack Capital, co-founded by Patrick Connelly, is a private equity investor in energy transition and infrastructure projects.
  • re:3D, co-founded by Samantha Snabes, pioneering new innovations to decimate the cost & scale barriers to 3D printing.
  • South Union CDC, founded by Efrem Jernigan, is developing the Sunnyside Solar project.
  • Fervo Energy, led by CFO David Ulrey, is developing next-generation geothermal projects to deliver 24x7 carbon-free energy.

One of the top chapters nationally for Bunker Labs is also here, with a veteran entrepreneur accelerator at WeWork downtown, the WeWork Veterans in Residence program. On top of that the largest veteran business plan competition is hosted by Rice University. The Veteran Business Battle is entering its 7th year with one of the finalists Parasanti pivoting their successful edge computing solutions into the energy transition for cleantech applications through their recent acceptance to Haliburton Labs.

Houston is also building a chapter of the Veterans Energy Project which is advocating for the Biden administration's infrastructure bill. Jon Powers with CleanCapital, a private equity investor focused on accelerating the flow of capital into distributed generation project, co-founded the Veterans Energy Project. Having served our country in a time of war, it is time again to place the country first and advocate for the infrastructure that supports all Americans.

The veterans of Houston can help make Houston not only the leader in the energy transition but also ensure that we are the energy capital of the future.

------

Kevin Doffing is the president of Energy Capital of the Future.

BridgingApps, a program backed by Easter Seals of Greater Houston, uses technology like iPads to help provide services for children and adults with disabilities — as well as for veterans — and their families. Courtesy of BridgingApps

Houston nonprofit optimizes technology for special needs treatment and diagnoses

Using tech for good

When the first iPad was released in April of 2010, tech accessibility changed in more ways than mobile checkouts or on-the-go streaming.

The interface of the device is built around the multi-touch screen, which became a game changing component in special needs therapy and sparked the founding of BridgingApps, a program part of Easter Seals Greater Houston.

The program provides access to educational and therapeutic tools to parents, teachers, and therapists to use these mobile devices and apps to target and improve cognitive and physical development in children and adults with disabilities.

"I am the parent of a child with multiple disabilities; my son was born with Down syndrome," says Cristen Reat, co-founder and program director at BridgingApps.

Reat tells InnovationMap that she helped start a support group in a therapy clinic where many parents were interested about why mobile devices and apps were so engaging to their children.

"We were just amazed about how our children with different types of disabilities were engaged with the devices, were able to communicate with the devices, and were making big strides in their therapy," says Reat.

BridgingApps was founded by Reat and Sami Rahman in 2010, both seeking to help their children grow. The program became a part of Easter Seals of Greater Houston in 2011. The website currently boasts over 3,000 apps which users can sort through by category, age, price, skill, grade level, mobile device, and more. The apps are also able to benefit and treat veterans and their families.

"I was amazed at how quickly my son was able to do things independently with these touch screens that he was not able to do with traditional computers," Reat tells InnovationMap.

The Easter Seals Greater Houston organization was recently awarded a $15,000 grant from the Comcast Foundation as part of the Comcast NBCUniversal Assistive Technology Grant Fund, expand the available equipment used in the community technology labs with new equipment such as the TobiiDynavox EyeMobile Mini Classic Eye Gaze system that includes new software called Look To Learn and SnapCore First, and the AbleNet Latitude Mounting Arm that holds an iPad, Kindle, or other tablet and mounts to beds, wheelchairs, and tabletops.

The nonprofit offers three assistive technology services labs across the Houston area, in Bellaire, the Woodlands, and Stafford. According to the website, each lab has open lab days that the public can access without an appointment to explore a variety of assistive technology, including adapted toys and switches, specialized software and computer equipment, communication devices, and mobile devices and apps. Workshops and trainings are also available.

"The whole idea of BridgingApps is a shortcut, so that you don't have to Google search every day," says Reat. "It's basically the Yelp of special needs apps where you can type in a diagnosis, a skill, something you're looking for, and you'll come up with a video, instructions, and summary that helps people figure out what can help them today."

The organization was also awarded a $75,000 grant by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, which, according to a news release, will help the nonprofit serve 50 individuals that are veterans and or current military as well as their family members through services such as digital trainings through app reviews and videos, face-to-face counseling and counseling via tele-health, especially for those without transportation or living in rural areas.

BridgingApps currently has a team of two full-time and seven part-time employees. The nonprofit hosts an annual fundraiser each Spring called Walk With Me. The next walk is scheduled for April 25 at the Houston Zoo.
Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

How this Houston innovator's tech is gearing up to impact EV charging, energy transition

houston innovators podcast episode 172

With more and more electric vehicles on the road, existing electrical grid infrastructure needs to be able to keep up. Houston-based Revterra has the technology to help.

"One of the challenges with electric vehicle adoption is we're going to need a lot of charging stations to quickly charge electric cars," Ben Jawdat, CEO and founder of Revterra, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "People are familiar with filling their gas tank in a few minutes, so an experience similar to that is what people are looking for."

To charge an EV in ten minutes is about 350 kilowatts of power, and, as Jawdat explains, if several of these charges are happening at the same time, it puts a tremendous strain on the electric grid. Building the infrastructure needed to support this type of charging would be a huge project, but Jawdat says he thought of a more turnkey solution.

Revterra created a kinetic energy storage system that enables rapid EV charging. The technology pulls from the grid, but at a slower, more manageable pace. Revterra's battery acts as an intermediary to store that energy until the consumer is ready to charge.

"It's an energy accumulator and a high-power energy discharger," Jawdat says, explaining that compared to an electrical chemical battery, which could be used to store energy for EVs, kinetic energy can be used more frequently and for faster charging.

Jawdat, who is a trained physicist with a PhD from the University of Houston and worked as a researcher at Rice University, says some of his challenges were receiving early funding and identifying customers willing to deploy his technology.

Last year, Revterra raised $6 million in a series A funding round. Norway’s Equinor Ventures led the round, with participation from Houston-based SCF Ventures. Previously, Revterra raised nearly $500,000 through a combination of angel investments and a National Science Foundation grant.

The funding has gone toward growing Revterra's team, including onboarding three new engineers with some jobs still open, Jawdat says. Additionally, Revterra is building out its new lab space and launching new pilot programs.

Ultimately, Revterra, an inaugural member of Greentown Houston, hopes to be a major player within the energy transition.

"We really want to be an enabling technology in the renewable energy transition," Jawdat says. "One part of that is facilitating the development of large-scale, high-power, fast-charging networks. But, beyond that, we see this technology as a potential solution in other areas related to the clean energy transition."

He shares more about what's next for Revterra on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


Report: Houston's hot medical office market might be on track to cool

by the numbers

Houston’s medical office market is on a roll.

A report from commercial real estate services company JLL shows net absorption and transaction volume saw healthy gains in 2022:

  • The annual absorption total of 289,215 square feet was 50.5 percent higher than the five-year average.
  • Transaction volume notched a 31.7 percent year-over-year increase.

Meanwhile, net rents held steady at $26.92 per square foot, up 1.3 percent from the previous year. The fourth-quarter 2022 vacancy rate stood at 15.9 percent.

Despite those numbers, the report suggests a slowdown in medical office rentals may be underway.

“Tenants who may have previously considered building out or expanding their lease agreements are now in a holding pattern due to increased construction costs and higher interest rates,” the report says. “These factors are having a direct impact on financial decisions when it comes to lease renewals, making it more likely that tenants will remain in their existing location for the foreseeable future.”

Still, the report notes “a number of bright spots for the future of healthcare in Houston.” Aside from last year’s record-high jump in sales volume, the report indicates an aging population coupled with a growing preference for community-based treatment “will lift demand even higher in coming years.”

The report shows that in last year’s fourth quarter, 527,083 square of medical office space was under construction in the Houston area, including:

  • 152,871 square feet in the Clear Lake area.
  • 104,665 square feet in the South submarket.
  • 103,647 square feet in Sugar Land.
Last fall, JLL recognized Houston as a top city for life sciences. According to that report, the Bayou City lands at No. 13 in JLL’s 2022 ranking of the country’s top 15 metro areas for life sciences. JLL says Houston “is poised for further growth” in life sciences.

Houston financial services firm announces acquisition, plans to grow

M&A radar

A Houston-based financial services company has made a recent strategic acquisition that gives it a new banking status.

LevelField Financial, which is creating a platform that combines traditional banking and digital asset products and services, announced this week that it is acquiring Burling Bank, an FDIC-insured, Illinois state-chartered bank. According to the company, once it receives regulatory approval, "LevelField will be the first full-service bank to offer fully compliant traditional banking and digital asset services."

The financial terms of the deal's transaction, which is expected to close later this year, were not disclosed.

The combined company will be able to provide traditional banking services, as well as LevelField's digital asset management. Burling Bank's senior management team will join LevelField's leadership, per a press release. They will focus on serving the bank's existing clients and growing the banking business nationwide.

"We conducted a broad review of banks in the U.S. to find the ideal institution with both an existing business and a management team who are aligned with our vision; we exceeded our expectations with Burling Bank. With this acquisition, LevelField will become a traditional bank, albeit one serving customers interested in the digital asset class," says Gene A. Grant II, CEO of LevelField Financial, in the release.

"We are thrilled to have the Burling executives join our leadership team, and together we intend to deliver fantastic customer service and well-designed products to customers who have an interest in accessing the digital asset class through a traditional bank," he continues.

Founded in 2018 by former banking executives, LevelField's leadership believes "the future of money is digital and that banks will continue to be a trusted provider of financial services," according to the website. This acquisition comes ahead of the company's plans to expand nationally.

"LevelField's strategic approach presented a tremendous opportunity for the bank to expand beyond our local footprint and serve customers with shared interests across the nation," says Michael J. Busch, Burling Bank president and CEO. "Together, we will continue to provide superior service and demonstrate that we truly understand the expanding and unique needs of our customers. Additionally, through the carefully developed suite of products we can address our customers' interests in digital assets and introduce them to LevelField's safe, simple, and secure platform."