Houston Voices

Tap into the local ecosystem with Alice’s guide for Houston business owners

A one-stop shop for startup owners is now at your fingertips. Getty Images

Small business ownership is on the rise, particularly among diverse founders: women, people of color, immigrants, the differently-abled, people identifying as LGBTQ+ and veterans. These groups are starting businesses at historically high rates, and, in fact, women of color are entering entrepreneurship at higher rates than any other demographic. In the near future, entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds will represent the "new majority" of business owners.

While the reason for new business creation varies - be it out of necessity, ingenuity or opportunity - the reality for some small business owners is that their ideas never fully make it off the ground, or their businesses stall in scale due to inequitable access to resources, opportunities and networks required for growth.

Alice is working to change that.

Through thousands of hours of research, underrepresented and underestimated founders told Carolyn Rodz and her team that access to resources and opportunities was their number one barrier to success. It was then that Rodz realized technology could help solve this problem with machine learning that can help entrepreneurs from all backgrounds find the right path and connect to the right resources to start and grow their businesses. In May 2017, Alice became the first AI platform in the world dedicated to helping business owners achieve their goals through personalized and free matchmaking, based on their unique profile, interests and objectives.

"At Alice, we want to make sure every business owner has what they need, and it shouldn't matter where they come from or who they know. It's not enough to even the playing field – we want to create a whole new one," said Rodz, a Latina and three-time entrepreneur. "One of the ways we are doing that is by creating a digital hub of local resources and events, so that all business owners have access to support in their communities, from the startup world to nonprofits, like Baker Ripley and Lift Fund, to investors and lenders."

Alice's Houston Guide for Business Owners is a virtual ecosystem of real-time, real-life connections to local resources, opportunities, organizations, networks, education programs and events designed to support business development and entrepreneurial talent. The guide is kept up-to-date with machine learning algorithms, an in-house curation team and crowdsourced recommendations from the community.

Are you new to the area and looking for a work home? Alice can direct you to over 25 coworking spaces in Space City. Wondering where you can learn to code (or connect with a coder to build that app you've been dreaming about)? Alice can point you to programs like DigitalCrafts Coding Bootcamp and the Flatiron School. Not sure what business license to apply for or how to capitalize on a new sales funnel? The Houston Office of Business Opportunity, Houston SCORE, or the Women's Business Enterprise Alliance may be just what you need.

But just how does Alice do it? Alice's intelligence becomes predictive overtime in order to reduce small business fail rates. By utilizing algorithms that drive founders to relevant resources based on unique personal and company profiles (versus a curated search function), Alice becomes more personalized (and "intelligent") the more the user engages with her.

"We like to think of Alice as the business owner's sidekick. She's there night and day to help entrepreneurs build their companies, solve problems and connect with people, places and knowledge across the digital and real-life ecosystem," added Rodz.

You can access the Guide for Houston Business Owners (and 15 other city guides) on Alice at https://helloalice.com/cities/houston. And if you have a local resource, opportunity or event to recommend, you can submit your suggestion here.

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This is content from our partner, Alice.

Money moves, big deals, and more lead this roundup of innovation news. Pexels

Hitting headlines this month are innovation news stories from battling the opioid crisis and funding to TMCx companies and Houston as a whole earning recognition.

In this innovation news roundup, two Houston startups pocket some cash, Chevron links up with Plug and Play, and more.

BreviTest receives grant to combat opioid crisis

BreviTest Technologies

Houston-based BreviTest can rapidly and accurately test for opioid use. Photo via brevitest.com

National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health — through a Small Business Innovation Research Phase II grant — has granted $1.5 million to Houston-based BreviTest Technologies to take its opioid testing technology to the next level. With 47,600 opioid overdose deaths reported in 2017 in the United States, the startup's analyzer has a lot of potential to aid in the crisis.

"Because of the delay in receiving laboratory results, many physicians use urine drug testing sparingly. The BreviTest analyzer will allow any doctor to measure opioid urine levels in-office, which will help them identify individuals who are misusing the drugs," says BreviTest's Michael J. Heffernan, Ph.D., principal investigator on the project, in a news release.

BreviTest is a Fannin Innovation Studio company. The early-stage biomedical commercialization firm that's based in Houston is proud to see the startup's success and the difference the technology is making.

"Our BreviTest team is excited to receive this support from NIDA to advance our point-of-care diagnostics technology into the clinic," said Fannin executive chairman, Leo Linbeck III, in the release. "Putting a convenient, accurate opioid test in the hands of physicians will be an important step in combating the opioid overdose epidemic facing our country."

Houston's Plug and Play operation names Chevron as founding partner

Chevron has linked up with Plug and Play in Houston. Courtesy of CTV

Plug and Play Tech Center, which just announced the participating companies in its inaugural energy and sustainability cohort in Houston, has named Chevron as a founding partner.

"We are incredibly excited to announce Chevron as a Founding Partner of Plug and Play in Houston," says Wade Bitaraf, founder of Plug and Play's Energy & Sustainability program, in a news release. "Their commitment to invest in digital transformation and reduce the environmental impact of the industry is directly aligned with our Energy & Sustainability program in Houston, Silicon Valley, and around the world."

Barbara Burger, president of Chevron Technology Ventures, the company's venture and innovation arm, is responsible for identifying pathways to innovation for the company.

"Chevron is a proud supporter of the Houston innovation community, and our support of Plug and Play's Energy & Sustainability platform demonstrates our commitment to growing the Houston innovation ecosystem," Burger says in the release. "Innovation will play a critical role in the future of energy, and our partnership with Plug and Play reinforces our commitment to invest in breakthrough technologies to enable the ongoing energy transition."

Houston recognized as a top 10 city for female founder success

According to Inc. 5000, Houston's great for female founders. Getty Images

Texas cities are great for fostering female founder success, according to a new ranking from Inc. 5000. Houston ranked at No. 10 of the top 10 list that factored in the women-led businesses among the magazine's 5,000 fastest-growing private U.S. companies.

"The Houston metropolitan area is home to 15 women-owned Inc. 5000 companies, including online marketing startup Decode Digital Marketing (No. 973) and health care staffing firm Restore Rehab Services (No. 2,645)," reads the ranking. "Together the 15 firms grew their collective revenue 142 percent between 2015 and 2018."

Dallas and Austin both appeared on the ranking, at No. 4 and No. 6, respectively.

Alice closes series A of funding

Alice founders, Elizabeth Gore (left) and Carolyn Rodz, closed their series A of funding. Getty Images

Though the company did not disclose an amount raised, Alice, an artificial intelligence-powered platform for business advice, closed a series A funding round led by SVB Financial Group, the parent company to Silicon Valley Bank.

Per a news release, the company will use the funding to "build its predictive technology, using data analytics to guide each entrepreneur through every stage of their business."

Alice, which has operations in Houston and San Francisco, reached a deal with Austin-based Bumble for funding earlier this year.

TMCx companies win big

TMCx

Three TMCx alumni companies earned some recognition at the UCSF Digital Health Awards last month. Courtesy of TMCx

Three health tech companies coming out of the Texas Medical Center's accelerator program have won big at the UCSF Digital Health Awards last month.

  • Sana Health, member of TMCx07 in 2018, won in the best behavioral health digital therapeutic category for its light-based neuromodulation pain treatment technology.
  • Meru Health, member of TMCx08 in 2019, won in the best mental health digital health therapeutic category for its mental health platform.
  • Luma Health, member of TMCx08 in 2019, won in the best EHR-integrated platform for patient engagement category for its patient communication technology.