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Teaming up: 2 Houston-based tech companies enter strategic partnerships for global opportunities

Houston-based companies Alert Logic and Innowatts each announced partnerships that will provide international opportunities. Getty Images

Not sure if it's because of a rush to close 2018 deals before year end or just the collaborative holiday spirit, but two Houston-based, tech-focused companies have announced partnerships with other service companies that will expand the two entities' reach worldwide.

Innowatts Inc. inks partnership, expands into Japanese market

Courtesy of Innowatts

A Houston utilities analytics company has linked up with one of Japan's largest consulting and management advisory firms to bring its software and AI technology to the country's newly deregulated energy market. Innowatts announced the strategic regional partnership with ABeam Consulting December 13.

Innowatts launched in 2013 and has provided about 20 million retail energy consumers with cost-cutting predictive energy analytics. The new alliance will allow Innowatts to utilize its analysis software and AI-enabled technology in Japan's evolving energy market.

"As market reforms take hold and competitive pressures increase, it's important that we provide our clients the most effective tools and solutions to help them compete effectively," Takahiro Yamada, principal and head of financial and social infrastructure business unit of ABeam, says in the release. "Adding the Innowatts technology to our solution suite adds a wide range of new tools and capabilities that leverages the experience of some of the world's largest and most competitive retail energy markets."

Entering the Japanese market, Innowatts' focus will be on reaching out to new retail energy providers.

"As one of the largest and most respected consulting firms and system integrators in Japan, ABeam brings a deep body of energy industry expertise and regional knowledge that will help us localize and scale our eUtility™ Platform to Japan and other Asia Pacific energy markets," said Sid Sachdeva, CEO of Innowatts.

Innowatts employs 55 people — roughly half are based in Houston — and has clients in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

In October, Innowatts appointed Krishnan Kasiviswanathan as chief commercial officer, overseeing the upstream sector of development. He's based in the Houston office. Prior to the appointment, Kasiviswanathan worked as chief commercial officer at Just Energy, a Houston-based retail energy company.

Alert Logic taps Chicago-based AVANT as first master agent partner

Photo via alertlogic.com

Houston-based, security-as-a-service company, Alert Logic, has its first master agency partner. The collaboration means AVANT Communications, a technology distribution and channel enablement company, can sell Alert Logic's software and services. The partnership was announced on December 11.

Christopher Rajiah, senior vice president of global alliances and partnerships at Alert Logic, says in the release that its AVANT's global network and trusted advisers that made the partnership so appealing.

"AVANT is an exceptional partner to bring Alert Logic to the Agent Channel community. This partnership will power AVANT's network of Trusted Advisors to help businesses navigate today's ever-changing threat landscape, while addressing compliance risks and resource constraints," Rajiah says. "Together, we're going to bring SIEMless Threat Management to organizations worldwide."

Alert Logic announced its SIEMless Threat Management™ in November as its new all-encompassing security technology at an affordable price for lower resourced companies.

"The partnership with AVANT is the first of its kind for Alert Logic and will be directly enabled through the agent channel community at a very critical time, when the growing shortage of security talent is driving the highest demand ever for managed security offerings," says Ian Kieninger, CEO and co-founder of AVANT, in the release. "Welcoming Alert Logic to our expanding portfolio of security services will advance our mission to drive the agent community into one of the fastest-growing sectors of the information technology industry. This is going to drive sales for our network of Trusted Advisors now and in the months and years to come."

Chris Church and Misha Govshteyn founded Alert Logic in 2002. The two now lead electronics manufacturing company, MacroFab.

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Building Houston

 
 

Cheers Health has expanded its product line as it evolves as a wellness-focused brand. Photo courtesy of Cheers

Houston-based startup Cheers first got a wave of brand devotees after it was passed over by investors on Shark Tank in 2018. In the years since, Cheers secured an impressive investment, launched new products, and became a staple hangover cure for customers. When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted businesses, the company rose to the occasion and experienced its first profitable year as drinking and wellness habits changed across America.

Cheers initially started its company under the name Thrive+ with a hangover-friendly pill that promised to minimize the not-so-fun side effects that come after a night out. The capsules support the liver by replacing lost vitamins, reduce GABAa rebound and lower the alcohol-induced acetaldehyde toxicity levels in the body. The company's legacy product complemented social calendars and nights on the town, providing next day relief.

With COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing measures, the days of pub crawls and social events were numbered. Cheers founder Brooks Powell saw the massive behavior change in people consuming alcohol, and leaned into his vision of becoming more than just a hangover cure but an "alcohol-related health company," he says.

When the pandemic first hit, Powell and his team noticed an immediate dip in sales — a relatable story for businesses in the grips of COVID-19.

"There is a three day period where we went from having the best month in company history to the worst month in company history, over a 72 hour stretch," he remarks.

He soon called an emergency board meeting and rattled off worst-case "doomsday" scenarios, he says.

"Thankfully, we never had to do any of these strategies because, ultimately, the team was able to rally around the new positioning for the brand which was far more focused on alcohol-related health," he says.

"We found that a lot less people were getting hangovers during 2020, because generally when you binge drink, you tend to binge drink with other people," he explains.

He noticed that health became an important focus for people, some who began to drink less due to the lack of social gatherings. On the contrary, some consumers began to drink more to fill the idle time.

According to a JAMA Network report, there was a 54 percent increase in national sales of alcohol for the week stay-at-home orders began last March, as compared to the year prior.

"All of a sudden, you have all of these people who probably aren't binge drinking but they're just frequently consuming alcohol. Their drinks per week are shooting up, and they're worried about liver health," explains Powell.

Outside of day-after support, Cheers leaned into its long-term health products to help drinkers consume alcohol in a healthier way. Cheers Restore, a dissolvable powder consumers can mix into their water, rehydrates the body by optimizing sodium and glucose molecules.

For continued support, Cheers Protect is a daily supplement designed to increase glutathione — an antioxidant that plays a key role in liver detoxification — and support overall liver health. Cheers Protect, which was launched in 2019, became a focus for the company as they pivoted its brand strategy and marketing to accommodate consumer behavior.

"The Cheers brand is just trying to reflect the mission statement, which is bringing people together through promoting fun, responsible and health-conscious alcohol consumption," says Powell. "It fits with our vision statement, which is a world where everyone can enjoy alcohol throughout a long, healthy and happy lifetime,."

At the close of 2020, Cheers had generated $10.4 million in revenue and over $1.7m in profit — its first profitable year since launch.

During the brand's mission to stay afloat during the pandemic, the Cheers team was also laying the groundwork for its entry into the retail space. When Powell launched the company during his junior year at Princeton University, bringing Cheers to brick-and-mortar stores had always been a goal. He envisioned liquor and grocery stores where Cheers was sold next to alcohol as a complementary item. "It's like getting sunscreen before going to the beach, they kind of go hand in hand," he says.

"When we spoke with retailers, specifically bars and liquor stores, what we learned is that a lot of these places were hesitant to put pills near alcohol," he says. Wanting an attractive and accessible mode of alcohol-support, the Cheers team created the Cheers Restore beverage.

Utilizing the technology Cheers developed with Princeton University researchers, the Cheers Restore beverage incorporates the benefits of the pill in a liquid, sugar-free form. The company states that its in-vivo study found that the drink is up to 19 times more bioavailable than pure dihydromyricetin (DHM), a Japanese raisin tree extract found in Cheers products and other hangover-related cures.

"What we figured out is that if you combine DHM — our main ingredient — with something called capric acid, which is an extract from coconut oil, the bioavailability shoots way up," says Powell. He notes the unique taste profile and the "creaminess" capric acid provides. "Now you have this lightly carbonated, zero-sugar, lemon sherbert, essentially liver support, hangover beverage that tastes great in 12 ounces and can mix with alcohol," he explains.

The Cheers Restore beverage is already hitting the Houston-area, where its found a home on menus at Present Company. The company has also run promotions with Houston hangouts like Memorial Trail Ice House, Drift, and The Powder Keg.

Currently, the beverage is only available in retail capacity and cannot be ordered on the Cheers website. As Powell focuses on expanding Cheers Restore beverage presence in the region, he welcomes the idea of expanding nationally in the future to come. While eager customers await the drink's national availability, they can actively invest in Cheers through the company's recently-launched online public offering.

Though repivoting a company and launching a new product is exciting, the process did not come without its caveats and stressors. While Cheers profited as a business in 2020, the staff and its founder weren't immune to the struggles of COVID-19.

"I think 2020 was the first year that it really became real for me that Cheers is far more than just some sort of alcohol-related health brand and its products," says Powell. "Cheers is really its employees and everything that goes into being a successful, durable company that people essentially bet their careers on and their family's well-being on and so forth," he continues.

"It really does weigh on you in a different way that it's never weighed on you before," says Powell, describing the stress of the pandemic. The experience was "enlightening," he says, and he wants others to know it's not embarrassing to need help.

"There is no lack of great leaders out there that at long periods of their life they needed help in some way," he says. "For me that was 2020 and being in the grinder and feeling the stress of the unknown and all of that, but it could happen to anyone," he continues.

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