x marks the spot

TMCx receives national award for unique startup accelerator program

TMCx was nationally recognized by Seed Accelerator Rankings Project. Courtesy of TMCx

The Texas Medical Center has once again received national acclaim — this time, for its innovation.

Seed Accelerator Rankings Project selected TMCx for a "Silver" distinction in its 2018 awards. SARP evaluated accelerators' success and selected 25 honorees in four categories — Platinum Plus, Platinum, Gold, and Silver. The distinction is aimed to help startups navigate accelerators and find the ones of quality.

SARP objectively measures the impact of these accelerator programs, says Erik Halvorsen, director of the TMC Innovation Institute. There simply isn't non-biased information about accelerators out there. Most startups are forced to rely on marketing materials from the programs.

"One of the things I say often is, 'If you see one accelerator, you've seen one accelerator,' meaning they are all different," Halvorsen says. "There are so many out there, and it can be confusing for startups who think they are all the same."

Now in its fifth year, SARP collected sensitive information, such as fundraising and valuations, and evaluated each accelerator to select the top 25.

The TMCx accelerator program has two cohorts a year, alternating between digital health and medical device focuses. Currently, TMCx has 23 medical device companies participating in the accelerator. Halvorsen says what sets TMCx apart is its focus on medicine, but also the fact that the accelerator doesn't take equity of its companies. Other programs require anywhere from 3 to 7 percent equity in the company in exchange for participation.

"I think this is a major reason we've been able to attract companies that are more advanced — still startups, just further down the path. Those are the kinds of companies who would never consider an accelerator program that asks them to give up equity."

This is the first year TMCx has made it on to the SARP listing, but Halvorsen says it won't be the last.

"I love the fact that there's still a couple levels above where we're ranked, so we definitely have something to shoot for as we grow and improve our program," he says. "For us, we're kind of competing with ourselves to be as good as we possibly can be."

TMCx's fall cohort participants showcase their work in a final presentation called Demo Day, which is on November 14.

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Building Houston

 
 

innovation delivered

Self-driving pizza delivery goes live in Houston

Domino's and Nuro announced their partnership in 2019 — and now the robots are hitting the roads. Photo courtesy of Nuro

After announcing their partnership to work on pizza deliveries via self-driving robots in 2019, Dominos and Nuro have officially rolled out their technology to one part of town.

Beginning this week, if you place a prepaid order from Domino's in Woodland Heights (3209 Houston Ave.), you might have the option to have one of Nuro's R2 robot come to your door. This vehicle is the first do deliver completely autonomously without occupants with a regulatory approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to a news release.

"We're excited to continue innovating the delivery experience for Domino's customers by testing autonomous delivery with Nuro in Houston," says Dennis Maloney, Domino's senior vice president and chief innovation officer, in the release. "There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space. This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations."

Orders placed at select dates and times will have the option to be delivered autonomously. Photo courtesy of Nuro

The Nuro deliveries will be available on select days and times, and users will be able to opt for the autonomous deliveries when they make their prepaid orders online. They will then receive a code via text message to use on the robot to open the hatch to retrieve their order.

"Nuro's mission is to better everyday life through robotics. Now, for the first time, we're launching real world, autonomous deliveries with R2 and Domino's," says Dave Ferguson, Nuro co-founder and president, in the release. "We're excited to introduce our autonomous delivery bots to a select set of Domino's customers in Houston. We can't wait to see what they think."

California-based Nuro has launched a few delivery pilots in Houston over the past few years, including the first Nuro pilot program with Kroger in March 2019, grocery delivery from Walmart that was revealed in December 2019, and pharmacy delivery that launched last summer.

From being located in a state open to rolling out new AV regulations to Houston's diversity — both in its inhabitants to its roadways, the Bayou City stood out to Nuro, says Sola Lawal, product operations manager at Nuro.

"As a company, we tried to find a city that would allow us to test a number of different things to figure out what really works and who it works for," Lawal says on an episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It's hard to find cities that are better than Houston at enabling that level of testing."

Steam the episode here.

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