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5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week

Trending stories this week included a guest article on green energy. Photo via Getty Images

Editor's note:Another week has come and gone, and it's time to round up the top headlines from the past few days. Trending Houston tech and startup news on InnovationMap included top interviews from 2020, innovators to know, and a guest column about Houston leading sustainable energy.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Abbey Donnell of Work & Mother, Blair Garrou of Mercury Fund, and Randa Duncan Williams. Courtesy photos

In the first weekly roundup of Houston innovators of 2021, I'm introducing you to three innovators across the city — one of the richest people in Houston, a venture capital expert, and a female founder with big plans for 2021. Click here to continue reading.Click here to continue reading.

8+ can't-miss Houston business and innovation events online in January ​

Register for some of these informative online events happening throughout the month of January. Photo via Getty Images

It's a whole new year, but Houston is cranking out the same great business and innovation-focused events.

Here's a roundup of virtual events not to miss this month — from workshops and webinars to summits and pitch parties. Note: This post will be updated to add more events. Click here to continue reading.

The key to making Houston the next renewable energy capital is collaboration

Houston can be the renewable energy capital — it has all the ingredients. Photo via Getty Images

Will Houston become the renewable energy capital of America? It's entirely possible.

While the coronavirus pandemic has presented challenges to the city's 4,600 energy firms, Houston's energy sector is resilient and can rebuild by prioritizing new jobs in cleantech and renewables.

Earlier this year, the city announced its commitment to using 100 percent renewable energy for all municipal operations by 2025 as part of its Climate Action Plan, a strategic approach for how Houston's residents and businesses can reduce their carbon emissions.

Houston is well-positioned to implement many of the strategies outlined in the plan. Building optimization and materials management can be boosted by the city's powerful construction and engineering workforce. And while it may surprise some, Houston could soon rival California for the number of electric vehicles on the road. Texas has the second highest number of charging stations in the country and the city of Houston leads the state overall. Click here to continue reading.

Houston investment group names new leadership

Goose Capital recently named its new managing director, president, and board chair. Photos courtesy

A Houston-based investment group has announced three new leadership changes to its organization to start of the new year.

Goose Capital Inc. named Chris Staffel as managing director, along with Jeff Smisek as the firm's president and Jay Collins as chair of the board of directors. The three appointments are effective as of January 1.

Smisek, former chairman, CEO, and president of United Continental Holdings Inc., has been a member investor with Goose but now assumes this leadership role. He serves as president of private investment company Flight Partners Capital, as well as on the board of directors for Finch Therapeutics Group Inc., Lantha Inc., and Molecular Match Inc.

"I look forward to leading Goose Capital as we help early stage companies and their founders develop their products, grow their companies, and create value," says Smisek in a news release. Click here to continue reading.

Editor's Picks: Top 7 Houston innovation interviews of 2020

The ultimate who's who of 2020 — favorite Houston Innovators Podcast guests of last year. Photos courtesy

With 2020 in the rearview, InnovationMap is looking back on the top stories of the year. With over 60 episodes of the Houston Innovators Podcast and about half of those being recorded in 2020, here are the top episodes from the year. Click here to continue reading.

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Building Houston

 
 

Ty Audronis founded Tempest Droneworx to put drone data to work. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx

Ty Audronis quite literally grew up in Paradise. But the Northern California town was destroyed by wildfire in 2018, including Audronis’ childhood home.

“That’s why it’s called the Campfire Region,” says the founder, who explains that the flames were started by a spark off a 97-year-old transmission line.

But Audronis, who has literally written the book on designing purpose-built drones — actually, more than one — wasn’t going to sit back and let it happen again. Currently, wildfire prevention is limited to the “medieval technology” of using towers miles apart to check for smoke signals.

“By the time you see smoke signals, you’ve already got a big problem,” Audronis says.

His idea? To replace that system with real-time, three-dimensional, multi-spectral mapping, which exactly where his company, Tempest Droneworx, comes in.

When asked how he connected with co-founder Dana Abramowitz, Audronis admits that it was Match.com — the pair not only share duties at Tempest, they are engaged to be married. It was a 2021 pre-SXSW brainstorming session at their home that inspired the pair to start Tempest.

When Audronis mentioned his vision of drone battalions, where each is doing a specialized task, Abramowitz, a serial entrepreneur and founder who prefers to leave the spotlight to her partner, told him that he shouldn’t give the idea away at a conference, they should start a company. After all, Audronis is a pioneer in the drone industry.

“Since 1997, I’ve been building multicopters,” he says.

Besides publishing industry-standard tomes, he took his expertise to the film business. But despite its name, Tempest is a software company and does not make drones.

That software is called Harbinger. Audronis explains that the real-time management and visualization solution is viewable on practically any device, including mobile or augmented reality. The system uses a video game engine for viewing, but as Audronis puts it, “the magic happens” on the back end.

Harbinger is not just drone-agnostic, but can use crowd-sourced data as well as static sensors. With the example of wildfires in mind, battalions can swarm an affected area to inform officials, stopping a fire before it gets out of hand. But fires are far from Harbinger’s only intended use.

The civilian version of Harbinger will be available for sale at the end of 2023 or beginning of 2024. For military use, Navy vet Audronis says that the product just entered Technical Readiness Level (TRL) 5, which means that they are about 18 months away from a full demo. The latest news for Tempest is that earlier this month, it was awarded a “Direct to Phase II” SBIR (Government Small Business Innovation Research) contract with the United States Department of the Air Force.

Not bad for a company that was, until recently, fully bootstrapped. He credits his time with the Houston Founder Institute, from which he graduated last February, and for which he now mentors, with many of the connections he’s made, including SBIR Advisors, who helped handle the complex process of getting their SBIR contract.

And he and Abramowitz have no plans to end their collaborations now that they’re seeing growth.

“Our philosophy behind [our business] isn’t keeping our cards close to our vest,” says Audronis. “Any potential competitors, we want to become partners.”

The company was just the two founders until five weeks ago, when Tempest’s size doubled, including a full-time developer. Once Tempest receives its SIBR check, the team will grow again to include more developers. They are currently looking for offices in the city. As Audronis says, Tempest Droneworx is “100-percent made in Houston.” Paradise may have been lost, but with Harbinger soon to be available, such a disaster need never happen again.

Dana Abramowitz and Ty Audronis co-founded Tempest Droneworks. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx

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