5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week
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 Houston startups with fresh funding, news from two Houston fintech companies, and more.
5 Rice University-founded startups named finalists ahead of annual pitch competition
The H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge is taking place this month. See which student-founded startups made it to the finals. Photo courtesy of Rice
Five student-founded startups are headed to the finals of a prestigious Rice University startup pitch competition later this month.
The H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge, or NRLC, is a venture competition that features Rice University's top student-founded startups. The annual competition is open to undergraduate, graduate, and MBA students. The organization also has an alumni track, which will not be held this year, but will open its applications in 2024. Read more.
Here's what Houston startups have raised in funding so far this year
It's not quite of strong of a start for Houston startups raising venture capital funding compared to last year. Photo via Getty Images
While Houston startups saw a busy first quarter of 2023 — including IPOs in the space and biotech arenas — funding activity fell somewhat flat.
According to InnovationMap reporting, five startups have raised funding this year so far — which is less than half of the number of deals at the same time last year. Last year in the first quarter, 11 startups announced funding deals to the tune of $140 million. This year, startups raised around $106 million across five deals. Read more.
Houston fintech company launches new tool for startups and small businesses
Attention small business owners: it's time for a financial wellness exam. And Hello Alice has just the tool for you to use. Photo by Hero Images
Much like the humans that run them, businesses need the occasional wellness exam. A fintech company founded in Houston has created a tool for conducting that health check.
Hello Alice announced that its new tool Business Health Score has launched today. The assessment tool can be used by startups and small businesses to navigate their financial and business health. The tool is the first product rolling out from the Equitable Access Program, a new initiative from Hello Alice and the Global Entrepreneurship Network with support from Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Mastercard, and the Kauffman Foundation.
Hello Alice was co-founded by Elizabeth Gore and Carolyn Rodz and has worked with over one million small businesses to help them access capital. The idea of the Score is to give business owners "a comprehensive overview of a business's financial health," according to the news release from Hello Alice. This information is critical for decision making and works hand-in-hand with all of Hello Alice's existing resources. Read more.
Meet the Houstonian commanding NASA's historic return to the moon
Meet Commander Reid Wiseman, the responsible for the success of the Artemis II mission once it launches. Photo courtesy of NASA
The world now knows the names of the four Houston-based astronauts who will launch in the first crewed moon mission in 50 years. NASA's Artemis II will see the first woman and person of color helming a lunar voyage, a first since the agency's history.
Astronaut Christina Hammock Koch, herself part of a history-making astronaut class and first all-female spacewalk— will join Victor Glover — the first person of color heading to the moon. Rookie Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen rounds out the crew with Commander Reid Wiseman.
Building on the unmanned Artemis I mission to the moon that concluded in December, Artemis II is slated to launch around November 2024, per NASA. In a scene familiar to space fans, the Artemis II crew will deploy inside the cozy Orion spacecraft that will sit atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Read more.
Houston fintech startup raises $8M seed round led by local VC
A Houston fintech startup is aiming to modernize banking and investing — and has received fresh funding to do it. Photo via Getty Images
A Houston startup has raised millions for its fintech platform — and the company didn't have to go very far to find its lead investor.
Brassica Technologies Inc. closed its seed round at $8 million with Houston-based Mercury Fund leading the round. Valor Equity Partners, Long Journey Ventures, NGC Fund, Neowiz, Broadhaven Ventures, Armyn Capital, VC3DAO, Alpha Asset Management (Korea), and other global FinTech investors participated in the round as well.
The startup's platform has "institutional-grade solutions for the new era of private investing and alternative assets," per the release. Serving the alternative assets industry, Brassica's tools can easily integrate with any operating system to provide proprietary technology and unique regulatory licenses. The technology aims to modernize key banking and investing infrastructure to help enterprises safely grow their business and protect their customer assets. Read more.