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5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week

A new energy transition leader, a Q&A with a DEI founder, and innovators to know are among this week's top stories. Photo by Zview/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 innovators to know, fastest growing Houston tech companies, a new energy transition leader, and more.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Aaron Knape of sEATz, Ivery Boston III of Houston Exponential, and Jesse Martinez of the LatinX Startup Alliance. Courtesy photos

In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from sportstech to startup-focused nonprofit work — recently making headlines in Houston innovation. Click here to read more.

International energy conference names 12 Houston companies to pitch at inaugural innovation track

Twelve Houston startups will pitch at the World Petroleum Congress, which will be hosted in Houston this year. Photo via Getty Images

A dozen Houston companies will take the stage next month for a pitch competition during the World Petroleum Congress at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

In all, 32 innovators have been selected to make presentations at the World Petroleum Congress' first-ever Innovation Zone. Presented by ConocoPhillips, the Innovation Zone will let startups showcase their solutions to challenges facing the energy sector. The winner of the pitch competition will receive the inaugural Energy Innovator Award. Click here to continue reading.

Houston native brings LatinX startup support to the Ion with HQ move

Jesse Martinez, founder of the LatinX Startup Alliance, joins InnovationMap for a Q&A on why he's relocating his nonprofit to Houston. Photo courtesy of LSA

Jesse Martinez was working in Silicon Valley before it was Silicon Valley. He took his years of experience within that tech ecosystem and launched the LatinX Startup Alliance to support his fellow Hispanic entrepreneurs — and now he's bringing that support to his hometown.

The LatinX Startup Alliance will move its headquarters into The Ion in 2022, Martinez tells InnovationMap. He's excited to finally make his professional return to Houston and to help support the diverse ecosystem — one that has been created with diversity at the forefront, unlike Silicon Valley and other coastal tech hubs.

"We're on the ground floor. We're helping to build that foundation. It's not an afterthought. It's not something that now we're trying to go back and think of diversity," Martinez tells InnovationMap. "I think that's the beautiful thing about Houston and everyone that I've met is that it's been so diverse and inclusive. That spirit is already there. So, how do we just maximize that?"

Martinez joined InnovationMap for a Q&A about the new HQ announcement and what he's excited about in terms of DEI in Houston's tech scene. Click here to continue reading.

Greater Houston Partnership names former BP exec to lead energy transition

The former BP executive will lead Houston's role in the energy transition as the executive director of the Houston Energy Transition Initiative, a brand new position at the Greater Houston Partnership. Photo courtesy of GHP

Jane Stricker, a longtime Houston-based executive at oil and gas giant BP, has been tapped to lead the Greater Houston Partnership's new initiative designed to boost the Bayou City's profile in the shift toward low-carbon energy.

The partnership announced Stricker's hiring November 11. She'll join the organization effective January 1 as executive director of the Houston Energy Transition Initiative (HETI) and senior vice president of energy transition.

The Greater Houston Partnership unveiled HETI in June. As the partnership explained then, HETI "aims to drive sustainable and equitable economic growth in the Greater Houston region through a portfolio of technology, policy, and market initiatives that scale and export solutions for realizing a low-carbon energy world." Click here to continue reading.

3 Houston companies make Deloitte's fastest-growing tech list

Three Houston tech companies are seeing big business growth, according to Deloitte's report. Graphic via Deloitte

Three Houston companies have earned spots on this year's edition of the North American Technology Fast 500.

The North America Technology Fast 500, sponsored by professional services firm Deloitte, is an annual ranking of the fastest-growing tech, media, telecom, life sciences, and energy tech companies in North America.

"The Houston companies on this year's Fast 500 list are transforming the way our city does business by combining technological innovation with entrepreneurial spirit," Amy Chronis, Houston managing partner at Deloitte, says in a news release. "I'm inspired by the ways these organizations have succeeded amid unprecedented times, and I look forward to seeing their progress in 2022."

The top-ranked company is Irvine, California-based medical device company Axonics, whose revenue soared 87,037 percent from 2017 to 2020. The top-ranked Texas company is Austin-based Shipwell, where revenue climbed 32,670 percent from 2017 to 2020. Shipwell provides a shipment-tracking platform. Overall, 5 percent of the Fast 500 companies are based in Texas. Click here to continue reading.

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Building Houston

 
 

Dream Harvest picked up funding to open a 100,000-square-foot indoor farming facility in Houston. Photo courtesy of Dream Harvest

Houston-based Dream Harvest Farming Co., which specializes in sustainably growing produce, has landed a $50 million investment from Orion Energy Partners to open a 100,000-square-foot indoor farming facility in Houston. The facility will enable the company to dramatically ramp up its operations.

The new facility, which will be built in Southwest Houston, is scheduled for completion in January 2023. Dream Harvest’s existing 7,500-square-foot facility in Southwest Houston supplies 45 Whole Foods stores in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas, as well as Sweetgreen restaurants in Texas.

The company currently employs 25 people. With the addition of the 100,000-square-foot facility, Dream Harvest’s headcount will rise to 65.

Dream Harvest relies on wind-powered, year-round indoor vertical farming to generate 400 times the yield of an outdoor farm while using 95 percent less water and no pesticides.

“Because the vast majority of America’s produce is grown in California and has to be shipped over long distances, most of the country receives produce that is old, has a poor flavor profile, and a short shelf life — a major contributing factor to the more than 30 percent of fresh vegetables being discarded in the U.S. each year,” Dream Harvest says in a December 7 news release.

Zain Shauk, co-founder and CEO of Dream Harvest, says his company’s method for growing lettuce, baby greens, kale, mustards, herbs, collards, and cabbage helps cut down on food waste.

“Demand for our produce has far outpaced supply, an encouraging validation of our approach as well as positive news for our planet, which is facing the rising problem of food and resource waste,” Shauk says. “While we have the yields today to support our business, we are pleased to partner with Orion on this financing, which will enable us to greatly expand our production and increase access to our produce for many more consumers.”

Dream Harvest expects to expand distribution to more than 250 retail locations in 2022.

“Orion’s focus on sustainable infrastructure and deep experience in building large industrial facilities will be complementary to Dream Harvest’s impressive track record of being a reliable supplier to high-caliber customers by achieving consistent yields, food safety, and operational efficiencies … ,” says Nazar Massouh, co-managing partner and CEO of Orion Energy Partners, which has offices in Houston and New York City.

Other companies in the Orion Energy Partners portfolio include Houston-based Caliche Development Partners, Tomball-based Python Holdings, The Woodlands-based Evolution Well Services, Houston-based Produced Water Transfer, and Houston-based Tiger Rentals.

Zain Shauk is the co-founder and CEO of Dream Harvest. Photo courtesy of Dream Harvest

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