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New fund emerges to aid Houstonians in need amid coronavirus crisis

A new fund will pump more than $1 million into local organizations set to help those in need. Photo courtesy of Greater Houston Recovery Fund

Two Houston nonprofits have joined forces for the betterment of struggling Houstonians during the coronavirus pandemic.

As the jobless rate in America soars to 3.28 million and some 800,000 Texans slam the Texas Workforce Commission's lines, United Way of Greater Houston and the Greater Houston Community Foundation have teamed up to establish the Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund to help those in critical need. All money raised will be used to help with immediate basic needs, according to a press release.

The Houston Endowment is making a lead gift of $1 million to the fund and pledged an additional challenge gift of $1 million, which will match $1 for every $4 dollars raised. Additional leading Houston organizations who have pledged gifts to the fund include: JP Morgan Chase - $100,000; Houston Texans Foundation - $100,000, and Wells Fargo Foundation - $150,000.

"Nearly half of the households in our Greater Houston area struggle daily to make ends meet and the sudden loss of work, wages and child care can be a devastating financial hardship," says Anna M. Babin, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Houston. "Our primary goal is to make sure the most vulnerable in our community affected by COVID-19 have access to food, health care, shelter and other basic necessities to sustain them in this crisis."

These monies will be funneled to services provided by trusted nonprofit partners who have proven experience and the systems in place to serve the community in times of disaster; citizens in need can then approach said agencies directly, according to a spokesperson for the United Way.

For more assistance, Houstonians can call 2-1-1, which provides the most updated information on assistance with utilities, housing or rental assistance, crisis counseling, access to senior services, and information on food pantries in the community.

The recovery fund has been endorsed by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. It is co-chaired by Jamey Rootes, board chair, United Way of Greater Houston and president of the Houston Texans; and by Tony Chase, board member, Greater Houston Community Foundation and chairman and CEO of ChaseSource, LP.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

The second cohort of The Ion Smart and Resilient Cities Accelerator hosted a day full of thought leadership and startup pitches. Photo by Shobeir Ansari, Getty Images

In light of COVID-19, it is more relevant than ever to discuss and support startups with sustainability and resiliency in mind. At the Ion Smart and Resilient Cities Cohort 2 Demo Day, a virtual audience was reminded of that.

"So, 2020 has certainly been a year of unprecedented uncertainty and change for Houston, for Texas, for our country, and for our world," says Christine Galib, director of the accelerator. "The past few months in particular have been especially difficult as the global pandemic and civil unrest continue to spotlight systemic and structural scars on the face of humanity."

The virtual event was streamed on July 1 and hosted several thought leaders and presenters before concluding with pitches from four of the cohort companies.

"Through it all, and in a virtual world, Cohort 2 startups, the mentors, and our Ion team have been the change we wish to see in the world," Galib continues. "For these startups, failure is simply not an option — and neither is going at it alone."

Earlier this year, Galib announced the second cohort would be focused on solutions for Houston's air quality, water purification, and other cleantech needs. The program, backed by Intel, Microsoft, and TX/RX, launched on Earth Day and commenced shortly after. Cohort 3 is expected later this year.

Here are the four companies that pitched and the problems they are trying to solve.

Re:3D

re:3D was founded just down the street from NASA's Johnson Space Center to address the need for a mid-market 3D printing solution. The Houston-based startup also wanted to create their 3D printer that operates on recycled plastics in order to prevent excess waste.

"Where some see trash, we see opportunity," Charlotte Craff, community liaison at Re:3D says in her presentation.

Re:3D's clients can get their hands on their own Gigabot for less than $10,000, and the printer uses pellets and flakes from recycled plastics —not filament — to print new designs. Clients are also supported by the company with design software and training.

"We can help the city of Houston help meet its climate action and resilient city goals by transforming the way people think about recycling," Craff says about Re:3D's future partnerships with the city.

Water Lens

While two-thirds of the world is covered in water, only 0.7 percent is drinkable. And of that fresh water, 92 percent of it is used in agricultural and industrial settings. This is how Keith Cole, CEO and founder of Water Lens, set the scene for his presentation.

Water Lens, which is based in Houston with a lab located in Austin, wants to solve the problem of cities and countries running out of fresh, drinkable water by equipping huge water-using companies with a water testing tool.

"We've developed a system to let anyone test any water literally anywhere in the world," Cole says, citing clients like ExxonMobil, Shell, and Halliburton.

S2G Energy

S2G Energy, based in Mexico, is focused on optimizing energy management in order to digitize, empower, and unlock potential for cost-saving efforts and technology.

In his pitch, Geronimo Martinez, founder of S2G Energy, points out that restaurants, commercial buildings, and other adjacent industries can save money by implementing energy management solutions that come out of S2G Energy's expertise. In Mexico, Martinez says, clients include the top two restaurant chains that — especially during COVID-19 — need optimization and cost saving now more than ever.

Eigen Control

A refinery's distillation columns are expensive — their fuel use accounts for 50 of operating costs, says Dean Guma, co-founder and CEO of Houston-based Eigen Control.

Guma explains in his pitch how Eigen Control's technology can plug into existing sensors, model networks based on data, and employ the startup's artificial intelligent technology to reduce carbon emissions and save money on operating costs.

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