getting pitch perfect

Here's what startups are going to the Venture Houston pitch competition's semifinals

A panel of judges selected 30 startups to compete in the Venture Houston pitch competition. Here's who's competing for over $1.7 million in investment prizes. Graphic courtesy of HX

Venture Houston — a two-day virtual conference put on by the HX Venture Fund — is slated for Thursday and Friday of this week, and, in addition to several panels, the event has a startup pitch competition with over $1.7 million on the line.

Judges selected 30 semifinalists and assigned to three different tracks — each named for a Houston sports team — for the competition. The semifinals will take place on Thursday, February 4, at 1:30 pm. Two startups from each track will move on to compete in the finals on Friday, February 5, at 1:30 pm. Three winners will claim cash prizes — first place will win $15,000 from Halliburton Labs, second place will win $10,000 from Softeq, and third place will win $5,000 from ChampionX.

InnovationMap is the media partner for Venture Houston. Click here to register for the two-day virtual event.

There are also 11 investment prizes on the line, and all of the 30 semifinalists are eligible to win those:

  • $500,000 from Fitz Gate Ventures
  • $250,000 from The Artemis Fund
  • $250,000 from Montrose Lane
  • $250,000 from Live Oak Venture Partners
  • $150,000 from Carnrite Ventures
  • $100,000 from Mercury Fund
  • $100,000 from Next Coast Ventures
  • $50,000 from Houston Angel Network
  • $50,000 from Texas Halo Fund
  • $50,000 from Plug and Play
  • $25,000 from baMa
Twenty-six judges — representatives from venture groups, startup development organizations, and more — evaluated entries and selected the following semifinalists for the competition:

Astros Track

Graphic courtesy of HX

Pitching order for this track is:
  1. Belmont Technology Inc - Jean-Marie Laigle
  2. Cemvita Factory - Blake Manuel
  3. Data Gumbo - AndrewBruce
  4. MacroFab - MishaGovshteyn
  5. Mainline - Chris Buckner
  6. Orbital Traction - Stuart Schaaf
  7. PATH EX - Sinead Miller
  8. Syzygy Plasmonics - Trevor Best
  9. Topl - Kim Raath
  10. Venus Aerospace - Sarah Duggleby

Dynamo Track

Graphic courtesy of HX

Pitching order for this track is:

  1. Bondwell Technologies - David Howell
  2. CaseCTRL - Pamela Singh
  3. Cinevva - Mariana Muntean
  4. Connectus Global - Michael Anderson
  5. Conversifi - Steven Krubiner
  6. DOSS - Bobby Bryant
  7. Koda Health - Tatiana Fofanova
  8. Sibme - David Wakefield
  9. The Postage - Emily Cisek
  10. Work & Mother - AbbeyDonnell


Rockets Track 

Graphic courtesy of HX

Pitching order for this track is:

  1. CellChorus - Daniel Meyer
  2. Finboa - Dheeraj Singal
  3. Galen Data - Chris DuPont
  4. HTX Labs - Scott Schneider
  5. Keto A.I Inc. - Jeff Jenson
  6. Lodgeur - Sebastien Long
  7. Nesh - Sidd Gupta
  8. ORDRS - Erik Ibarra
  9. Spark Biomedical Inc - Daniel Powell
  10. Grant Source - Allen Thorton

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Building Houston

 
 

This health tech company has made some significant changes in order to keep up with its growth. Photo via Getty Images

With a new CEO and chief operating officer aboard, Houston-based DataJoint is thinking small in order to go big.

Looking ahead to 2022, DataJoint aims to enable hundreds of smaller projects rather than a handful of mega-projects, CEO Dimitri Yatsenko says. DataJoint develops data management software that empowers collaboration in the neuroscience and artificial intelligence sectors.

"Our strategy is to take the lessons that we have learned over the past four years working with major projects with multi-institutional consortia," Yatsenko says, "and translate them into a platform that thousands of labs can use efficiently to accelerate their research and make it more open and rigorous."

Ahead of that shift, the startup has undergone some significant changes, including two moves in the C-suite.

Yatsenko became CEO in February after stints as vice president of R&D and as president. He co-founded the company as Vathes LLC in 2016. Yatsenko succeeded co-founder Edgar Walker, who had been CEO since May 2020 and was vice president of engineering before that.

In tandem with Yatsenko's ascent to CEO, the company brought aboard Jason Kirkpatrick as COO. Kirkpatrick previously was chief financial officer of Houston-based Darcy Partners, an energy industry advisory firm; chief operating officer and chief financial officer of Houston-based Solid Systems CAD Services (SSCS), an IT services company; and senior vice president of finance and general manager of operations at Houston-based SmartVault Corp., a cloud-based document management company.

"Most of our team are scientists and engineers. Recruiting an experienced business leader was a timely step for us, and Jason's vast leadership experience in the software industry and recurring revenue models added a new dimension to our team," Yatsenko says.

Other recent changes include:

  • Converting from an LLC structure to a C corporation structure to enable founders, employees, and future investors to be granted shares of the company's stock.
  • Shortening the business' name to DataJoint from DataJoint Neuro and recently launching its rebranded website.
  • Moving the company's office from the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute (TMCx) to the Galleria area. The new space will make room for more employees. Yatsenko says the 12-employee startup plans to increase its headcount to 15 to 20 by the end of this year.

Over the past five years, the company's customer base has expanded to include neuroscience institutions such as Princeton University's Princeton Neuroscience Institute and Columbia University's Zuckerman Institute for Brain Science, as well as University College London and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. DataJoint's growth has been fueled in large part by grants from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

"The work we are tackling has our team truly excited about the future, particularly the capabilities being offered to the neuroscience community to understand how the brain forms perceptions and generates behavior," Yatsenko says.

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