new hire

Deloitte names new Houston-based leader of energy, chemicals practice

Teresa Thomas was named vice chair and national sector leader for energy and chemicals at Deloitte. Photo via LinkedIn

Deloitte announced a new local leader to oversee energy and chemicals nationally.

Teresa Thomas was named vice chair and national sector leader for energy and chemicals at Deloitte. Based in Houston, she will also serve as an advisory partner and leader in Deloitte & Touche LLP's Risk & Financial Advisory energy and chemicals practice.

She will lead the strategic direction of Deloitte's energy and chemicals practice and drive program growth in the sector. Thomas succeeds Amy Chronis, partner at Deloitte LLP, who will continue to serve within the energy and chemicals practice until her retirement in June 2024.

"I am fortunate to have worked in the energy and chemicals industry for most of my career, and I'm honored to continue working with companies that are playing a pivotal role in powering progress and purpose," Thomas says in a news release. "Our industry is at the epicenter of the energy transition that can fuel tremendous potential for society, and I'm excited to be leading during this important and transformational time."

Last year, Chronis announced her retirement from Deloitte, and the company named Melinda Yee as the incoming Houston managing partner at Deloitte, a role Chronis held in addition to the title of vice chair and US energy and chemicals leader. Chronis is slated to retire in June 2024, and Yee's new role became effective this month.

Thomas has served in a variety of leadership roles and has more than 20 years of experience in the energy industry. She is used to serving multiple large clients, and developing deep C-suite and board relationships, as well as advising on future success for the business, and the industry as a whole. She was named as one of Hart Energy's 25 most influential women in energy in 2023, and is the vice chair and board member of The Rose, which is a nonprofit women's breast health organization in Southeast Texas.

"Teresa has played an integral role as strategic advisor to many of our valued energy and chemicals clients as they navigate significant transition, and her leadership, enthusiasm and vision will help shape the future of our practice," Stanley Porter, vice chair at Deloitte and U.S. energy, resources and industrials leader, says in a news release. “I am confident that Teresa brings the right vision, experience and relationships to further lead and grow the energy and chemicals sector as it experiences critical transformation and convergence."

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A View From HETI

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want. Photo courtesy of Boxes

With the help of a new conversational artificial intelligence platform, a Houston startup is ready to let brands get up close and personal with consumers while minimizing waste.

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want.

The Boxes device, about the size of a 40-inch television screen, dispenses products to consumers in a modern and sustainable spin on the old-fashioned large vending machine.

CEO Fernando Machin Gojdycz learned that business from his entrepreneur father, Carlos Daniel Machin, while growing up in Uruguay.

“That’s where my passion comes from — him,” Gojdycz says of his father. In 2016, Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay with some engineer friends

Funded by a $2,000 grant from the University of Uruguay, the company's mission was “to democratize and economize affordable and sustainable shopping,” in part by eliminating wasteful single-use plastic packaging.

“I worked for one year from my bedroom,” he tells InnovationMap.

Fernando Machin Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay before relocating the company to Greentown Houston. Photo courtesy of Boxes

The device, attached to a wall, offers free samples, or purchased products, in areas of high foot traffic, with a touch-screen interface. Powered by watsonx Assistant, the device asks survey questions of the customer, who can answer or not, on their mobile devices, via a QR code.

In return for completing a survey, customers can get a digital coupon, potentially generating future sales. The software and AI tech tracks sales and consumer preferences, giving valuable real-time market insight.

“This is very powerful,” he says.

Boxes partnered in Uruguay with major consumer brands like Kimberly-Clark, SC Johnson and Unilever, and during COVID, pivoted and offered PPE products. Then, with plans of an expansion into the United States, Boxes in 2021 landed its first U.S. backer, with $120,000 in funding from startup accelerator Techstars.

This led to a partnership with the Minnesota Twins, where Boxes devices at Target Field dispensed brand merchandise like keychains and bottles of field dirt.

Gojdycz says while a company in the Northeast is developing a product similar in size, Boxes is not “targeting traditional spaces.” Its software and integration with AI allows Boxes to seamlessly change the device screen and interface, remotely, as well.

Boxes aims to provide the devices in smaller spaces, like restrooms, where they have a device at the company's headquarters at climate tech incubator Greentown Labs. Boxes also recently added a device at Hewlett Packard Enterprise headquarters in Spring, as part of HPE’s diversity startup program.

Boxes hopes to launch another sustainable innovation later this year, in universities and supermarkets. The company is also developing a device that would offer refillable detergent and personal cleaning products like shampoo and conditioner with a reusable container.

Since plastic packaging accounts for 40 percent of retail price, consumers would pay far less, making a huge difference, particularly for lower-income families, he says.

“We are working to make things happen, because we have tried to pitch this idea,” he says.

Some supermarket retailers worry they may lose money or market share, and that shoppers may forget to bring the refill bottles with them to the store, for example.

“It’s about..the U.S. customer,” he says, “….but we think that sooner or later, it will come.”

Boxes has gotten funding from the accelerator startup branch of Houston-based software company Softeq, as well as Mission Driven Finance, Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund, and Right Side Capital, among others.

“Our primary challenges are scaling effectively with a small, yet compact team and maintaining control over our financial runway,” Gojdycz says.

The company has seven employees, including two on its management team.

Gojdycz says they are actively hiring, particularly in software and hardware engineering, but also in business development.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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