cashing that blank check

Houston-area high-tech monitoring device co. IPOs with close of SPAC deal

A deal that's been a year in the making has officially closed. Photo via infraredcameras.com

A special purpose acquisition company has sealed the deal on its acquisition of a company with thermal imaging and sensing platform technology.

SportsMap Tech Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: SMAP) announced the close of its acquisition of Beaumont-based Infrared Cameras Holdings Inc. (ICI), which will be the name of the combined company. The new ticker symbol for the combined company’s common stock and public warrants will be ticker symbols “MSAI” and “MSAIW,” respectively.

“The close of the business combination represents a monumental milestone for our company, as we view the business to be well-suited for the public market," Infrared Cameras’ CEO Gary Strahan says in a news release. Strahan and his executive team will continue to lead the company.

Originally announced in the fall of 2021, the $100 million blank-check company is led by David Gow, CEO and chairman. Gow is also chairman of Gow Media, which owns digital media outlets InnovationMap, EnergyCapitalHTX, SportsMap, and CultureMap, as well as the SportsMap Radio Network, ESPN 97.5 and 92.5.

The SPAC revealed it would be acquiring ICI just over a year ago. According to the news release, SMAP’s stockholders approved the deal at a special meeting held on December 8.

"I’m happy to complete the business transaction, and equally excited to see Gary and his team deliver a unique product and solution to a diversified sub-set of market verticals," Gow says in the release. "We view this event to serve as the initial catalyst for the Company to deliver long-term shareholder returns.”

ICI's technology includes a patented single pane-of-glass view that can be used to monitor and analyze live imaging and sensing data across industries, including monitoring overheating equipment and methane gas leaks in the oil patch. ICI provides both the physical technology as well as a software-as-a-service component. Following the close of the deal, ICI reports that it will be focused on "new customer expansion, becoming a global online retailer, solidifying operational excellence, and continual improvements" to its technology.

“We have built a diversified integrated thermal imaging and sensing platform that is enhanced by our cloud-enabled technology, allowing for improved operations and critical asset protection," Strahan says. "We believe the support of investors as a public entity will aid our ultimate strategic objective of driving growth through increased enterprise customers, while, over time, positively transforming our margins as a result of our SaaS unit economics.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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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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