The 12-week program received a record number of applications, that spanned the campus' degree offerings. Photo courtesy of Rice University

Rice University's Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, or Lilie, has named eight teams to the second cohort of the Lilie Summer Venture Studio, and two have sustainability as a goal.

According to Rice, the 12-week program received a record number of applications, that spanned the campus' degree offerings.

“We are thrilled to see such a high level of interest and excitement from Rice students for a high-growth venture accelerator,” Kyle Judah, executive director of Lilie, said in a statement. “The diversity and creativity in this year's applications were truly inspiring, and we’re excited to support these promising ventures with the resources and mentorship they need to hit escape velocity and create the next generation of pillar companies for Houston, Texas and the world.”

The selected teams will receive $15,000 in non-dilutive funding from the accelerator, along with access to coworking space and personalized mentorship in the Liu Idea Lab.

Coflux Purification, a patent-pending in-stream module that breaks down PFAS using a novel absorbent for chemical-free water, was named to the cohort, as was Solidec, a technology platform that extracts molecules from water and air, transforms them into pure chemicals and fuels without any carbon emissions.

Here are the rest of the teams for the 2024 Lilie Summer Venture Studio:

  • Docflow, focused on streamlining residency shift scheduling
  • JewelVision, building virtual fitting rooms for jewelry e-commerce retailers using generative AI
  • Levytation, using data science and AI to answer critical questions about sales and customers for coffee shop management
  • OnGuard, a marketplace to book off-duty police officers and security professionals
  • Roster, leverages data on athletes in the NCAA Transfer Portal to automatically send updates on players to coaches
  • Veloci, a running shoe venture that addresses common pains through shoe design

Lilie launched the Summer Venture Studio last year. According to Rice, two out of the six teams selected, Helix Earth Technologies and Tierra Climate, which both also tackle sustainability challenges, raised venture capital funds after completing the accelerator program.

Helix Earth Technologies also went on to earn the inaugural TEX-E Prize at CERAWeek in 2023.

“The track record of our Summer Venture Studio Accelerator speaks for itself, despite being early in our second year," Taylor Anne Adams, head of venture acceleration programs at the Liu Idea Lab, said in a statement. "This is the power of entrepreneurship programming that is designed by founders, for founders, that happens at the Liu Idea Lab.”

Last year, Lilie also named 11 successful business leaders with ties to Houston to its first Lilie’s Leadership Council. Each agreed to donate time and money to the university’s entrepreneurship programs.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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6 sustainability-minded Houston stores giving discounts for old clothes

CLOTHES THE LOOP

Shopping is fun, but it comes with the unseen price tag of more than 92 million tons of global textile waste generated each year. With the apparel industry's global emissions predicted to increase by 50 percent in just six years, many see this as a full-blown climate crisis that is already affecting people across the globe.

To combat this problem, several retailers have committed to bolstering their sustainability efforts. From recycling linens, towels, pillows, and robes to upcycling denim, companies are finding ways for every textile to be saved from the landfill and either re-worn, repurposed, or recycled.

Stores trying to make a difference include Patagonia, North Face, J.Jill, Carter's, and DSW Shoes. To make summer vacation and back-to-school shopping more environmentally friendly, we've rounded up six Houston retailers where customers can trade in used clothing and textiles for exclusive discounts.

Gap

Gap has partnered with ThredUp, an online resale company, to recycle gently used clothing for their Gap for Good initiative. Customers can activate a kit and get a label here, fill the bag, and drop it off at any FedEx or post office location. If ThredUp selects any items for resale, customers can choose to receive either cash or store credit. Those who opt for store credit and use it at any Gap Inc.-brand stores will receive an additional 15% off their purchase. For clothes not chosen for resale, ThredUp offers recycling services, or the items can be mailed back to the customer for a fee.

H&M

According to H&M's website, its worldwide garment recycling program, launched in 2013, is "the biggest of its kind in the world." Customers can get 15 percent off their purchase by bringing unwanted clothes or textiles — from any brand and in any condition — to one of its stores. Turn them in at the cashier's kiosk and receive a coupon for their next purchase. The clothing and textiles will be sorted into three categories: re-wear, reuse, or recycling.

Levi's

Levi's aims to keep its coveted jeans in circulation and out of landfills with its trade-in program. The brand accepts denim and trucker jackets that are still in good condition; they repair any minor damage, sanitize the items, and resell them through their secondhand shop. Customers will receive a gift card ranging from $5 to $30, depending on the value of the item traded in. Customers must make an appointment to take advantage of this program, and only certain types of denim are accepted. A complete list of requirements is available here.

Lululemon

Have a drawer full of old Lululemon workout gear? Trade it in for a gift card towards a future purchase. The garment does not need to have its care tag, size tag, or price tag for this initiative; the workout brand accepts clean and gently worn (items with no damage, pilling, rips, or discoloration) women's and men's Lululemon clothing and bags for their Like New program. Except for outlet stores, every Lululemon outpost can accept items for the Like New program. Check what they're taking before going to the store, because items cycle in and out depending on seasonality and inventory. The value of the gift card customers will receive is determined by the value of the items traded in, but generally ranges in price from $5 to $25 and can be redeemed in-store or online.

Madewell

Madewell is on a mission to become fully sustainable, defined as using only fibers sustainably sourced and free of virgin plastics, by 2025. It has partnered with Cotton's Blue Jeans Go Green program to repurpose denim and keep it out of landfills by turning old jeans into housing insulation.

To participate in Madewell's recycling program, bring any brand or style of jeans in any condition to any Madewell store. If shipping is more convenient, activate a Clean Out Kit here or print out a free shipping label and mail in women's previously used clothing, handbags, shoes, and accessories from any brand. In exchange, customers will get a coupon for $20 off purchasing one new pair of Madewell jeans.

Parachute

Parachute, the beloved home essentials brand, is celebrating its 10th anniversary by launching a recycling program. In partnership with SuperCircle, they accept used towels, sheets, and robes. Although there are several recycling programs for clothing, shoes, and accessories, Parachute is pioneering this type of program in the home textile sector.

To participate in the program, customers can take their sheets, towels, pillows, and robes in any condition from any brand to Parachute's Rice Village store. They'll sort and recycle donated items for a second life – from new textiles to new projects, including furniture batting, insulation, and padding – sending nothing to landfill. In return, customers will receive a discount on their next Parachute purchase.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Climatetech funding: New York investment firm to donate part of proceeds to Greentown Labs

donations incoming

Effective immediately, Greentown Labs, which has locations in Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, is benefitting from funds raised by an investment group.

Greentown Labs, a nonprofit climatetech incubator, announced its partnership with New York-based Prithvi Ventures, a firm that specializes in early-stage climatetech. The unique partnership includes Prithvi Ventures donating "a percentage of proceeds received from its Fund 1 and Fund 2 to Greentown on a quarterly basis, in perpetuity," per Greentown's news release. The exact percentage was not disclosed.

“There’s an understanding in sports that the best teams always take responsibility and accountability for their own and look out for each other—that the members of the team are a reflection of the franchise,” says Kunal Sethi, founder and general partner at Prithvi Ventures. “I have always believed the same to be true in venture, too.

"Founders should know their supporters, team, and cap tables inside and out. It matters who you surround yourself with and Greentown Labs is always the first name that comes up for me," he continues. "Every founder in climatetech should work with them or they’re missing out on so much.”

Prithvi Ventures already has a handful Greentown member companies in its investment portfolio, including Carbon Upcycling, Mars Materials, Nth Cycle, and Rheom Materials. The firm has invested in 30 companies total, and aims to lead rounds, preferring to be the first large check for the startups it invests in.

“We are delighted to deepen our relationship with Prithvi Ventures and are grateful for their ongoing support,” Aisling Carlson, senior vice president of partnerships at Greentown Labs, says in the statement. “Through this new partnership, Prithvi Ventures and its limited partners are setting an example for how the venture community can more directly support the incubators and accelerators working to catalyze climatetech innovation and entrepreneurship.”

New rule to require railroads in Texas, beyond to provide hazardous cargo details upon derailment

in case of emergency

A new federal rule finalized Monday aims to ensure first responders can find out what hazardous chemicals are on a train almost immediately after a derailment so they can respond appropriately. Texas, a major hub for chemical development, will be affected by the ruling.

Too often in past disasters like last year's fiery Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, firefighters risked their lives trying to extinguish a blaze without knowing the right way to respond. The local fire chief in charge of the response said it took him 45 minutes to learn exactly what was in the 11 burning tank cars on the train, but some firefighters from neighboring departments that came to help said they didn't know what they were dealing with until two hours after the February 3, 2023, crash.

First responders need to know exactly which hazardous materials are on a train so they can look it up in the government's official guidebook and make sure they have the right protective gear and firefighting tools, said Tristan Brown, deputy administrator of the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration agency that proposed the rule.

Knowing what chemical is involved and how much of it is aboard also affects how big of an evacuation zone might be required to protect the public.

“There are so many different types of hazardous materials being transported across the country on any given day — one in 10 goods that move across the United States — and each one, poses unique risks and hazards, certainly to the folks who are running towards a fire,” Brown said. “But certainly as well for anybody who may be living or working in that vicinity.”

The rule was published just one day ahead of the National Transportation Safety Board's final hearing on the East Palestine derailment, where they will discuss exactly what caused that crash and recommend steps to prevent similar disasters.

Train crews have long carried lists of their cargo in the cabs of their locomotives, but in the middle of the chaos after a derailment those engineers and conductors, who might have moved their locomotives miles down the track, can't always be found right away.

That's part of why the largest freight railroads developed an app called AskRail roughly a decade ago that enables firefighters to quickly look up the details of what each train carries. But not every firefighter had the app, and cell phones don't always have a signal strong enough to work in a disaster.

Regulators want the railroads to continue expanding access to that app, including to 911 centers, so information reaches first responders sooner. The railroads have been expanding access over the past year. The Association of American Railroads trade group estimates some 2.3 million first responders now have access to that information as a result of the effort to expand into dispatch centers.

The six biggest railroads also make train cargo information immediately available through the chemical industry's hazardous materials hotlines in the U.S. and Canada known as the CHEMTREC and CANUTEC, emergency call centers.

Norfolk Southern said that in addition to AskRail it is working with a different program called RapidSOS that will allow the railroad to directly send information about its trains to first responders after a derailment — instead of forcing them to look up the details in AskRail. The railroad said its work fits well with the new rule.

But the new federal rule also applies to the hundreds of smaller railroads that aren't involved in AskRail. Even railroads that only have one or two employees now must have a plan to get the crucial details of their cargo to the local fire department quickly, even if its as simple as having the fire chief's cell phone number at the ready. Railroads also must test their plan at least once a year.

“In a hazmat incident, firefighters and first responders arriving on scene need to know what kind of hazardous materials are present so they can protect themselves and their communities,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.

It's not clear how this rule might have changed the outcome in East Palestine, but more information could have helped responding firefighters.

The derailment prompted a nationwide reckoning over railroad safety and prompted Congress to propose changes and regulators like Buttigieg to urge railroads to do more to prevent derailments.

The Federal Railroad Administration has issued various advisories about different aspects of railroad operations, but the reforms in Congress have stalled because Republicans wanted to wait for the final NTSB report and regulators have had only limited success making changes.