Texas Roundup: HTC, Indigo, DEC, Rakesh Agrawal, Piko, & Top of 2016

Let’s catch up with the latest innovation news from Texas.

—The Houston Technology Center has tapped Lori Vetters, a longtime commercial banker and civic leader, to become its next CEO. Vetters takes over the 17-year-old incubator from Walter Ulrich, a business consultant who led the center for nearly a decade. During that time, the innovation ecosystem has grown beyond the center to include accelerators and programs specializing in healthcare, general technology, and cleantech.

—West Texas cotton farmers say they are seeing higher yields, thanks to a microbial treatment made by a Boston-based agtech startup. Indigo presented the data last week at the Beltwide Cotton Conference in Dallas, saying yields increased by 11 percent on plants in 50,000 acres in Texas and other states using the product. The company says it will conduct such analyses on an annual basis.

—The Dallas Entrepreneur Center has opened four new branches in south Dallas, aiming to cater to new demographics of entrepreneurs. “We just want to make sure Dallas is the best place possible for any entrepreneur, regardless of age, race, or gender,” said Trey Bowles, the DEC’s founder and CEO, in a press release. “We’re leveling the playing field.” The southern sector of Dallas is home to a large African-American and Hispanic population. These branches, called the Southern Dallas Entrepreneur Network, will be led by Michelle Williams, who was most recently president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Urban League Young Professionals organization.

—We have “Five Questions For … ” Rakesh Agrawal, founder and CEO of Snapstream, a Houston media tech startup. An avid mentor to (and investor in) young entrepreneurs, Agrawal talks about a key lesson his father taught him, his “anti-portfolio,” and what he couldn’t live without if stranded on a desert island.

—Author Margot Lee Shetterly shines the spotlight on the previously forgotten brains behind human spaceflight. “Hidden Figures” tells the story of African-American women, known as human computers, who helped NASA send mankind to the moon, and is our latest installment of “Xconomy Bookclub.”

—The largest hospital group in El Paso County, TX, along with the El Paso Times and a Las Vegas gaming software company, have created a game with the aim to reduce the high death rate of Hispanics from liver disease. The game, which comes in English and Spanish versions, is a trivia quiz that features short embedded educational videos, links to a podcast, and infographics on liver disease and its prevention. Game developer OfferCraft’s software blends behavioral economics and artificial intelligence to create games that it says are more effective educators than traditional approaches. The game being used in El Paso is based on an investigative series published in 2016 by the Times newspaper.

—In entrepreneurship, success is rightly celebrated, dissected, and discussed. But what role does failure, or lessons in what not to do, play in building innovative companies? We speak to Texas innovators about that and how a discussion of what went wrong might be helpful at accelerator demo days.

—A San Antonio video game developer is selling retro versions of video games that can be played on Atari, Sego, and Nintendo systems. And it’s not a rehash of Pac-Man or Frogger. Piko Interactive both develops new games and publishes old games that were created but not necessarily sold, such as “Super Noah’s Ark 3D.”

—Let’s take one last look at 2016, and the top innovation stories of the year. These include notable exits and fundraises; the Texas Medical Center and the growth of Houston’s healthcare ecosystem; Uber and Lyft leaving Austin; and how San Antonio entrepreneurs and investors are boosting the local tech scene.

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