Olivia McClure is a staff writer for Built In’s brand studio. She previously covered professional development and tech industry trends for BuiltIn.com. She holds a bachelor of arts in English and multimedia journalism from Loyola University Chicago.
Olivia McClure is a staff writer for Built In’s brand studio. She previously covered professional development and tech industry trends for BuiltIn.com. She holds a bachelor of arts in English and multimedia journalism from Loyola University Chicago.
Whether it’s the southern hospitality or the world-class cuisine, Houston has been attracting the tech world’s top talent for decades. As the home of NASA Mission Control, the city has found itself at the center of space exploration since the beginning, serving as the operational hub of every U.S. human space mission since the launch of Project Gemini.
In light of this, it’s no surprise that aerospace and defense is one of Houston’s top tech sectors, with industry giants like Lockheed Martin and Boeing operating throughout the city. But perhaps it’s Houston’s energy industry that holds the most economic weight. According to the Greater Houston Partnership, the city’s energy sector employs more than 200,000 people across the city, while clean energy in particular boasts more than $3 billion in VC funding.
With its abundance of leading research facilities and rich exploration history, Houston houses one of the nation’s largest tech communities, which is expected to grow over the next several years. In fact, researchers expect to see nearly 9,000 new tech jobs across the city by 2026, according to a 2019 report from CompTIA. In addition to hosting Microsoft, Houston’s existing tech ecosystem boasts representation from a wide range of sectors like biotech, IT, energy and aviation.
From developing flight tracking systems to uncovering new disease treatments, many of Houston’s tech companies are true leaders in their industries, solidifying the Bayou City’s status as a hotbed of innovation and discovery.
Here’s a look at 25 tech companies in Houston that have helped shape the city’s tech landscape.
While organizations can always learn from making a mistake, Cognite is taking a more innovative approach to infrastructure projects. The company has developed technology that enables businesses to weigh numerous risk factors, automate certain tasks, and locate areas where increased production is needed. With a data-centric mentality, Cognite is painting a more holistic picture that allows businesses to avoid future roadblocks and make timely adjustments in strategy.
Since its inception, Microsoft has evolved into a true tech titan, serving customers worldwide with its software products and services. From Xbox to Office 365, the corporation’s products are some of the most widely used in the tech world, serving both entertainment and business sectors. In 2016, Microsoft opened its first cloud-based Microsoft Technology Center in Houston, where customers can take part in immersive experiences, proof-of-concept workshops and strategy briefings.
Headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, Loomis offers solutions for cash handling. The company works primarily with banks, multi-location retailers, stores and other commercial enterprises to offer them efficient management of the physical flow of cash. Loomis operates across 13 countries including the U.S., Norway, Denmark, Austria and Portugal.
SnapStream develops TV software that enables users to record, clip, share and search broadcast TV and monitor their feeds for regulatory compliance. The company’s TV search engine can simultaneously record up to 10 TV shows and can store more than 17,000 hours of recordings, giving users the ability to search within recordings and find certain TV content, which they can then download. SnapStream works with a wide range of clients including The Daily Show, Last Week Tonight and the U.S. Senate.
BMC Software is committed to helping clients reinvent their businesses with open, scalable and modular solutions. The company’s solutions encompass multi-cloud cost and security management, cloud migration, application performance improvement, big data insights and mainframe cost optimization. BMC Software has several offices located worldwide.
Founded by Daniel Baker, FlightAware is a flight tracking data company that offers flight tracking services for both private and commercial air traffic. The company’s HyperFeed engine integrates data from sources around the world to deliver comprehensive flight tracking information. Leveraging data from air traffic control systems in over 45 countries, FlightAware boasts a terrestrial network of over 20,000 ADS-B ground stations worldwide.
Aspen Technology develops software that helps oil and gas, chemical and engineering companies achieve their goals in safety, sustainability and operational performance. Using advances in AI and machine learning, the company helps fuel clients’ competitive drive by discovering new possibilities in process modeling, simulation and optimization. Since its inception, the company has raised $100 million in funding in addition to acquiring seven organizations.
Established by Mariette and Ron Woestemeyer, PROS is dedicated to helping people and companies outperform by enabling smarter selling in the digital economy. The company provides companies with predictive and prescriptive guidance, enabling them to dynamically price, configure and sell their products and services. With offices located worldwide, PROS helps enterprises achieve previously unattainable levels of speed and consistency.
Cradle Solution is a software development company that serves clients in various industries. The company offers software-as-a-service for the home healthcare industry in addition to providing technical and executive training and IT governance consulting services for the oil and gas industry. Cradle Solutions offers other customized software tools for companies worldwide.
Sirius Computer Solutions provides business solutions that span the data center and other lines of business. The company provides a wide range of solutions to help IT professionals cut costs, increase reliability, ease the burden of management, maximize flexibility, mitigate risk and improve service. Sirius Computer Solutions has acquired three organizations since its founding including Forsythe and thinkASG.
Enstep Technology Solutions is a business partner and IT services provider for small and medium-sized businesses. The company is dedicated to helping clients understand why their technology plan isn’t working and then provide the means to help them achieve their goals. Enstep Technology Solutions also helps businesses alleviate potential risks like losing data through their backup management services, which includes threat assessment and disaster recovery testing.
Headquartered in Paris, France, Air Liquide provides industrial gases, technologies and services to various industries. The company specializes in on-site industrial gas production, advanced precursor materials, gas and chemical management, and analytical and laboratory services. Serving more than 3.6 million customers worldwide, Air Liquide has acquired 43 organizations since its inception including Medidis and DiaLibre.
InGeneron is a clinical-stage cell therapy company that enables novel, safe and evidence-based therapies. The company is dedicated to developing treatments that unlock the healing potential of patients’ own regenerative cells. InGeneron specializes in helping patients who suffer from chronic pain and other musculoskeletal conditions.
ENGlobal is a specialty engineering services firm that specializes in oil and gas automation solutions and subsea control systems. The company offers a variety of services including advanced automated data gathering systems, IT projects, feasibility studies, cost estimation and environmental compliance. ENGlobal also operates a government services group that offers engineering, design, installation, operations and maintenance support to government facilities.
Gene By Gene is a biotech company that offers affordable genetic testing services. The company’s genetic testing services encompass relationship DNA testing, carrier screenings, research genetics, forensics and ancestry DNA testing. Gene By Gene’s aim is to empower people everywhere to make decisions on their genetic health through affordable, high-quality services.
Founded by Yoseph Shaaltiel, Protalix Biotherapeutics is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company that develops and manufactures recombinant therapeutic proteins. The company specializes in developing complex therapeutic proteins for the treatment of genetic disorders such as Gaucher disease and Fabry disease in addition to advancing additional recombinant biopharmaceutical drug development programs. Since its founding, Protalix Biotherapeutics has raised $62.5 million over four funding rounds.
Cybersoft Technologies is an IT company that focuses on mobile application development and software services. The company offers a wide range of products including PrimeroEdge, which provides software solutions for child nutrition departments in school districts, as well as YottaTime and Attendance, which streamlines the process of employee work hours, overtime and leave management. Cybersoft Technologies works primarily with city agencies, Fortune 500 companies and K-12 school districts across the nation.
KBR, Inc. is an engineering, procurement and construction company that provides services and technologies to government and industry clients. Operating across 40 countries, the company offers government solutions that cover the full lifecycle of defense, space and aviation, while their tech solutions encompass equipment, catalysts and digital solutions. Since its inception, KBR, Inc. has acquired 11 organizations such as RRT Global and Honeywell Technology Solutions.
Insperity specializes in delivering human resources solutions that help clients strengthen and streamline their businesses. The company helps organizations manage costs and minimize risks, offering a wide range of services such as HR consulting, accounting and bookkeeping, expense reporting, performance reviews and organizational charting. With more than $4.3 billion in annual revenue, Insperity has 70 offices located across the country.
Halliburton provides products and services to the energy industry. With a focus on sustainability, the company helps its customers maximize value throughout the lifecycle of the reservoir, which includes locating hydrocarbons, managing geological data, drilling and formation evaluation, and well construction and completion. Halliburton works with national and independent oil and natural gas companies across the globe.
Founded by Eric Pulaski, SmartVault has developed a platform that allows accountants and businesses to store, manage and securely share files. The company’s platform enables users to create efficient, standardized workflows, automate manual paper-based tasks and eliminate security vulnerabilities. SmartVault integrates with a variety of apps including QuickBooks, DocuSign and TaxCalc.
DataVox is a technology partner that helps organizations design, implement and maintain all aspects of their audio visual, cloud and data center. The company also specializes in cybersecurity, IT support and managed services, network cabling, phone systems, smart building technologies and physical security solutions.
Unity’s cross-platform game engine powers many of today’s most popular video and computer games, as well as many other simulated interactive experiences. Not only that, game creators rely on Unity’s asset store to buy and sell user-generated digital assets, like game-level props. Hollywood uses the technology too: Disney’s 2019 remake of The Lion King used Unity’s engine to create the film’s backgrounds.
Launched by Mike Alsup, Gimmal develops information management software that makes it possible for enterprises to manage information regardless of where it exists. The company’s software captures, manages, governs and archives information, enabling businesses to manage the lifecycle of content in SharePoint, Office 365, Box, OneDrive for Business and other platforms. Gimmal is dedicated to helping organizations realize their digital workplace strategies more quickly and connect content with business transactions to improve efficiency and lower costs.
Founded by Accenture LLP and Microsoft, Avanade provides digital and cloud services, business solutions and design-led experiences in the Microsoft ecosystem. With operations in over 20 countries, the company helps organizations from a wide range of industries improve business agility, employee productivity and customer loyalty. Avanade has acquired five organizations since its inception including Altius, Alnamic and Loud & Clear.
Biden begs for money for 2024 Campaign from local SF Bay Area tech leaders and talks AI
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — President Joe Biden convened a group of technology leaders on Tuesday to debate what he called the “risks and enormous promises” of artificial intelligence.
The Biden administration is seeking to figure out how to regulate the emergent field of AI, looking for ways to nurture its potential for economic growth and national security and protect against its potential dangers.
“We’ll see more technological change in the next 10 years that we saw in the last 50 years,” Biden said as the meeting with eight technology experts from academia and advocacy groups kicked off.
“AI is already driving that change,” Biden said.
The sudden emergence of AI chatbot ChatGPT and other tools has jumpstarted investment in the sector. AI tools are able to craft human-like text, music, images and computer code. This form of automation could increase the productivity of workers, but experts warn of numerous risks.
The technology could be used to replace workers, causing layoffs. It’s already being deployed in false images and videos, becoming a vehicle of disinformation that could undermine democratic elections. Governments, as well as the European Union, have said they are determined to regulate and put brakes on AI before it is too late.
Biden said social media has already shown the harm technology can do “without the right safeguards in place.”
In May, Biden’s administration brought together tech CEOs at the White House to discuss these issues, with the Democratic president telling them, “What you’re doing has enormous potential and enormous danger.”
White House chief of staff Jeff Zients’ office is developing a set of actions the federal government can take over the coming weeks regarding AI, according to the White House. Top officials are meeting two to three times each week on this issue, in addition to the daily work of federal agencies. The administration wants commitments from private companies to address the possible risks from AI.
Biden met Tuesday at the Fairmont hotel in San Francisco with Tristan Harris, executive director of the Center for Human Technology; Jim Steyer, the CEO of Common Sense Media; and Joy Buolamwin, founder of the Algorithmic Justice League, among others. California Gov. Gavin Newsom was also in attendance.
Biden is also in the San Francisco area to raise money for this 2024 reelection campaign. At his first fundraiser of the night, Biden spoke about what he saw as freedoms under siege, particularly for the LGBTQ community and with the overturning of abortion protections by the U.S. Supreme Court. And as president, it’s his job to help safeguard the right to choose.
“I think the American people need to have the confidence that we’re going to do what we say we’re going to do,” he said.
Climate change has also been a priority in Biden’s speeches at the fundraisers. On Tuesday, he told a group that he expects that John Kerry, the special envoy for climate, will soon return to China for talks on reducing carbon emissions.
Associated Press writer Barbara Ortutay in San Francisco contributed to this report.
Microsoft makes case for Activision merger amid EU scrutiny
BRUSSELS (AP) — Microsoft’s Xbox video game division on Tuesday announced new partnerships with Nintendo and chipmaker Nvidia as it tries to persuade European regulators to approve its planned $68.7 billion takeover of game publishing giant Activision Blizzard.
A key audience for the announcements were the European Union antitrust regulators who held a closed-door meeting Tuesday with executives from Microsoft and some of its competitors, including Sony and Google.
Microsoft announced a 10-year agreement with chipmaker Nvidia to bring Xbox games to Nvidia’s cloud gaming service. Microsoft also said it has now signed a similar deal with Nintendo, formalizing a commitment it revealed late last year.
What it does not have is an agreement with Xbox’s chief rival, PlayStation-maker Sony, which has sought to convince antitrust regulators around the world to stop the Activision Blizzard merger.
The all-cash deal, which is set to be the largest in the history of the tech industry, faces pushback from regulators in the U.S. and Europe because it would give Microsoft control of popular game franchises such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush.
The European Commission, the 27-nation bloc’s executive arm, has been investigating whether the merger would distort fair competition to popular Activision Blizzard game titles. It’s scheduled to make a decision by March 23.
Microsoft first announced the agreement to buy the California-based game publisher early last year, but the takeover has also been stalled in the U.S., where the Federal Trade Commission has sued to block the deal, and in Britain, where an antitrust watchdog’s provisional report said it will stifle competition and hurt gamers.
Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Washington, has been counting on getting approval in either the EU or Britain to help advance its case in the U.S.
Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, said at a Brussels news conference after meeting with regulators Tuesday that he was “not in a position to say exactly what was said in the hearing room” but emphasized that Xbox has a much smaller share of the market than PlayStation does in Europe, and asserted that the deal would be good for the industry by bringing more games to more people.
“For us at Microsoft, this has never been about spending $69 billion so that we could acquire titles like Call of Duty and make them less available to people,” Smith said. “That’s actually not a great way to turn a $69 billion asset into something that will become more valuable over time.”
Amid ChatGPT outcry, some teachers are inviting AI to class
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Under the fluorescent lights of a fifth grade classroom in Lexington, Kentucky, Donnie Piercey instructed his 23 students to try and outwit the “robot” that was churning out writing assignments.
The robot was the new artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT, which can generate everything from essays and haikus to term papers within seconds. The technology has panicked teachers and prompted school districts to block access to the site. But Piercey has taken another approach by embracing it as a teaching tool, saying his job is to prepare students for a world where knowledge of AI will be required.
“This is the future,” said Piercey, who describes ChatGPT as just the latest technology in his 17 years of teaching that prompted concerns about the potential for cheating. The calculator, spellcheck, Google, Wikipedia, YouTube. Now all his students have Chromebooks on their desks. “As educators, we haven’t figured out the best way to use artificial intelligence yet. But it’s coming, whether we want it to or not.”
One exercise in his class pitted students against the machine in a lively, interactive writing game. Piercey asked students to “Find the Bot:” Each student summarized a text about boxing champion and Kentucky icon Muhammad Ali, then tried to figure out which was written by the chatbot.
At the elementary school level, Piercey is less worried about cheating and plagiarism than high school teachers. His district has blocked students from ChatGPT while allowing teacher access. Many educators around the country say districts need time to evaluate and figure out the chatbot but also acknowledge the futility of a ban that today’s tech-savvy students can work around.
“To be perfectly honest, do I wish it could be uninvented? Yes. But it happened,” said Steve Darlow, the technology trainer at Florida’s Santa Rosa County District Schools, which has blocked the application on school-issued devices and networks.
He sees the advent of AI platforms as both “revolutionary and disruptive” to education. He envisions teachers asking ChatGPT to make “amazing lesson plans for a substitute” or even for help grading papers. “I know it’s lofty talk, but this is a real game changer. You are going to have an advantage in life and business and education from using it.”
ChatGPT quickly became a global phenomenon after its November launch, and rival companies including Google are racing to release their own versions of AI-powered chatbots.
The topic of AI platforms and how schools should respond drew hundreds of educators to conference rooms at the Future of Education Technology Conference in New Orleans last month, where Texas math teacher Heather Brantley gave an enthusiastic talk on the “Magic of Writing with AI for all Subjects.”
Brantley said she was amazed at ChatGPT’s ability to make her sixth grade math lessons more creative and applicable to everyday life.
“I’m using ChatGPT to enhance all my lessons,” she said in an interview. The platform is blocked for students but open to teachers at her school, White Oak Intermediate. “Take any lesson you’re doing and say, ‘Give me a real-world example,’ and you’ll get examples from today — not 20 years ago when the textbooks we’re using were written.”
For a lesson about slope, the chatbot suggested students build ramps out of cardboard and other items found in a classroom, then measure the slope. For teaching about surface area, the chatbot noted that sixth graders would see how the concept applies to real life when wrapping gifts or building a cardboard box, said Brantley.
She is urging districts to train staff to use the AI platform to stimulate student creativity and problem solving skills. “We have an opportunity to guide our students with the next big thing that will be part of their entire lives. Let’s not block it and shut them out.”
Students in Piercey’s class said the novelty of working with a chatbot makes learning fun.
After a few rounds of “Find the Bot,” Piercey asked his class what skills it helped them hone. Hands shot up. “How to properly summarize and correctly capitalize words and use commas,” said one student. A lively discussion ensued on the importance of developing a writing voice and how some of the chatbot’s sentences lacked flair or sounded stilted.
Trevor James Medley, 11, felt that sentences written by students “have a little more feeling. More backbone. More flavor.”
Next, the class turned to playwriting, or as the worksheet handed out by Piercey called it: “Pl-ai Writing.” The students broke into groups and wrote down (using pencils and paper) the characters of a short play with three scenes to unfold in a plot that included a problem that needs to get solved.
Piercey fed details from worksheets into the ChatGPT site, along with instructions to set the scenes inside a fifth grade classroom and to add a surprise ending. Line by line, it generated fully formed scripts, which the students edited, briefly rehearsed and then performed.
One was about a class computer that escapes, with students going on a hunt to find it. The play’s creators giggled over unexpected plot twists that the chatbot introduced, including sending the students on a time travel adventure.
“First of all, I was impressed,” said Olivia Laksi, 10, one of the protagonists. She liked how the chatbot came up with creative ideas. But she also liked how Piercey urged them to revise any phrases or stage directions they didn’t like. “It’s helpful in the sense that it gives you a starting point. It’s a good idea generator.”
She and classmate Katherine McCormick, 10, said they can see the pros and cons of working with chatbots. They can help students navigate writer’s block and help those who have trouble articulating their thoughts on paper. And there is no limit to the creativity it can add to classwork.
The fifth graders seemed unaware of the hype or controversy surrounding ChatGPT. For these children, who will grow up as the world’s first native AI users, their approach is simple: Use it for suggestions, but do your own work.
“You shouldn’t take advantage of it,” McCormick says. “You’re not learning anything if you type in what you want, and then it gives you the answer.”
Associated Press writer Sharon Lurye contributed to this report from New Orleans.
The Associated Press education team receives support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for all content.