Where to be

10 can't-miss Houston business and innovation events for February

Check out these workshops, networking events, pitch events, and other goings on in Houston this month. Getty Images

After what's felt like ages, 2019 has transitioned into a new month. For some, February means pink and red hearts. For Houstonians, it means the start of Rodeo Houston later this month. But, for entrepreneurs, the month yields a flurry of networking and professional events around town.

If you know of innovation-focused events for February, email me at natalie@innovationmap.com with the details.

February 5 - How to Start a Startup with Roberto Moctezuma, founder & CEO of Fractal River

Thinking 2019 is the year you finally turn your business idea into a startup? Station Houston wants to help. It's free to attend this discussion lead by Roberto Moctezuma, the founder and CEO of Houston-based Fractal River, an advisory firm. The talk will focus on identifying problems, determining market needs, learning important metrics, and more.

The event is from 5:30 to 6:30 pm on Tuesday, February 5, at Station Houston (1301 Fannin St., Suite 2440). Learn more here.

February 6 - SaaS Lifecycle Phase 3: Mapping Your Customer Journey

If you've got a SaaS-y startup, this is an event you can't miss. Blair Garrou of Mercury Fund will advise you on your company's sales, growth, and customer success. It's $10 to attend.

The event is from 12:30 to 2 pm on Wednesday, February 6, at Station Houston (1301 Fannin St., Suite 2440). Learn more here.

February 6 - Fruition Technology Labs Lunch n' Learn: Building Your Best Team

One of the main reasons startups fail is because of the people. Fruition Technology will offer their best advice for creating a solid team behind your startup.

The event is from 11:30 am to 1 pm on Wednesday, February 6, at The Cannon (1336 Brittmoore Road). Learn more here.

February 12 - Women Founders Series: Breaking Free of Impostor Syndrome

Calling all female entrepreneurs, women in business, and allies. Hear from a panel of women about their careers — both the ups and downs — and their advice for navigating the male-driven tech industry.

The event is from 11:30 am to 1 pm on Tuesday, February 12, at Station Houston (1301 Fannin St., Suite 2440). Learn more here.

February 12 - Women’s Masters Network Launch Party

Make your goals a reality at this women's professional networking event and launch party. The keynote speaker is Deidre Mathis.

The event is from 6 to 9 pm on Tuesday, February 12, at TXRX Labs (205 Roberts Street). Learn more here.

February 12 - The Global Startup with Innovation Norway

Nine Norwegian startups will pitch potential investors and collaborators at Station Houston's office in order to find for opportunities for international expansion. The Innovation Norway companies that will pitch are: CoreAll, Exebenus, Flapump, Geocap, Hammertech, Oliasoft, Pera, Solution Seeker, and Turbulent Flux.

The event is from 6 to 8 pm on Tuesday, February 12, at Station Houston (1301 Fannin St., Suite 2440). Learn more here.

February 13 - BBL Labs Energy Tech Accelerator Launch Party & Drone Demo

BBL Ventures is introducing BBL Labs, an energy tech accelerator program in partnership with Station Houston. Learn about the new program and network with energy tech professionals.

The event is from 6 to 9 pm on Wednesday, February 13, at Station Houston (1301 Fannin St., Suite 2440). Learn more here.

February 18 - NRLC Workshop: Pretotyping & Prototyping with Kara Palamountain

Figure out if your startup idea or product is needed and possible before you start investing your money and time in it at this workshop at Rice University. Featured speaker, Kara Palamountain, is a professor at the Kellogg School of Management and the president of the Northwestern Global Health Foundation.

The event is from 4 to 5:30 pm on Monday, February 18, at Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (6100 Main St., Cambridge Office Building, Suite 130) Learn more here.

February 20 - Houston Blockchain Alliance Kickoff

New to the innovation scene, Houston Blockchain Alliance, a networking group of blockchain professionals, is celebrating its launch with a free event and panel discussion.

The kickoff celebration takes place from 5:30 to 8:30 pm on Wednesday, February 20, at the Houston CPA Society (777 Post Oak Blvd #500). Learn more here.

February 20 - InfoFluency Lunch n' Learn: Management Analytics for the Founder

If you're a founder who is evaluating or beginning use of a CRM, this one's for you. You'll get a basic understanding of the use of analytics in startup company management by attending the lunch and learn session.

The event is from 11:30 am to 1 pm on Wednesday, February 20, at The Cannon (1336 Brittmoore Road). Learn more here.

On his failed investor attempt on Shark Tank, Brooks Powell couldn't secure a shark investment for $400,000. Now, he just closed on $2.1 million for his startup. Courtesy of Cheers

When Brooks Powell's Houston-based startup got passed over by the investors on Shark Tank last year, he didn't let it deter him. Instead, the Houston entrepreneur buckled down and started seeking investments off the screen.

It paid off, and Cheers (née Thrive+) recently closed a $2.1 million seed round. The round was lead by NextView Ventures, which has the likes of TaskRabbit, threadUP, and Letgo among its portfolio.

With the new investment, Brooks says the company is rebranding from Thrive, its original moniker, to Cheers.

"Thrive+ doesn't really say anything about what we did or who we are about," Powell says. "We knew we needed something fitting for the alcohol industry but at the same time has the connotation of fun, responsibility, and health."

The process has been daunting, but worth it, Powell says, citing companies like Ring, which changed its company name from Doorbot.

"It would be hard to imagine Amazon buying a company named Doorbot," Powell says.

It's worth noting that Doorbot rebranded also following a similar rejection on Shark Tank.

Once Cheers had its new name, Powell began the process of the transition — relabeling bottles, redoing marketing materials, etc. There's still a long road ahead for the rebranding, but Powell says he wasn't going to drag his feet, since the change would just become more expensive and more challenging. Ring, for instance, had to pay $1 million for its new domain name.

"We wanted to become Cheers as soon as possible, because it would only become harder as time went on," he says.

From student to CEO
Cheers' formula isn't new. The key ingredient, Dihydromyricetin, a natural extract — like caffeine to coffee, which made the FDA process smooth sailing. DHM started being identified as an anti-alcohol treatment in 2012 following experiments on the effects on rats.

Around that time, Powell was a sophomore at Princeton University, and he came across the science surrounding DHM and knew if he could harness the natural extract for commercial use, it'd change the game of hangover health.

"I started working with some of my professors and asking them if it was safe and would it be effective," Powell says.

At the time, there was very little amount of DHM in the United States, so the company became the first to import the ingredient on a large scale.

Powell graduated from Princeton in 2017 and moved his company to its workspace in The Cannon.

Serving up growth
Cheers has seen a tremendous amount of growth over the past year. The company's revenue increased 20 times year over year. A key determiner of success for the company, Powell says, has been strategic marketing and a working product.

"Primarily products such as this, historically, have never worked," he says. "And they've always been marketing toward binge drinkers and partiers."

Another strategy Powell has is giving the company a presence nationwide by having advisers and investors from both coasts.

"What we have tried to do is have our cake and eat it too. We set roots in Houston, but we have our hands in other markets."

In addition to rebranding, Cheers plans to continue its growth, as well as research and development of the product.