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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.

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Ty Audronis founded Tempest Droneworx to put drone data to work. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx

Ty Audronis quite literally grew up in Paradise. But the Northern California town was destroyed by wildfire in 2018, including Audronis’ childhood home.

“That’s why it’s called the Campfire Region,” says the founder, who explains that the flames were started by a spark off a 97-year-old transmission line.

But Audronis, who has literally written the book on designing purpose-built drones — actually, more than one — wasn’t going to sit back and let it happen again. Currently, wildfire prevention is limited to the “medieval technology” of using towers miles apart to check for smoke signals.

“By the time you see smoke signals, you’ve already got a big problem,” Audronis says.

His idea? To replace that system with real-time, three-dimensional, multi-spectral mapping, which exactly where his company, Tempest Droneworx, comes in.

When asked how he connected with co-founder Dana Abramowitz, Audronis admits that it was Match.com — the pair not only share duties at Tempest, they are engaged to be married. It was a 2021 pre-SXSW brainstorming session at their home that inspired the pair to start Tempest.

When Audronis mentioned his vision of drone battalions, where each is doing a specialized task, Abramowitz, a serial entrepreneur and founder who prefers to leave the spotlight to her partner, told him that he shouldn’t give the idea away at a conference, they should start a company. After all, Audronis is a pioneer in the drone industry.

“Since 1997, I’ve been building multicopters,” he says.

Besides publishing industry-standard tomes, he took his expertise to the film business. But despite its name, Tempest is a software company and does not make drones.

That software is called Harbinger. Audronis explains that the real-time management and visualization solution is viewable on practically any device, including mobile or augmented reality. The system uses a video game engine for viewing, but as Audronis puts it, “the magic happens” on the back end.

Harbinger is not just drone-agnostic, but can use crowd-sourced data as well as static sensors. With the example of wildfires in mind, battalions can swarm an affected area to inform officials, stopping a fire before it gets out of hand. But fires are far from Harbinger’s only intended use.

The civilian version of Harbinger will be available for sale at the end of 2023 or beginning of 2024. For military use, Navy vet Audronis says that the product just entered Technical Readiness Level (TRL) 5, which means that they are about 18 months away from a full demo. The latest news for Tempest is that earlier this month, it was awarded a “Direct to Phase II” SBIR (Government Small Business Innovation Research) contract with the United States Department of the Air Force.

Not bad for a company that was, until recently, fully bootstrapped. He credits his time with the Houston Founder Institute, from which he graduated last February, and for which he now mentors, with many of the connections he’s made, including SBIR Advisors, who helped handle the complex process of getting their SBIR contract.

And he and Abramowitz have no plans to end their collaborations now that they’re seeing growth.

“Our philosophy behind [our business] isn’t keeping our cards close to our vest,” says Audronis. “Any potential competitors, we want to become partners.”

The company was just the two founders until five weeks ago, when Tempest’s size doubled, including a full-time developer. Once Tempest receives its SIBR check, the team will grow again to include more developers. They are currently looking for offices in the city. As Audronis says, Tempest Droneworx is “100-percent made in Houston.” Paradise may have been lost, but with Harbinger soon to be available, such a disaster need never happen again.

Dana Abramowitz and Ty Audronis co-founded Tempest Droneworks. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx

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