Where to be

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

Check out these conferences, pitch competitions, networking, and more. Getty Images

Summer's here and living isn't necessarily easy — especially when it comes to scheduling. Houston's busting at the seams with networking, panel, and pitch events this month.

If you know of innovation-focused events for this month or next, email me at natalie@innovationmap.com with the details and subscribe to our daily newsletter that sends fresh stories straight to your inboxes every morning.

June 4-6 — Houston Innovation Week

Silicon Valley-based Plug and Play will host a series of innovation-focused events over three days. Tuesday, June 4, will be focused on energy and sustainability, while Wednesday, June 5, will focus on health tech. The week concludes Thursday, June 6, with TMCx's Demo Day.

Details: The event is from Tuesday, June 4, to Thursday, June 6, at the TMC Innovation Institute (2450 Holcombe Blvd). Learn more.

June 6 — TMCx Demo Day

TMCx's cohort of entrepreneurs take to the main stage to pitch their solutions to close out the four-month digital health accelerator program. During the event, 19 digital health startups will showcase the progress they have made on their solutions, and what they have planned for the future.

Details: The event is from 1 to 7 pm on Thursday, June 6, at the TMC Innovation Institute (2450 Holcombe Boulevard). Learn more.

June 6 — Houston Low-Carbon Energy Summit

The summit is intended for industry experts to discuss how Houston energy companies can apply our region's know-how, technical capabilities, and unique industry footprint to create and demonstrate new business opportunities to achieve a low carbon energy future. Areas to be explored will include energy storage and renewable energy, carbon sequestration and usage, methane capture, cleaner fuels, and expanded markets for natural gas.

Details: The event is from 9 am to 4 pm on Thursday, June 6, at the Royal Sonesta Galleria Houston (2222 West South Loop). Learn more.

June 5 — Using Machine Learning for Facies classification in Oil and Gas

Rajiv Shah will talk about how to train a machine learning algorithm to predict facies from well log data. He will walk through the background and then go through a Python notebook that builds the model.

Details: The event is from 6:30 to 8:30 pm on Wednesday, June 5, at Station Houston (1301 Fannin St. Suite 2440). Learn more.

June 12 — Lunch n' Learn: Using Behavioral Economics To Your Company's Advantage

Learn "What Joe Knows"- with Richard Gosselin, chief development officer at Penngo Marketing Group.

Details: The event is from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm on Wednesday, June 12, at The Cannon (1336 Brittmoore Road). Learn more.

June 12-13 — Energy Drone & Robotics Summit

Over 1,000 energy and engineering leaders gather in Houston to talk drones and robotics trends, best practices, and to see, drive and fly the latest tech.

Details: The event is from Wednesday, June 12 to Thursday, June 13, at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center (1601 Lake Robbins Dr). Learn More

June 13 — HCC's Small Business Summit and Expo

Funding advice, roundtable discussions, and more valuable information for existing and aspiring entrepreneurs hosted by Houston Community College.

Details: The event is from 8:30 am to 2 pm on Thursday, June 13, at the West Houston Institute (2811 Hayes Road). Learn more.

June 13 — HX live: Houston Astros Sportstech

Houston Exponential will be hosting a sports tech presentation led by Matt Brand, senior vice president of corporate partnerships and special events at the Houston Astros.

Details: The event is from 3:30 to 5:30 pm on Thursday, June 13, at The Cannon (1336 Brittmoore Rd.). Learn more.

June 14 — Meet with Illumina Ventures

Noel Jee, an associate from Illumina Ventures, will be visiting JLABS @ TMC to provide an overview about the investment firm's key areas of interest. Following the presentation, there will be a networking lunch. And finally, for those companies who apply online and are approved, one-on-one meetings with Illumina Ventures provides an intimate forum to discuss your company.

Details: The event is from 10:30 am to 1 pm on Friday, June 14, at the TMC Innovation Institute (2450 Holcombe Blvd). Learn more.

June 15 — Enventure Basecamp: Business Building Workshop

Basecamp is an inclusive environment for those who are interested in adapting their life science experiences to real business applications. All are welcome, and the event is free.

Details: The event is from 9 am to noon on Saturday, June 15, at the TMC Innovation Institute (2450 Holcombe Blvd). Learn more.

June 20 — Startup Pains: What I Wish I Knew

This monthly series hosted by the University of Houston lets you learn from someone else's mistakes and successes. This month's speaker is M. Scott Conley, chief delivery officer and vice president of Drylet LLC.

Details: The event is from 4 to 5 pm on Thursday, June 20, at the UH Technology Bridge (Innovation Center, building 4, floor 2, 5000 Gulf Fwy).Learn more here.

June 24 — Open Project Night with Impact Hub Houston and Sketch City

Connect and collaborate with real, passionate people who are working on projects, ventures, and collaborations to improve to the city of Houston. If you have an idea, are working on something, or are looking for ways to collaborate with people who are doing work at the intersection of innovation and impact this event is for you.

Details: The event is from 6 to 8 pm on Tuesday, June 25, at The Black Sheep Agency (611 West 22nd Street). Learn more.

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Building Houston

 
 

Cheers Health has expanded its product line as it evolves as a wellness-focused brand. Photo courtesy of Cheers

Houston-based startup Cheers first got a wave of brand devotees after it was passed over by investors on Shark Tank in 2018. In the years since, Cheers secured an impressive investment, launched new products, and became a staple hangover cure for customers. When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted businesses, the company rose to the occasion and experienced its first profitable year as drinking and wellness habits changed across America.

Cheers initially started its company under the name Thrive+ with a hangover-friendly pill that promised to minimize the not-so-fun side effects that come after a night out. The capsules support the liver by replacing lost vitamins, reduce GABAa rebound and lower the alcohol-induced acetaldehyde toxicity levels in the body. The company's legacy product complemented social calendars and nights on the town, providing next day relief.

With COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing measures, the days of pub crawls and social events were numbered. Cheers founder Brooks Powell saw the massive behavior change in people consuming alcohol, and leaned into his vision of becoming more than just a hangover cure but an "alcohol-related health company," he says.

When the pandemic first hit, Powell and his team noticed an immediate dip in sales — a relatable story for businesses in the grips of COVID-19.

"There is a three day period where we went from having the best month in company history to the worst month in company history, over a 72 hour stretch," he remarks.

He soon called an emergency board meeting and rattled off worst-case "doomsday" scenarios, he says.

"Thankfully, we never had to do any of these strategies because, ultimately, the team was able to rally around the new positioning for the brand which was far more focused on alcohol-related health," he says.

"We found that a lot less people were getting hangovers during 2020, because generally when you binge drink, you tend to binge drink with other people," he explains.

He noticed that health became an important focus for people, some who began to drink less due to the lack of social gatherings. On the contrary, some consumers began to drink more to fill the idle time.

According to a JAMA Network report, there was a 54 percent increase in national sales of alcohol for the week stay-at-home orders began last March, as compared to the year prior.

"All of a sudden, you have all of these people who probably aren't binge drinking but they're just frequently consuming alcohol. Their drinks per week are shooting up, and they're worried about liver health," explains Powell.

Outside of day-after support, Cheers leaned into its long-term health products to help drinkers consume alcohol in a healthier way. Cheers Restore, a dissolvable powder consumers can mix into their water, rehydrates the body by optimizing sodium and glucose molecules.

For continued support, Cheers Protect is a daily supplement designed to increase glutathione — an antioxidant that plays a key role in liver detoxification — and support overall liver health. Cheers Protect, which was launched in 2019, became a focus for the company as they pivoted its brand strategy and marketing to accommodate consumer behavior.

"The Cheers brand is just trying to reflect the mission statement, which is bringing people together through promoting fun, responsible and health-conscious alcohol consumption," says Powell. "It fits with our vision statement, which is a world where everyone can enjoy alcohol throughout a long, healthy and happy lifetime,."

At the close of 2020, Cheers had generated $10.4 million in revenue and over $1.7m in profit — its first profitable year since launch.

During the brand's mission to stay afloat during the pandemic, the Cheers team was also laying the groundwork for its entry into the retail space. When Powell launched the company during his junior year at Princeton University, bringing Cheers to brick-and-mortar stores had always been a goal. He envisioned liquor and grocery stores where Cheers was sold next to alcohol as a complementary item. "It's like getting sunscreen before going to the beach, they kind of go hand in hand," he says.

"When we spoke with retailers, specifically bars and liquor stores, what we learned is that a lot of these places were hesitant to put pills near alcohol," he says. Wanting an attractive and accessible mode of alcohol-support, the Cheers team created the Cheers Restore beverage.

Utilizing the technology Cheers developed with Princeton University researchers, the Cheers Restore beverage incorporates the benefits of the pill in a liquid, sugar-free form. The company states that its in-vivo study found that the drink is up to 19 times more bioavailable than pure dihydromyricetin (DHM), a Japanese raisin tree extract found in Cheers products and other hangover-related cures.

"What we figured out is that if you combine DHM — our main ingredient — with something called capric acid, which is an extract from coconut oil, the bioavailability shoots way up," says Powell. He notes the unique taste profile and the "creaminess" capric acid provides. "Now you have this lightly carbonated, zero-sugar, lemon sherbert, essentially liver support, hangover beverage that tastes great in 12 ounces and can mix with alcohol," he explains.

The Cheers Restore beverage is already hitting the Houston-area, where its found a home on menus at Present Company. The company has also run promotions with Houston hangouts like Memorial Trail Ice House, Drift, and The Powder Keg.

Currently, the beverage is only available in retail capacity and cannot be ordered on the Cheers website. As Powell focuses on expanding Cheers Restore beverage presence in the region, he welcomes the idea of expanding nationally in the future to come. While eager customers await the drink's national availability, they can actively invest in Cheers through the company's recently-launched online public offering.

Though repivoting a company and launching a new product is exciting, the process did not come without its caveats and stressors. While Cheers profited as a business in 2020, the staff and its founder weren't immune to the struggles of COVID-19.

"I think 2020 was the first year that it really became real for me that Cheers is far more than just some sort of alcohol-related health brand and its products," says Powell. "Cheers is really its employees and everything that goes into being a successful, durable company that people essentially bet their careers on and their family's well-being on and so forth," he continues.

"It really does weigh on you in a different way that it's never weighed on you before," says Powell, describing the stress of the pandemic. The experience was "enlightening," he says, and he wants others to know it's not embarrassing to need help.

"There is no lack of great leaders out there that at long periods of their life they needed help in some way," he says. "For me that was 2020 and being in the grinder and feeling the stress of the unknown and all of that, but it could happen to anyone," he continues.

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