Where to be

Updated: 10 can't-miss innovation events for January

From enlightening talks to anniversary celebrations, here's where you need to be in January. Getty Images

Houston's innovation community is starting 2019 strong with plenty of business professional events.

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

1. 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 6 to 7 pm on Tuesday, January 8, at Station Houston (1301 Fannin St., Suite 2440).

Learn more here.

2. January U.S. Oil & Gas Blockchain Forum Luncheon

For the first event of the year, the U.S. Oil & Gas Blockchain Forum is focusing on how blockchain can help the energy industry. Guest speakers are Andrew Bruce, CEO and founder of Houston-based Data Gumbo, and Rebecca Hofmann, blockchain strategist at Equinor.

The luncheon is from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm on Tuesday, January 15, at the Equinor Auditorium (2107 CityWest Blvd). Tickets to attend are $50.

Learn more here.

3. Salesforce Essentials Workshop: Houston

Attention small business owners: Salesforce has a workshop designed for you. Learn about the platform and how it can help your business strategy over lunch.

The workshop isn Tuesday, January 15, from noon to 2 p.m. at The Cannon (1336 Brittmoore Road) and is free to attend.

Learn more here.

4. Society of Petroleum Engineers Women-in-Energy Congress

Energy industry ladies take center stage of a full-day event focused on women in oil and gas. Susan Dio, chairman and president of BP America, will deliver the keynote address before the rest of the day's panels and presentations begin.

This event is January 18, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at the Houston Community College West Houston Institute (2811 Hayes Road).

Learn more here.

5. Houston Startup Demo Day

Three Houston startups will present their product and business plan at The Station's monthly demo day. The companies and judges are still being determined, but the event details are finalized.

Hear the pitches on Wednesday, January 23, from 6 to 8 p.m., at Station Houston (1301 Fannin Street, Suite 2440). The event is free to attend.

Learn more here.

6. NRLC Workshop: Pitching Part 2: The Physical Pitch with Beth O'Sullivan

If you thought you were pitch perfect, think again. Beth O'Sullivan, a management senior lecturer at Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business, is giving a free lecture on the art of pitching your company. The Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is offering the event.

The lecture will be from 4 to 5:30 pm on Wednesday, January 23, at the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (6100 Main Street Cambridge Office Building, Suite 130).

Learn more here.

7. Women Entrepreneurs Pitch Party at The Cannon

Calling all angel investors — The Cannon Ventures would like to introduce you to a few female entrepreneurs this month. InnovationMap is a media partner for the event, and the goal is to generate connections between the entrepreneurs and potential investors.

The event takes place on Thursday, January 24, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at The Cannon (1336 Brittmoore Road).

If you're an interested investor and would like to attend, email Jake Askew at jaskew@cannonventureshouston.com.

8. Oil & Gas Happy Hour Hosted by OGGN + The Cannon

Grab a beer and some bites at Oil & Gas Global Network's monthly happy hour — this time in collaboration with Houston-based The Cannon.

Join oil and gas professionals at The Cannon (1336 Brittmoore Road) on Tuesday, January 29, from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 for this happy hour event, and proceeds go to Redeemed Ministries, a local charity to help human trafficking victims.

Learn more here.

9. Station Houston 3.0 and Launch Party

As Station Houston officially becomes a nonprofit on January 1, and, in preparation for its move to the Midtown Innovation District, the organization is revealing Station Houston 3.0 to start 2019 with. The free event is Wednesday, January 30, from 6 to 8 pm at Station Houston (1301 Fannin St., Suite 2440).

Guests can mingle until the short program and announcement, which is followed by light bites. Station will also be showing off Houston's first VR Lab and its new space.

Learn more here.

10. Inaugural meeting of the Houston Industrial Digital Transformation & IoT Meetup

Calling all digital and tech innovation leaders in oil and gas or utilities — there's a new group for you to join. The Houston Industrial Digital Transformation and IoT Meetup formed to bring leaders of industrial innovation together for collaboration and so that they can learn from each other's digital transformations.

The inaugural meetup is from 6 to 8 pm on Wednesday, January 30, at ChaiOne HQ (9 Greenway Plaza, Suite 850). It's free to attend.

Learn more here.

Houston-based Topl has raised over $700,000 in its seed round. Getty Images

Kim Raath is pretty proud of her company right about now. Not only is she proud that her startup, Topl, a blockchain network with applications across industries, closed a 20 percent oversubscribed $700,000 seed round, but because she did it in a way that was directly in line with her company's values.

"Every investor that is invested now has focused on both the purpose and the profit, and I'm big on that," Raath, president and co-founder of Topl, says.

Houston-based Topl was created by a few Rice University graduates and doctoral students — Raath, Chief Technology Officer James Aman, and CEO Chris Georgen. The founders wanted to create a way to track impact in various industries, such as carbon footprints in oil and gas or fair wages for farmers in agriculture.

The team has built six blockchain platforms that operate on the Topl network — two are live now, and four will go live later this year. The platforms are focused on four different areas: agriculture (tracking food products from the farm to the shelves), mining (diamonds, for instance), sustainability and impact (tracking a program to see how it succeeds), and carbon credits and renewables within the energy industry.

"It's a validation time for us," Raath tells InnovationMap. "With two platforms already live and collecting transaction fees, we are now at a point where there are actual blockchain transactions happening on our network."

The fact that Topl's technology is already up and running is rare. For this reason, Raath says she has to focus a lot on educating investors, clients, and the rest of the community — something that's really important to her.

"In the blockchain space, there are not a lot of real applications live anywhere," Raath says. "A lot of people are selling ideas that can be built on blockchains, but have not executed yet."

Topl partnered with European NGO Fairfood to create an agricultural blockchain platform that currently is live. Shoppers in the Netherlands can buy a pack of nutmeg and track the product's progress from the farmer who grew and sold the spice. The other already launched platform is focused on sustainability. Topl worked with the Texas Coastal Exchange to create a carbon credit marketplace that can sell carbon offsets generated through the natural carbon sequestration activities of land the organization holds along the Texas coast.

"For us this round is taking these four spaces and validating ourselves, proving out volume, the blockchain's ability, and then, the big thing is, to build out our next version of our blockchain," Raath says.

Raath says the fundraising round was different from what she expected, but she's excited about her investors. Seventy percent of the round was raised by Houstonians, and 40 percent of the investors were women, she says. Topl also had investor interest across industries and backgrounds — from Rice University professors to former banking execs.

The round doesn't technically have a lead investor, but Samantha Lewis, director at the GOOSE Society of Texas, led a syndicate of investors that made up more than 40 percent of Topl's round. Lewis says the round was too early stage for something GOOSE investors would typically contribute to, but she believes in the company so much that she worked nights and weekends to accomplish some of the things a lead investor would do during a raise.

"Since this was their first big round that they raised, I stepped in to help advise them — thinking about the terms, strategic investors, how to pitch to different people, if they needed to oversubscribe, and little details like that," Lewis says. "Through working with them in this way, I was doing diligence with them, and I got really excited about it."

Lewis, who volunteers a lot within the Rice network, met Raath through Georgen and the two hit it off. Lewis was then able to bring in investors from her network to contribute under her syndicate.

This passionate group of value-add investors who are personally committed to the company is what makes this seed round different for Raath. Their commitment is encouraging to her.

"I 100 percent believe that the investors in this round will not allow Topl to fail," Raath says.

With the money, Topl will be able to grow its platforms, provide better product features, and increase marketing efforts. Topl's customers are drawn to the technology because of the business efficiency the blockchain adds to their supply chain, but they are also excited about how having this technology differentiates them from their competition. Raath says she's interested in growing Topl's ability to do joint marketing campaigns with their customers.

This type of promotion leads to a growing clientbase, and Raath says she sees an overwhelming interest from potential clients. Not only is Topl creating a series of platforms in various industries, but the company itself is connecting other companies through their clients.

"Topl is not just a technology," Raath says, "it's an ecosystem."