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5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week

A roundup of Houston startup funding, innovators to know, and more are this week's trending stories. Photo via Getty Images

Editor's note:Another week has come and gone, and it's time to round up the top headlines from the past few days. Trending Houston tech and startup news on InnovationMap included innovators to know, a guest column on using artificial intellegence for hiring, a second quarter funding roundup, and more.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Dan Purvis of Velentium, Tony Sanchez of OneNexus Environmental, and Kevin Doffing of Energy Capital of the Future. Courtesy photos

In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from medical device development to fintech — recently making headlines in Houston innovation. Click here to continue reading.

These 10 Houston startups closed funding rounds in Q2

The second quarter of this year was good to these Houston tech startups. Photo via Getty Images

It's been a banner year for Houston startups raising funds. From an Amazon competitor emerging from stealth and snagging a $25 million series A to a $74 million series B for a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, Houston's innovative companies have seen a great second quarter of 2021 in terms of VC activity.

In case you missed some of these Q2 deals, InnovationMap has rounded up all its coverage of funding rounds closed between April and June based on previous reporting. Scroll through to see which Houston startups are catching the eyes — and cashing the checks — of investors. Click here to continue reading.

Here's what Houston employers need to know about using artificial intelligence in the hiring process

In a guest column, these lawyers explain the pros and cons of using AI for hiring. Photo via Getty Images

Workplace automation has entered the human resource department. Companies rely increasingly on artificial intelligence to source, interview, and hire job applicants. These AI tools are marketed to save time, improve the quality of a workforce, and eliminate unlawful hiring biases. But is AI incapable of hiring discrimination? Can a company escape liability for discriminatory hiring because, "the computer did it?"

Ultimately, whether AI is a solution or a landmine depends on how carefully companies implement the technology. AI is not immune from discrimination and federal law holds companies accountable for their hiring decisions, even if those decisions were made in a black server cabinet. The technology can mitigate bias, but only if used properly and monitored closely. Click here to continue reading.

Several Houston-area life science research teams receive thousands in grants

It's pay day for several Houston-area research teams thanks to two grant programs. Photo via Getty Images

Several health innovation research teams across Houston are celebrating fresh funds to go toward the development of breakthrough technologies and research projects.

In InnovationMap's latest roundup of research news, check out who received this crucial funding and how their research and work can change the standard of care across the life science industry. Click here to continue reading.

Houston clean energy lab names 4 new companies to program

Halliburton Labs has named its newest cohort — and opened applications for the next one. Photo courtesy of Halliburton

Halliburton Labs has doubled the number of clean energy companies that are operating out of its facilities with the addition of its second cohort.

Four companies have been selected for the program, joining four existing member companies of Halliburton Labs, which originally launched last summer. The companies recently announced to the incubator are Alumina Energy, Ionada, Parasanti, and SurgePower Materials.

"We are excited to support and collaborate with this group of early-stage, clean energy companies as they continue their commercialization journey," says Dale Winger, managing director of Halliburton Labs, in a news release. "Each has demonstrated a commitment to accelerating their technologies, and we are eager to help them innovate, develop and scale each company." Click here to continue reading.

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Building Houston

 
 

Kelly Avant, investment associate at Houston-based Mercury Fund, shares how and why she made her way into the venture capital arena. Photo courtesy of Mercury

Kelly Avant didn't exactly pave a linear career path for herself. After majoring in gender studies, volunteering in the Peace Corps, and even attending law school — she identified a way to make a bigger impact: venture capital.

"VC is an awesome way to shape the future in a more positive way because you literally get to wire money to the most innovative thinkers, who are building solutions to the world’s problems," Avant tells InnovationMap.

Avant joined the Mercury Fund team last year as an MBA associate before joining full time as investment associate. Now, after completing her MBA from Rice University this month, Avant tells InnovationMap why she's excited about this new career in investment in a Q&A.

InnovationMap: From law school and the peace corps, what drew you to start a career in the VC world?

Kelly Avant: I graduated from Rice University with an MBA, starting scouting for an investment firm in my first year, and by the summer after my first year I was essentially working full-time interning with Mercury. But, I like to tell people about my undergraduate degree in gender studies and rhetoric from a little ski college in Colorado. If you meet someone else in venture capital with a degree in gender studies, please connect us, but I think I might be the only one. I’ll spare you what I used to think — and say — about business students, but I have really come full circle.

I always thought I would work in a nonprofit space, but after serving in Cambodia with the Peace Corps, working for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and briefly attending Emory Law School with the intention of becoming a civil rights lawyer.I found that time and time again the root of the problem was a lack of resources. The world’s problems were not going to be solved with my idealism alone.

The problem with operating as a nonprofit in a capitalism is you basically always pandering to the interests of the donors. The NFL was a key sponsor of The National Domestic Violence Hotline. The United States has a complicated, to put it lightly, relationship with Cambodia and Vietnam. It became pretty clear that the donor/nonprofit relationship was oftentimes putting the wrong party in the driver’s seat. I was, and still am, very interested in alternative financing for nonprofits. I became convinced that the most exciting businesses were building solutions to the world’s problems while also turning a profit, which allows them to survive to have a sustainable positive impact.

VC is an awesome way to shape the future in a more positive way because you literally get to wire money to the most innovative thinkers, who are building solutions to the world’s problems.

IM: What are some companies you’re excited about?

KA: There are a couple super interesting founders I’ve met directly engaging with . To name a few: CiviTech, DonateStock, and Polco.

I’m very proud to work on mercury investments like Houston’s own, Topl, which has built an extremely lightweight and energy efficient Blockchain that enables tracking of ethical supply chains from the initial interaction.
I’m also excited about mercury’s investment in Zirtue, which enables relationship based peer to peer lending to solve the massive problem of predatory payday loans.

We have so many awesome founders in our portfolio. The best part about working in VC is meeting passionate innovators every day. I get excited to go to work everyday and help them to build better solutions.

IM: Why are you so passionate about bringing diversity and inclusion into Mercury?

KA: I love working with exciting, highly capable, super smart people. That category includes so many people who have been historically excluded. As an investment team member at Mercury, I do have a voice, and I have an obligation to use that voice to speak highly of the best people in rooms of influence.

IM: With your new role, what are you most focused on?

KA: In my new role, I am identifying and researching high potential investments. We’re building out a Mercury educational series to lift the veil of VC. We want to facilitate a series that gives all founders the basic skills to pass VC due diligence and have the opportunity to build the next innovative companies. My goal is ultimately to produce the best returns possible for our investors, and we can’t accomplish that goal unless we’re building out resources to meet the best founders and help them grow.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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