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5 things you need to know about Houston's Microsoft- and Intel-backed accelerator program

The inaugural Smart Cities accelerator in Houston will have its cohort create solutions for a set of problems the city faces. Sky Noir Photography by Bill Dickinson/Getty Images

At a Microsoft IoT in Action event in April, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that the city would launch the Ion Smart Cities Accelerator — a program that would task a set of startups and entrepreneurs with creating digital and technical solutions to key problems within Houston.

"As a result of incorporating smart technologies, Houston will have the ability to create a more resilient and mobile-friendly city, and in turn accelerate our city's economic growth and prepare for the needs of 21st Century citizens," Mayor Turner says in a release.

While there's still a lot to finalize within this new program before the first cohort begins in September, here are the five things you need to know about the accelerator.

It's an effort from multiple parties.  

There are several major players behind the initiative. Station Houston will host the accelerator — first in its current headquarters and then later from The Ion when it opens in 2020. Station will also team up with TX/RX, a nonprofit makerspace in East Downtown, to be a resource for engineering and design elements.

Microsoft and Intel are backing the program — both monetarily and various other support roles.

"For me, having been doing this for a few years now, it's such a huge step for the city," Gabriella Rowe, CEO of Station Houston, tells InnovationMap. "We are not only talking about major companies in the world of technology to make a significant investment in our startup community, but that investment that they are making is in our city as well. That is not to be underestimated."

The first cohort's goals will be to find solutions within mobility and resilience. 

Key stakeholders within the program identified mobility and resilience as the two focus points the first cohort will work within. Currently, the stakeholders are again narrowing down the topics to identify 10 problems within mobility and resilience, which the cohort will then be tasked with solving.

The accelerator, which is currently set up to have one cohort a year, Rowe says, will then identify other various issues within Houston in subsequent cohorts.

"There will be, what seems at this point, an endless array of challenges the entrepreneurs in the accelerator can address," Rowe says.

Should the opportunity arise, Rowe says, the organization could also launch a concurrent cohort in six months, rather than waiting until next year.

The cohort will come from across the country. 

Once the list of 10 problems to solve has been finalized, the organization will go on a national search to find the cohort.

"Of course we hope we will be able to find some fabulous companies here at home, but we are also hoping we are enabling companies from around the rest of the United States to discover Houston," Rowe says.

A selection committee made up of stakeholders from all the participating organizations will evaluate the applications and selections.

"We not only want to be sure we are bringing in geographic diversity, but we also want to bring in industry diversity because that will allow challenging perspectives when problem solving," says Rowe.

A key part of this process is getting the word out about the program. Station hosted a launch event on May 30 to introduce the program to Houston.

"We can only be successful as the companies we can attract to be a part of the accelerator," Rowe says.

How it will work.

The 10-month program will have 10 startups per cohort, and the programming will be broken down into three phases. The first three months will be a time of discovery and ideating with a structured curriculum designed around mobility and resiliency. Next, the startups will prototype and validate their products. The second half of the accelerator will be pilot programs within the city of Houston.

The ultimate goal is to better Houston as a whole.

The Ion Smart Cities Accelerator is different than anything else Houston has to offer, Rowe says, mainly because its primary goal is creating solutions for some of Houston's biggest problems.

"We now finally for Houston to take the advancements we've made in innovation — especially in tech — and bring it into the lives of everyone," Rowe says. "It's wonderful in so many ways, but it puts a tremendous amount of responsibility on our shoulders to make sure we are doing this with the communities of Houston as opposed to doing it to the communities of Houston."

From startup competitions to thought-provoking talks, here's where you need to be in August. Getty Images

If you subscribe to the idea that your net worth is your network, then here's your guide to networking this month in Houston's innovation ecosystem. August has meetups, pitch nights, and networking aplenty.

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.

August 1 — Sixth Annual Bayou City Startup Showcase

Rice University's OwlSpark and University of Houston's RED Labs are coming together again for a startup pitch and showcase — this time in The Cannon's new building.

Details: The event is from 3 to 5:30 pm on Thursday, August 1, at The Cannon/Bayou City Fellowship (1400 Brittmoore Road). Learn more.

August 6 — Houston Unfiltered with Jeff Garoon, COO of FlowCommand

Station Houston has rebooted its Open Coffee series to Houston Unfiltered. Each month has a new speaker, and in August, startups can hear from Jeff Garoon, COO of FlowCommand.

Details: The event is from 8 to 9 am on Tuesday, August 6, at Station Houston (1301 Fannin Street, #2440). Learn more.

August 6 — Managing Your Sales Function 

Capital Factory's next Houston Founder's Academy installation is focused on sales.

Details: The event is from noon to 2 pm on Tuesday, August 6, at The Cannon (1336 Brittmoore Road). Learn more.

August 7 — Deep 6 AI: Advancing Clinical Research @ TMC

Imagine knowing every patient you want to recruit on day 1 of your trial. Doug Cassidy, vice president of Clinical and Academic Research at Deep 6 AI, explains how Deep 6 AI can help you find more better matching patients for trials in minutes, not months.

Details: The event is from 4:30 to 5:30 pm on Wednesday, August 7, at Third Coast Restaurant (6550 Bertner Avenue, 6th Floor). Learn more.

August 8 — Summer Salon: Broadband Internet Access & Digital Inclusion

The Center for Houston's Future is hosting a fireside chat to focus on all things digital.

Details: The event is from 6:30 to 8:30 pm on Thursday, August 8, at the Omni Houston Hotel (4 Riverway). Learn more.

August 13 — Entrepreneurship Burn-out: The Power of Nutrition Psychology

Entrepreneurs are creative, highly driven, and high-performing individuals. But in the pursuit of success, entrepreneurs often neglect their health. Our guest speaker will share practical tips/advice for entrepreneurs to prioritize nutrition to prevent burnout and/or help in the recovery process.

Details: The event is from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on Tuesday, August 13, at Impact Hub Houston #PopHUB @HX (410 Pierce Street). Learn more.

August 15 — SPE Talk: The Energy Dot

This inaugural digital innovation event will combine oil and gas, academia, and Silicon Valley innovation with multiple tracks of engaging programming.

Details: The event is from 8 am to 5 pm on Thursday, August 15, at Midtown Arts and Theatre Center (3400 Main Street). Learn more.

August 17 — 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, August 17, at the TMC Innovation Institute (2450 Holcombe Blvd). Learn more.

August 17 — re:3D's sixth birthday, discount print day, and design contest

re:3D is turning six, but the party is actually for you. Discount printing, plus a contest with $100 credit on the line.

Details: The event is from 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday, August 17, at re:3D Houston HQ (1100 Hercules Ave, STE 220). Learn more.

August 22 — TMCxAlpha: August meeting with Ashok Gowda

TMC alpha provides a pathway for any innovator affiliated with a TMC member institution to find support for the development and commercialization of their idea or product. Lunch and parking validation will be available.

Details: The event is from noon to 1 pm on Thursday, August 22, at the TMC Innovation Institute (2450 Holcombe Blvd). Learn more.

August 22 — Federal Funding 101 Introduction to the SBIR

This program is purpose-made to provide seed money of up to $1.5M to small businesses to enable them to break into the market. Following the workshop, Inspiralia experts will be available for one-on-one technology validation meetings.

Details: The event is from from 3 to 7 pm on Thursday, August 22, at the CUBIO Innovation Center (7707 Fannin St., Ste 200). Learn more.

August 28 — Enventure Biodesign Workshops

Biodesign workshops is a free course designed to provide new entrepreneurs with an understanding of the innovation process, teaching them how to evaluate a life science technology as the basis for starting a new business. Whether you're an engineer, scientist, physician, or business expert, this class will bring you up to speed on the medical innovation process.

Details: The event is from 6 to 8 pm on Wednesday, August 28, at the TMC Innovation Institute (2450 Holcombe Blvd). Learn more.

​August 29 — The Greenlight Guru True Quality Roadshow

Enjoy specially selected drinks, hors d'oeuvres, and intimate networking with medical device professionals. Finish the night hearing from leaders in the industry.

Details: The event is from 4:30 to 6:30 pm on Thursday, August 28, at the JLABS @ TMC (2450 Holcombe Blvd). Learn more.