Houston Voices

Global Legal Hackathon launches at The Cannon in Houston

Students, technologists, lawyers, mentors, and judges of all ages and backgrounds packed The Cannon's space Saturday and Sunday for the Houston chapter's Global Legal Hackathon. Getty Images

Hackathons have been launching across the globe at an ever-increasing rate, providing opportunities for computer programmers and others involved in software development to collaborate on projects that solve problems.

Hackathons usually consist of a multi-day workshop in which individuals break into teams and compete against each other to win the approval of a panel of judges, often resulting in a prize. These events will have a specific theme or focus centered on problem solving in today's world using new technologies. Themes can vary from utilizing a new technology like blockchain, supporting a movement like mental illness awareness, or even just working to develop a brand-new app that solves a problem previously not considered.

Global Legal Hackathon is a nonprofit entity that organizes legal groups across the globe. Since launching, GLH has hosted over 6,000 participants in 24 different countries. The primary goal for these events is to bring together people under a unified vision to develop solutions that improve the legal industry. Last weekend, GLH hosted over 5000 hackathons across the world, with a winner from each location moving onto the next round.

The Houston branch manager for the Global Legal Hackathon is Internetbar.org Institute. IBO organizes, gathers mentors, manages, and provides support for all legal hackathons in Houston. Christy Leos, the director of operations of IBO, described their mission as an "aim to support those who need critical help more efficiently, and change processes that no longer serve the people."

The president of IBO, Jeff Aresty, expanded on this mission.

"Like previous generations, we too must rely upon failed justice institutions and laws to protect those who are excluded from society, protect the climate, and eradicate poverty. In the meantime, the online society which now amounts to over half the world, is dominated by everyone else in civil society who are engaging in all kinds of online activity that may connect us with each other – but do very little to effectively bring fairness and freedom to us all."

The Cannon was proud to host last weekend's Houston chapter of the GLH. Students, technologists, lawyers, mentors, and judges of all ages and backgrounds packed the space Saturday and Sunday. By the end of the hackathon, the winning team had developed a tool to assist lawyers in visualizing eDiscovery data, combined with the information used to manage the movement of that data through the EDRM process.

As hackathons continue to grow in both size and frequency, their modern creative solutions to today's problems also grow. Moving forward, IBO hopes to continue to go where the problems are. They are already planning to host an access to justice hackathon by the end of the year where Aresty hopes to continue the progress made over the weekend, sharing with the group that "their actions can help us reinvent how we make laws and devise a social contract that brings access to justice for all." More events like last weekend's are certainly a step in the right direction of this ambitious but much needed goal.

If you're interested in Internetbar and participating in events like this in the future, please visit http://internetbar.org/membership.
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This is content from our partner, which originally ran on The Cannon.

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Building Houston

 
 

Panelists from the University of Houston and Houston Methodist discussed tech transfer challenges and opportunities for academic innovators. Photo courtesy

Groundbreaking and disruptive innovations across industries are coming out of research institutions, and their commercialization process is very different from other startups.

An expert panel within Technology transfer discussed some of the unique obstacles innovators face as they go from academia into the market — like patenting, funding, the valley of death, and more.

Missed the conversation? Here are eight key moments from the panel that took place at the University of Houston's Technology Bridge on Wednesday, May 19.

This event was hosted by InnovationMap and University of Houston.

“If your technology can immediately impact some industry, I think you should license out your technology. But if you think that the reward is much higher and does not yet match something in the industry, you should go the high risk, high reward path of doing it yourself. That’s a much more challenging. It takes years of work.”

— Hadi Ghasemi, co-founder of Elemental Coatings and Cullen associate professor in the department of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston, says on how tech transfer usually happens via those two pathways. Ghasemi explains that it also depends on the academic's passion for the product and interest in becoming an entrepreneur.

“There’s a mismatch in that you can have a really clinically impactful technology but still not have money to develop it into a product.” 

— Rashim Singh, co-founder of Sanarentero and a research assistant professor of pharmaceutics at the University of Houston College of Pharmacy, says on the different priorities from within academia and within the market.

“What I’ve seen is if you know you want to patent something, tell the right people early. Make sure you have the right players involved. Our tech office already has venture, Pharma, etc. partners that can help with the patent process.”

— Ginny Torno, administrative director of innovation and IT clinical systems at Houston Methodist

“You don’t need to be fully transparent about your technology. As a company, you need to have some secret sauce."

— Ghasemi says on the patent and paper publishing process. Academics are used to publishing their research, but when it comes to business, you need to hold some things close to the chest.

“One of the most important piece the UH Tech Bridge has provided is the wet lab space to develop these technologies a little further toward commercialization. … Wet lab is very precious space in Houston specifically because there isn’t much here.”

— Singh says on how important access to lab space is to the entrepreneur.

"“You’re starting to see more and more organizations that have innovation arms. ... There are a lot of focus on trying to make Houston another innovation hub, and I think there is more support now than even a few years ago.”

— Torno says on what's changed over the past few years, mentioning TMC3 and the Ion.

“Try to serve private capital as soon as possible. The grant money comes, and those are good and will help you prove out your technology. But once you have private money, it shows people care about your product.”

— Ghasemi says as a piece of advice for potential tech transfer entrepreneurs.

“The biggest gap is to arrange for funding — federal, private, etc. — to support during the valley of death.”

— Singh says on the struggle research-based startups, especially in drug discovery, faces as they fight to prove out their product and try to stay afloat financially.

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