Eavesdropping in houston

Overheard: Local fighters land knockout statements at Houston's first Digital Fight Club

Ten Houston innovators took the stage for five fights on the role technology plays in the future of industry. Emily Jaschke/InnovationMap

On Wednesday, Houston's innovation ecosystem hosted the rowdiest crowd at a professional business event that the city has ever seen.

Digital Fight Club, a Dallas-based event company, had its first Houston event at White Oak Music Hall on November 20 thanks to presenting sponsors Accenture and InnovationMap. The event featured 10 fighters and five referees across five fights that discussed cybersecurity, the future of primary care, and more.

"This is Digital Fight Club," says Michael Pratt, CEO of the company. "You get subject matter experts, and serious founders and CEOs on the stage and make them make their case. You learn something, it's a lot of fun, and it's a lot better than a panel."

If you missed the showdown, here are some of the nights zingers made by the entrepreneurs and subject matter experts that were the fighters of the evening.

"I believe that computers can get a lot of information to create [something new]. That's my job, that's what I do, and I see it done."

Pablo Marin, senior AI leader at Microsoft, during the fight on robotics and AI in the workforce. Marin's argument was that artificial intelligence and robotics can and will replace all repetitive jobs. However, he also believes that computers have the ability to create, as well, based on their ability to see the whole world and have access to all the world's information.

"AI is mostly bullshit."

Matthew Hager, CEO of Poetic Systems. Hager, who won the first fight of the night, responded to Marin that, while businesses like to believe that AI is actually able to deliver results so that they can sell more, the technology hasn't actually arrived yet. Plus, Hager says AI will never be creative without the human element. "Creativity is about who created it. It's about the photographer, not the camera," he says.

"What if the seatbelt laws and the speed limits were defined by Dodge, Ford, or Chrysler?"

Ted Gutierrez, CEO and co-founder of Security Gate, who argued for government to take the reigns of cybersecurity. He adds that companies are never going to be able to agree to one set of rules. "We gotta get one group to set the standard, and it's up to everyone else to refine that and innovate for it," he says.

"Compliance doesn't mean you're secure."

Tara Khanna, managing director and security lead at Accenture, who won the fight on cybersecurity needing to be figured out by the business industry. She argues that the private sector wins the war on talent and recruiting, so it has the money and resources to dedicate to the issue in more ways than the government ever will.

"I was born, I'm going to die, and there is nothing like earth in the universe as we know it. It is worth preserving and protecting."

Steven Taylor, co-founder of AR for Everyone, in the fight over the oil and gas industry's responsibility to the environment. He argued that it's going to be a mix of policy and corporate initiatives that changes the industry.

"I think the free market is going to get there if the consumer has the choice to pick what they want to do."

Michael Szafron, commercial adviser for Cemvita Factory, who took home the win for the oil and gas and the environment fight. Szafron's argument was that corporations are going to do what their consumers want, so that's who would drive them to action. "Let's look at California —very regulated environmentalists, and a million of those people get moved to Texas," he says.

"Disconnecting our personal lives from technology would not only limit ourselves, but it would also limit our capacity to adopt those tools to the needs of our society." 

Javier Fadul, chief innovation officer at HTX Labs, during the fight on digital in our personal lives. Fadul argues that not only does technology allow us to connect worldwide, but disconnecting would prevent that technology from developing further.

"I love tech, but now that it's on all the time everywhere, we need to make time to unplug."

GraceRodriguez, CEO of Impact Hub Houston, who won the fight on personal technology. She says that yes, technology can help international connectivity, but it does more harm than good as people use personal tech as a default or distraction from humans right in front of them. "When your with people, be present," she says.

"Part of our innovation to redesign primary care is really to deploy technology out there to seamlessly provide care."

Nick Desai, chief medical information officer at Houston Methodist, who argued that the future of primary care is new innovations within traditional medicine. He adds that virtual care, which is something Methodist is working on, can help improve accessibility.

"The future of primary care is here. It's called direct primary care." 

Geetinder Goyal, CEO of First Primary Care, who won the fight on the future of primary care with his argument for a new, free market approach to medicine. Direct primary care opens up treatment and access to physicians with a monthly fee for patients to work outside of health care plans.

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Building Houston

 
 

The Center for Houston's Future is a part of a collaboration that has established a hub for hydrogen innovation. Image via Getty Images

A handful of organizations have joined forces to create a new hub for the advancement of clean hydrogen projects in Texas, Southwest Louisiana, and the surrounding Gulf Coast region.

The HyVelocity Hub announced last week that it is applying for U.S. Department of Energy Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub funding. GTI Energy, The Center for Houston’s Future, The University of Texas at Austin, Air Liquide, and Chevron are among the founding members of the HyVelocity Hub.

“The name ‘HyVelocity’ conveys the idea that we have a tremendous opportunity to accelerate the creation of a clean hydrogen market at the pace needed to meet aggressive decarbonization goals for communities in our nation and around the globe,” says Paula A. Gant, president and CEO of Illinois GTI Energy, in a news release. “We need hydrogen deployment at scale, and this hub will lay the foundation with complete end-to-end demonstrations of an integrated network, match supply and demand regionally or locally, and leverage existing infrastructure to deliver resilient, reliable, and sustainable clean energy.”

The Gulf Coast is already a leader in hydrogen production, per the release, and the region is home to a diverse array of energy resources, including hydrogen production facilities and pipelines, a large base of industrial energy consumers, and a skilled, technical workforce.

“We are pleased to be partnering with our colleagues at GTI Energy in creating HyVelocity Hub as the implementation platform for the shared vision of a Texas-sized global clean hydrogen ecosystem created by our collaborative stakeholder process," says Brett Perlman, CEO of The Center for Houston’s Future in the release. “The realization of this vision will be achieved faster with clean hydrogen hub funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

Earlier this year, the Center for Houston's Future released a report that outlined what it will take for Houston to establish itself as a hub for hydrogen innovation as well as the impact this industry can have on Houston's economy. The HyVelocity Hub will engage environmental and social justice organizations in the Gulf Coast region to grow the local economy and create jobs in disadvantaged communities, according to the release.

“Accelerating clean energy technologies is vital to addressing global climate challenges as well as local air quality, and Port Houston is excited to participate in advancing these efforts with the HyVelocity Hub,” says Rich Byrnes, chief infrastructure officer of Port Houston, in the release. “The Hub will benefit trucking and maritime sectors, and our communities tremendously with cleaner transportation, lower emissions, new jobs, and both social and environmental equity."

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