Q&A

GHP introduces in-person Houston House for SXSW 2022

The Greater Houston Partnership's Susan Davenport shares details on Houston House at SXSW. Photo via houston.org

Texas is just about two weeks away from SXSW's return to in-person activations and events since pre-pandemic times. The two-week conference includes conversations and activities within music, film, education, tech, and more. And this year, the Greater Houston Partnership is shining a spotlight on the Bayou City at the festival.

"With the return of the conference in person for the first time since 2019, we are thrilled to build on that momentum and host Houston House — a two-day activation featuring programming and networking opportunities for guests attending the conference," says Susan Davenport, chief economic development officer for the GHP.

Houston House, which first originated last year in digital form, will be held in Austin on Sunday, March 13, and Monday, March 14. Davenport shares more details on the activation in a Q&A with InnovationMap.

InnovationMap: Why did the Greater Houston Partnership decide to have a presence at SXSW this year?

Susan Davenport: As one of the premier tech conferences in the U.S., SXSW provides an incredible platform to promote Houston’s position as the most prominent emerging innovation hub in the country.

Houston was a featured partner at last year’s SXSW Online Conference, where the Partnership rallied innovative leaders from across the region for a series of virtual programming. With the return of the conference in person for the first time since 2019, we are thrilled to build on that momentum and host Houston House – a two-day activation featuring programming and networking opportunities for guests attending the conference.

With an expected attendance of 45,000 bright minds from around the globe, it’s the perfect venue to showcase Houston’s tech leadership and cultivate relationships that support the growth of our ecosystem.

IM: What can attendees expect from Houston House?

SD: This year’s activation will be held at the Line Hotel, an established SXSW venue in the heart of the action. Consistent with what attendees have come to expect from South by, Houston House will offer thought leadership programming featuring industry leaders and startup founders in a series of panel discussions on today’s most prominent topics in tech.

In addition to main stage programming, Houston House will also offer a lounge space that will serve as a landing pad for stakeholders and attendees to cultivate relationships. Each day of programming will conclude with a networking reception.

IM: The programming is geared around a few topics — what are some of these themes and how do they pertain to Houston innovation?

SD: On Sunday, March 13, our programming will be focus on topics like commercial aerospace, medical device innovation, cell therapy, and investment for diverse entrepreneurs. These panel sessions will showcase Houston’s leadership through the incredible work taking place at the Ion, Houston Spaceport, Johnson Space Center, and the Texas Medical Center.

On Monday, March 14, our programming will kick off the start of the SXSW Climate Change track and focus primarily on how Houston is leveraging its energy leadership to accelerate solutions for a low-carbon future. Topics will include VC investment in climate tech, corporate and startup partnerships, emerging low-carbon energy technologies, and ensuring an equitable energy transition.

Our full lineup of Houston House programming and speakers can be found online, along with an overview of the 2022 SXSW Conference.

IM: Who should stop by Houston House at SXSW?

SD: Anyone who is interested in technology, commercial aerospace, life sciences, and how DEI traverses with these industries will find value in our rockstar lineup of industry leaders, investors, and startup founders. We hope to see young professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, and executives.

For fellow Houstonians attending the conference, Houston House will serve as a home base to kick off your SXSW experience. For those who are not currently involved in our tech ecosystem, this will be the perfect opportunity to dive in and learn more about the amazing things taking place in our great region.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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Building Houston

 
 

Just after announcing an investment from United, NEXT Renewable Fuels Inc. scored a SPAC-based IPO. Photo via nextrenewables.com

It’s been a momentous month for Houston-based NEXT Renewable Fuels Inc.

On November 15, United Airlines Ventures announced an investment of up to $37.5 million in the next-generation, low-carbon fuel producing company.

Just a week later, the company revealed it’s going public through a SPAC merger with Industrial Tech Acquisitions II Inc. The deal, expected to close in the second quarter of 2023, assigns a $666 million equity value to NEXT. The publicly traded company will be named NXTCLEAN Fuels Inc.

NEXT, founded in 2016, produces low-carbon fuels from organic feedstock. The company plans to open a biofuel refinery in Port Westward, Oregon, that’s set to start production in 2026. The refinery could produce up to 50,000 barrels per day of sustainable aviation fuel, renewable diesel, and other renewable fuels.

“West Coast states are demanding a clean fuels conversion of the transportation and aviation industries with aggressive targets necessitating rapid increases in clean fuel supplies,” Christopher Efird, executive chairman and CEO of NEXT, says in a news release. “[The company] is advancing toward becoming one of the largest U.S.-based suppliers of clean fuels for these markets, and is investigating and pursuing potential vertical expansion into other clean fuels.”

The proposed public listing of NEXT’s stock on the Nasdaq market and United’s investment are poised to help NEXT reach its goal of becoming a leader in the clean fuel sector. United’s investment appears to be the first equity funding for NEXT.

“Right now, one of the biggest barriers to increasing supply and lowering costs of sustainable fuel is that we don’t have the infrastructure in place to transport it efficiently, but NEXT’s strategic location and assets solve that problem and provide a blueprint for future facilities that need to be built,” Michael Leskinen, president of United Airline Ventures, says in a news release.

United’s investment arm, launched in 2021, targets ventures that will complement the airline’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

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