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10+ can't-miss Houston business and innovation events in May

Here's your one-stop shop for innovation events in Houston this month. Photo via Getty Images

It's May, and as Houston heats up ahead of summer, so does the innovation ecosystem with hot events, panels, networking opportunities, and more not to miss. Here's a rundown of what all to throw on your calendar for May.

This article will be updated as more business and tech events are announced.

FEATURED EVENT: May 18 — Navigating Technology Transfer in Houston

Research within Houston institutions is fueling early-stage innovation across the city. Universities and hospital systems are tasked with cultivating and supporting innovators, researchers, and entrepreneurs so that their innovations can advance from ideation to commercialization.

The event is Wednesday, May 18, 6 to 8 pm, at UH Technology Bridge (Building 4, Innovation Center Room 230 - 2nd Floor, 5000 Gulf Freeway). Click here to register.

May 2-5 — Offshore Technology Conference

The 2022 OTC conference will be the first fully in-person conference since 2019 — and will include a new cleantech addition. The Energy Transition Pavilion will showcase technological advances in alternative energy, including efforts to promote energy decarbonization and sustainability. OTC describes the pavilion as a “go-to meeting place for conversation and dialogue around the energy transition.”

The conference is Monday, May 2, to Thursday, May 5, at NRG Park (1 NRG Pkwy). Click here to register.

May 3 — 2022 Rice Alliance Energy Venture Day

During the week of the Offshore Technology Conference, the Rice Alliance Energy Venture Day will feature pitches from 40 energy ventures. At the conclusion of the program, companies will be announced “Most Promising Companies” voted on by the audience.

The event is Tuesday, May 3, 2 to 5:30 pm, at the Ion (4201 Main St.). Click here to register.

May 3 — Oceanit 2022 Energy Transformation Technology Showcase

From disruptive innovations to scalable turnkey technology solutions, Oceanit will demonstrate the latest in advanced nanocomposites, hydrogen technologies, subsea broadband, smart materials, novel approaches to AI, and more – technologies aimed at transforming the way we engage in climate challenges through the lens of EDGE, Oceanit’s endeavor to address an array of next-gen energy challenges like carbon sequestration, new energy sources like green hydrogen, energy efficiency, and predictive and prescriptive maintenance. Join the company on May 3rd for live technology demonstrations, discussions, food, and drinks.

The event is Tuesday, May 3, 5 to 9 pm, at Greentown Houston (4200 San Jacinto St.). Click here to register.

May 5 — Legal Launch Services Luncheon with Baker Botts & Bunker Labs at The Ion

Join Bunker Labs - Houston for a comprehensive panel discussion and networking luncheon sponsored by Legal Launch Services. In 2020, the international law firm Baker Botts formed an affinity group for military Veterans, called “BB Vets.” The group serves as a network and resource for all firm personnel who served in the military, provide opportunities for professional and personal growth through mentorships, client engagement and community outreach, and raise awareness of the issues unique to Veterans and military families.

The event is Thursday, May 5, 1 to 2:30 pm, at the Ion (4201 Main St.). Click here to register.

May 9 — Innovation Districts and the Future of Cities

Across the country, public, private, university, and community partners are investing in innovation districts that attract talent, business, and investors by connecting anchor institutions with start-ups, business incubators, and accelerators. Join the ion for an engaging conversation and Q&A with leaders representing some of the nation’s most acclaimed epicenters advancing inclusive economic and workforce development. This panel will focus on how these world-class facilities across Houston, Atlanta, New York City, and beyond can learn from each other and advance the future of resilient, equitable, and livable cities.

The event is Monday, May 9, 1 to 2:15 pm, at the Ion (4201 Main St.). Click here to register.

May 10 — Energy 2.0

Energy 2.0 is the UNconference where attendees celebrate diverse perspectives, technologies, people, and the community at large who are driving the energy transition forward. Ally Energy's platform is for the workforce, leaders, investors, policymakers, and communities to share ideas to transform business at this pivotal time. E2Dot0 is where unique perspectives, generations, backgrounds, art, science, and technology collide.

The event is Tuesday, May 10, 8 am to 6 pm, at Greentown Labs (4200 San Jacinto St.). Click here to register.

May 11 — Houston Startupalooza

As a part of the Ion Activation Festival, Houston Startupalooza will celebrate the Future of HOU and showcase Houston-area startups. Houston Startupalooza is a startup crawl-style event hosted with Ion Acceleration Hub, Capital Factory, DivInc and others. Get ready to meet and greet with the next big companies in Houston.

The event is Wednesday, May 11, 5 to 7 pm, at the Ion (4201 Main St.). Click here to register.

May 12 — Space Health: Surviving in the Final Frontier

Stop in for a first look at the new documentary, Space Health: Surviving in the Final Frontier, spearheaded by the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH). Stick around to hear from a panel of experts, including the executive director of TRISH and the producer of the documentary, discuss the past, present and future of space health research, science and innovation through NASA’s Human Research Program as well as demo health-in-space solutions currently used in space and on Earth.

The event is Thursday, May 12, 4:30 to 8 pm, at the Ion (4201 Main St.). Click here to register.

May 12 — May Transition On Tap: Member Resource Fair

This month's Transition on Tap is our Member Resource Fair edition, bringing together the individuals behind the more than $1M worth of member resources provided to the Greentown startup community. This includes discounts or free access to a host of software providers, pro bono support from legal firms, shared tools and equipment for prototyping, university partnerships, and business development, education, and fundraising tools. It is an exciting opportunity to connect with the companies and ecosystem members taking action in supporting our startups to scale in climatetech.

The event is Thursday, May 12, 3 to 7 pm, at Greentown Houston (4200 San Jacinto St.). Click here to register.

May 19 — Pearland Innovation Hub Launch Party

In partnership with the Pearland Economic Development Corporation and The Cannon, the Pearland Innovation Hub exists to support Pearland, Texas' small business community by providing entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses the resources they need to start, scale and succeed. Hear from leadership team members of the Pearland Economic Development Corporation and The Cannon as well as the Pearland Navigator about the goals for the Hub and how you can get involved.

The event is Thursday, May 19, 10:30 am to 1:30 pm, at BAKFISH Brewing Company (1231 Broadway Street). Click here to register.

May 19-20 — Women in Tech Texas

Calling all female tech professionals. Women in Tech Texas is welcoming 1,000 tech leaders, decision makers, innovators, and pioneers from the most successful tech companies and disruptive startups, to celebrate the power of resilience.

The event is Thursday, May 19, and Friday, May 20, at Hilton Americas (1600 Lamar St.) or online. Click here to register.

May 20 — Halliburton Labs Finalists Pitch Day

Join Halliburton Labs for a hybrid event where attendees can attend in person at The Ion Houston or virtually online for a full program of innovative ideas, discussion, and inspiration — all centered on the startup finalists who are advancing the future of clean energy. The event will include a lively keynote discussion with Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech, hosted by Walter Isaacson, Halliburton Labs Advisory Board Member and Leonard Lauder Professor of American History and Values at Tulane.

The event is Friday, May 20, 9 am to 12:30 pm, at the Ion (4201 Main St.) or online. Click here to register.

May 20 — State of Houston's Global Economy

The State of Houston’s Global Economy provides an analysis of global business and economic trends and their impact on our regional market. The Partnership’s Senior Vice President of Research, Patrick Jankowski, will present the 2022 Global Houston publication, offering insights on the Houston region's leading international trade partners and other global business data.The event explores how Houston's international ties impact the regional and national economy through presentations from leading economists and business experts.

The event is Friday, May 20, 10:30 am to 1:30 pm, at the Omni Hotel (4 Riverway). Click here to register.

May 26 — SPARK Award Luncheon

Houston-based alliantgroup is hosting a celebration of its SPARK Award Finalists, in partnership with HISD. The company will recognize our outstanding science teachers for 2022 with a luncheon and award ceremony, where they will name our grand prize winner.

The event is Thursday, May 26, 11:30 am to 1 pm, at the alliantgroup (3009 Post Oak Blvd, Suite 2000). Click here to register.

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Unytag celebrated a big win at the Ion recently — and has taking its prizes into the new year. Photo via Ion/Facebook

How many times have you accidentally taken a toll road without a tag? Or traveled to a part of the country where the toll system is different than the one for which you already paid up?

As the father of four competitive-tennis-playing daughters, Fareed Zein spent years driving “from California to Florida,” he says. Throughout those years, he and his wife racked up toll violation after toll violation. “I thought, there’s got to be an easier way,” he recalls.

Fortunately, Zein wasn’t just any sports dad with thousands of miles on his car. The University of Texas grad put in 26 years developing IT systems at Shell. He retired from that role in 2015, which allowed him to spend more time on the road with his youngest daughter, now playing for UT Austin. In 2019, he used his technology expertise to start Unytag, a company focused on making it easier to drive around the country as the Zein family had so many times.

Unytag is a system that allows users to trash their multiple toll tags in favor of just one RFID (radio-frequency identification) sticker and an app. The app, which Zein says is currently in its testing phase, will be available on both IOS and Android phones in the second half of the year.

“A phone is a device everyone has nowadays, right?” says Zein. “Just like you use your phone to pay for a latte at Starbucks, we are going to simplify how you pay tolls.”

Another beauty of the Unytag system is that — rather than depositing a set amount as users do for most toll systems — it’s pay-as-you-go. Funds are withdrawn by Unytag just as they are needed. And it works for every toll tag in the country, with plans to expand globally.

Though Zein brought technical chops to Unytag, he still had to learn to be a founder. He credits his time participating in the Founder Institute’s pre-seed accelerator with helping him to launch from the ground up.

“From there, I decided I needed to start building the infrastructure that I needed,” Zein recalls.

Next, he worked with the Texas Venture Labs accelerator and was named a finalist at the 2022 Houston Innovation Awards Gala. Most recently, Unytag won last November’s Houston Startup Showcase, with a prize of $10,000 from The Ion and $20,000 in legal services from Ion partner Baker Botts.

“That was a pretty big confidence builder that we are going in the right direction as well as a great way to start the year for us,” Zein says.

Opportunities like those are a just some of what Zein says makes him proud to be a “Houston born and raised” company. With his extended network built over 32 years living in the Houston area, Zein says, he’s had many opportunities for growth that he might not have found elsewhere. Two of his current team members were colleagues at Shell.

“Having an ecosystem that supports innovation is exactly what we needed,” he adds. “We are very proud of the future of tech startups in Houston with The Ion and the Innovation District, where we continue to grow. We’re ready to create the next success story.”

Fareed Zein has racked up his fair share of toll bills — and he designed a better way. Photo courtesy of Unytag

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