Houston innovators podcast episode 126

How this Houston entrepreneur is preparing the workforce for Gen Z employees

Allie Danziger, co-founder and CEO of Ampersand Professionals, is bridging the gap between the next generation — and their future employers. Photo courtesy of Ampersand

For decades, workplaces have had to deal with a generational divide among the employees. Businesses have to navigating the needs of a few generations simultaneously — from Baby Boomers to Generation X and Millennials.

Now, Gen Z is entering the workforce in droves, and Allie Danziger, founder and CEO of Ampersand, is helping companies get ready for them.

"By 2026, 25 percent of the workforce will be Gen Z in these entry-level positions," Danziger says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "By investing in an internship program or entry-level talent now, it's helping the rest of your workforce and the company adjust now to the new ways of working Gen Z is looking for."

Ampersand is a professional development tech platform that onboards interns, upskills them on how to be successful in the workplace, and then matches them with paid internships based on their interests and aspirations.

Originally founded in 2020, the startup has been buoyed by needs resulting from The Great Resignation.

"What's happening now is all these people who have been in a job for about two to five years are leaving. They are re-evaluating what they are looking for in a company, and they are either moving on to other companies, or they are taking time off," Danziger says. "Interns can really support that, as can entry-level employees."

Companies of every size are experiencing this sensation — and there's no quick fix. Onboarding and hiring replacements takes time and money, but bringing in already trained interns can be a solution.

"When someone leaves, other people take on that work. If you don't hire proper support for the people still there, you see the trickle. You see more and more people leave, because they are just burnt out," Danziger says. "By hiring interns or entry-level support, it shows the employees still there that you've got them."

The Houston community has bet on the impact of Ampersand. Earlier this year, the city of Houston the startup as a partner for the Hire Houston Youth initiative. All of the initiative's new hires will go through the Ampersand curriculum before they are matched with jobs. And, as Danziger explains on the podcast, they will then have access to opportunities via the platform too.

"It's awesome for us because it's giving us a ton of people on the platform. If they don't get hired for a Hire Houston's Youth job with the city, they still are on the Ampersand platform and can be eligible for one of our paid internship opportunities," Danziger says. "The city expects 5,000 applicants for those jobs from now until April 6."

The Ion has also brought on Ampersand, which raised $1.75 million in a pre-seed round last fall, as a part of its workforce development program.

Ultimately, this next incoming generation is just different, Danziger says, and employers need to be ready for it. Gen Z employees want to know their impact in the workplace, and they want to work from home and be supported. All they know is the heavily tech-enabled, post 9/11 world.

"They come with a really different mindset and different needs. It can be a challenge, if you're not prepared for it, to address that," she says. "We see businesses get frustrated with it, but it is what it is. Again, 25 percent of your workforce is going to be this demographic very soon here."

Danziger shares more on Ampersand's future and navigating the Gen Z workforce on the podcast. Listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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Building Houston

 
 

Cemvita reported a successful pilot program on its gold hydrogen project in the Permian Basin. Photo courtesy of Cemvita

Houston-based cleantech startup Cemvita Factory is kicking things into high gear with its Gold Hydrogen product.

After successfully completing a pilot test of Gold Hydrogen in the oil-rich Permian Basin of West Texas, Cemvita has raised an undisclosed amount of funding through its new Gold H2 LLC spin-out. The lead investors are Georgia-based equipment manufacturer Chart Industries and 8090 Industries, an investment consortium with offices in New York City and Los Angeles.

Gold Hydrogen provides carbon-neutral hydrogen obtained from depleted oil and gas wells. This is achieved through bioengineering subsurface microbes in the wells to consume carbon and generate clean hydrogen.

Cemvita says it set up Gold H2 to commercialize the business via licensing, joint ventures, and outright ownership of hydrogen assets.

“We have incredible conviction in next-generation clean hydrogen production methods that leverage the vast and sprawling existing infrastructure and know-how of the oil and gas industry,” Rayyan Islam, co-founder and general partner of 8090 Industries, says in a news release.

Traditional methods of producing hydrogen without greenhouse gas emissions include electrolysis powered by renewable sources like wind, solar or water, according to Cemvita. However, production of green hydrogen through normal avenues eats up a lot of energy and money, the startup says.

By contrast, Cemvita relies on depleted oil and gas wells to cheaply produce carbon-free hydrogen.

“The commercialization and economics of the hydrogen economy will require technologies that produce the hydrogen molecule at a meaningful scale with no carbon emissions. Gold H2 is leading the charge … ,” says Jill Evanko, president and CEO of Chart Industries.

Investors in Cemvita include Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based Occidental Petroleum, as well as BHP Group, Mitsubishi, and United Airlines Ventures.

Oxy Low Carbon Ventures and United Airlines Ventures are financing Cemvita’s work on sustainable jet fuel. United Airlines operates a hub at George Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston.

Founded by brother-and-sister team Moji and Tara Karimi in 2017, Cemvita uses synthetic biology to turn carbon dioxide into chemicals and alternative fuels.

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