Time to Connect

Now is the time to bring venture capital to Houston

Register for Venture Houston on February 4th and 5th, plus apply to pitch your startup and win thousands of dollars in investments. Photo via Getty Images

For so many, COVID has changed the game, and venture capitalists, startups, and corporations are in a flurry to learn the new rules. Investors and entrepreneurs now more than ever are seizing the opportunity to engage with tech ecosystems in cities like Houston to take advantage of large corporations as neighbors and possible customers to their startups.

Through the intersection of these groups comes great opportunity and massive unlocked potential. But the execution of this intersection must be curated in order to be effective. HX Venture Fund, Houston's strategic venture capital fund-of-funds, is working to not only bring these groups together, but to create a collision that paves the way for innovation and information to flow among all parties.

In a world in which we are "colliding" from our home offices and dining room tables, the stakes are high, and these intersection opportunities cannot be missed.

In February, HX Venture Fund — in collaboration with Rice Alliance, Houston Angel Network, and Houston Exponential — will bring this conversation to Houston through Venture Houston, a two-day virtual event connecting venture capitalists from across the country to Houston entrepreneurs and corporations.

Steve Case, Chairman & CEO at Revolution Ventures and co-founder of AOL, will kick off the conversation by discussing how this wave of innovation is coming to Houston and why our city is perfectly equipped to let it thrive. Venture capitalists from Houston, as well as the HX Venture Fund portfolio, will give their unique perspective on how to scale a startup in Houston and why they are looking to invest their capital in the city's growing innovation ecosystem.

Some of Houston's best success stories and founders — Shashi Narahari of High Radius, Joe Alapat of Liongard, Bryan Sansbury of AEGIS Hedging, Kim Raath of Topl, Ben Johnson of Spruce, and others — will discuss their successful navigation of Houston's startup ecosystem, from raising capital to finding talent.

And some of the city's most prominent corporations, including all of HX Venture Fund's Limited Partners — such as Insperity, Rice Management Company, and LyondellBasell — will discuss how their industry verticals are changing and how innovation is the key to their future successes.

The two conference days will end with a pitch competition specifically for Houston and Gulf Coast Region startups with over $1.7 million in investment and in-kind prizes from investors across the nation and the HX Venture Fund portfolio in an effort to showcase and power the very best entrepreneurs in our city.

While the landscape is changing and subsequent innovation more disruptive than ever, HX Venture Fund is determined to not let this opportunity go to waste and to fuel the innovation that comes with it. The experience of the venture capitalists, the rigor of the entrepreneur, and the network of the corporation are the key elements to setting the innovation ecosystem alight. Venture Houston 2021 will be one of the places that sparks the flame.

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Venture Houston is taking place online February 4-5. Click here to register. The startup pitch competition application deadline is January 15 — click here to apply.

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Building Houston

 
 

Common Desk, which has locations across Houston, has been acquired — and other innovation news. Rendering courtesy of Common Desk

Houston is starting 2022 strong in terms of innovation news, and there might be some headlines you may have missed.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston startups and tech, the Bayou City is ranked based on its opportunities for STEM jobs, a Houston blockchain startup scores a major contract, Rice University opens applications for its veteran-owned busineess competition, and more.

Data Gumbo announces contract with Equinor

After a successful pilot, Equinor has signed off on a contract with Data Gumbo.. Courtesy of Data Gumbo

Houston-based Data Gumbo, an industrial blockchain-software-as-a-service company, announced that it has signed a contract with Equinor. The global energy company's venture arm, Equinor Ventures, supported the startup's $7.7 million series B round, which closed last year.

The company's technology features smart contract automation and execution, which reduces contract leakage, frees up working capital, enables real-time cash and financial management, and delivers provenance with unprecedented speed, accuracy, visibility and transparency, per the release.

“Equinor is an industry trailblazer, demonstrating the true value of our international smart contract network to improve and automate manual processes, and bring trust to all parties,” says Andrew Bruce, founder and CEO of Data Gumbo, in a news release. “Smart contracts are playing a critical role in driving the energy industry forward. Our work with Equinor clearly demonstrates the benefits that supermajors and their supply chain customers, partners and vendors experience by automating commercial transactions. We are proud to continue our work with Equinor to help them realize the savings, efficiencies and new levels of transparency available through our smart contract network.”

Equinor opted into a pilot with the company a few years ago.

“Since piloting Data Gumbo’s smart contracts for offshore drilling services in 2019, we have worked with the company to continually refine and improve use cases. We now have the potential to expand Data Gumbo’s smart contract network to enable transactional certainty across our portfolio from the Norwegian Continental Shelf to our Brazilian operated assets and beyond,” says Erik Kirkemo, senior vice president at Equinor. “GumboNet reduces inefficiencies and processing time around contract execution in complex supply chains, which is a problem in the broader industry, and we look forward to realizing the streamlined process and cost savings of its rapidly expanding smart contract network.”

WeWork acquires Dallas coworking brand with 6 Houston locations

Common Desk, which has six locations in Houston including in The Ion, has been acquired. Photo courtesy of Common Desk

Dallas-based Common Desk, which has six locations in Houston, announced its acquisition by WeWork. The company's office spaces will be branded as “Common Desk, a WeWork Company,” according to a news release.

“Similar to WeWork, Common Desk is a company built on the concept of bringing people together to have their best day at work," says Nick Clark, CEO at Common Desk, in the release. "With the added support from WeWork, Common Desk will be able to not only leverage WeWork’s decade of experience in member services to improve the experience of our own members but also leverage WeWork’s impressive client roster to further build out our member base.”

Here are the six Common Desk spaces in Houston:

Here's how Houston ranks as a metro for STEM jobs

Source: WalletHub

When it comes to the best cities for jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math, Houston ranks in the middle of the pack. The greater Houston area ranked at No. 37 among the 100 largest metros across 19 key metrics on the list compiled by personal finance website, WalletHub. Here's how Houston fared on the report's metrics:

  • No. 36 – percent of Workforce in STEM
  • No. 74 – STEM Employment Growth
  • No. 43 – Math Performance
  • No. 16 – Quality of Engineering Universities
  • No. 2 – Annual Median Wage for STEM Workers (Adjusted for Cost of Living)
  • No. 90 – Median Wage Growth for STEM Workers
  • No. 75 – Job Openings for STEM Graduates per Capita
  • No. 88 – Unemployment Rate for Adults with at Least a Bachelor’s Degree

Elsewhere in Texas, Austin ranked at No. 2 overall, and Dallas just outranked Houston coming in at No. 34. San Antonio, El Paso, and McAllen ranked No. 51, No. 65, and No. 88, respectively.

Rice University calls for contestants for its 8th annual startup pitch competition for veterans

Calling all veteran and active duty startup founders and business owners. Photo courtesy of Rice University

Rice University is now accepting applications from Houston veterans for its annual business competition. To apply for the 2022 Veterans Business Battle, honorably discharged veterans or active duty founders can head online to learn more and submit their business plan by Feb. 15.

“We’re looking forward to giving veterans the opportunity not just to share their ideas and get financing, but learn from other past winners the lessons about entrepreneurship they’ve lived through while growing their businesses,” event co-chair Reid Schrodel says in a news release.

Over the past few years, finalists have received more than $4 million of investments through the program. This year's monetary prizes add up to $30,000 — $15,000 prize for first place, $10,000 for second place, and $5,000 for third place.

Finalists will be invited to make their business pitch April 22 and 23 at Rice University. Click here to register for the event.

City of Houston receives grant to stimulate STEM opportunities

Houston's youth population is getting a leg up on STEM opportunities. Photo via Getty Images

Thanks to a $150,000 grant from the National League of Cities, the city of Houston has been awarded a chance to provide quality education and career opportunities to at-risk young adults and students. The city is one of five cities also selected to receive specialized assistance from NLC’s staff and other national experts.

“This award is a big win for young people. They will benefit from significant career development opportunities made possible by this grant,” says Mayor Sylvester Turner in a news release. “These are children who would otherwise go without, now having experiences and connections they never thought possible. I commend the National League of Cities for their continued commitment to the future leaders of this country.”

According to the release, the grant money will support the Hire Houston Youth program by connecting diverse opportunity youth to the unique STEM and technology-focused workforce development.

"Our youth deserve educational opportunities that connect them to the local workforce and career exploration, so they can make informed choices about their future career path in Houston’s dynamic economy. Houston youth will only further the amazing things they will accomplish, thanks to this grant," says Olivera Jankovska, director of the Mayor's Office of Education.

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