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

 
 

Progress and feedback will help you reach your organization's DEI goals. Photo via Pexels

Houston is often touted as the most diverse city in the country, but with that comes the responsibility of making sure we are creating inclusive and equitable opportunities that reflect the communities we serve.

With the current state of our country dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as social and political issues, employers across the city have searched for the right thing to say and do to help their employees and customers during this time when personal feelings and beliefs impact the workplace more now than ever. While there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to implementing DEI across an organization, here are a few steps and considerations companies can take to ensure DEI is a priority moving forward.

Understand your audience

It's important to understand the perspectives of those you serve. Identifying your audience will help develop a DEI strategy that addresses concerns from multiple lenses. At Houston Methodist, we focus on our patients, employees and the communities we serve. Anyone building a DEI program needs to not only be cognizant of their audience, but also understand their needs in today's climate before spending time and resources to develop initiatives that will address those needs. Ultimately, this will help shape a more impactful approach to DEI within your organization.

Define success

When developing a DEI strategy, success may seem overwhelming or lofty. But, viewing success as progress will help your organization accomplish your goals in a way that employees and other stakeholders will benefit from in the long run.

Set strategic and measurable goals that clearly state what your organization wants to achieve through its DEI efforts. These goals need not be big at the onset; make sure they are attainable. Most importantly, it's critical to revisit your goals on a regular basis and identify gaps, and be willing to pivot, if needed, along the way so your organization eventually reaches its goals. At the hospital, we've developed a DEI dashboard for all departments in our hospitals to help us with setting those measurable goals. Once measurable goals are identified, a DEI scorecard will be used to identify progress for departments and our organization year over year. When people are able to easily track and see progress or gaps, it will make it easier to reach desired goals.

An organization can't be successful with any new type of program if everyone within the organization doesn't understand the importance of DEI in their department and within the company as a whole. Progress often starts with one person. Providing training to employees about the impact that DEI can have on their day-to-day work will help them champion that within the organization. For example, we've launched something at our hospital called "Together We Grow," a training program aimed at building a foundation for what DEI is by exploring everyday scenarios employees may encounter. This program first started with leadership and is now available to all employees within the hospital system.

Establish a timeline

Once measurable goals have been established, develop a timeline for accomplishing those goals. By selecting two or three goals that can be focused on over a particular time period (i.e., six months or one year), your organization can implement targeted programs and best practices to drive the success of DEI for a more long-term plan. It's ok if not every program is up and running within the year; creating milestones along the way will give your organization time to grow its DEI efforts and aspire to something meaningful for your employees, customers or community. The need for DEI doesn't go away, so it's important to continue efforts year-round with a growth mindset.

Evaluate how DEI holistically fits into your business

A DEI department, team or individual can't be successful if the work isn't aligned with the mission of the organization. It does not help if an organization has competing priorities, so DEI goals must be embedded in your organization's business goals.

Additionally, it's also important to have leadership set the tone for the rest of the organization to follow. Executive leaders that fully commit to the organization's DEI efforts and promote transparency, feedback and accountability for those programs will yield the most meaningful and lasting results.

Recognize your ‘why’

As a business, it's important to understand why DEI is important for your organization's success. You need to both be able to understand and articulate the business case for why diversity matters in your organization. Studies like this one from Boston Consulting Group continue to show a positive correlation between workforce diversity, innovation and overall company performance. The workforce is constantly changing and becoming more diverse, so making sure your organization is adapting to those different perspectives and taking into consideration why this work is vital to your employees, customers and your community will help turn DEI ideas into action.

For many health care organizations, health equity has shaped community engagement efforts and programs. Addressing health equity for racial, ethnic and social minorities in the Greater Houston area has been a priority for Houston Methodist for nearly 30 years, and this work has also informed and strengthened our DEI efforts in the communities we serve.

In conclusion, remember progress and feedback will help you reach your organization's DEI goals. For these initiatives to be effective, everyone within your organization must understand that each person plays a role in shaping the success of DEI efforts.

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Arianne Dowdell is vice president, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at Houston Methodist.

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