Check out these workshops, networking events, conferences, and other goings on in Houston this month. Photo via Getty Images

From networking meetups to startup showcases, August has a smorgasbord of opportunities for Houston innovators.

Here's a roundup of events you won't want to miss out on so mark your calendars and register accordingly.

Note: This post may be updated to add more events.


August 1— Microsoft Lunch Event: The Business Case for Generative OpenAI

This event delves into the power of artificial intelligence, specifically OpenAI, and its potential to reshape the business landscape. This event aims to guide and inform professionals seeking to understand, adapt, and integrate AI into their business models.

The agenda:

9:30 to 10:00 am - Networking and coffee

10:00 am to 12:30 pm - Session starts

12:30 to 1:30 pm - Networking and lunch

This event is Tuesday, August 1, from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm at Microsoft Technology Center. Click here to register.

August 1 — Exploring Energy Investments: A Panel Discussion

In this panel-style discussion, experts will dive deep into the opportunities and challenges of investing in the future of energy. You’ll have the opportunity to discover the latest trends and innovations that are revolutionizing the renewable and nonrenewable energy landscape. From solar and wind to hydro and geothermal to oil, natural gas, and others, gain a comprehensive understanding of various energy sources and their impact on the environment, society, and your investment portfolio. After the presentation, in-person attendees will have the opportunity to pitch any deals they have to the audience.

This event is Tuesday, August 1, from 6 to 8:30 pm at Quest Trust. Click here to register.

August 2 — Solar Switch Houston Q&A Social Hour

Solar Switch Houston, a group buy program for rooftop solar panels and optional batteries offered for Houston-area residents, is offering a discussion panel to help homeowners and small businesses learn about installing rooftop solar and battery storage. Come for a question and answer social hour about Solar Switch Houston to get your solar questions answered. Appetizers and beverages will be provided.

This event is Wednesday, August 2, from 5 - 6 pm at United Way. Click here to register.

August 2 — Tenth Annual Bayou Startup Showcase

This annual event is a celebration of entrepreneurship, the newest startups and small businesses from Rice University and University of Houston accelerators, and the community supporting them. The showcase features 25 ventures from four accelerators: RED Labs, OwlSpark, RED Launch and BlueLaunch. You will be able to engage with these businesses, sign up for pre-orders, and buy products at their booths. Teams have recorded their pitches for you to learn about them in advance, watch during the event, or review afterward. RSVP now to receive updates and get early access to pitch videos, and confirm your spot at the event.

This event is Wednesday, August 2, from 5 to 8 pm at Saint Arnold Brewing Company. Click here to register.

August 3 — Side Project Society: August 2023 Meeting

Side Project Society, a community for those with technical or non-technical side projects, is hosting their monthly meeting, giving opportunities for casual networking and connecting. Guest speaker Daniel Cohen, founder of RedShift Strategists, will also share his experiences building a startup around brand positioning and content strategy.

This event is Thursday, August 3, from 6 to 8 pm at Improving. Click here to register.

August 8 — Tech + Tequila Talk - Edtech

Blue People, a software consulting services firm, is hosting a happy hour for innovators and people who are passionate about technology. Mabast Ahmad, director of technology, will discuss his experience with full stack software development and how he uses his knowledge to help entrepreneurs raised MVP.

The agenda:

5:50 pm - Sign-in and registration

6 pm - Tequila tasting

6:30 pm - Tech talk

7:00 pm - Networking and tequilas

This event is Tuesday, August 8, from 6 to 8 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

August 10 — Executive Angel: Economic Power of Diverse Founders

Join Executive Council Network and DivInc for an informative event focused on the Economic Power of diverse Founders. Research has shown that underrepresented founders face unique challenges in accessing funding and support, which can limit their ability to scale and grow their businesses.

This event will explore the economic power of diverse founders, discussing how they are driving innovation, creating jobs, and contributing to economic growth. DivInc’s expert speakers will share their experiences and insights on the economic power of underrepresented founders, discussing topics such as how to overcome the funding gap for diverse founders, the importance of mentorship and networking, and the role of diversity and inclusion in driving innovation and growth.

The agenda:

4 to 5 pm - Welcome and networking

5 to 6 pm - Fireside chat

6 to 6:30 pm - Closing and networking

This event is Thursday, August 10, from 4 - 6:30 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

August 10 — GROW Community Meeting

Sponsored by Green Resources & Opportunities Workforce, this community meeting is opening a discussion about green economy resources & opportunities for disadvantaged groups to engage in the energy transition and climate action.

This event is Thursday, August 10, from 11am to 1 pm at Hiram Clarke Multi-Service Center. Click here to register.

August 16-22 — Texas & Gulf Coast Science Entrepreneurs: A Guide to the Activate Fellowship 

Activate, a hardtech-focused program, recently expanded into Houston looking to build upon the region’s energy leadership with a focus on enabling a low-carbon future.

Learn about the two-year Activate Fellowship, which provides early-stage science entrepreneurs with funding, technical resources, and support from a network of scientists, engineers, technologists, and fellow entrepreneurs. Join via Zoom to get an early opportunity to learn more about the Activate Fellowship, their plans for Texas, and get your questions answered.

This online event starts Wednesday, August 16 from 11 am to noon and goes through August 22. Click here to register.

August 18 — Asian Chamber of Commerce Business Conference and Lender Matchmaking 2023

The Asian Chamber of Commerce is hosting their annual business conference, educating local business owners and entrepreneurs through resources in expanding capacity, growing operations, and building a footprint in Houston. Come listen to speakers share best practices on remaining competitive in today’s market. There will also be a lender matchmaking session administered by the SBA with over 15 approved SBA lenders for local small business owners.

The agenda:

8:30am - 9:00am Registration

9:00am - 12:00pm Business Conference

12:30pm - 3:00pm Lender Matchmaking

This event is Friday, August 18, from 8:30 am to 3 pm at Houston Community College. Click here to register.

August 28-30 — Industrial Immersive Week

The ultimate gathering of 500+ industrial, energy and engineering leaders from around the globe where the key challenges & solutions are addressed for the real-world industrial metaverse, including XR, 3D, AI, Reality Capture, Spatial Computing & Digital Twins.

The event is Monday, August 28, through Wednesday, August 30, at Omni Houston. Click here to register.

August 30 — Angel Investing in the Energy Sector

This event is sponsored by the Houston Angel Network and co-sponsored by Rice Alliance. There will be three panel sessions exploring what the energy sector needs from angel investors, including: The Greening of Conventional Oil, Gas & Power Generation; Challenges Faced by Energy Storage and Distribution; Angel Investment Considerations in the Energy Sector. There will also be four 10-minute presentations by startups in the energy sector. Admission is $100.

This event is Wednesday, August 30, from 8 am to 3 pm at Shell Auditorium. Click here to register.

August 30 — 2023 Energy Research Day

Energy Research Day will be a showcase of outstanding energy-related research by University of Houston graduate and post-doctoral students. Sponsored by the Division of Research and Graduate School, the event gives industries in the Greater Houston area a chance to see UH research up close and network with future collaborators.

This event is Wednesday, August 30, from 4 to 8 pm at the University of Houston in the Student Center South Ballroom. Click here to register.

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Houston family's $20M donation drives neurodegeneration research

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Neurodegeneration is one of the cruelest ways to age, but one Houston family is sharing its wealth to invigorate research with the goal of eradicating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

This month, Laurence Belfer announced that his family, led by oil tycoon Robert Belfer, had donated an additional $20 million to the Belfer Neurodegeneration Consortium, a multi-institutional initiative that targets the study and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

This latest sum brings the family’s donations to BNDC to $53.5 million over a little more than a decade. The Belfer family’s recent donation will be matched by institutional philanthropic efforts, meaning BNDC will actually be $40 million richer.

BNDC was formed in 2012 to help scientists gain stronger awareness of neurodegenerative disease biology and its potential treatments. It incorporates not only The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, but also Baylor College of Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

It is the BNDC’s lofty objective to develop five new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders over the next 10 years, with two treatments to demonstrate clinical efficacy.

“Our goal is ambitious, but having access to the vast clinical trial expertise at MD Anderson ensures our therapeutics can improve the lives of patients everywhere,” BNDC Executive Director Jim Ray says in a press release. “The key elements for success are in place: a powerful research model, a winning collaborative team and a robust translational pipeline, all in the right place at the right time.”

It may seem out of place that this research is happening at MD Anderson, but scientists are delving into the intersection between cancer and neurological disease through the hospital’s Cancer Neuroscience Program.

“Since the consortium was formed, we have made tremendous progress in our understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of neurodegenerative diseases and in translating those findings into effective targeted drugs and diagnostics for patients,” Ray continues. “Yet, we still have more work to do. Alzheimer's disease is already the most expensive disease in the United States. As our population continues to age, addressing quality-of-life issues and other challenges of treating and living with age-associated diseases must become a priority.”

And for the magnanimous Belfer family, it already is.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a podcast with the founder of a new venture firm, a former astronaut and recent award recipient, and a health care innovator with fresh funding.

Zach Ellis, founder and managing partner of South Loop Ventures

Zach Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that South Loop Ventures plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston has a lot of the right ingredients for commercialization and scaling up companies, so when Zach Ellis moved to town to stand up a venture capital firm that made investments in diverse founders, he decided to go about it in an innovative way.

South Loop Ventures, which Ellis launched two years ago, invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups across health care, climatetech, aerospace, sports, and fintech. While the first handful of investments, which have already been made, are into Houston-based companies, Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that the firm plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale.

"Any investor wants to feel like they are looking at the best possible investment opportunities in which to deploy capital," Ellis says on the show. "So that's reason No. 1 to cast your net as widely as possible.

"At the same time, you want to give any investment that you make greatest chances of success," he continues. "The biggest factor of success outside of the team and the capital you give them, is the customers that they can call upon. In bringing targeted companies to Houston or connecting them with Houston, you introduce the opportunity for them to achieve rapid scale and work with world-class partners very efficiently." Read more.


Toby R. Hamilton, founder and CEO of Hamilton Health Box

Dr. Toby Hamilton has secured $10 million to grow his company. Photo via tmc.edu

A Houston company that is working on a value-based model for primary care has fresh funding to support its mission.

Hamilton Health Box announced the completion of a $10 million series A funding round led by 1588 Ventures with participation from Memorial Hermann Health System, Impact Ventures by Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the Sullivan Brothers.

The company, founded in 2019 by Dr. Toby R. Hamilton, will use the funding to fuel its expansion into rural areas to help assist those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs. Read more.

Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and center director at the NASA's Johnson Space Center

Ellen Ochoa was recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and for being the first Hispanic woman in space. Photo via NASA

Two astronauts recently received Presidential Medals of Freedom from President Joe Biden for their leadership in space.

Ellen Ochoa, the former center director and astronaut at the NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Jane Rigby, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, were honored at the White House on May 3.

Ochoa spent 30 years with NASA, which included being the 11th director of JSC, deputy center director of JSC, and director of Flight Crew Operations. She served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993, and became the first Hispanic woman in space. She flew four more times to space with STS-66, STS-96, STS-110, and more.

“I’m so grateful for all my amazing NASA colleagues who shared my career journey with me,” Ochoa says in a NASA news release. Read more.

Houston health care institutions receive $22M to attract top recruits

coming to Hou

Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine has received a total of $12 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas to attract two prominent researchers.

The two grants, which are $6 million each, are earmarked for recruitment of Thomas Milner and Radek Skoda. The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced the grants May 14.

Milner, an expert in photomedicine for surgery and diagnostics, is a professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine and the university’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

In 2013, Milner was named Inventor of the Year by the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, he was a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. One of his major achievements is co-development of the MasSpec Pen, a handheld device that identifies cancerous tissue within 10 seconds during surgical procedures.

Skoda is a professor of molecular medicine in the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel, both in Switzerland. He specializes in developing treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are a group of blood diseases including leukemia.

Other recruitment grants provided by the institute to Houston-area organizations are:

  • $4 million for recruitment of Susan Bullman to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was an assistant professor at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, where she studied the connection between microbes and cancer.
  • $4 million for recruitment of Oren Rom to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Rom is an assistant professor of pathology and translational pathobiology at Louisiana State University Shreveport.
  • Nearly $2 million for recruitment of Lauren Hagler to conduct RNA cancer biology at Texas A&M University. She is a postdoctoral scholar in biochemistry at Stanford University.

The institute also awarded grants to five companies in the Houston area:

  • $4.7 million to 7 Hills Pharma for development of immunotherapies to treat cancer and prevent infectious diseases.
  • $4.5 million to Indapta Therapeutics for the Phase 1 trial of a cell therapy for treatment of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • $2.75 million to Bectas Therapeutics for development of antibodies and biomarkers to overcome a type of resistance T-cell checkpoint therapy.
  • $2.69 million to MS Pen Technologies for development of technology that differentiates between normal tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery.
  • $2.58 million to Crossbridge Bio for development of an antibody-drug combination to treat certain solid tumors.