AI carries security risks in banking, including being used by scammers to target financial information. Photo via Getty Images

With artificial intelligence technologies easily accessible and growing in popularity, consumers and business owners alike should be aware of both the benefits and risks when it comes to the utilization of generative AI tools in banking and finance. While data-driven AI creates the opportunity to further drive innovation in banking, the data-reliant nature of the industry makes it a natural target for scammers looking to intercept personal and business finances and sensitive customer information.

As banks and other financial service providers are using AI as a tool to scan for anomalies or errors that are known fraud techniques, criminals are using AI to improve their chances of perpetrating fraud. For this reason, consumers and businesses should guard their data with the same diligence used to guard cash and other valuable physical property.

Privacy and accuracy

For entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes, it is important to keep in mind the practical applications of AI beyond the trending headlines, whether implementing the technology into everyday internal business practices, or into client-facing solutions.

When feeding information into AI, it is best to maintain a defensive position and be proactive about not disclosing sensitive or private information. Also, rely on sound judgment when deciding when and how to use AI technologies. From a business standpoint, privacy should be embedded into a financial system’s design and leaders should be transparent about the technologies used within a given system.

Technologies like ChatGPT are large language models operating on massive datasets, including documents and web pages across the internet. This poses a risk because some sources of this data lack accuracy. When seeking financial advice via AI technologies, it is best to conduct research by curating and limiting the dataset then talking through your unique financial position in person with your trusted banker and IT staff or consultants.

Phishing and business email compromise via AI

Historically, phishing and business email compromise, or BEC, attempts have been more easily recognizable and often flushed out due to grammatical errors and unnecessary punctuation. With technologies like ChatGPT, scammers are now better equipped to draft well written content that can fool a person into thinking a communication is legitimate. Phishing can lead to people clicking links or attachments that harbor malware or other viruses that can lead to account takeover. With BEC, a person might be fooled into thinking an email is from a legitimate person. Scams like these could potentially lead to the disclosing of sensitive information or accepting transaction instructions or changes, ultimately resulting in money being sent to a fraudster.

AI voice generators

AI voice generators can be used to mimic voices of anyone including bankers, C-suite leaders and customers. If a person is fooled into believing they have received a voicemail or are talking to a person they know, they may accept instructions from a fraudster like providing transaction approvals and sensitive or private information, resulting in fraud.

AI can also create fake identities, including AI-developed photos of individuals, and other false information. These fake identities could be used to create accounts for fraudulent purposes.

AI is here to stay

AI is forecasted to have a lasting impact on the banking industry. Whether on the business or consumer side of the spectrum, it will be important to embrace the innovation and enhancements generative AI will continue to produce, while maintaining a cautionary stance around protecting client and business information and finances. Fraud prevention practices will need to continue evolving alongside the fast-paced growth of generative AI in banking.

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Ken Smiley is treasury management division manager of Amegy Bank and a fraud protection expert.

The new space allows for Amegy Bank employees as well as North Houston innovators to work collaboratively. Photo via Amegy Bank

Houston bank opens new innovation hub within its location in The Woodlands

innovation meets banking

Amegy Bank renovated it banking center in The Woodlands to add a hub for innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship.

The office, located at 4576 Research Forest Dr., now houses a refurbished space from The Cannon, a co-working and entrepreneurship hub with locations across Houston. The Cannon creates and manages spaces where startup founders, business owners, investors, and more can meet on common ground to collaborate on their entrepreneurial endeavors.

Amegy Bank has served the needs of business owners and families across Houston for over 30 years,” Amegy Bank-Houston President Dave Stevenson says in a news release. “The banking center’s refreshed design, with The Cannon onsite, will revolutionize North Houston’s access to localized financial resources tailored for entrepreneurs and small-to-mid-size businesses.

"The Cannon’s building presence will enable local startups and entrepreneurs to move seamlessly through the stages of startup production, with specialized business banking services just downstairs,” he continues.

Amegy Bank has renovated space in its The Woodlands banking center. Photo courtesy of Amegy

The new hub, which was announced and opened to the public on March 18, includes a modern banking space, client meeting and entertainment area, upgraded technology, and an employee workspace that will bring together Amegy's various business lines, such as business banking, commercial banking, mortgage, private banking, wealth services, and more.

The announcement represents an expansion of an existing partnership between Amegy and The Cannon. The two entities first collaborated to open the Downtown Launchpad in May of 2021.

“The Cannon is thrilled to grow our partnership with Amegy Bank and expand our vision for building entrepreneurial communities in such an exciting and fast-growing area," says Jon Lambert, The Cannon CEO, in the release. "This expanded partnership will allow The Woodlands’ small business community to have access to our unique combination of a dynamic workspace and entrepreneurial community, as well as Amegy Bank’s exceptional commercial banking services, all conveniently located in one building."

Amegy Bank revealed its newly-renovated banking center in The Woodlands. Photo courtesy of Amegy

Downtown Houston has a new innovation space in Amegy on Main. Photo courtesy of Amegy Bank

Photos: Downtown Houston innovation hub in renovated office building opens to the public

ready to launchpad

Last week, a group of innovators, commercial real estate professionals, and Amegy Bank employees celebrated yet another feat in the Houston innovation ecosystem: another innovative and collaborative space's grand opening.

The Downtown Launchpad is officially open across a few floors in Amegy on Main, a renovated office building on the Southwest side of downtown Houston at 1801 Main St. The grand opening reception was held outside in the building's first floor courtyard adjacent to its upgraded parking garage. The event on May 18 coincided with Houston Tech Rodeo.

"The major renovations to Amegy on Main support our strong Amegy Bank culture and reinforce our commitment to supporting the Houston business, technology and entrepreneur community," says Kelly Foreman, senior vice president and manager of corporate real estate and facilities for Amegy, in a news release. "This space serves as a hub for start-ups and innovation, and the resulting job creation through these incubator programs will continue to be meaningful and impactful for our city."

The renovated space includes:

  • Coworking space managed by The Cannon
  • Accelerator and event space for the Launchpad
  • Main Line Café, a chef-driven restaurant concept open to the public
  • New courtyard
  • First-floor gaming lounge
  • New shared spaces and design elements for the building, such as expanded windows for improved daylight, new furniture, enhanced coffee bars
  • Expanded conference space

Originally announced in October 2019, the Downtown Launchpad opened parts of its upgraded space last fall. Now, the full renovation project is completed, offering a new opportunity for collaboration.

"Amegy on Main has become unlike any other space in Houston," Foreman continues. "We are thrilled to offer this new space, its amenities and business development support to our employees and the expanding innovation community."

Click through some photos of the complete spaces below.

Indoor/outdoor dining areas

Photo courtesy of Amegy Bank

Anu Pansare has joined the local gBETA team. Photo via gbetastartups.com

Early-stage accelerator names new Houston leader, opens applications for next cohort

now open

Houston's gBETA accelerator announced new leadership in conjunction with opening enrollment for its latest cohort this week.

The early-stage program, which is a part of Wisconsin-based gener8tor, has named Anu Pansare as its new director.

Pansare has spent the last 20 years at Sugar Land-based consulting firm Volyx and has also worked with big names like Chevron, Schlumberger, and Accenture, as well as smaller startups. She's also been involved with the Houston Angel Network. She will be replacing the accelerator's inaugural director Eléonore Cluzel in the position.

As the main liaison between Houston and gener8tor's national network, Pansare will lead gBETA's third cohort of early stage startups through its free 7-week program, which is designed to help participating companies gain early customer traction and develop key metrics that will make them more marketable for future investment.

"Downtown Launchpad is an inclusive ecosystem of tools, resources, and opportunities that help founders accelerate and scale their businesses to solve humankind's boldest challenges," says Robert Pieroni, director of economic development at Central Houston, in a press release. "The addition of Anu Pansare as gener8tor's new Houston director will strengthen our commitment to entrepreneurs in Houston and will help us evolve our strategy to better serve our founders, startups, partners, and our community."

Applications for the new cohort are open online until March 13.The zero-equity, no-fee program looks for locally based startups still in the early stage of business. Five companies will be selected.

The program is hosting a virtual webinar in partnership with SCORE Houston on March 1 to discuss the program and opportunities for interested startups. Event registration is free.

Houston's gBETA presence was launched thanks to a $1.25 million grant approved by the Downtown Redevelopment Authority in 2019 with support from Central Houston, the City of Houston, and Amegy Bank. The local team has an office at the Downtown Launchpad coworking space in the Amegy Bank Building on Main.

About a year into operations, gBETA has worked with 10 local startups in two cohorts across industries — from food tourism to sports technology, artificial intelligence for home buying to skincare and prescription solutions.

Pansare will be

holding virtual office hours for local entrepreneurs to provide insight and information about gBETA's Houston Spring 2021 program. More information on the program can be found at gBETA Houston's website or email Pansare directly at anu@gener8tor.com.
Global accelerator gener8tor's early-stage program, gBETA, plans to begin its first cohort out of the Downtown Launch Pad in April. Courtesy of Downtown Launch Pad

New-to-Houston accelerator names program director, opens applications

Starting strong

The second of two top accelerator programs that have taken a bet on Houston has announced its new program director and opened applications for its spring 2020 cohort.

Wisconsin-based gener8tor announced in September that its pre-accelerator program, gBETA, would be launching in Houston. The program follows MassChallenge, another top accelerator, premiering in Houston last year. Both accelerator programs launched in Houston thanks to a $1.25 million grant approved by the Downtown Redevelopment Authority.

Eléonore Cluzel will lead the gBETA Houston program as director, and will be the point person for the program in the region for the two annual cohorts. Previously, Cluzel worked for Business France mentoring French startups and small businesses. In her new position, she says she's excited to support founders across all industries and foster innovation.

"We're adding another resource for local founders to grow their startups and to raise money, and not have to move to Silicon Valley to do it," she says. "We will also serve as a connector, introducing founders to mentors and investors within the community and across gener8tor broader network."

Ele\u0301onore CluzelEléonore Cluzel will lead the Houston gBETA Houston program as director. Courtesy of gBETA Houston

Currently, Cluzel has regular office hours out of The Cannon's space in the Downtown Launch Pad in Amegy Tower. gBETA will co-locate with MassChallenge on a separate floor of the building, and that space is expected to be ready ahead of the start of the first cohort in April.

"It's like having a one-stop shop of resources for the whole community in a central location," Cluzel says. "Since The Cannon is going to be among several coworking spaces in the community, we'll reach all areas of Houston, including Sugar Land, The Woodlands and Stratford and other neighborhoods"

Interested early-stage startups can apply online for the program until April 10, and the cohort begins on April 30. Only five companies are selected for the cohort, insuring individualized support and programming from gBETA. The free program is designed to equip its participating startups with early customer traction and preparation for later stage accelerators.

"I'm looking for a diverse cohort, encompassing underserved communities such as women, veterans and minorities," Cluzel tells InnovationMap. "I'm seeking highly unique, highly scalable businesses based in Houston. In Houston, we have a lot of venture capital firms that write huge checks, but we don't have a lot of investors that help with early seed-stage funding. We're looking for very early stage startups whose company we can help grow and connect with our local and national network of investors."

gBETA aims to act as a funnel to other accelerator programs, Cluzel says.

"We're looking forward to working cooperatively with other resources in town, such as Plug and Play, MassChallenge, The Founder Institute, Capital Factory, The Cannon, and other incubators, accelerators and resources."

The Cannon Houston's third location is planned to open on December 9. Photo courtesy of The Cannon

Photos: The Cannon Houston's downtown space expects to open its doors early next month

ready for liftoff

A Houston entrepreneurial hub plans to open its third coworking space location only a few weeks after its main campus debuted in West Houston.

The Cannon Houston's newest location will be a 17,000-square-foot space on the top floor of The Cannon Tower at Amegy on Main in Downtown Houston. The opening date for the new space is Monday, December 9.

The announcement follows the grand opening of The Cannon's 120,000-square-foot flagship space, which is now close to being completely leased by startups and small businesses, and represents another step in the company's ambitious expansion plan.

"We've long known that we will need multiple locations across Houston in order to serve our mission of supporting Houston's entrepreneurs, and we are thrilled to work with an incredibly forward-thinking organization like Amegy to continue to fulfill this mission," says Cannon founder and president, Lawson Gow, in a news release. "The Cannon Tower at Amegy on Main will be unlike any other space in the city, in which we will be developing a 'vertical village' of innovation, programs, and resources, transforming Amegy on Main into a hub for Downtown Houston's entrepreneurs."

Gow — who is the son of David Gow, owner of InnovationMap's parent company, Gow Media — recently transitioned into his position as The Cannon named Jon Lambert as CEO earlier this month.

The Cannon's space is just one part of the equation that is the Downtown Launch Pad — a joint project between Central Houston, Downtown Redevelopment Authority, The Cannon, and Amegy Bank. The Amegy building will also house MassChallenge and gener8or, as well as event and common space for programming on the 11th floor.

"Amegy Bank is thrilled to be a part of the expansion of the innovation community by offering space, amenities, and business development support," says Kelly Foreman, Amegy Bank's senior vice president and manager of corporate real estate and facilities, in a news release. "We have a long track record of helping businesses grow, and creating this space for a hub of start-ups and accelerators is yet another way to do just that."

Moving forward, The Cannon will play a role in expanding workspace, resources, and programming in the building. The space is now open for leasing, and the first 100 members to join the new space will receive free parking for the course of their membership.

Plans for growth

Photo courtesy of The Cannon

The Cannon Houston will be a major player as the Downtown Launch Pad expands throughout the building.

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Health tech startup launches Houston study improve stroke patients recovery

now enrolling

A Houston-born company is enrolling patients in a study to test the efficacy of nerve stimulation to improve outcomes for stroke survivors.

Dr. Kirt Gill and Joe Upchurch founded NeuraStasis in 2021 as part of the TMC Biodesign fellowship program.

“The idea for the company manifested during that year because both Joe and I had experiences with stroke survivors in our own lives,” Gill tells InnovationMap. It began for Gill when his former college roommate had a stroke in his twenties.

“It’s a very unpredictable, sudden disease with ramifications not just for my best friend but for everyone in his life. I saw what it did to his family and caregivers and it's one of those things that doesn't have as many solutions for people to continue recovery and to prevent damage and that's an area that I wanted to focus myself on in my career,” Gill explains.

Gill and Upchurch arrived at the trigeminal and vagus nerves as a potential key to helping stroke patients. Gill says that there is a growing amount of academic literature that talks about the efficacy of stimulating those nerves. The co-founders met Dr. Sean Savitz, the director of the UTHealth Institute for Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases, during their fellowship. He is now their principal investigator for their clinical feasibility study, located at his facility.

The treatment is targeted for patients who have suffered an ischemic stroke, meaning that it’s caused by a blockage of blood flow to the brain.

“Rehabilitation after a stroke is intended to help the brain develop new networks to compensate for permanently damaged areas,” Gill says. “But the recovery process typically slows to essentially a standstill or plateau by three to six months after that stroke. The result is that the majority of stroke survivors, around 7.6 million in the US alone, live with a form of disability that prevents complete independence afterwards.”

NeuraStasis’ technology is intended to help patients who are past that window. They accomplish that with a non-invasive brain-stimulation device that targets the trigeminal and vagus nerves.

“Think of it kind of like a wearable headset that enables stimulation to be delivered, paired to survivors going through rehabilitation action. So the goal here is to help reinforce and rewire networks as they're performing specific tasks that they're looking to improve upon,” Gill explains.

The study, which hopes to enroll around 25 subjects, is intended to help people with residual arm and hand deficits six months or more after their ischemic stroke. The patients enrolled will receive nerve stimulation three times a week for six weeks. It’s in this window that Gill says he hopes to see meaningful improvement in patients’ upper extremity deficits.

Though NeuraStasis currently boasts just its two co-founders as full-time employees, the company is seeing healthy growth. It was selected for a $1.1 million award from the National Institutes of Health through its Blueprint MedTech program. The award was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The funding furthers NeuraStasis’ work for two years, and supports product development for work on acute stroke and for another product that will aid in emergency situations.

Gill says that he believes “Houston has been tailor-made for medical healthcare-focused innovation.”

NeuraStasis, he continues, has benefited greatly from its advisors and mentors from throughout the TMC, as well as the engineering talent from Rice, University of Houston and Texas A&M. And the entrepreneur says that he hopes that Houston will benefit as much from NeuraStasis’ technology as the company has from its hometown.

“I know that there are people within the community that could benefit from our device,” he says.

Texas Space Commission launches, Houston execs named to leadership

future of space

Governor Greg Abbott announced the Texas Space Commission, naming its inaugural board of directors and Texas Aerospace Research and Space Economy Consortium Executive Committee.

The announcement came at NASA's Johnson Space Center, and the governor was joined by Speaker Dade Phelan, Representative Greg Bonnen, Representative Dennis Paul, NASA's Johnson Space Center Director Vanessa Wyche, and various aerospace industry leaders.

According to a news release, the Texas Space Commission will aim to strengthen commercial, civil, and military aerospace activity by promoting innovation in space exploration and commercial aerospace opportunities, which will include the integration of space, aeronautics, and aviation industries as part of the Texas economy.

The Commission will be governed by a nine-member board of directors. The board will also administer the legislatively created Space Exploration and Aeronautics Research Fund to provide grants to eligible entities.

“Texas is home to trailblazers and innovators, and we have a rich history of traversing the final frontier: space,” Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick says in a news release. “Texas is and will continue to be the epicenter for the space industry across the globe, and I have total confidence that my appointees to the Texas Space Commission Board of Directors and the Texas Aerospace Research and Space Economy Consortium Executive Committee will ensure the Texas space industry remains an international powerhouse for cutting-edge space innovation.”

TARSEC will independently identify research opportunities that will assist the state’s position in aeronautics research and development, astronautics, space commercialization, and space flight infrastructure. It also plans to fuel the integration of space, aeronautics, astronautics, and aviation industries into the Texas economy. TARSEC will be governed by an executive committee and will be composed of representatives of each higher education institution in the state.

“Since its very inception, NASA’s Johnson Space Center has been home to manned spaceflight, propelling Texas as the national leader in the U.S. space program,” Abbott says during the announcement. “It was at Rice University where President John F. Kennedy announced that the U.S. would put a man on the moon—not because it was easy, but because it was hard.

"Now, with the Texas Space Commission, our great state will have a group that is responsible for dreaming and achieving the next generation of human exploration in space," he continues. "Texas is the launchpad for Mars, innovating the technology that will colonize humanity’s first new planet. As we look into the future of space, one thing is clear: those who reach for the stars do so from the great state of Texas. I look forward to working with the Texas Space Commission, and I thank the Texas Legislature for partnering with industry and higher education institutions to secure the future of Texas' robust space industry."

The Houston-area board of directors appointees included:

  • Gwen Griffin, chief executive officer of the Griffin Communications Group
  • John Shannon, vice president of Exploration Systems at the Boeing Company
  • Sarah "Sassie" Duggleby, co-founder and CEO of Venus Aerospace
  • Kirk Shireman, vice president of Lunar Exploration Campaigns at Lockheed Martin
  • Dr. Nancy Currie-Gregg, director of the Texas A&M Space Institute

Additionally, a few Houstonians were named to the TARSEC committee, including:

  • Stephanie Murphy, CEO and executive chairman of Aegis Aerospace
  • Matt Ondler, president and former chief technology officer at Axiom Space
  • Jack “2fish” Fischer, vice president of production and operations at Intuitive Machines
  • Brian Freedman, president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership and vice chairman of Wellby Financial
  • David Alexander, professor of physics and astronomy and director of the Rice Space Institute at Rice University

To see the full list of appointed board and committee members, along with their extended bios, click here.