UH's business school has a new program focused on artificial intelligence thanks to a partnership with Intel. Photo via uh.edu

The University of Houston’s C.T. Bauer College of Business has teamed up with semiconductor chip manufacturer Intel Corp. to provide training in artificial intelligence.

The new artificial intelligence program features a standalone business certificate with two specialized courses; the first course launched in January. Bauer also plans to offer non-degree certificate programs in AI, such as the AI Certificate for Entrepreneurship and AI Certificate for Executive Education.

In a news release, Elizabeth McGee, chief strategy and innovation adviser at Santa Clara, California-based Intel, says the UH initiative will help bridge the AI knowledge gap. An online search indicates hundreds of AI-related jobs are open in the Houston area.

“Digital upskilling, or digital readiness, needs to be a catapult for economic prosperity for everyone and not a dividing point,” McGee says. “I commend the University of Houston for being the first higher education institution to take our award-winning curriculum and lend your expertise in entrepreneurship, your access to the broader Houston community, and supporting this digital upskilling for everyone.”

AI education has taken on a greater sense of urgency as the healthcare and energy sectors, among others, incorporate AI into their operations.

Paul Pavlou, dean of the Bauer College and Cullen Distinguished Chair Professor, says the collaboration between UH and Intel will help propel growth and innovation in Houston’s tech sector. Intel, whose only Texas location is in Austin, is a key player in the expanding AI market.

“Intel has been very generous with their resources, and with our expertise in analytics and faculty research and students’ initiative in bringing new products to life, the opportunities for this collaboration to be transformative are endless,” Pavlou says.

AI is growing at an incredibly rapid pace. According to Precedence Research, the size of the global AI market was estimated at $119.78 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach nearly $1.6 trillion by 2030.

“While some markets, sectors and individual businesses are more advanced than others, AI is still at a very early stage of development overall,” says professional services firm PwC. “From a macroeconomic point of view, there are … opportunities for emerging markets to leapfrog more developed counterparts.”

AI is viewed as both positive and negative in terms of today’s workforce.

“AI is a fast-evolving technology with great potential to make workers more productive, to make firms more efficient, and to spur innovations in new products and services. At the same time, AI can also be used to automate existing jobs and exacerbate inequality, and it can lead to discrimination against workers,” says a report published by the White House in 2022.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston City Council celebrated “AI Innovation and Entrepreneurship Day” at City Hall on Feb. 7. Photo via Facebook

Asif and Julie Lynn Dakri, Khaleda and Musa Dakri, and Faizel Dakri have gifted $4M to UH. Photo courtesy of the Dakri family/University of Houston

Prominent Houston banking family gifts $4M to UH's innovative new center for minority entrepreneurship

a helping hand

A prominent Houston family has just made a sizable investment in the University of Houston’s in the C. T. Bauer College of Business. The Dakri family has pledged $4 million in support of the Bauer College’s new Center for Economic Inclusion, which which aims to develop minority entrepreneurship and business development.

With the donation, the CEI will now be known as the Musa and Khaleda Dakri Center for Economic Inclusion, according to a press release.

Specifically, this $4 million gift will establish an endowed chair to support the center’s chair/director position and an endowed professorship to expand the institute’s research priorities, which includes research on small business entrepreneurship. Monies also will also support research costs and graduate research fellowships for students, per UH.

“The Dakri family is passionate about the betterment of Houston, generously offering their time and resources to truly make an impact in the community,” said Renu Khator, University of Houston president, in a statement. “With this support for our new Center for Economic Inclusion, entrepreneurs from all communities, including those in most need of investment, will get access to education, expertise and training needed to build businesses and transform lives.”

Musa and Khaleda Dakri, who hail from India, are longtime Houston residents and have been married for 54 years. Musa has been the chairman of Wallis Bank for more than 30 years. His sons Asif and Faizel serve as Wallis Bank’s chief executive officer and chief information officer, respectively.

Besides being longtime UH supporters, the Dakri family has long worked for the betterment of the African American, Mexican American, and South Asian communities. Of note, an endowment in UH’s Center for Mexican American, and Latino/a Studies named for Musa and Khaleda provides support for student scholarships, research, and more.

As the only higher education center of its kind in the US, the Center for Economic Inclusion aims to combine experiential education, academic research, and real-world expertise to train students in human-centered skills, while economically empowering under-resourced entrepreneurs.

At the center’s launch, keynote speaker Henry Cisneros, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), called UH’s model for training entrepr“eneurs and upskilling students the best he has ever seen.

Our newly established Center for Economic Inclusion will empower aspiring entrepreneurs, who are mostly women and people of color, to chase their dreams of founding a successful new business, just as the Dakri family has done successfully for decades,” said Paul A. Pavlou, dean of the C. T. Bauer College of Business, in a statement. “Our gratitude to the Dakri family is only matched by our eagerness to get to work and train the next generation of diverse entrepreneurs.”

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Beyoncé's dad is teaching a must-attend music business class. Photo courtesy of Mathew Knowles

University of Houston music business course to be taught by Mathew Knowles

DESTINY'S DAD WILL SCHOOL YOU

Ever notice how Beyoncé's hair magically flows as if a fan follows her around everywhere she goes? That's not an accident. That attention to image micro-detail is preached by her father, Mathew Knowles, who created Destiny's Child and Music World Entertainment, the label and production company that boasts two of the top-selling superstars of the previous decade.

Now, music mogul Knowles is sharing his considerable knowledge in a new, 15-week virtual master class at the University of Houston's C.T. Bauer College of Business, running from January 25, 2021 to May 10, 2021. Knowles teases that there will be star-caliber guest instructors and appearances. The $3,000 virtual class is limited to 35 students but open to all who are able to register. (UH students and recent alumni can pay a discounted rate of $1,000.)

"I want to change the way we do things in the music business," Knowles says on a Zoom call. "Unfortunately, we have a very high failure rate [in the music industry]. Part of the reason we have this much failure is the business acumen of the team around the artists. It's not their talent. It's their team."

He hopes to change that with the class, dubbed "The Music Industry and the Digital Age." The class isn't specifically for aspiring artists, but aimed at those "behind the microphone," says Knowles. "Some people will be managers. Others will be independent record labels. Others will be in marketing. Artists will be part of this that would like to know business side of this."

Knowles is one of Houston's great success stories. Once a successful executive at Xerox, he recognized that his daughter, Beyoncé, had extraordinary music talent. He created Destiny's Child, held what he called "music bootcamps" at his home, and took night classes in entertainment management at Houston Community College.

From there, he founded his Music World Entertainment empire in 1992 in a Third Ward house, which mirrored his faraway mentor, Quincy Jones, who ensured every aspect of Motown's operation was all under one roof. Knowles would then become one of the most respected business minds in the music industry; he's taught at Texas Southern University; scored a PhD, and crafted management degrees for other schools. His empire boasts more than 100 award-winning albums and an MTV Video Music Award.

But that success, knowledge, and experience came with trial, error, and considerable money lost. "I wish someone had told me, 'Look, you need to really focus on getting the business acumens of the music industry down,'" he says.

That said, even with Destiny's dad's name attached, students shouldn't expect a get-famous-quick lottery ticket path to success with this class. "They think they can go from zero to a hero," Knowles says of that mindset. "This is not a microwave industry. I always say there is a price of admission to the music industry."

Sign us up. Memo to Professor Knowles: May we request guest lectures by Houston royalty Queen Bey and Lizzo?

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

UH's business school just received its second largest gift ever. Photo courtesy of University of Houston

University of Houston receives historic $13M gift for its entrepreneurship program

Money moves

University of Houston's C.T. Bauer College of Business has received its second largest donation to benefit its entrepreneurship program.

The Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, which was recently ranked the top undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the country, received the $13 million gift from its namesake foundation — The Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Family Foundation — and the state of Texas is expected to match an additional $2 million, bringing the total impact to $15 million.

"Our family is deeply committed to the ideals of entrepreneurship," says Cyvia Wolff in a news release. "Our business personified everything that it means to be an entrepreneur. The skills, the thinking, the mindset are fundamental to success for business leaders today and in the future. On behalf of my late husband, we are truly honored to ensure the entrepreneurial legacy not only endures but remains accessible for students. We are truly honored to be part of this program and university."

The money will be used to create three endowments for the program. The Dave Cook Leadership Endowment, named for the center's director, Dave Cook, will be created and funded with $7 million of the donation to support leadership within the organization. For $4 million, the center will create the Wolff Legacy Endowment, which aims to increase students involved in the center, as well as the companies coming out of the program. The last $2 million will be used to create the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Endowed Chair(s)/Professorship(s) in Entrepreneurship. This initiative will support research and community outreach.

"We are passionate about entrepreneurship and how it can forever change students' lives," says Bauer Dean Paul A. Pavlou in the release. "We seek to further promote entrepreneurship as a university-wide, even citywide effort, by collaborating within and across the university in a multitude of areas, such as technology, health care, arts and sports."

The program was created in the mid '90s and was later renamed after Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff in 2007, and has seen great success over the past decade. In that time, Wolff students have created 1,270 businesses, with identified funding of just over $268 million. According to the release, the program has been ranked in the top two spots of the Princeton Review's top undergraduate entrepreneurship programs for nine of the past 12 years.

"Entrepreneurship is crucial for the future of our country, as well as our city and state," says UH President Renu Khator in the release. "We are proud to be at the forefront of work around entrepreneurial training and research. The uniqueness of our program has and continues to make it the model program. This extraordinary gift ensures our leadership in this space will continue and will support the creation of businesses, change communities and impact our students' lives."

At UH, 2,500 students take at least one entrepreneurship course a year, and more than 700 students complete certificate programs.

"What we are doing is transformative in the lives of students, mentors and stakeholders in a way that elevates everyone towards excellence," Cook, who was named the director of the program in 2017, says in the release. "The impact of this gift allows us to remain the leader and to move forward with confidence, purpose and permanence."

Ody De La Paz's company, Sensytec, started as a class project and turned into a growing startup. Courtesy of Sensytec

Houston entrepreneur plans to revolutionize the construction industry using a tech-enabled material

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 8

Ody De La Paz wasn't sure if his class project could be turned into a company, but he decided to test the waters through a series of pitch competitions. He and his cofounder, Anudeep Maddi, competed in eight across the world, and took hope first place prizes in five.

"That kind of gave us the hint that this should be a company, and we need to make it happen as quick as possible," De La Paz, CEO of Sensytec says on this week's Houston Innovators Podcast.

De La Paz shares on the podcast how he got the idea for Sensytec through the University of Houston's Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship within the C. T. Bauer College of Business. The program, which was just ranked No. 1 on the 2020 Princeton Review's top 15 programs for undergraduate entrepreneurship studies, allows students access to emerging technologies.

"You have the opportunity to work with intellectual property from the University of Houston," De La Paz says. "This technology came about and I had the opportunity to see if there was a market potential for this technology we're working on called Smart Cement."

De La Paz shares his experience with pitch competitions and accelerator programs, including the most recent in the Ion Smart Cities Accelerator, and discusses where Sensytec is headed in the podcast. Listen to the episode below and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.


Rice University and the University of Houston top lists for best graduate and undergraduate entrepreneurship programs. Photo by skynesher/Getty Images

2 Houston universities top list for best graduate, undergraduate entrepreneurship programs

Best of the rest

In Houston, a little bit of friendly competition between two universities goes a long way, but each gets a win according to a recent ranking.

The University of Houston's Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship within the C. T. Bauer College of Business claimed the top spot on the 2020 Princeton Review's top 15 programs for undergraduate entrepreneurship studies. Meanwhile, Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business claimed the top spot on the graduate schools list.

Both schools have appeared on the list before, but it's the first time either has topped their categories.

"Entrepreneurship and the creation of new businesses and industries are critical to Houston and Texas' future prosperity and quality of life," says Rice Business Dean Peter Rodriguez, in a news release. "Today's ranking and our decades-long leadership in entrepreneurship education and outreach is a testament to our visionary and world-class faculty, the enormous success of the Rice Business Plan Competition and of our commitment to our students and the community we serve."

The Rice program, which in 1978, has appeared on the top-10 list for 11 years in a row, and it's the fourth time for the program to make it into the top three. According to the Princeton Review release, Rice grads have started 537 companies that went on to raise over $7 billion in funding.

A UH news release also calls out the fact that UH has seen more than 1,200 alumni-founded businesses, which have amassed over $268 million in funding over the past decade. UH's program, which began in 1991, has appeared in the top 10 list since 2007, and rose from the No. 2 position last year.

"The Wolff Center is the catalyst, but entrepreneurship goes beyond that to the entire Bauer College, including RED Labs, social entrepreneurship, energy, health care, arts and sports entrepreneurship, among many other programs," says Bauer Dean Paul Pavlou. "We're an entrepreneurial university, and innovation and the startup ecosystem we want to promote for the city of Houston starts with the Wolff Center and Bauer."

The ranking considered more than 300 schools with entrepreneurship studies programs and factored in over 40 data points. Some of the factors considered include: the percentage of students enrolled in entrepreneurship courses, mentorship programs, the number of startups founded and investments received by alumni, and the cash prizes at university-backed business plan competitions. The rankings will be published in the December issue of Entrepreneur magazine.

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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.