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Greentown announces startup accelerator with multinational manufacturer

go make

A climatetech incubator with locations in Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, has announced an accelerator program with a corporate partner.

Greentown Labs andSaint-Gobain, a multinational manufacturer and distributor of high-performance materials, have opened applications forGreentown Go Build 2023. The program intends to support and accelerate startup-corporate partnerships to advance climatetech, specifically focused on circularity and decarbonizing the built environment per a news release from Greentown.

It's the third Greentown Go Build program the incubator has hosted. Applications, which are open online, are due by August 31.

“The Greentown Go Build program is an opportunity for innovative startups to share how they are disrupting the construction market with innovative and sustainable solutions that address the need for circularity and sustainability and that align with our mission of making the world a better home,” says Minas Apelian, vice president of external and internal venturing at Saint-Gobain. “Through this program, we are eager to identify companies dedicated to reducing our reliance on raw materials and associated supply chain risk to ensure circular solutions result in profitable, sustainable growth for business and sustainable construction solutions for our industries.”

For the six months of the program, the startups selected for the program will have access to mentorship, networking opportunities, and workshops. Program benefits for the participating startups, according to Greentown, include:

  • Access to a structured platform to engage leadership from Saint-Gobain and explore potential partnerships
  • A $25,000 stipend per startup
  • Access to Greentown's community of mentors, partners, and community of climatetech startup experts
  • Access to Saint-Gobain network
  • Desk space and membership within Greentown for the duration of the program

“We are thrilled to be building on our successful track record of Greentown Go programs with Saint-Gobain and look forward to driving decarbonization of the sector through startup-corporate partnerships,” says Kevin T. Taylor, CFO and interim CEO at Greentown Labs. “Saint-Gobain has been an exemplary partner for our Greentown Go programs and for Greentown more broadly—working collaboratively with our startups and deploying many of their technologies. We are eager to meet the world-class building tech startups that apply for the program.”

Why building bridges in Houston's nonprofit, innovation communities should be a priority

guest column

I have witnessed numerous Houston-based nonprofits utilize the enormous advantages of community involvement in catalyzing creativity and creating real, sustainable change, but nonprofits can't accomplish everything on our own. For-profit organizations, private academic institutions, and government entities have a substantial role to play in growing community projects, embracing connections, and bolstering nonprofit efforts. Let’s explore some of the advantages of for-profit businesses partnering with nonprofits in order to grow all-around community innovation development.

Connecting with local communities

A vital first step in promoting community participation for innovation is connecting with local communities. For-profit companies can participate in regional projects, pay attention to local residents, and comprehend the opportunities and issues facing their areas. This can assist them in creating strategies that are adapted to local requirements and have a significant impact.

Collaborating with organizations

To spur innovation and realize common objectives, collaboration is essential. For-profit businesses can cooperate with nonprofit groups that share their goals and ideals. This may result in a situation where everyone gains from the collaboration. Non-profit groups can provide their local experience, passion, and connections to the community, while for-profit businesses can contribute their resources, networks, and specializations.

Offering volunteer incentive programs and opportunities

For-profit businesses can engage their staff members and encourage them to participate in community projects by providing volunteer incentive programs and opportunities. This can improve job satisfaction, boost staff morale, and foster a supportive business culture. Additionally, volunteering can benefit workers by allowing them to grow their networks, learn new things, and obtain new experiences.

Engaging in educational initiatives

Another successful strategy for for-profit businesses to encourage community participation for innovation is to participate in educational projects. For instance, they can collaborate with educational institutions to support STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) initiatives. A pipeline of smart young professionals who are enthusiastic about innovation and social impact may result from this.

Being willing and open to put themselves out there

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, for-profit businesses must be open and take the potential risks in order to engage with communities and create the seeds of innovation. Businesses open to new concepts and methods, listening to criticism, and conducting transparency can produce happier employees by incorporating the same practices they use to build community engagement. For-profit businesses can truly benefit their own profitability by being willing to cultivate long-lasting relationships and meaningful projects with nonprofits: all while having a significant impact on their communities.

Ultimately, by emphasizing community involvement and engagement organizations can stimulate creativity, attain common objectives, and make social impact, benefiting private, public, nonprofit, for profit, and government agencies alike.

Building bridges, cooperating with nonprofit groups, and supporting community initiatives are all important roles for for-profit businesses to play. For-profit businesses can encourage general community engagement for innovation and change the world by interacting with local communities, working with nonprofits, providing volunteer incentive programs and opportunities, taking part in educational initiatives, and being open and willing to put themselves out there.

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Jeff Carlson is the president and CEO of RioRaiz.

Houston experts shine spotlight on impact investing following angel network expansion

calling for impact

Houston innovators called for existing and potential investors to focus on impact investing — for the improvement of both society and your bottom line.

SWAN Impact Network, which announced its expansion into Houston earlier last month, is an investment organization that prioritizes funding mission driven startups and educating angels on how to analyze impact investment companies. The organization hosted a launch event and panel at the Ion last week to discuss the process and goals of impact investing and highlighted their own success stories as angel investors. The panelists included Bob Bridge, Kerri Smith, and Emily Reiser, who were moderated by Grace Rodriguez, executive director of Impact Hub Houston.

Emily Reiser, associate director of the Texas Medical Center’s innovation team, said impact investing, though focused on improving people’s lives through innovations, should still rely on typical business models and return profiles.

“It’s not charity investment, it’s investing with an eye towards how that investment is going to also return to the greater society as well as back to your pockets,” Reiser says.

As there was a mix of prospective angel investors and entrepreneurs in attendance at the event, Reiser encouraged the founders to have formal business plans in place before meeting with investors, from setting up customer feedback systems to budgeting estimates.

“In the impact space you’ll get some great enthusiasm from people who want to join your mission to save lives, or change the world, or save the planet but make sure you do all the rest of the work behind that to build out the rest of your business model, figure out how you’re going to sell, get it optioned, and on the market,” Reiser says.

Bob Bridge, the founder and executive director of SWAN, stressed the importance of examining long term consequences of impact-driven startups. Bridge illustrated the importance of doing research into how these startups could unintentionally harm communities before investing in them by discussing the well known shoe manufacturer TOMS, whose business model revolved around matching each pair of purchased shoes by donating a pair to people in developing countries, putting local manufacturers out of business.

“These companies are often just now entering the market place so they can’t measure their actual impact results yet because they’re not delivering services or products yet,” Bridge says. “We look for them to have some sort of data to give us a clue if what they’re doing is going to work … convince us there is efficacy to what you are doing and that your impact solution is competitive.”

Bridge also adds there is no concrete definition of impact investing because every society has different needs to be met through creative solutions, from developing more robust technology to encouraging the hiring of underrepresented minority groups. When making decisions over which companies to invest in, Bridge says he also prioritizes startup teams that are collaborative and transparent.

“We don’t invest in Steve Jobs' kind of personalities … We want people who are always learning from their customers, competitors, and employees,” he explains.

Kerri Smith, executive director of the Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator program, says her team readies their emerging startups to tackle meetings with investors by asking them to quantify the impact of their technology on users.

“We’re seeing a lot of investors as well as boards of directors requiring companies to be more responsive to those kinds of things,” Smith says. “We try to prepare the startups in ways that will make them more ready to answer questions about the impact that they’re having societally as well as financially.”