Here's who to know in innovation this week in Houston. Courtesy photos

As we head into May, this week's Houston innovators are all thought leaders keeping our city and state at the forefront of technology and innovation — from consulting to real estate, and everything in between.

Amy Chronis, managing partner of the Houston office of Deloitte

Amy Chronis runs the Houston office of Deloitte and serves on the sustainability board for the GHP. AlexandersPortraits.com

Shortly after Amy Chronis was named as Deloitte's Houston managing partner, she got the call to join the sustainability committee for the Greater Houston Partnership. Chronis did not take this position lightly, she says, and she immediately started researching what Houston needed as a business ecosystem.

In March, as the chair for the organization's sustainability committee, she brought together a group of constituents to engage in a Smart Cities study with the goal to identify what Houston needs to focus on — what it wanted to be known for. She learned a lot about the city through the study.

"It's affirming how much all types of people with different backgrounds care and are interested in this topic and are highly desirous of our region moving forward," she says. "I also learned that things are more complicated or difficult than we would like — in terms of funding initiatives, for instance." Read the full story here.

Brad Deutser, author and founder of the Deutser Clarity Institute

DCI has been described as the "Wonkaland for business." Courtesy of DCI

Brad Deutser is taking his approach to business consulting and creative thinking to a whole new level with the Deutser Clarity Institute. The idea accelerator, think tank, and learning lab opens this week in Uptown.

"The Deutser Clarity Institute has captured the imagination of leaders across the country," says Deutser in a release. "Even with the available science on environmental design and leadership learning, we took a chance and pushed creativity and innovation to the farthest reaches to develop a fundamentally different space, way of learning and learning curriculum. We are also producing game changing research which will influence how leaders drive engagement." (Deutser serves on the board of InnovationMap.) Read the full story here.

Alex Doublet, CEO of Door.com

Buying a home is more digitized than ever — and here's how that's affecting the industry. Photo courtesy of Door

Alex Doublet is an honorary Houston innovator to know this week after he authored a guest article about technology trends in real estate that greatly affect Houston real estate. The Dallasite cites a recent lawsuit in which homesellers claim The National Association of Realtors, Realogy Holdings Corp., HomeServices of America, RE/MAX Holdings, Inc., and Keller Williams Realty, Inc. violated the federal antitrust law by conspiring the sellers to pay an inflated amount to the buyer's broker.

"The lawsuit highlights a new need for home buyers and sellers: transparency," writes Doublet. "Gone are the days when real estate agents can take a hefty commission from his or her clients without providing value that is worthy of the price tag. The sellers who came forward to shed light on this issue have provided further proof that the current real estate model is outdated, and some serious changes could be on the way." Read Doublet's article here.

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Following Silicon Valley Bank collapse, banking diversification is key for Houston founders

SVB shake up

Last week, Houston founder Emily Cisek was in between meetings with customers and potential investors in Austin while she was in town for SXSW. She was aware of the uncertainty with Silicon Valley Bank, but the significance of what was happening didn't hit her until she got into an Uber on Friday only to find that her payment was declined.

“Being positive in nature as I am, and with the close relationship that I have with SVB and how they’ve truly been a partner, I just thought, ‘OK, they’re going to figure it out. I trust in them,'” Cisek says.

Like many startup founders, Cisek, the CEO of The Postage, a Houston-based tech platform that enables digital legacy planning tools, is a Silicon Valley Bank customer. Within a few hours, she rallied her board and team to figure out what they needed to do, including making plans for payroll. She juggled all this while attending her meetings and SXSW events — which, coincidentally, were mostly related to the banking and fintech industries.

Sandy Guitar had a similar weekend of uncertainty. As managing director of HX Venture Fund, a fund of funds that deploys capital to venture capital firms around the country and connects them to the Houston innovation ecosystem, her first concern was to evaluate the effect on HXVF's network. In this case, that meant the fund's limited partners, its portfolio of venture firms, and, by extension, the firms' portfolios of startup companies.

“We ultimately had no financial impact on venture fund 1 or 2 or on any of our portfolio funds or our underlying companies,” Guitar tells InnovationMap. “But that is thanks to the Sunday night decision to ensure all deposits.”

On Sunday afternoon, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took control of SVB and announced that all accounts would be fully insured, not just up to the $250,000 cap. Customers like Cisek had access to their accounts on Monday.

“In the shorter term, the great news is SVB entity seems to be largely up and functioning in a business as usual manner,” Guitar says. “And they have a new leadership team, but their existing systems and predominantly the existing employee base is working well. And what we're hearing is that business as usual is taking place.”

Time to diversify

In light of the ordeal, Guitar says Houston founders and funders can take away a key lesson learned: The importance of bank diversification.

“We didn't think we needed one last week, but this week we know we need a resilience plan," she says, explaining that bank diversification is going to be added to "the operational due diligence playbook."

"We need to encourage our portfolio funds to maintain at least two banking relationships and make sure they're diversifying their cash exposure," she says.

A valued entity

Guitar says SVB is an integral part of the innovation ecosystem, and she believes it will continue on to be, but factoring in the importance of resilience and diversification.

"Silicon Valley Bank and the function that they have historically provided is is vital to the venture ecosystem," she says. "We do have confidence that either SVB, as it is currently structured or in a new structure to come, will continue to provide this kind of function for founders."

Cisek, who hasn't moved any of her company's money out of SVB, has similar sentiments about the importance of the bank for startups. She says she's grateful to the local Houston and Austin teams for opening doors, making connections, and taking chances for her that other banks don't do.

"I credit them to really being partners with startups — down to the relationships they connect you with," she says. "Some of my best friends who are founders came from introductions from SVB. I've seen them take risks that other banks won't do."

With plans to raise funding this yea, Cisek says she's already started her research on how to diversify her banking situation and is looking into programs that will help her do that.

Staying aware

Guitar's last piece of advice is to remain confident in the system, while staying tuned into what's happening across the spectrum.

“This situation that is central to the venture ecosystem is an evolving one," she says. "We all need to keep calm and confident in business as usual in the short term while keeping an eye to the medium term so that we know what happens next with this important bank and with other associated banks in the in our industry."

Meet the Texas security experts building a framework for safer schools

For the Kids

For a large portion of his career, Mike Matranga worked as a Secret Service agent protecting the President and First Family all over the world.

He then moved to the Department of the Interior, specializing in domestic terrorism, when the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School occurred. Only three months later, another school shooting happened in Santa Fe, Texas.

That's when Matranga received a phone call from a Texas superintendent, asking him to take his decades of security experience and training and develop a proactive school safety program — something that didn't yet exist. That comprehensive, holistic plan would go on to be ranked No. 1 in Texas and No. 5 in the nation.M6

Mike Matranga, M6 GlobalM6 Global's Mike Matranga.Photo courtesy of M6 Global

This led Matranga to found M6 Global, which today specializes not only in school safety plans but also programs for industrial and corporate settings and even major sporting events.

The team is comprised of current and former federal agents and security specialists, a psychiatrist, a leading emotional intelligence doctor, a former White House doctor, and emergency management experts. Together, they have more than 100 years combined experience in school safety, law enforcement, and national and global security.

And that's what's made Matranga's initiatives so successful: the people.

“Of all the measures and initiatives we implemented, the absolute most important thing we have are people who have the ability to make real change — which no camera system will provide," he says. "Simply teaching people how to identify pre-attack behavior, self-harm behavior, and a person in crisis will always be what is most important. Secondly, having the resources and courage to intervene once those things are identified will keep individuals off the path to violence. We must never discredit the human element.”

M6 Global also partners with ASAP Security Services in Houston to provide the most up-to-date technology and products, with everything from facial recognition software to cameras to threat detection software. It makes their services fully turn-key, and as Matranga says, "two brains are better than one."

Mike Matranga and President Joe Biden, M6 GlobalMike Matranga (left) with President Joe Biden.Photo courtesy of M6 Global

"At some point we have to realize that the law enforcement response that we adopted in the '80s is not working," he adds. "And it’s not just police — it’s the patterns and behaviors of people that will tell you there is a problem, so we need to shift from a reactive to a proactive mindset. We need to have actionable resources in place and a society that's better informed to recognize the signs before someone becomes a person in crisis."

To learn more about M6 Global and explore its services, visit here.