Register for some of these informative online events happening throughout the month of December. Getty Images

It's the last monthly events roundup for 2020 — and this month, understandably, is a bit slow due to the holidays, but we have a roundup of the must-attend events for December.

From workshops and panels to summits and pitch parties, here are over 10 Houston innovation events you can attend virtually via online meetings. Note: This post will be updated to add more events.

December 1 — National Resilience Town Hall: Year in Review, Year Ahead

The Insurance Information Institute and ResilientH2O Partners, in partnership with the Resilience Accelerator, will hold the final session for 2020 in an ongoing series of thought-leadership among insurance, non-insurance, public sector, and technology senior executives. December's National Townhall will bring five unique perspectives together to discuss lessons-learned from 2020 and predictions for 2021's resilience and risk mitigation "agenda" across residential, commercial, industrial, government operations, infrastructure, facilities, and communities.

The event is on Tuesday, December 1, at 10 am. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

December 1 — Angel Investing 101

Learn about how to make effective angel investment decisions and find out more about the newly launched Chicago Booth Angels Network of Texas. The event's keynote speaker is Ashok Rao, serial entrepreneur and board member of Houston-based GOOSE Capital.

The event is on Tuesday, December 1, from 5 to 6 pm. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

December 1 — The Ion's Industry Day

The goal of the inaugural Industry Day is to introduce and connect minority and women owned businesses (MWBE) with The Ion's Transwestern team. The hour long event is designed to facilitate networking and connect interested businesses with Transwestern, who will run operations for The Ion and catalyze local economic growth. Following the event, interested businesses can set up a walk through of The Ion in mid-December to finalize their bid.

The event is on Tuesday, December 1, from 6 to 7 pm. It's free and can be accessed through Zoom. Click here to register.

December 2 — NASA and Your Small Business: Understanding the NASA Procurement Process

Join The Ion to learn about NASA's commitment to providing access for all categories of small businesses to participate in the procurement process.

The event is on Wednesday, December 2, at noon. It's free and can be accessed through Zoom. Click here to register.

December 3 — Capital Factory's Venture Summit

Capital Factory is calling all investors, accelerator leaders, limited partners, and more to its annual venture summit, which is taking place virtually this year.

The event is on Thursday, December 3, from 9:45 to 2 pm. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

December 3 — Evening of Pediatric Device Innovation

JLABS @ TMC and Southwest National Pediatric Device Innovation Consortium are teaming up for the sixth Annual Evening of Pediatric Device Innovation. The evening of innovation will host top experts from Houston and across the country will discuss their views on the latest in pediatric medical device innovation and updates on bringing a pediatric medical device to market.

The event is on Thursday, December 3, from 3:40 to 5 pm. It's free and can be accessed through Zoom. Click here to register.

December 3 — An Evening With Women in Corporate Innovation

Join General Assembly Houston to hear from inspiring female leaders in corporate innovation who have blazed the path to stand up and stand out. From learnings to failings and their secrets of success, this event is an opportunity to learn from the best — serious wisdom, from seriously cool women, all designed to supercharge you and your organization's success.

The event is on Thursday, December 3, from 5 to 6:30 pm. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

December 7 — Pumps and Pipes 20/20 Vision

The annual Pumps & Pipes event is focused on convergence innovation in the fields of aerospace, energy and medicine: a truly uniquely Houston approach. The day-long summit features an expo and various panels and speakers.

The event is on Monday, December 7, from 8 am to 3 pm. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

December 8 — The Cannon Q4 Pitch Party: Presented by Dell Technologies

Join The Cannon and Dell Technologies in hearing from new companies working in Digital Transformation Tech.

The event is on Tuesday, December 8, at 5:30 pm. It's free and can be accessed via Zoom. Click here to register.

December 8 — How to Start a Startup with Heath Butler of Mercury Fund

The Ion is hosting a startup 101 workshop with Heath Butler from Mercury Fund. You have an idea...now what? Before you start looking for funding, it's important to make sure that your idea is both viable and valuable — if it doesn't have a sound model and a market willing to pay for it, investors won't be interested anyway.

    The event is on Tuesday, December 8, at 5:30 pm. It's free and can be accessed via Zoom. Click here to register.

    December 10 — Greentown Lab's Energy Bar: Wrapping Up an Unprecedented Year

    Join Greentown Labs virtually for the final edition of the EnergyBar networking event for 2020. Greentown Labs is ready to put a wrap on 2020, an unprecedent year for us all. Between the opening of the new community in Houston and a renewed national policy focus on climate action, the organization is looking ahead to 2021. Entrepreneurs, investors, students, and friends of climatetech are invited to attend, meet colleagues, and engage in a community that is focused on climate action at work.

    The event is on Thursday, December 10, from 3:30 to 6:30 pm. It's free and can be access through Remo. Click here to register.

    December 15 — The State of Space

    The Greater Houston Partnership is hosting its first State of Space event featuring NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine as the keynote speaker. Since his appointment as Administrator in April of 2018, Bridenstine has led NASA in advancing American aeronautic, science, and space exploration objectives.

    The event is on Tuesday, December 15, at noon. It's $35 for GHP members and $60 for nonmembers. Click here to register.

    Dallas Startup Week has pivoted to online panels and chats. Here's which ones Houston innovators shouldn't miss. Getty Images

    Here's what Dallas Startup Week events Houston entrepreneurs should attend

    where to be online

    While a 4-hour trip up Interstate 45 might, in years prior, could have caused Houston entrepreneurs pause from attending the annual Dallas Startup Week, this year there's no excuse.

    DSW is taking place online this year, and there are more than a couple virtual events Houston entrepreneurs need to attend. Here's which virtual events Houstonians should log on to.

    Monday - The State of Fundraising in Texas

    A panel of Texas-based venture experts will discuss the state of fundraising in Dallas and Texas as a whole. The panel includes:

    • Bryan Chambers, vice president of Accelerator & Investment Fund at Capital Factory
    • Cindy Revol, principal at Perot Jain
    • Laura Baldwin, managing director at Golden Seeds
    • Mike Marcantonio, principal at Live Oak Venture Partners

    The virtual panel is at 9 am on Monday, August 31. More information.

    Monday - Women Investing in Women

    Two Houston women — Leslie Goldman, co-founder and general partner of The Artemis Fund, and Kim Raath, co-founder and CEO of Topl — are taking the virtual stage to discuss women in investing.

    The virtual fireside chat is at 11 am on Monday, August 31. More information.

    Monday - Innovating in co-working in a COVID-19 world

    Trey Bowles and Delanie Majors from The DEC Network will host CEO and founder of Common Desk, Nick Clark, for a discussion on how COVID-19 affected co-working spaces and the entrepreneurs that used to work out of them.

    The virtual panel is at 11:30 am on Monday, August 31. More information.

    Tuesday - The Future of Marketing Post COVID-19

    In 2020, the world changed as we know it. Hear from these marketing leaders about how the landscape will continue to change, and how you can be equipped to market your business during and after a pandemic. Panelists include:
    • Ramon Mendez, co-founder of Brand Army
    • Phil Lockhart, partner & chief digital officer of Credera
    • Michael Pratt, founder of Digital Fight Club
    • Laci McKinney, founder of The People's Voice Creative Agency
    • Jennifer Cho, executive vice president and general manager if Weber Shandwick

    The virtual fireside chat is at 3:15 pm on Tuesday, September 1. More information.

    Wednesday - Do You Really Know Your Customer: Customer Segmentation is Key to Success

    Learn to keys to customer success from a panel of seven businesswomen, including:

    • Tracey Altman, principal, Altman Consulting
    • Sophia Johnson, founder & president at Alpha Business Images
    • Anjie Vichayanonda, founder & CEO of Leg Up Legal
    • Karen Jenkins, senior director and regional sales executive of Capital One
    • Kristy Alballero, co-founder & COO, IOOGO
    • Kristy Alballero is the co-founder and COO of IOOGO
    • Marty McDonald, CEO of Boss Women Media

    The virtual fireside chat is at 10:15 am on Wednesday, September 2. More information.

    Wednesday - How Smalls Can Win Big with Department of Defense

    Learning to win government contracts can be a challenging task, yet millions of startups in the United States are thriving because of them. As a founder, entrepreneur, or just a curious individual, check out this session to learn about the keys to success in government contracting. Panelists include:

    • David Shaw, co-founder and chief commercialization officer at Astrapi
    • Steve Guengerich, senior adviser at the University of Texas at Dallas
    • Dave Copps, CEO of Hypergiant Sensory Sciences
    • Sam Riehn, business development at Long Capture & Contract Management

    The virtual fireside chat is at 11 am on Wednesday, September 2. More information.

    Thursday - The State of Corporate Venture

    A panel of experts from some of the largest corporations in the world discuss how their companies work with and invest in startups. They will discuss ways to engage with them, what kinds of companies they look to invest in, and how investing has changed during a tumultuous 2020.

    • Duane Dankesreiter, senior vice president of Research and Innovation of Dallas Regional Chamber
    • Aman Sharma, partner of Capital One Ventures
    • Marisa Bertha, senior director at New Business Development & 7-Ventures, 7-Eleven
    • Jim Adler, founding managing director at Toyota Ventures

    The virtual fireside chat is at 1:05 pm on Thursday, September 3. More information.

    Preventing paper business card waste and hand-to-hand contact, Ncrowd has created a tool to maintain connecting in an evolving networking space. Photo courtesy of Ncrowd

    This Houston startup is revolutionizing event networking

    going digital

    A Houston-based startup is launching this month in order to up the ante for networking at events — whether they are in-person or virtual.

    NCrowd allows its users to avoid the hassle and awkwardness in-person networking and takes connecting into the virtual space. The app, available through the App Store and Google Play, is the only networking platform that uses an interactive RSVP list for users to market themselves and network before an event.

    "Professional networking has been done the same way for over 60 years," says CEO and co-founder Roland Martinez. "Young professionals do not approach networking as someone did decades ago."

    NCrowd users can create their own profile and their very own digital business card that allows for users to enter virtual networking lounges to view attendees that have RSVP'ed to events. The events are easy to find in the app, allowing users to pick and choose what event they would be interested in, exchange digital business cards, view other attendees' profiles, including their social media handles.

    "The app is user friendly and helps professionals see who is attending the event before the event happens," says Martinez. "This is pretty valuable for those aiming to make a great first impression."

    The platform is especially useful during the COVID pandemic where in-person events are being taken into virtual spaces.

    The networking platform makes it easy to stay connected online and all in one app. The digital business cards are archived on the platform providing a digital footprint and allowing users to call, chat, and email other professionals and create connections.

    "COVID-19 has changed the way people interact forever," says Martinez. "Networking will be forever changed because now we know it isn't essential to meet face-to-face. NCrowd optimizes virtual events with our platform that allows professionals to connect in an online environment."

    NCrowd allows users to connect while keeping social distancing measures that reduce the risk of infection by reducing the need to meet in large gatherings. That's not the only positive side effect, Martinez says that reducing paper waste was a huge motivator during NCrowd's development phase.

    "About 10 billion paper cards are printed each year and the vast majority end up getting lost or thrown away a few days later," says Martinez. "It makes a lot more sense to go digital and reduce paper waste to help the planet."

    Now that NCrowd has completed its year of beta testing, according to Martinez, he is excited to launch and grow their business. They will test out their platform later this month with a company that will be using telecommunication software and their app to make networking virtually easier.

    Ncrowd's co-founders are Craig Sico, Roland Martinez, Larry Olivarez, and Priscilla Olivarez. Photo courtesy of Ncrowd

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    University of Houston powers up first robot food server in a U.S. restaurant

    order up

    The University of Houston is taking a bold step — or, in this case, roll — in foodservice delivery. UH's Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership is now deploying a robot server in Eric’s Restaurant at its Hilton College.

    Booting up this new service is major bragging rights for the Coogs, as UH is now the only college in the country — and the only restaurant facility in Houston — to utilize a robotic food delivery.

    These rolling delivery bots come from the state-of-the-art food service robot called Servi. The bots, created by Bear Robotics, are armed with LiDar sensors, cameras, and trays, and automatically return to their posts when internal weight sensors detect a delivery has been completed.

    Not surprisingly, these futuristic food staffers are booting up plenty of buzz at UH.

    “People are excited about it,” says Dennis Reynolds, who is dean of the Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership and oversees the only hospitality program in the world where students work and take classes in an internationally branded, full-service hotel. Launching robot waitstaff at UH as a test market makes sense, he notes, for practical use and larger implications.

    The Servi robots deliver food from the kitchen to the table. Photo courtesy of the University of Houston

    “Robotics and the general fear of technology we see today are really untested in the restaurant industry,” he says in an announcement. “At Hilton College, it’s not just about using tomorrow’s technology today. We always want to be the leader in learning how that technology impacts the industry.”

    Bear Robotics, a tech company founded by restaurant experts and tech entrepreneurs, hosted a Servi showcase at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago earlier this year. After seeing the demo, Reynolds was hooked. UH's Servi robot arrived at Eric’s Restaurant in October.

    Before sending the bot to diners' tables, the bot was prepped by Tanner Lucas, the executive chef and foodservice director at Eric’s. That meant weeks of mapping, programming, and — not surprisingly — “test driving” around the restaurant.

    Tanner even created a digital map of the restaurant to teach the Servi its pathways and designated service points, such as table numbers. “Then, we sent it back and forth to all of those points from the kitchen with food to make sure it wouldn’t run into anything," he adds.

    But does having a robot deliver food create friction between human and automated staff? Not at Eric's. “The robot helps my workflow,” Joel Tatum, a server at Eric’s says. “It lets me spend more time with my customers instead of just chasing and running food.”

    Once loaded, the kitchen staff can tell the Servi robots where to take the dishes. Photo courtesy of the University of Houston

    Reynolds believes robots will complement their human counterparts and actually enhance the customer experience, even in unlikely settings.

    “Studies have been conducted in senior living facilities where you might think a robot wouldn’t be well received, but it’s been just the opposite,” Reynolds says. “Those residents saw the change in their lives and loved it.”

    To that end, he plans to use Servi bots in other UH venues. “The ballroom would be a fantastic place to showcase Servi – not as a labor-saving device, but as an excitement generator,” Reynolds notes. “To have it rotating through a big event delivering appetizers would be really fun.”

    Critics who denounce robot servers and suggest they will soon displace humans are missing the point, Reynolds adds. “This isn’t about cutting our labor costs. It’s about building our top-line revenues and expanding our brand as a global hospitality innovator,” Reynolds says. “People will come to expect more robotics, more artificial intelligence in all segments of hospitality, and our students will be right there at the forefront.”

    Servi bots come at a time of dynamic growth for Hilton College. A recent rebrand to “Global Hospitality Leadership” comes as the college hotel is undergoing a $30 million expansion and renovation, which includes a new five-story, 70-room guest tower. The student-run Cougar Grounds coffeehouse reopened this semester in a larger space with plenty of updates. The neighboring Eric’s Club Center for Student Success helps with recruitment and enrollment, undergraduate academic services, and career development.

    “To be the first university in the country to introduce robotics in the dining room is remarkable,” Reynolds adds. “There are a lot of unique things we’re doing at Hilton College.”

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    This article originally ran on CultureMap.

    Houston innovator on seeing a greener future on built environment

    HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 162

    An architect by trade, Anas Al Kassas says he was used to solving problems in his line of work. Each project architects take on requires building designers to be innovative and creative. A few years ago, Kassas took his problem-solving background into the entrepreneurship world to scale a process that allows for retrofitting window facades for energy efficiency.

    “If you look at buildings today, they are the largest energy-consuming sector — more than industrial and more than transportation,” Kassas, founder and CEO of INOVUES, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. “They account for up to 40 percent of energy consumption and carbon emissions.”

    To meet their climate goals, companies within the built environment are making moves to transition to electric systems. This has to be done with energy efficiency in mind, otherwise it will result in grid instability.

    "Energy efficiency goes hand in hand with energy transition," he explains.

    Kassas says that he first had the idea for his company when he was living in Boston. He chose to start the business in Houston, attracted to the city by its central location, affordable labor market, and manufacturing opportunities here.

    Last year, INOVUES raised its first round of funding — a $2.75 million seed round — to scale up the team and identify the best markets to target customers. Kassas says he was looking for regions with rising energy rates and sizable incentives for companies making energy efficient changes.

    "We were able to now implement our technology in over 4 million square feet of building space — from Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York City, Portland, and very soon in Canada," he says.

    Notably missing from that list is any Texas cities. Kassas says that he believes Houston is a great city for startups and he has his operations and manufacturing is based here, but he's not yet seen the right opportunity and adaption

    "Unfortunately most of our customers are not in Texas," "A lot of work can be done here to incentivize building owners. There are a lot of existing buildings and construction happening here, but there has to be more incentives."

    Kassas shares more about his growth over the past year, as well as what he has planned for 2023 on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

    Houston SPAC announces merger with Beaumont-based tech company in deal valued at $100M

    speaking of spacs

    A Houston SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company, has announced the company it plans to merge with in the new year.

    Beaumont-based Infrared Cameras Holdings Inc., a provider of thermal imaging platforms, and Houston-based SportsMap Tech Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: SMAP), a publicly-traded SPAC with $117 million held in trust, announced their agreement for ICI to IPO via SPAC.

    Originally announced in the fall of last year, the blank-check company is led by David Gow, CEO and chairman. Gow is also chairman and CEO of Gow Media, which owns digital media outlets SportsMap, CultureMap, and InnovationMap, as well as the SportsMap Radio Network, ESPN 97.5 and 92.5.

    The deal will close in the first half of 2023, according to a news release, and the combined company will be renamed Infrared Cameras Holdings Inc. and will be listed on NASDAQ under a new ticker symbol.

    “ICI is extremely excited to partner with David Gow and SportsMap as we continue to deliver our innovative software and hardware solutions," says Gary Strahan, founder and CEO of ICI, in the release. "We believe our software and sensor technology can change the way companies across industries perform predictive maintenance to ensure reliability, environmental integrity, and safety through AI and machine learning.”

    Strahan will continue to serve as CEO of the combined company, and Gow will become chairman of the board. The transaction values the combined company at a pre-money equity valuation of $100 million, according to the release, and existing ICI shareholders will roll 100 percent of their equity into the combined company as part of the transaction.

    “We believe ICI is poised for strong growth," Gow says in the release. "The company has a strong value proposition, detecting the overheating of equipment in industrial settings. ICI also has assembled a strong management team to execute on the opportunity. We are delighted to combine our SPAC with ICI.”

    Founded in 1995, ICI provides infrared and imaging technology — as well as service, training, and equipment repairs — to various businesses and individuals across industries.