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.

    Here's who won big for Houston innovation. Photos courtesy

    Houston Exponential names winners of inaugural innovation awards

    And the winner is...

    In a virtual awards program, Houston Exponential has revealed the winners of the inaugural Listies awards.

    The Listies, brought to you by Houston Exponential in partnership with InnovationMap, named the winning companies and people across 12 awards on November 20 at 3 pm as a part of Impact Hub's annual The Houston Innovation Summit (THIS).

    Nominations were open until Friday, November 6, and then a group of judges made up of members of the Houston innovation ecosystem reviewed the submissions to settle on the 38 finalists. Click here to see the finalists.

    Here's who took home the big wins.

    SDO Superstar: MassChallenge Texas

    Photo courtesy of MassChallenge

    A startup development organization can be an accelerator program, an incubator, or a coworking space — and organizations falling into all three of these sectors were nominated for this category. MassChallenge Texas, which has been running its non-equity, general accelerator program in Houston for two years, stood out to judges to take the win for the SDO Superstar category.

    Individual Contributor: Slawek Omylski of SecurityGate

    Photo via LinkedIn

    The individual contributor award was meant to find and recognize a non-founder who was essential to the success of a Houston startup, and that's exactly how SecurityGate's team sees Slawek Omylski, director of engineering. Not only has he been essential from the start over three years ago when he joined as employee No. 4, but Omylski, when unexpectedly having to move back home to Italy, never missed a single meeting or tech deployment despite being an ocean away from the rest of his team. Known as "Suave" by his teammates, his nominators say Omylski is usually the first to arrive at the office and the last to leave.

    Civic Innovation: Annapurna Solutions

    Image viaannapurnasolutions.org

    Everyone knows that the key to sustainability is reducing, reusing, and recycling, but the fact of the matter is no one has quite perfected recycling. Houston-based Annapurna Solutions is stepping in to help. The company provides innovative technology solutions to address waste and recycling challenges, helping to make cities smart and sustainable — like the company's ReciklApp.

    Welcome to Houston: Greentown Labs

    Photo via greentownlabs.com

    Greentown Labs is a startup development organization, but it's are also a startup itself, but when it opens its doors in Houston in the spring, the organization isn't starting from scratch. After years of working with over 200 climatech companies in the Boston area, Greentown's expansion into Houston means incubating Houston energy tech companies and furthering the conversation and activation within the energy transition.

    Investor of the Year: Integr8d Capital

    Photo via TMC.edu

    John "J.R." Reale has been a well respected mentor, entrepreneur, and investor in Houston for years. His firm Integr8d Capital has invested in several Houston companies, including Liongard from seed stage to series A and series B. Reale is also the entrepreneur in residence for the TMC Innovation Institute.

    Corporate Innovator: Houston Methodist

    Courtesy of Methodist Hospital/Facebook

    Houston Methodist and its Center for Innovation led by Roberta Schwartz is leading health tech innovation in Houston. In January, the hospital opened its Technology Hub, 3,500-square-foot space renovated from a former 18-room patient wing to showcase and test new digital health technologies like virtual reality, ambient listening, wearables, and more. Additionally, the hub helped with the training of dozens of doctors with the rise of telemedicine during COVID-19.

    Outstanding Leadership: Grace Rodriguez

    Photo courtesy of Grace Rodriguez

    Grace Rodriguez's career spans industry and time, but her leadership has been consistent throughout. She currently serves Impact Hub Houston as CEO and executive director. Her nominator calls her an inspiration and someone who "shows up," clearly loving everything she does and is responsible. During COVID-19, she's gone above and beyond to provide resources and information to everyone who needs it, including launching a fund to help pay for meals for health care workers and first responders. The LIFE Fund raised over $20,000.

    COVID Phoenix: Luminare

    Image via luminaremed.com

    Originally founded by Dr. Sarma Velamuri to treat and fight sepsis, Luminare took its sepsis platform and pivoted it to created a COVID self-assessment and testing tool. Their digital platform directed 5.5 million people to COVID-19 testing sites in just 21 days, according to its nomination. The tool was used by Harris County and several other entities.

    DEI Champion: Maria Maso

    Photo courtesy of Nijalon Dunn

    Maria Maso is looking out for minorities when it comes to investment. As the founder and CEO of the Business Angel Minority Association (baMa) — an Angel Association aimed at bridging minority-founded startups with accesses to capital — Maria has been a champion for diversity. She also has helped to educate and activate 40 diverse investors through baMa's Diversity Investor Academy, according to her nomination.

    Mentor of the Year: Landi Spearman

    Photo via LinkedIn

    Landi Spearman's approach to mentorship, according to her nominee, is to mentor the full person — from professional to personal life — through Organized SHIFT, which focuses on helping highly productive leaders, individuals and organizations in their quest to sustain positive growth internally and externally. She also supports entrepreneurs though The Ion, Station Houston, General Assembly, the National Urban League, Power to Fly, Black Women in Science and Engineering, the Greater Houston Partnership, the Greater Houston Black Chamber, Pink Petro, and more.

    People's Choice and Soonicorn: Liongard

    Photos via LinkedIn

    People's Choice was based off how many nominations the startups received, and Liongard was a clear winner. The company, which also won in the Soonicorn category, has experienced major growth and, as the nominations read, that's to both Joe Alapat and Vincent Tran, co-founders, credit. The company has raised $12 million to date — the most recent round, a $10 million Series A — closed this year.

    Houston Exponential has announced the 38 finalists for the inaugural Listies Awards. Photo via Getty Images

    Exclusive: HX names finalists for inaugural Houston innovation awards

    the listies go to...

    Ever wonder what Houston startups and innovators are the best of the best? Here's your chance to figure it out. The inaugural Listies awards program has named its finalists.

    The Listies, brought to you by Houston Exponential in partnership with InnovationMap, will name the winning companies and people across 12 awards on November 20 at 3 pm at a virtual event as a part of Impact Hub's annual The Houston Innovation Summit (THIS). Click here to register for the free event.

    Nominations were open until Friday, November 6, and then a group of judges made up of members of the Houston innovation ecosystem reviewed the submissions to settle on the finalists. Below, in alphabetical order, the 38 finalists are listed for each category.

    DEI champion

    • Heath Butler
    • Maria Maso
    • Grace Rodriguez

    Individual contributor

    • Michael Matthews
    • Slawek Omylski
    • Brad True

    Mentor of the year

    • Keith Kreuer
    • Wade Pinder
    • Landi Spearman

    Outstanding leadership

    • Stephanie Campbell
    • Grace Rodriguez
    • Roberta Schwartz

    Corporate innovation

    • Chevron Technology Ventures
    • Houston Methodist
    • Shell Ventures

    Investor of the year

    • CSL Capital Management
    • Golden Section VC (GSTVC)
    • Integr8d Capital

    SDO superstar

    • MassChallenge Houston
    • Rice Alliance
    • TMCx

    Welcome to Houston

    • Greentown Labs
    • TestCard
    • Win-Win

    Civic engagement

    • Annapurna
    • Luminare
    • McMac Cx

    COVID pivot/phoenix

    • Luminare
    • re:3D
    • sEATz

    People choice

    • INK
    • Liongard
    • Luminare
    • re:3D
    • Topl

    Soonicorn

    • GoExpedi
    • Liongard
    • Medical Informatics Corp.
    Log on to one of these informative online events happening throughout the rest of the month. Getty Images

    10+ can't-miss virtual business and innovation events in Houston for November​

    Where to be online

    November is usually the last busy month for business events before the end of the year and ahead of the holidays, and this year — even though events have pivoted to virtual gatherings — is no different.

    From panels and ask-me-anything meetings to summits and startup competitions, here are over 10 Houston innovation events you can attend virtually via online meetings. This month in particular there's the return of The Houston Innovation Summit and the brand new awards program called, The Listies (nominate now for those). Be sure to register in advance, as most will send an access link ahead of the events.

    November 5 — Dell Technologies Ask Me Anything

    Dell Technologies is hosting an "Ask Me Anything" session for the Ion community. During this time, attendees can ask experts anything in regards to IT pain points during these times. Entrepreneurs may also use this time to brainstorm the back end IT Infrastructure of their business.

    The event will take place online on Thursday, November 5, at 10 am. Register here.

    November 5-6 — Greentown Labs Climatetech Summit

    Join Greentown Labs for its first Climatetech Summit for a deep dive into scaling climate action. Across the two days, attendees will engage with Greentown's pillars of climate action — technology, finance, policy, and justice — discover groundbreaking startups and their climatetech solutions, learn from industry experts, and forge meaningful connections with entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders, policymakers, startup support organizations, and other climate champions.

    The event will take place online on Thursday, November 5, and Friday, November 6. Register here.

    November 10 — Igniting Leadership: The State of COVID Vaccines

    Join Ignite Healthcare Network for a special night of discussion hosted by IGNITE Steering Committee member Susan Feigin Harris about the status of COVID19 vaccine development with Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, Co-director of Texas Children's Center for Vaccine Development.

    The event will take place online on Tuesday, November 10, at 6 pm. Register here.

    November 10-12 — Texas Life Sciences Forum

    The Texas Life Science Forum is the premier life science event in Texas that brings together members from industry, emerging life science companies, academic, and investors. The 2020 event will be virtual and will still be the "must attend" event for anyone in the life science industry in Texas or affiliated with innovation at the life science academic institutions. This event represents an opportunity to meet investors, learn about promising life science companies, to learn about opportunities for entrepreneurs, investment professionals, big pharma, academics and business executives serving the life science industry.

    The event will take place online on Tuesday, November 10, to Thursday, November 12. Register here.

    November 12 — Plaza Tec: Funding Fundamentals

    Though Latinx-owned businesses and startups make up at least 38 percent of businesses in the Houston area, there is still a lack of access to capital blocking growth and progress for Latinx founders.

    In this discussion presented by The Ion, representatives from baMa and NextSeed will join together to discuss angel investing and crowdfunding options for Latinx founders and what challenges one might face when seeking capital.

    The event will take place online on Thursday, November 12, at 5:30 pm. Register here.

    November 12 — Women in Tech and Biz

    If you're interested in hearing from some badass women in tech and business, come to the virtual Women in Tech + Biz event created by the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The event will be split into two sections — one focused on entrepreneurship and the other focusing more on software and engineering — followed by networking.

    The event will take place online on Thursday, November 12, at 6 pm. Register here.

    November 13 — Climathon 2020: Hacking Solutions to Houston’s Climate Challenges

    On Earth Day this year, the City of Houston published its first Climate Action Plan. The plan is the culmination of thousands of volunteer time from industry professionals, policy stakeholders, and community advocates. Together the working groups have laid out a concise plan to address the climate challenges that Houston faces along with maintaining a leadership role in the energy transition. This year's Climathon will look to realize some of the goals of the plan through design sprints led by local subject matter experts in the areas of transportation, energy innovation, building optimization, and materials management.

    The event will take place online on Friday, November 13, at 1 pm. Register here.

    November 16-20 — The Houston Innovation Summit

    The Houston Innovation Summit — THIS — celebrates Houston's innovation ecosystem during Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW). THIS responds to 2020 with a special focus on the intersection of Impact and Innovation, spotlighting Houstonians at the forefront of education, ecosystems, inclusion, and policy. Join Impact Hub Houston and Houston's startup and small business community for a week of exciting programs and connect with the thinkers, doers, makers and innovators driving Houston forward.

    The event will take place online on Monday, November 16, to Friday, November 20. Register here.

    November 17 — Struggles and Bubbles: Pivoting during a Pandemic

    Join General Assembly Houston to listen to a panel of startup founders who will share their journey and entrepreneurial struggles, and what it really takes to launch a startup during global pandemic, and scale a startup.

    The event will take place online on Tuesday, November 17 at 5 pm. Register here.

    November 17-19 — Capital Factory's Texas Startup Roadshow

    For the first time, Capital Factory is taking its roadshow online. For three days, the organization will be introducing investors to the various innovative cities across the Lone Star State.

    Houston will be the city of focus on Wednesday, November 18.

    The event will take place online on Tuesday, November 17, to Thursday, November 19. Register here.

    November 20 — The Listies

    Let's toast to the entrepreneurial spirit of Houston in a time when celebrating victories is more important than ever. Introducing the Listies, brought to you Houston Exponential and InnovationMap, commemorating the launch of HTX TechList, Houston's innovation discovery platform.

    The event will take place online on Friday, November 20, at 3 pm. Register here.

    Greentown Labs has announced its inaugural batch of members for its new Houston location. Photo via greentownlabs.com

    New-to-Houston cleantech incubator names inaugural members

    to the lab

    A Somerville, Massachusetts-based cleantech accelerator has announced the 16 startups that will be a part of its new Houston incubator program.

    Greentown Labs named the companies in the cohort this week just a few weeks after announcing the location of its new lab and workspace. The 40,000-square-foot space is being renovated from a former grocery store and is expected to open next spring.

    "These early-access members are innovating across the key greenhouse gas-emitting sectors—including electricity, manufacturing, buildings, and more—and their solutions are helping create a sustainable future for all," reads a blog post on the company's website.

    Here are Greentown Houston's inaugural members:

    • Austin-based Applied Bioplastics is creating affordable plastic alternatives with plant matter to help reduce consumers' carbon footprint.
    • Black Mountain Metals, based in Fort Worth, is focused on nickel and copper mining for lithium-ion battery cathodes.
    • Carbon Free Technologies created a home battery system that can store electricity when rates are low.
    • ClearValue uses pure hydrogen and oxygen as a sustainable power system.
    • e^2: equitable energy is described as a "multi-brand cause-marketing platform" that connects consumers to sustainable energy solutions through promotion and incentivization.
    • Eclipse Solar Projects builds, owns, and operates solar projects across the country through new technology and battery storage operations.
    • Houston-based Ennuity Holdings allows users to have access to solar energy subscription service — even though they don't have access to installing panels themselves.
    • Excipicio Energy , based in Houston, is taking renewable energy offshore by integrating wind, wave, and more into a single floating platform.
    • Houston-based Quantum New Energy platform, EnerWisely, helps people and companies make smart energy choices "to maximize their monetary savings and reduce their environmental impacts."
    • Spring, Texas-based Renu Energy is creating sustainable change through waste recycling and community engagement, according to its website.
    • REVOLUTION Turbine Technologies, based in North Carolina, is working on a power generator that can be used in the offshore setting.
    • Houston-based Revterra is developing a long-duration energy storage solution.
    • Skylark, based in Houston, created a "broadband last-mile radio systems for internet service providers, with a focus on 40 million unserved Americans in rural markets."
    • Austin-based swytchX is working on a cloud-based SaaS solution that uses blockchain technology to optimize renewable energy delivery.
    • Houston-based Varea Energy, a software company, uses data to build business models focusing on eliminating barriers to green initiatives.
    • California-based Veloce Energy develops faster electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
    Companies interested in joining the incubator should reach out to Greentown Labs online.

    The 16 startups will move into the Greentown space when it opens in the spring. Image via greentownlabs.com

    From the potential for electric vehicle growth to the role of corporates, experts joined a panel to discuss the progress of Houston's low-carbon energy initiatives. Photo by Katya Horner

    Overheard: Here's where Houston's low-carbon efforts stand, according to the experts

    eavesdropping online

    Houston is moving the needle on low-carbon initiatives, as one panel agreed at the Center for Houston's Future's Low-Carbon Energy Innovation Summit.

    The annual event, which is taking place virtually this year, was broken up into two days. The first installment focused on low-carbon markets on October 8. This week on October 15, the virtual programming will cover Houston's energy ecosystem.

    While the day of low-carbon programming zeroed in on specifics within the subject, one panel zoomed out to check in on Houston's progress. Brett Perlman, president and CEO for the center for Houston's Future, moderated the discussion, which featured five energy experts. Here are some highlights from the panel.

    “We’ve identified 200 companies in Houston that we would call energy 2.0 companies — solar, wind, energy stories, and other energy and clean tech companies. So, there’s already a lot happening.”

    — Bob Harvey, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership.

    “While innovation and the energy transition are not the same thing, they are close cousins. Innovation is about change and new businesses and how they work with incumbent businesses, so when you think about the transition, you have to include both of them.”

    — Barbara Burger, Chevron's vice president of innovation and president of Chevron Technology Ventures.

    “Hurricane Harvey was a point where so much changed. Everything I do in my job changed. We went from climate being talked about discretely to something we can’t not talk about. It’s in every conversation whether we like it or not.”

    — Lara Cottingham, chief of staff and chief sustainability officer for the city of Houston.

    “This is a global challenge, but Houston is a global leader. We really want to be hands on and tackle this to keep Houston in that leadership role.”

    — Cottingham continues.

    “Houston has the engineering expertise and experience doing energy at scale. Frankly, we need that set of expertise at the table.”

    — Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs, which recently expanded to Houston.

    “We’d like to see 30 percent of new vehicle sales be electric vehicles by 2030. I think we’ll get there much sooner.”

    Chris George, president and executive director of EVolve Houston.

    “Houston is very important and significant because of our relation to the port. Whether it’s looking at hydrogen trucking for long haul trips or looking at reducing logistics cost for manufacturing and assembly, Houston has everything to offer.”

    George continues.

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    CultureMap Emails are Awesome

    Mayor greenlights major solar farm project in south Houston

    shine on

    Mayor Sylvester Turner and the city council have given the green light on a project that will convert a 240-acre former landfill in Sunnyside into a brownfield solar installation.

    The public-private partnership with Sunnyside Energy LLC. received unanimous approval on a lease agreement that will move the project — which is a part of the City's Climate Action Plan and Complete Communities Initiative — forward.

    "The Sunnyside landfill has been one of Houston's biggest community challenges for decades, and I am proud we are one step closer to its transformation," says Mayor Turner in a news release. "I thank the Sunnyside community because this project would not have come together without its support. This project is an example of how cities can work with the community to address long-standing environmental justice concerns holistically, create green jobs and generate renewable energy in the process."

    The solar field, which is anticipated to be installed and working by the end of next year, will be able to power 5,000 homes and offset 120 million pounds of CO2 each year, according to the release.

    "We applaud the actions of Mayor Turner and the City Council in taking this significant step," says Dori Wolfe, managing director of Sunnyside Energy LLC, in the release. "It is a strong vote of confidence for this impactful project. All members of the project team realize that this Sunnyside Solar facility will be an iconic statement in the rejuvenation of the community. We are grateful that Mayor Turner has given us his support."

    The city's involvement with the company began in 2017 when Houston joined the C40 Reinventing Cities Competition – a global competition to promote sustainable energy projects. As a part of the competition and through the city's efforts on the initiative, powers at be selected the winning proposal from Wolfe Energy LLC, which formed Sunnyside Energy LLC to execute the urban solar farm project.

    Per the lease agreement, the city of Houston owns the land and Sunnyside Energy will be the tenant responsible for permitting, construction, operation, and more.

    Houston health company acquired by Seattle tech biz

    M&A Moves

    A West Coast health tech company has announced the acquisition of Houston-based 2nd.MD.

    Accolade Inc., which uses technology solutions to help users better understand their benefits and the health care system, announced last week that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Houston-based expert medical opinion company 2nd.MD.

    The goal of the acquisition is to further simplify the healthcare experience for employees and increase return on investment for employers, according to a press release from Accolade, and the company will continue to offer 2nd.MD's service on a stand-alone basis as well.

    "We share a common vision to help every person live their healthiest life by dramatically improving quality and accessibility of care through a people-focused, clinically-driven support model," says Rajeev Singh, CEO of Accolade, in the release. "Bringing 2nd.MD's world-class Care Team and digital approach with expert medical consultation into Accolade, and continuing to offer it on a stand-alone basis, will have an immediate and measurable impact for our customers, their employees, and the health plans we work with."

    "Both companies have built deep relationships with employers and health plans by helping employees navigate the increasingly complex and inconsistent healthcare system," Singh continues. "With the addition of 2nd.MD, we'll nearly double our total addressable market while providing the most comprehensive, integrated healthcare navigation experience available."

    2nd.MD supports over 300 employers — connecting more than 7 million people to over 900 nationally recognized, board-certified medical specialists. According to the release, the company reported unaudited revenues of approximately $35 million.

    "When it is you or a loved one facing a serious health decision, waiting for weeks to receive a second opinion from an expert isn't acceptable. We've built a scalable Expert Medical Opinion offering that treats every member like family," says Jason Melton, CEO of 2nd.MD. "Combining our Care Teams and technology with Accolade will enhance the reach and quality of support to members from the moment of crisis to the other side of treatment on the path to wellness. We share a common business vision, our cultures are highly aligned around employee purpose and we share a common mission to change healthcare for the benefit of all consumers."

    5 PR and marketing tips for Houston startups and small businesses in 2021

    guest column

    The past year has been a rollercoaster for small businesses. When the pandemic hit, every single person was affected. We've all had to pivot in some way either personally, professionally, or both.

    As public relations and marketing professionals who specialize in working with small businesses, we've spent the last 10 months in the trenches with our clients, advising and helping business owners and entrepreneurs navigate these uncertain times. While small business revenue is down since January 2020, it's not all doom and gloom out there – we've seen many other businesses experience unexpected success and growth, and according to economists, we are entering the greatest entrepreneurial economy of our time.

    And as we start this new year, there is no better time to invest in business growth and planning. Below are five tips to help you get started.

    1. Get smart on your PR

    Whether you know a little or a lot about public relations, marketing, and social media, take some time to get caught up on the current landscape. It is constantly changing, and having a better understanding of how traditional media, social media, paid marketing, owned content and all other components can benefit your business will inform decisions about where to allocate your time and resources.

    First, assess what stage of business you are in as well as your business goals to determine what PR and marketing tools could be most beneficial to your growth at this time. Not all small businesses are prepared, financially or otherwise, to invest in PR, and there are fundamental steps you can do on your own to get your business positioned to succeed.

    With online education booming, there are many free resources and tools at your disposal. We created All You Need Method to simplify PR and marketing for small business owners. You can download our Free PR Roadmap on our website to assess what level of PR support is right for your business. We also created The PR Starter Kit online course to give small business owners the fundamental tools they need to use PR, marketing, and social media to support business growth and build a lasting brand – and it only takes a few hours to complete.

    2. Revisit your target audience

    The world has changed significantly over the past year and so have the wants, needs, habits, and interests of consumers. As a small business, it's imperative to understand your target audience's current problems in order to relate to them, build trust, and deliver a product or service that is meeting their needs.

    Before investing time and financial resources creating and executing a 2021 business plan, take a step back and consider your ideal customer. Outline how the past year has created opportunities or challenges in their life, problems they are facing, new shopping habits, lifestyle shifts, communication preferences, concerns, etc. If you have more than one ideal customer, work through this exercise for each.

    With this new perspective, you will be equipped to make business decisions through the lens of how you can better serve your customers, rather than how to increase revenue.

    3. Stand for something

    Brands that are succeeding today are the brands that are authentic, vulnerable, and that stand for something. According to a global study by Zeno Group in July 2020, consumers are 4 to 6 times more likely to purchase and champion purpose-driven companies.

    Having a purpose doesn't require a brand to have a philanthropy component or an outspoken political stance – it's about identifying your specific values and making them apparent through your messaging and leadership within your industry. Values could include committing to sustainable production methods, outstanding customer service, commitment to diversity, or supporting a specific cause. What is most important is that your values are authentic and that you can stand behind them long-term.

    As the founder/owner of a small business, you have an opportunity to put a face and values behind the brand so that your company is about more than selling something.

    4. Clarify your message

    After revisiting your target audience and carefully considering your brand values, incorporate those findings into your messaging. Conduct an audit of your website, social media channels, and all external facing materials, and update your messaging to ensure that if your ideal customer had a 30 second encounter with your brand, they would walk away with your most important messaging points. Important points to consider as you craft new messaging include:

    • How your product or service solves a problem for or benefits your target audience
    • Brand values
    • Points of differentiation

    5. Be authentic and communicative

    Before the days of social media, a brand had to rely on third parties, including editorials and ads in magazines and newspapers, to spread the word about their brand. Social media and all "owned channels," including a brand's website, blog, and newsletter, have leveled the playing field and allow small business owners to have control over their communication with customers. Through your owned channels, a brand can decide what to post and when, which is incredibly valuable.

    While securing press and advertising opportunities is valuable to growth and brand awareness, it's largely outside of one's control. Focus your time and financial resources on communicating with your audience by creating content for your owned channels. Creating content and posting consistently can seem overwhelming to a solopreneur or small team, but there are ways to make it manageable:

    • Pick only a few owned channels to focus on, prioritizing platforms you are most familiar with using and where your audience is most active
    • Quality and consistency are more important than quantity. If you're only posting once a week due to bandwidth, commit to that frequency and increase frequency as you are able
    • To inspire and inform content creation, think about how you can serve your customers through your areas of expertise and what is relevant to both your brand and audience (events, holidays, partnerships, new product launches, etc.)
    • Create a content calendar so that you can plan out posts a month in advance to avoid last minute scrambling to decide what to post

    Once you've worked through these five tips, make a plan to support your business goals - and start thinking in two phases.

    • Phase 1: Pandemic Home Stretch - Although there is hope with a COVID-19 vaccine, we know we will likely be dealing with the effects indefinitely. Use this time of uncertainty to get your business in the best shape possible.
    • Phase 2: Post Pandemic - How do you want your business or brand to show up when the world opens back up? It feels far off, but it is closer than you think and there is a huge opportunity for those who are willing to put in the work now.

    Remember, these challenging times will pass. There is massive opportunity for the businesses and brands who are willing to reflect, pivot, and plan for a brighter future.

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    Kathryn Worsham Humphries and Carla M. Nikitaidis are the co-creators of Houston-based All You Need Method, a PR and marketing resource for small business owners and entrepreneurs.