LinkedIn isn't just for job hunters anymore. Photo via Pexels

Houston expert shares 5 tips for optimizing LinkedIn for business, career development

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In today's digital age, LinkedIn has emerged as a powerhouse for professional networking and career development. With over 774 million users worldwide, it is essential to not only have a presence on the platform but also to use it effectively.

As a digital marketing consultant, I work closely with companies and leaders to help them leverage LinkedIn successfully. Here are some of my tips and tricks for getting the most out of LinkedIn.

Keep your profile updated

Your LinkedIn profile is your digital resume and the first impression you make on potential connections. Having once been known mostly as a platform for job seekers, an up-to-date LinkedIn profile is essential for showcasing your skills, experiences, and achievements. Relatively new features such as your profile headline and skill summary reflect your current professional status and aspirations. Include a professional-looking profile photo and don’t leave the header image blank; consider one promoting your company, one of you “in action” speaking at an event, or sharing a mission statement.

Curating a comprehensive LinkedIn profile with past work experiences and education alma maters helps you build a more relevant community. Volunteer experiences, publications, and special projects serve as a great means to diversify your profile and highlight skills beyond your professional work. Asking for recommendations from colleagues or supervisors adds noteworthy credibility in creating a well-rounded profile.

Define your audience and goals

Before diving into the sea of connections, think about your goals for using LinkedIn. Are you looking for job opportunities, networking with industry leaders, or building a thought leadership brand? Identifying your specific objectives will help you tailor your profile and content accordingly. Who are you hoping will see and engage with your content? Determine your target audience, whether it is professionals in your industry, potential employers, or like-minded individuals. This will guide your engagement and content strategy

Establish a clear voice and persona

Consistency is key when building your online persona. Your LinkedIn profile should reflect your professional identity, yet your voice should be genuine to your goals. Are you a brand promoter working to advance a company’s mission, a thought leader with expertise in a niche field, or an industry expert who can speak knowledgably about broad trending topics? Whether you are aiming for a formal, informative tone or a more casual, conversational approach, maintaining a consistent voice across your profile and content helps build a recognizable personal brand.

Don’t be shy to show your audience the authentic “you”. While focused on professional content sharing, LinkedIn can also be a place to post about personal experiences. For instance, a recent family vacation could be a lead-in to explaining how your father was the one who put you on track for your current career path or a photo from a race you completed to raise money for a rare disease that your best friend suffers from.

Use varied tools and engage

LinkedIn offers a variety of content formats, including text posts, articles, images, videos, polls, and more. Experimenting with different formats can help you identify what resonates best with your audience. Share industry insights, success stories, professional accomplishments, and upcoming speaking opportunities while incorporating multimedia elements to make your content more engaging. Ask questions – give your audience a reason to engage by leaving them with food for thought at the end of your posts. Try to be consistent with your posting strategy; a good rule of thumb is one post per week.

Maybe even more important than posting your own content is engaging with others’ content. Find groups that resonate with you and follow people that have similar interests to you. LinkedIn has one of the largest editorial teams across all news platforms. Many people are unaware of the LinkedIn news feed (top right of the home page) and how editors build their stories off trending content from LinkedIn users. Don’t forget about hashtags – this is how people and organizations will find your content and engage with you.

Individualize success measurements

Success on LinkedIn varies from person to person based on individual goals. Whether you are aiming to increase your profile views and engagement, grow your followers, or connect with influential professionals, define your own metrics for success. LinkedIn has built in analytics tools to monitor the growth of your network and assess the impact of your content on achieving your objectives. Regularly review and adjust your strategy based on the insights gained from these metrics.

Mastering any social media platform, including LinkedIn, takes time to build a community and establish your voice. By strategically navigating the platform, you can unlock new opportunities, expand your professional network, and position yourself as a thought leader in your industry. So what are you waiting for – polish up your profile, start writing, and let LinkedIn be the catalyst for your professional success.

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Arielle Rogg is the principal and founder of Rogg Enterprises, a Houston-based company providing digital marketing for health care innovators.

On the precipice of the new year, be sure you're factoring these human resources trends. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert shares 5 HR trends to expect to see in 2024

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Several catchy names to common workplace issues surfaced in 2023, from “quiet quitting” and “quiet promotions” to “monk mode” and “coffee badging.” What came to the forefront of these conversations was employers need to take care of their people to increase engagement and productivity, which results in happy employees and business success.

On the precipice of the new year, there are HR trends that will carry over and other trends employers may want to consider to create a workplace culture that supports its employees and sets the organization up to meet its goals.

Building Skills to Fill the Labor Shortage

Depending on the industry, business leaders continue to have a hard time finding qualified workers to fill open positions, even though there are 6.3 million unemployed workers in the U.S. labor market. The reason this is difficult, many times, is the need for a specific educational background, exact experience or new skills in technology.

A business on the verge of growth needs to fill roles as quickly as possible, but it can do more harm than good hiring the wrong people. Training current employees whose positions are easier to back-fill to take on a new role and building the specific skills needed in-house can be the ideal solution.

Hiring Based on Experience

Many people are not taking the traditional career path and business leaders must look beyond the degree and standard experiences when hiring. With the tight labor market, it is imperative to look at the entire person and skills that can translate into the role. For example, military veterans were quickly trained in several very technical areas, they can make quick decisions, lead effectively and many are goal oriented. Even though they may not tick the standard boxes, the soft skills they bring to business can make them great hires. With training, they will quickly learn the skills needed for the specific task at hand.

Offering Wellness Programs

Employee benefits took center stage during the pandemic, from extended medical benefits to mental health resources. An even more well-rounded approach to wellness will continue into 2024. Beyond health-related benefits, wellness extends to child and elder care, including flexible schedules, as more employers require in-office days. Additionally, financial wellness programs continue to gain momentum. These benefits take shape with financial education classes/coaching, savings programs, investment opportunities, budgeting tools and credit resources. When employers implement financial wellness benefits, they help reduce employees’ financial stress and boost their financial confidence, which impacts every facet of their lives, including work engagement and productivity.

Creating a Living AI Policy

AI is in the workplace, but it is changing daily. Employers will need to set policies on how AI can be used with their organization if they haven’t done so already. That said, the policy needs to change as the technology evolves. AI is a tool that will change the way we work; however, it is important to know its weaknesses and not lose sight of the human element of business. For example, AI can help streamline administrative tasks for the organization, which frees up staff time to have one-on-one conversations, collaborate more effectively and develop broader strategies to move the business forward.

Offering Frontline Manager Support

Frontline managers are in a precarious position. They have the difficult task of managing remote and hybrid employees, ensuring they are taken care of and meeting expectations, while also managing up to leadership. Frontline managers ensure work gets done and new initiatives are implemented. Many managers were put into the position during the great resignation and others are still struggling with managing today’s evolving workplace structure. Training frontline managers and offering them the support and tools they need to do their jobs well is something employers need to make trend in 2024.

Bottom Line

There are always trends in the workplace, but there is one thing that holds true year after year. Great relationships inspire great performance. These relationships start at the top and require real conversations to take place. When a culture is established where employees know they are heard and there are people within the organization who care about them and their success, business becomes easier to conduct and success follows. Start 2024 by putting intentional effort into relationships. It’s the best decision any leader can make.

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Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

Founders, when you feel the market starting to tighten up, consider giving yourself, and your investors, some breathing space, then use that breathing space to drive value. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert: How to build startup runway in a choppy venture funding market

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The venture funding market in 2023 has been very tough.

The number of rounds closing is significantly down from the 2022, and a record number of companies are raising. Overall VC fundraising is down, but great deals are getting funded well and at good valuations, while many are struggling. Fewer new investors are writing lead checks and being more cautious when they do, later stage investors are shifting earlier stage to manage risk, bad cap tables, operating plans, and reluctant insiders are killing otherwise good deals, and everyone is working on ensuring their portfolio is in good shape.

This is just another venture cycle. The sky is not falling, the playbook for this cycle was written long ago. But if you are a founder, you may need to take action. If you are less than 15 months of runway, it’s time to go to your investors with a plan. You need to either be well on your way to closing a round, starting your fundraise if the company is ready, know your investor group’s plan to bridge or do an inside round if necessary and what you need to achieve to unlock that, or bring them a realistic plan yourself to get to 18 to 30 months of runway. But whatever you need to do, you need to do it now.

The runway plan

The core of a good runway plan is building a cash wedge by taking a little from everywhere, and drop margin and cash. A little revenues, a little in pricing, a little headcount reduction, a little insider capital, a little new capital, and a little balance sheet help. How much a little is, depends on your own dynamic. The secret to a good cash wedge runway plan is starting early, and doing it now. Every day of delay increases the depth of the changes needed for the same runway – until you reach a point where the brutal burn math just doesn’t work, and the changes become costly or even untenable.

Focus on your customers. Nothing cures runway or fundraising ills like revenue. You’ve built these relationships for a reason. They are taking your calls because they care. If you and your team aren’t spending most of your time with customers right now, you are doing it wrong. Good customers get it. Focus their attention on how your product makes them money, and how much. Support their internal efforts to grow the account. Open book it, raise prices if it makes sense, and ask for more volume or contract extensions at good prices if you can’t. With new customers, focus on getting more phase ones that fit in the budget your champions have available quickly. Bet you and your customer can find more budget later when you’ve demonstrated value to them. Bid every grant and non-dilutive source that makes sense, which builds leverage for yourself and your investors.

Burnmatters. In a tight market, no one likes to buy burn, and demonstrating efficiency of revenue and backlog relative to capitalization and burn level matters. If you’re going to cut (and you probably should), cut much deeper than you think, and do it now. You ran this company when it was four people and no money, you can do it again if you really had to. Start making quick decisions about what you can defer and cut in the near term, there is always an easy 5 to 10 percent of costs you can cut and push to next year, and often a few points that can be pulled from supply chain deals. Overplan for growth, but don’t release to spend until your capital markets plan is clear.

Rebalance your spend. Shift your cost structure and organization chart forward towards the customer. Aggressively expand customer facing lead generation, guerilla marketing, applications engineering and direct sales efforts, at the expense of internally facing ones like R&D, manufacturing, and overhead. Repurpose people, change comp structures, job descriptions, or adjust costs and headcount. Get your team on board with the focus and where your runway is. A 12-person startup has about 2,000 labor hours a month to throw at its problems, 3,000 hours on overdrive, when your runway shortens, it’s time to hurl those at customers. Keep in mind, none of this is permanent, good startup organizations are elastic and in six months you can shift back or add again. You’re only really making 180-day changes here. That’s what the nimble startup means. It’s about runway and quick product and operational shifts.

Hit the balance sheet for cash. Depending on company stage and type, sell any underutilized assets and inventory, defer some capex, put someone on collecting AR and adjust your contract terms and pricing to pull forward cash flow, term out and negotiate payment terms on AP, leases and debt. One huge caveat. Do not take venture debt. Until you are profitable, venture debt does not actually create the runway in the real world that you see on paper, and has killed more good startups on the cusp of greatness. Venture debt is Lucy, runway is the football, and you are Charlie Brown.

Adjust your capital markets strategy. The classic rule is raise all you can when you can, because capital is available most when you need it least. But that’s not the whole story. And founders need to realize it is really dangerous to take a deal to market that is not ready, and doesn’t have the right level of insider support, is priced or structured wrong. While the market sets the price and terms, once you’ve a cap table full of investors, both new and existing investor appetite, and valuation, becomes a partial function of existing and new investor appetite and support. Take out a deal that’s not ready, or with too much burn, too little insider support, too high a last valuation, too large a convert or safe overhang or prior capitalization, too little team ownership, or too much valuation or cash need relative to its team, technology, TAM and traction (and cap table), and a founder and board can turn a good opportunity into a death spiral headed straight off a cliff, fast.

The "Magical 25" percent ratio. This is an art not a science, but the Magical 25 percent ratio on a prototypical startup will give you an idea of how powerful a Runaway Plan can be to get a deal done and reset a founder’s opportunity.

Imagine a middle of the road seed funded SaaS startup, burning $350,000 gross, with $100,000 in MRR, which has raised $3 million in cash from three investors and spent half of it. On its current trajectory it has six months of cash left, and is bankrupt by March. Market turned down, and the initial investor calls don’t result in a lead VC leaning in. The logic of burn rate math is brutal. In 90 days the company is on fumes, and it has no term sheet in hand, with the odds of getting one generally falling. And in today’s market the $1 million in ARR has become the new minimum not sufficient condition for fundraising, and the company will need to get farther on it’s A to be attractive to a B round investor. If the founder does nothing and waits 90 days they’ll be begging their investors for a bridge, and begging new investors for a flat round, and will likely end up with downround or an ugly insider bridge. At $250,000-a-month burn and no term sheet, within 150 days the founder will then need an inside round of between $4.5 and $6 million to get to the prototypical 24 month runway, or a $1.5 to $2 million bridge to buy enough more months to fundraise and build value. That’s 1.5x to 2x the capital raised, or over half the existing capital in a bridge, and puts intense pressure on strength of your cap table, growth rate, broad insider support, and quality of revenues in a tight venture funding market.

If the founder instead cuts costs 25 percent immediately, and then throws all hands on deck to find 25 percent more revenue — at this level of burn the startup probably has a team of at least 12 to 15 people, meaning the founder can throw at least 2,000-3,000 man hours in an all hands customer push in just the next 30 days if they had to. At the same time, the founder goes to his largest investors, walks through the cash and cost plan, and asks them to give him a term sheet for a seed extension with existing investors all kicking in 25 percent of their contribution to date, with the extension equal to 25 percent of the total capital at close. It can be papered fast and cheap. That adds $750,000, leaving the founder to find one new investor to join the insiders at the last price for 25 percent of the extension – a much easier ask of a new investor in a tough market, and probably one the founder has a couple of interested parties that have been watching, or certainly one of the founder’s investors can make a quick call to a friend to close. Brutal burn rate math has now become magical burn rate math and the company has 18 months of runway, has halved its net burn, and can additionally get away with half the A round equal to 1x the capital it has raised to date at the end of it if need be.

The "magical" part is the founder has now changed the odds for everyone – his team only has to find 25 percent revenues and costs. His insiders are only asked for 25 cents on the dollar support at a price they should love, leaving the typical fund with plenty of follow-on reserves after that, a new investor does not have to carry the lion share of the burn, set price, do as much dd, or worry about investor fatigue, and the insiders don’t have to go it alone and have external validation, and the founder has minimized their dilution, and their fundraising time. If the founder then is able to keep costs flat for just 6 months in a sprint and pick up another 25 percent in revenues, the runway at the current cashout date is still 16 months, and the company is set up well for its next round, with on $4 million in capitalization on nearly $2 million in ARR, a new investor with dry powder in the deal, and plenty of reserves left on the cap table to support the A, with a lot more traction – leaving the size of A round the company has to have at less than half the level of before, the effective revenue multiple insiders and new investors are facing halved, the burn the new investor had to buy halved and lots of time and options for the founder to drive value, dilution, and scale.

Founders, it’s your company. Your decision. Just be aware, how and how fast you play the tough decisions when the market shifts, changes the calculus for your investors, and their level of confidence and ammunition to back your future decisions. When you feel the market starting to tighten up, consider giving yourself, and your investors, some breathing space, then use that breathing space to drive value.

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Neal Dikeman is a venture capitalist and seven-time startup co-founder investing out of Energy Transition Ventures.

As much as leaders may wish the labor market were not so competitive, it is important to accept the reality and take action. Photo via Getty Images

How Houston businesses can attract tech talent amid a tight labor market

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It is no surprise to recruiters that, despite high profile layoffs at major corporations, the labor market remains tight, especially in the tech industry.

According to data from McKinsey from the first half of this year, more than 80 percent of tech workers who were laid off found a new job within three months. Many of them found jobs outside of the tech industry, where technically skilled employees are in increasingly high demand.

If small businesses want to remain competitive, they need to evolve their hiring strategies. One answer to expanding the talent pool is skills-based hiring. Unlike traditional recruitment, which focuses mainly on applicants with college degrees or direct experience in their field, a skill-based hiring approach prioritizes specific competencies.

Research from LinkedIn revealed employers who practice skills-based hiring are 60 percent more likely to have success with hiring. A winning skills-based hiring strategy will identify diverse candidates, promote internal upskilling and accelerate the hiring process.

Find diverse candidates

Conventional hiring strategies tend to overlook many of the diverse candidates who benefit from skills-based hiring. One important aspect of skills-based hiring is connecting with these groups, who may not apply through traditional pipelines like online applications, employee referrals, or job fairs.

For example, candidates such as veterans, parents reentering the workforce and people without a college degree may not have the same connections as traditional applicants. Yet they often bring transferable skills and an ability to learn, enabling them to succeed in the role.

To expand their talent pool, businesses can start by connecting with organizations and events in Houston that target diverse groups. For example, the Texas Veterans Commission recommends that employers reach out to their local Texas Workforce Solutions Center to link with veterans seeking employment.

By making an effort to connect specifically with underrepresented groups, small businesses and startups can quickly deepen their pool of available talent.

Provide internal upskilling

Skills-based hiring focuses on the competences employees have already. Through upskilling, however, employers can internally train candidates to take on a new role or hire candidates with strong learning potential. Upskilling is the practice of offering ongoing learning and development (L&D) opportunities to employees to close skill gaps.

Upskilling opportunities cannot only expand the talent pool by enabling employers to train candidates on the job. They can also attract more applications across the board because they are in high demand from job candidates. The American Upskilling Study from Gallup found 57 percent of workers were “extremely” or “very” interested in an upskilling program, especially Black and Hispanic workers.

For small businesses trying to stay competitive, upskilling is an essential component of a skill-based hiring approach.

Accelerate the hiring process

Time-to-hire is telling about the effectiveness of an organization’s recruitment process. When recruitment drags on too long, candidates may accept another offer or grow disengaged with the process. Meanwhile, open roles may go unfilled. Unsurprisingly, LinkedIn data has found over six in 10 HR leaders named time-to-hire as their most important metric for success.

Small businesses and startups who want to increase their competitiveness should start by calculating their current time-to-hire. Once they understand the situation, they can analyze their approach for weaknesses.

Some of the most effective solutions to improve time-to-hire could include redesigning the application process, streamlining interviews, implementing an applicant tracking system or refining job descriptions. The goal is a highly efficient recruitment process that identifies qualified candidates and puts out an offer as soon as possible.

As much as leaders may wish the labor market were not so competitive, it is important to accept the reality and take action. Much like larger corporations, small businesses and startups will find the upper echelon of talent when they embrace skills-based hiring as the future of recruitment.

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Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

In honor of National Entrepreneurship Month, let's look at the impact of small businesses and tips on recruiting. Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

Houston expert: How to celebrate National Entrepreneurship Month by recruiting, retaining talent

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As November marks National Entrepreneurship Month and Small Business Saturday awaits Nov. 25, it is the perfect time to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of small businesses to the U.S. economy.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses with 500 or fewer employees have accounted for two thirds of employment growth in the past quarter century. Further research from the Small Business Administration shows Texas alone is home to 3.1 million small businesses, making up 99.8 percent of Texas businesses overall and 44.5 percent of Texas employees.

The numbers are particularly impressive considering the unique business challenges entrepreneurs and small businesses have faced. In a tight labor market, competition for talent remains fierce, and small businesses and startups especially must rely on recruiting strong candidates to generate results. Yet entrepreneurs are often passionately focused on their product or service, which can obscure the finer details of their people management strategy.

Fortunately, there is a way for entrepreneurs to succeed both as business and people leaders. By providing learning and development opportunities, competitive compensation plans and an exceptional workplace culture, they can create an engaged workforce that shares their vision that can be competitive and even win the fight for top talent.

Learning and development opportunities

Especially for a small business, ongoing professional learning and development (L&D) is essential for teams to stay competitive. A robust L&D program also expands the talent pool by creating the possibility of hiring promising candidates who need to acquire additional skills for the role. L&D opportunities can also improve retention. According to 2022 research from McKinsey, lack of career development and advancement opportunities is one of the biggest factors driving employee attrition.

Leaders should assess the needs of their teams to determine the most important areas for L&D. These areas should help employees to develop core competencies necessary for business success, such as teamwork, problem solving and leadership. Offering a variety of options is best practice so employees can develop a wide range of skills, as is leveraging learning opportunities that exist through the normal course of work, like job shadowing and cross training. Tapping into existing experience and knowledge via in-house talent is another resource that can help promote learning and development through mentoring and collaboration.

Compensation and benefits

Working at a small business or startup offers many benefits to professionals in search of a fast-paced environment. However, compensation remains a critical piece of the puzzle for entrepreneurs who want to recruit and retain top talent. A 2022 survey from LinkedIn revealed 89 percent of employees said salary range was the most helpful element in a job description when deciding whether to apply.

While businesses need not disclose their salary bands in a job application, except as required by law, competitive compensation is an important factor for successful recruitment. Small businesses should research the market rate for each position in their organization and conduct a pay audit to understand whether current employees are being compensated fairly. Organizations with positive results should consider mentioning “competitive compensation and benefits package” in job ads or on their website.

For leaders who discover their pay is noncompetitive in their industry, it may be time to reevaluate budgets and create a plan to align salaries with the market averages. Salary growth does not need to happen overnight but can be a part of the bigger picture of recruiting and retaining talent. Leaders can also communicate the total compensation when factoring in the overall value of employer contributions provided in addition to salary, including things like bonuses, paid benefits and 401k contributions, wellness perks, etc.

Organizational culture

Company culture is a foundational element to recruiting and retaining top-tier talent. Research from Gallup found employees who feel connected to their organization's culture are 55 percent less likely to watch for job openings or actively seek out a new role.

As many founders know well, tight-knit teams can work with greater agility than larger organizations. However, on a cultural level, small business and startups face unique culture challenges due to their size. Small organizations’ culture is heavily influenced by the behaviors of leaders, who are highly visible to their employees. When conflicts arise between two employees, the entire team may be drawn in. Employees can also feel under scrutiny if micromanagement is experienced in their workplace.

To build a strong culture, leaders need to have open conversations and gather feedback, including through anonymous survey data. On a small team, the anonymity of company culture surveys becomes even more critical. Employees may feel concerned that management will easily recognize their voice, so survey results should be handled with the utmost discretion and accessible only to essential personnel. When sharing results publicly, leaders should withhold any specific comments or responses in favor of broader statistics about the entire group or identified patterns in the feedback. It is important for leaders to focus on the learnings and awareness the feedback can offer, as opposed to spending time wondering or trying to identify who said what. Even well intended interest around the source of feedback can lead to feelings of breached trust or, in extreme cases, instances of retaliation.

Trust is an essential component, and these steps will help employees in a small business feel comfortable sharing their honest thoughts. Provided management provides open communication and acts on employee survey feedback, employees will also feel heard and that their employer truly cares for their wellbeing.

This month, entrepreneurs across the country should take a moment from their busy schedules to celebrate their successes. National Entrepreneurship Month is an opportunity to recognize the importance of small businesses to the economy. It is also a chance to strengthen small businesses and bolster their ability to compete for talent through building a robust culture and supporting employees.

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Karen Leal is performance specialist with Houston-based Insperity, a provider of human resources offering a suite of scalable HR solutions available in the marketplace.

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Annual student startup competition in Houston names teams for 2024

ready to pitch

The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship announced the 42 student-led teams worldwide that will compete in the highly competitive Rice Business Plan Competition this spring.

The annual competition, known as one of the world’s largest and richest intercollegiate student startup competitions, will take place April 4 to 6 in Houston. Teams in this year's competition represent 35 universities from four countries, including two teams from Houston and four others from Texas.

Teams, made up of graduate students from a college or university anywhere in the world, will present their plans before 350 angel, venture capital, and corporate investors to compete for more than $1 million in prizes. Last year, teams were awarded $3.4 million in investment and in-kind prizes, the largest total awarded thus far in the decades-old competition after some investors doubled — or even tripled — down on investment awards.

The 2024 RBPC will focus on five categories: Energy, Cleantech and Sustainability; Hard Tech; Life Sciences and Healthcare Solutions; Digital Enterprise; Consumer Products and Services.

Invitees include:

  • AIRS ML, Imperial College London (United Kingdom)
  • Blaze Power, UCLA
  • ChiChi Foods, Washington University in St. Louis
  • CureWave Sciences, Rutgers University
  • CurveAssure, Johns Hopkins University
  • D.Sole, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Dendritic Health AI, Northwestern University
  • Dialysis Innovations, University of Michigan
  • FlowCellutions, University of Pittsburgh
  • HEXAspec, Rice University
  • HydroPhos Solutions, University of New Hampshire
  • Icorium Engineering Company, University of Kansas
  • Informuta, Tulane University
  • Kiwi Charge, York University (Canada)
  • Korion Health, University of Maryland, College Park
  • Limitless Aeronautics, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
  • LiQuidium, University of Houston
  • Malleous, University of Pittsburgh
  • MesaQuantum, Harvard University
  • MineMe, University of Pennsylvania
  • NaviAI, Cornell University
  • NutriAI, Tufts University
  • OSPHIM, RWTH Aachen University (Germany)
  • Overture Games, Northwestern University
  • OX SOX, University of Georgia
  • Oxylus Energy, Yale University
  • Palanquin Power, University of Texas at Austin
  • Paradigm Robotics, University of Texas at Austin
  • Particle-N, University of Connecticut
  • Poka Labs, Harvard University
  • Power2Polymer, RWTH Aachen University (Germany)
  • ProPika, University of Arkansas
  • Protein Pints, Michigan State University
  • Samtracs, Oklahoma State University
  • Sancorda Medical, University of Texas at Dallas
  • Side Coach Sports, Baylor University
  • Socian AI, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Somnair, Johns Hopkins University
  • TouchStone, University of California, Berkeley
  • Vita Innovations, Stanford University
  • WattShift, University of Chicago
  • ZebraMD, UCLA

The companies join more than 700 RBPC alumns that have collectively raised more than $5.5 billion in funding. More than 269 RBPC companies are in business or have made successful exits, according to the Rice Alliance's website.

Last year, Texas A&M-based team FluxWorks took home $350,000 and won the competition based on judges scores. The company's technology includes magnetic gears that are four times quieter than standard with 99 percent efficiency.

Sygne Solutions and TierraClimate, two Rice-led teams, won second and fourth places, respectively. Zaymo, from Brigham Young University, took home the most in investment dollars. Click here to see the full list of 2023 teams.

Texas is the No. 1 destination for Gen Zers on the move, study says

by the numbers

A new population analysis by real estate marketplace Zillow has pegged the Lone Star State as the No. 1 destination for adults born between 1996 and 2004 – also known as Gen Z.

Using data from the 2022 U.S. Census Bureau, the report identifies the Top 10 states to which Gen Zers are moving, and Texas was the runaway winner – far outranking No. 2 destination, California, with 76,805 Gen Z movers, versus California's 43,913.

Reasons for moving vary, but the report says young adults from 18 to 24 years old may prefer to live in states with high performing job markets, especially in a place like San Antonio where one of the nation's top employers resides. San Antonio is also a great place for remote work, according to estimations by Forbes.

Favorable weather also may play a factor in the high migration of Gen Z'ers, the report suggests. Texas' mostly year-round sunshine makes it more attractive to younger crowds who are looking for fun activities around the state, not to mention the advantageous impact on dating opportunities.

Other top states with high influx of Gen Z movers include Washington (No. 5), which added over 33,500 Gen Z movers in 2022, and Colorado (No. 6) with less than 31,000 new Gen Z residents.

Their least favorite destination was Michigan, and the Northeast also ranked poorly, with four New England states – Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine – all in the bottom 10.

State with a high cost-of-living like Washington, Colorado, and Virginia (No. 7) are places where young adults are more likely to have a bachelor's degree, work in tech, or serve in the military, according to Zillow principal population scientist Edward Berchick.

However, becoming a homeowner is much more difficult, as the report found 77 percent of the Gen Z workers in these states are renters.

"Gen Z movers are likely drawn to the job opportunities in these states, despite the higher costs of housing," Berchick explains. "They may also be in a stage of life where they're willing and able to be flexible in their standards of living while starting their careers."

The top 10 states for Gen Z movers are:

  • No. 1 – Texas
  • No. 2 – California
  • No. 3 – Florida
  • No. 4 – North Carolina
  • No. 5 – Washington
  • No. 6 – Colorado
  • No. 7 – Virginia
  • No. 8 – Illinois
  • No. 9 – Georgia
  • No. 10 – Arizona

The full report can be found on zillow.mediaroom.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Op-Ed: Black-owned businesses are making history in Texas, across America

guest column

In recent years, our small business community has weathered a global pandemic, persistent supply chain issues, sometimes volatile prices, and a tight labor market—and Black-owned businesses in our state have faced disproportionate impacts from these pandemic challenges.

Despite those headwinds, Black-owned businesses across Texas are fueling one of the largest and most diverse waves of new business creation America has ever seen—what President Biden calls America’s Small Business Boom.

As we mark America’s 48th national celebration of Black History Month, the SBA is highlighting Black-owned businesses’ achievements here in Texas and throughout the nation. The past three years have been the three strongest years of new business formation in American history.

The 16 million new business applications filed during this period show Americans starting businesses at nearly twice the rate—86 percent faster—compared to the pre-2021 average. During that time, U.S. small businesses have created more than 7.2 million net new jobs. And Black-owned businesses are responsible for some of the most significant gains.

The Invest in America agenda is powering the Biden Small Business Boom, and unlike many economic recoveries of the past, this one includes entrepreneurs of color. One of the reasons for that is the SBA’s Community Navigator Pilot Program (CNPP). This innovative hub-and-spoke partnership connected hundreds of community organizations around the country - like the U.S. Black Chambers of Commerce and the National Urban League - with entrepreneurs, helping them make the most of SBA resources. “The SBA CNPP allowed the

Houston Area Urban League Entrepreneurship Center to leverage existing partnerships with organizations that offered services to socially and economically disadvantaged business owners and women-owned businesses,” states Eric Goodie, Executive Vice President of the Houston Area Urban League. “Through the CNPP we provided comprehensive business planning and support, e-commerce technical assistance, financial and credit education, opportunities for business networking, access to capital and procurement opportunities,while providing assistance with obtaining various business certifications. We also found theSBA Lender match portal to be a critical resource in the capital acquisition process."

Under Administrator Isabel Guzman, the SBA has also delivered record-breaking government contracting for small businesses—including the most federal contracting dollars going to Black-owned businesses in history. And we’re addressing longstanding gaps in access to capital for Black entrepreneurs, more than doubling our small business loans toBlack-owned businesses since 2020.

These investments are making a big impact. Black business ownership is growing at the fastest pace in 30 years. The share of Black households owning a business doubled between 2019 and 2022. In 2023 alone, Census data showed Americans filed 5.5 million new business applications across the country, including over 500,000 here in Texas. That success is creating a rising tide. Black wealth is up a record 60 percent from before the pandemic, and Black unemployment has reached historic lows since 2021.

The SBA also understands that the work must continue. Black entrepreneurs and other historically underserved communities still face obstacles accessing capital. That's why President Biden and the SBA are committed to ensuring that anyone with a good idea can pursue that opportunity, and the Small Business Boom speaks to that success. We're helping more Americans than ever access the funds they need to realize their dreams of small business ownership – and that means more jobs, more goods and services, and more resilient communities, no matter the zip code.

To learn more about SBA resources, entrepreneurs are invited to join the SBA Houston District Office as it teams up with the Emancipation Economic Development Council and dynamic community organizations to celebrate Black History Month. The organizations will host the Resources to Empower Entrepreneurs event at the Emancipation Cultural Center on Wednesday, February 28, and will feature discussions surrounding resources, funding, and training available for small business owners.

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Mark Winchester is the SBA Houston District Office's acting district director.