Houston expert weighs in on how to best take advantage TikTok's trending "corporate weapon" videos that highlight productivity in the workplace. Photo via Getty Images

Trending corporate weapon videos portray the time in the day when employees put down their phone, ignore distractions, and accomplish a high volume of work in a short period. Influencers are also discussing their “daily corporate weapon timeline,” which describes the ebbs and flows in their productivity throughout their day.

Managers can implement a few strategies to leverage corporate weapon mode for performance management.

Discuss performance with your team

Corporate weapon is an avenue to discuss performance and time management with your staff. The videos have attracted attention because professionals find them relatable, hybrid, and remote workers in particular.

Even if you do not send your employees corporate weapon videos, you can nonetheless begin a conversation about daily ebbs and flows in productivity. Personal factors such as child care duties, commute time and circadian rhythm can influence an individual’s daily productivity timeline. Your team can improve their collaboration through understanding one another’s workflows and optimizing team schedules to maximize productivity.

Address digital distraction

Remote work can help employees cultivate a distraction-free environment. That said, phones can become a distraction whether your employees work in the office or at home. In corporate weapon videos, professionals usually put their phones away before focusing fully on their work.

Statistics reveal that many professionals struggle with online distractions. Research from nonprofit Screen Education has suggested that on average, workers spend 2.5 hours a day accessing digital content unrelated to their work.

Managers should proactively address digital distractions with their teams in a non-judgmental tone way. They can also suggest time management tools, such as screen-limiting or time-tracking software, so employees can understand how they might use their time more effectively.

Encourage employees to enter deep focus

Corporate weapon mode illustrates how crucial deep focus is to performance management. When an individual is in deep focus, they are focusing only on the task at hand without distractions.

Too many meetings can limit opportunities for employees to perform deep focus work. In fact, research from the Harvard Business Review shows that when 76 businesses cut back on meetings by 40 percent, employee productivity went up 71 percent. In addition, employee satisfaction rose 52 percent.

One option to allow additional time for deep focus is to designate some days or time as “meeting-free” company-wide. Managers can help, too, by encouraging their team to block off windows on their calendars for independent work, which will not require the organization to change its overall policies.

More than a TikTok trend, corporate weapon mode is a chance for leaders to initiate a transparent discussion with their staff. Through more effective time management, employees can optimize their performance and contribute to business success.

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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.

A Houston investor and leader at Houston Angel Network weighs in on the importance of angel investors in growing startup communities. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert examines the importance of early-stage investors in the innovation ecosystem

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In a flourishing startup ecosystem, the roles of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, startup development organizations, policymakers, research institutions, and universities are well documented and understood. Less obvious, however, is the role of early-stage investors, aka, “angel investors.”

These unique people are often the first non-family money to invest in a young company, often while it is still refining its business model, completing its minimum viable product (MVP), or finding product-market fit. Excellent angel investors, however, provide value to the ecosystem far beyond their ability to write a check.

Most angel investors bring deep expertise within their domain. These can be 20- or 30-year industry veterans with invaluable been-there-done-that experience in a particular technology, discipline, vertical, or regulatory environment. They can share insights learned from various industry trends that have succeeded and failed, which often save startups significant time and effort. Or they may bring complementary business expertise such as legal, accounting, technology, financing, or startup strategy. Many angels have launched or worked in multiple startups themselves, which gives them an ability to quickly understand and assist with the unique challenges of early-stage business.

Additionally, good investors are aggregators of knowledge. They constantly read about the sectors in which they invest, learn the latest trends, and watch for innovations that they believe will change industries. As forward thinkers, they know how to look past buzzwords to find what is truly unique or different. They often ask the “hard questions” that cut to the heart of the matter. Wise founders learn how to listen and use this feedback to improve their company and strategy.

Many angel investors serve as mentors to startups and share their hard-won knowledge. Most start with informal or unpaid relationships either through an SDO or personal referral. If they form a meaningful connection with a particular startup, this could turn into an official role as a compensated advisor. The best of these relationships are mutually beneficial and ultimately profitable if the company has a successful exit. Similarly, angels may become advisors to venture capital funds that want to bring their insights to their portfolio companies.

Investors are natural connectors in an ecosystem. As they search for, invest in, and mentor great startups, they foster connections across the innovation community. Relationship-building is key to all business success, and a wise angel knows how to respectfully leverage connections for mutual benefit. However, be careful not to ask an investor to share connections too soon. One of the fastest turn-offs is someone who asks me to open my rolodex before earning my trust and respect.

The most obvious benefit that investors bring to the innovation ecosystem is fundingfor early-stage businesses. This infusion of capital enables young businesses to identify, create, and grow value, which is the ultimate point of innovation. I mention it last, however, because savvy entrepreneurs know the difference between “smart money” and “dumb money.” Dumb money is not a pejorative but a label for money that has no voice or utility beyond its monetary value (which makes it silent or “dumb”).

Smart money, on the other hand, brings many or all of the other attributes discussed above: knowledge, expertise, mentoring, and connections. In terms of value, smart money is worth many times more than its cash value.

As the Houston innovation ecosystem grows, we need more accredited investors with a passion for innovation to learn about angel investing and determine if it is a fit for them. Given its very high-risk profile, it certainly isn’t appropriate for everyone. However, angel investing is a powerful way that investors can help solve society’s biggest challenges and contribute to a thriving innovation community.

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Mitra Miller is the vice president and board member of Houston Angel Network.

It is important for hiring managers to be realistic as they approach recruiting and hiring timeframes and make smart hiring decisions. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert: How you should be approaching recruiting in 2024

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The January jobs report, per BLS, may be cause for celebration with 353,000 new jobs, but with a low unemployment rate of 3.7 percent, the tight labor market persists.

The same report states there were 2,000 more jobs in oil and gas extraction in January. Finding the right people for energy jobs can be a challenge right now as the industry has experienced flux the past few years. Many energy employers find key talent has moved into new industry verticals, drawn by the promise of increased stability.

Recruiting in the tech and energy sectors may be challenging, but the right candidates are out there. It is important for hiring managers to be realistic as they approach recruiting and hiring timeframes and make smart hiring decisions. The organization will be better off in the long run for this approach.

The following recruiting strategies are poised to support energy employers throughout the year.

Get personal.

Job candidates want to feel like their future employer is genuinely interested in them, which means recruiters should personalize the candidate’s experience. This starts by taking a holistic look at the hiring funnel and considering ways to make each candidate feel as though they are the only one you are talking to for the role.

Each touchpoint impacts how the candidate perceives the organization. The job description should inspire candidates, making them excited to apply and motivating them to dream about a future with your organization. Personalizing recruitment outreach messages to speak to their individual talents instead of a standard, generic message speaks volumes.

Moving through the hiring process as quickly as possible is important, but recruiting is about the long game. There are candidates who fall into place in a matter of days. Other times, you may have a conversation with a candidate months or even years before the timing is right for them to make a move. Asking about the candidate’s professional timeline and letting them know that you are willing to work with them, no matter how fast or slow, makes them feel special and valued by your company.

Be ready to compromise.

It has become hard to find the right fit for some of the energy jobs today. However, this does present an opportune moment for employers to reassess the conventional prerequisites typically required for specific positions. Criteria such as an exact college degree, a specified number of years of relevant experience, industry-specific expertise, an unbroken work history and proficiency in specific software applications are areas to reconsider in the job postings, job descriptions and interviews. This strategic adjustment broadens the talent pool and provides access to individuals whose suitability for a role might have been overlooked. Shifting away from stringent education backgrounds and narrowly defined experience, and instead prioritizing qualities such as adaptability and learning capabilities in the search for candidates, recruiters may discover a smoother path to securing qualified candidates.

Grow internal talent.

Recruitment today also means recruiting internally. The optimal approach to efficiently filling positions is promoting the role internally as existing employees have a vested interest and are deeply ingrained in the company’s culture. Their familiarity with colleagues, procedures and protocols facilitates a swift transition into new roles. In order for this to become a possibility, it’s imperative for leaders to nurture internal talent through professional development initiatives that equip employees with the skills needed for advancement. Tailored learning opportunities, mentorship and guidance for reskilling and upskilling can foster internal mobility, enhance employee retention and ensure sustained success. With all this in mind, recruiters should keep in close contact with management teams to discuss internal candidates and their career path.

There is no one way to recruit in 2024, but focusing on the individual and their skills as well as in-house candidates can make it a successful endeavor.

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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 with a laser focus on a problem, showed remarkable advantage, says this Houston expert. Photo via Getty Images

Why founders need to be prioritizing problem-solution fit, according to this Houston innovator

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Over the past 10 years I have been so incredibly fortunate to work for and with dozens of startup ecosystems, startup development organizations, competitions and accelerators.

Through these interactions I have mentored, advised and coached over 500 startups and as I've reflected back on these interactions and relationships I have observed some crucial insights that I am humbled to be able to share here with you — starting with the importance of problem-solution fit.

My top observation is that the success of founders often hinges on their focus on a specific problem, from the perspective of the problem holder (which is not always their customer) and particularly a problem set they care deeply about. This focus is far more impactful than merely having a great idea. Founders with a laser focus on a problem, showed remarkable advantages. These founders were:

  • Quicker in Validating Assumptions: Their problem-centric approach allowed them to more rapidly test and validate their hypotheses about market needs and solutions.
  • Focused on Data-Driven Decision Making: They were more receptive to letting data guide their strategic decisions, leading to more grounded and effective strategies.
  • Agile in Pivoting: When confronted with challenges or new information, these founders could pivot more efficiently, as their commitment was to solving the problem, not just to their solution.

This problem-focused mindset proved to be a significant differentiator in their journey from ideation to success.

For these reasons, the philosophy that problem-solution fit leads development, has become a cornerstone in my approach to fostering innovation. It underscores the need for startups and organizations alike to delve deeper into understanding the real challenges they face, the first order problems, which in turn opens doors to more impactful and sustainable solutions.

Most recently, In my time at MassChallenge, my approach to problem identification diverged significantly from industry norms. The crux of my strategy was to shift the founders' focus from their innate bias towards their innovation or the allure of monetary gain to a deeper connection with the underlying problem — transforming the innovator's bias into the innovator's gift.

In my interactions, I often met two predominant types of founders:

  • Technical Founders: These individuals were deeply enamored with the technology or product they created. Often coming from the research world or a technical / engineering background within one industry. Their passion was more about the innovation itself rather than its impact or the problem it aimed to solve.
  • Profit-Oriented Founders: These founders were driven primarily by the potential for financial success. Often coming out of Business school, consulting firms or investment / banking background. Their focus was often on the market opportunity, timing, size and scale rather than the problem needing a solution.

I am not a believer that anyone fits into a box but these were broad commonalities I observed over time. While neither mindset is inherently flawed, it became evident that a third type of founder, those who developed a passion for solving a specific problem — often tied to a personal or emotional connection — tended to achieve greater success.

The challenge lay in transforming the mindset of founders who initially did not have this problem-centric focus. To do this, I employed a series of exercises and mental experiments that anyone can do aimed at uncovering the true purpose behind their ventures. Two pivotal tools in this process was Simon Sinek's Golden Circle, which helped delve into the why behind their companies and Ash Maurya’s Problem Discovery process that he details in Lean Mastery.

These exercises were transformative. Founders typically developed a stronger attachment to these newly framed problem statements than to their initial motivations. It aligned their endeavors with a purpose that was emotionally significant to them, thereby enhancing their commitment and effectiveness in addressing the problem.

This approach to problem identification was not just about finding a market fit; it was about aligning the founders' core values and motivations with the problems they aimed to solve, thereby unleashing the true potential of their innovations.

One of the most significant challenges was persuading founders to shift their mindset from their initial focus to a problem-oriented approach. This transition was often difficult, as change is inherently challenging, especially when founders have invested months or years in developing something they feel deeply connected to. The key was to reframe and redirect their passion towards understanding and solving the core problem for the problem holders that were most affected. This shift in focus wasn't always successful, but when it did take effect, it markedly increased the founders' likelihood of success.

Part of the difficulty in effecting this founder mindset shift stemmed from the overwhelming amount of content directed at startup founders, emphasizing the immediate need for customer feedback and early creation of MVP’s. While these aspects are crucial (at the right time), there is a noticeable gap in guiding founders towards the critical step of identifying problem-solution fit earlier in the process. As a result, many founders fell into the trap of building upon untested assumptions, believing that once they've created a product or identified a revenue model, the journey was set on the right path.

This challenge wasn't confined to startup founders alone, it is prolific across the innovation economy. Corporates, governments, and universities also displayed resistance in identifying their core, underlying problems. They often focused on surface-level issues or immediate technological needs without recognizing the structural problems causing these more visible issues.

As a founder, an innovator, or anyone passionate about bringing new solutions to the masses, this shift in perspective is crucial. It allows founders and organizations to understand their challenges more deeply, leading to more effective and sustainable solutions. It isn’t just about solving the problems they could articulate, but about uncovering the first principles issues that needed addressing.

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Jon Nordby is managing partner at Anthropy Partners, a Houston-based investment firm, and professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Houston.

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.

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Houston cardiac health startup raises $43 million series B to grow AI-backed platform

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A Houston-based tech company that has a product line of software solutions for cardiac health has raised funding.

Octagos Health, the parent company of Atlas AI — a software platform for cardiac devices like pacemakers, defibrillators, ambulatory monitors and consumer wearables — has announced a $43 million series B raise that will bring their technology to many more hearts.

Morgan Stanley Investment Capital led the investment, which also included funds from Mucker Capital and other continuing strategic investors. The goal of the raise is to supply funds to accelerate Atlas AI’s growth across the United States and to expand into other areas of care, including ambulatory monitors, consumer wearables, and sleep.

"This investment will enable us to accelerate enhancements to our platform, in addition to scaling our commercial team and operations. We are currently the only company that helps cardiology practices migrate their historical data from legacy software providers and fully integrates with any EHR (exertion heart rate) system. We do this while enabling customized reporting supported by patient and practice decision-support analytics," says Eric Olsen, COO of Octagos Health, in a press release.

Octagos Health was founded by a team of healthcare pros including CEO Shanti Bansal, a cardiologist and founder of Houston Heart Rhythm, an atrial fibrillation center. The goal was to find a new way to deal with the massive amount of data that clinicians encounter each day in a way that combines software and the work of human doctors.

According to the Octagos Health website, “Our solution allows clinicians to focus on other ways of delivering meaningful healthcare and more efficiently manage their remotely monitored patients.”

It works thanks to customizable reporting features that allow patients’ healthcare teams to get help while monitoring them, but to do it precisely as they would if they were crunching numbers themselves.

"We are excited to partner with Octagos Health and support their vision of transforming cardiac care," says Melissa Daniels, managing director of Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital. "Octagos Health has demonstrated exceptional growth and innovation in a critical area of healthcare. We believe their platform and vertically integrated software and services significantly improve patient care and streamline cardiac monitoring processes for healthcare providers."

Will Hsu, co-founder and partner of Mucker Capital, agrees. “Octagos Health is poised for scale – industry leading gross margins, a very sticky product that doctors and clinical staff love, and a market ready for disruption with artificial intelligence. This is the new wave for diagnostic care,” he says. And with this raise, it will be available to even more clinicians and patients across the country.

Houston biotech company expands leadership as it commercializes sustainable products

joining the team

Houston-based biotech company Cemvita recently tapped two executives to help commercialize its sustainable fuel made from carbon waste.

Nádia Skorupa Parachin came aboard as vice president of industrial biotechnology, and Phil Garcia was promoted to vice president of commercialization.

Parachin most recently oversaw several projects at Boston-based biotech company Ginkjo Bioworks. She previously co-founded Brazilian biotech startup Integra Bioprocessos.

Parachin will lead the Cemvita team that’s developing technology for production of bio-manufactured oil.

“It’s a fantastic moment, as we’re poised to take our prototyping to the next level, and all under the innovative direction of our co-founder Tara Karimi,” Parachin says in a news release. “We will be bringing something truly remarkable to market and ensuring it’s cost-effective.”

Moji Karimi, co-founder and CEO of Cemvita, says the hiring of Parachin represents “the natural next step” toward commercializing the startup’s carbon-to-oil process.

“Her background prepared her to bring the best out of the scientists at the inflection point of commercialization — really bringing things to life,” says Moji Karimi, Tara’s brother.

Parachin joins Garcia on Cemvita’s executive team.

Before being promoted to vice president of commercialization, Garcia was the startup’s commercial director and business development manager. He has a background in engineering and business development.

Founded in 2017, Cemvita recently announced a breakthrough that enables production of large quantities of oil derived from carbon waste.

In 2023, United Airlines agreed to buy up to one billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from Cemvita’s first full-scale plant over the course of 20 years.

Cemvita’s investors include the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund, an investment arm of Chicago-based United; Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based energy company Occidental Petroleum; and Japanese equipment and machinery manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a logistics startup founder, a marketing expert, and a solar energy innovator.

Matthew Costello, CEO and co-founder of Voyager Portal

Houston logistics SaaS innovator is making waves with its expanded maritime shipping platform. Photo courtesy of Voyager

For several years now, Matthew Costello has been navigating the maritime shipping industry looking for problems to solve for customers with his company, Voyager Portal.

Initially, that meant designing a software platform to enhance communications and organization of the many massive and intricate global shipments happening every day. Founded in 2018 by Costello and COO Bret Smart, Voyager Portal became a integral tool for the industry that helps users manage the full lifecycle of their voyages — from planning to delivery.

"The software landscape has changed tremendously in the maritime space. Back in 2018, we were one of a small handful of technology startups in this space," Costello, who serves as CEO of Voyager, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Now that's changed. ... There's really a huge wave of innovation happening in maritime right now." Read more.

Arielle Rogg, principal and founder of Rogg Enterprises

Arielle Rogg writes in a guest column for InnovationMap about AI in the workforce. Photo via LinkedIn

Arielle Rogg isn't worried about artificial intelligence coming for her job. In fact, she has three reasons why, and she outlines them in a guest column for InnovationMap.

"The advent of AI pushes us humans to acquire new skills and hone our existing abilities so we can work alongside these evolving technologies in a collaborative fashion. AI augments human capabilities rather than replacing us. I believe it will help our society embrace lifelong learning, creating new industries and jobs that have never existed before," she writes in the piece. Read more.

Nathan Childress, founder of Solar Slice

Solar Slice Founder Nathan Childress says his new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet. Photo via LinkedIn

Nuclear engineer and entrepreneur Nathan Childress wants consumers to capture their own ray of sunlight to brighten the prospect of making clean energy a bigger part of the power grid. That's why he founded Solar Slice. The new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet.

Although trained in nuclear power plant design, solar power drew his interest as a cheaper and more accessible alternative, and Childress tells InnovationMap that he thinks that the transition to cleaner energy, in Texas especially, needs to step up.

Recent studies show that 80 to 90 percent of the money invested into fighting climate change “aren’t going to things that people actually consider helpful,” Childress says, adding that “they’re more just projects that sound good, that are not actually taking any action." Read more.