From enlightening talks to networking opportunities, here's where you need to be in July. Getty Images

If you were hoping that business events would slow down for the summer, keep hoping. While you're probably getting plenty of OOO emails during your daily communications, there's no shortage of face-to-face opportunities within Houston business and innovation.

If you know of innovation-focused events for this month or next, email me at natalie@innovationmap.com with the details and subscribe to our daily newsletter that sends fresh stories straight to your inboxes every morning.

July 3 — Is Venture Capital Right for My Business?

Venture Capital is a path that every startup has to evaluate. In this panel-led event the intent is to form a foundation for answering the question: "Is VC right for me?"

Details: The event is from noon to 1:30 pm on Wednesday, July 3 at Station Houston (1301 Fannin Street, #2440). Learn more.

July 10 — Smart Cities: How Smart is Houston?

The Center for Houston's Future presents this event with support from graduates of its Leadership Forum program and in partnership with Station Houston, City of Houston's Innovation Office, and Houston Exponential.

The City of Houston is using data and emerging technology to improve the quality of life for citizens, share information with the public, drive economic growth and build a more inclusive society. Two key Smart City initiatives will be discussed at the event, one focused on transportation and one focused on resiliency and sustainability.

Details: The event is from 7:30 to 9:30 am on Wednesday, July 10, at Station Houston (1301 Fannin Street, #2440). Learn more.

July 10 — Social Advertising 101: Training by The Black Sheep Agency

Learn the basics of Facebook and Instagram advertising as Black Sheep professionals walk through the best type of #ad for your campaign! The team will also talk you through formulating a budget, targeting your audience, optimizing your efforts, and other creative options to execute your social advertising needs.

Details: The event is from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on Wednesday, July 10, at Impact Hub Houston #PopHUB @HX (410 Pierce Street). Learn more.

July 11 — Startup Pains: What I Wish I Knew

This monthly series hosted by the University of Houston lets you learn from someone else's mistakes and successes. This month's speaker is Carlos Genty, CEO & CTO of Critical X Solutions.

Details: The event is from 4 to 5 pm on Thursday, July 11, at the UH Technology Bridge (Innovation Center, building 4, floor 2, 5000 Gulf Fwy). Learn more.

July 13 — Enventure Basecamp - Business Building Workshop

Basecamp is an inclusive environment for those who are interested in adapting their life science experiences to real business applications. All are welcome, and the event is free.

Details: The event is from 9 am to noon on Saturday, July 13, at the TMC Innovation Institute (2450 Holcombe Blvd). Learn more.

July 15 — Enventure Innovation Stories: Dan Harrington, PhD (Polyvascular)

Enventure welcomes Daniel Harrington, PhD for its Innovation Stories speaker series. Dr. Harrington is a co-founder and the chief scientific officer of Polyvascular, and an assistant professor at UTHealth.

Details: The event is from 6 to 8:30 pm on Monday, July 15, at the CUBIO Innovation Center (7707 Fannin St.). Learn more.

July 16 — Is My Idea Lucrative? A Small Business Success Series Workshop

Figure out if whether your business idea is crazy — or perhaps just crazy enough to work. Featured presenters include Ned Mueller, entrepreneur in residence at HCC Center for Entrepreneurship - Southeast, and Austin Tenette is a certified business coach with the Focal Point Coaching organization.

Details: The event is from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm on Tuesday, July 16, at the HCC Alief Hayes (2811 Hayes Road). Learn more.

July 16 — GCxN Clean Tech Start-up Pitch Competition

The Shell GameChanger AcceleratorTM Powered by NREL, GCxN, is a collaboration between Shell and the National Renewable Energy Lab to identify and advance the next generation of transformative energy technologies. GCxN addresses market gaps by providing clean tech startups with technical and business development support to move their technologies from early stage prototypes to commercially viable energy solutions.

Details: The event is from 3 to 8 pm on Tuesday, July 16, at Station Houston (1301 Fannin St., suite 2440). Learn more.

July 16 — Workshop: Mastering the Brain Dump to Reduce Business Frustrations

Christina Wright, founder of WrightNow Results, will guide you through her method to help you get clear on — and develop a plan for — your biggest challenges surrounding business and managing "it all."

Details: The event is from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on Tuesday, July 18, at Impact Hub Houston #PopHUB @HX (410 Pierce Street). Learn more.

July 17 — Fuckup Nights Houston

Failure is a part of any success story, but we don't talk about it enough. We've all been to plenty of events where people tell you how they hacked, hustled, and created their success, but very few where someone gets up and says "I totally messed up, and this is what you can learn from it."

Details: The event is from 6 to 8 pm on Wednesday, July 17, at TBA. Learn more.

July 18 — Chancellor’s Technology Bridging Fund 2019 Launch Event

In an effort to support the University of Houston's mission of building a thriving culture around innovation and entrepreneurship amongst its faculty, staff and students, Chancellor Renu Khator has allocated $2 million into launching the Chancellor's Technology Bridging Fund (CTBF). This five-year proof-of-concept program is aimed to help our faculty inventors move their technologies closer to commercialization. Goals for the CTBF include prototyping, creating industry partnerships, and preparing for further funding.


Details: The event is from 5 to 7 pm on Thursday, July 18, at the UH Innovation Center (UH Technology Bridge, Building 4, Floor 2, 5000 Gulf Fwy). Learn more.

July 18 — TMCx alpha Opening Event

TMC alpha provides a pathway for any innovator affiliated with a TMC member institution to find support for the development and commercialization of their idea or product. The program will run every third Thursday (apart from where this conflicts with another function/holiday/etc.) from noon to 5 PM. Lunch and parking validation will be available.

Details: The event is from noon to 5 pm on Thursday, July 18, at the TMC Innovation Institute (2450 Holcombe Blvd. Suite, X, TMCx17 Board room). Learn more.

July 22 — TMC Biodesign Info Session

Do you want to start your own healthcare company? The TMC Biodesign Fellowship is a one-year paid innovation program that unites the talents of innovators and entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds to quickly bring breakthrough healthcare products to market.

Details: The event is from 5 to 7 pm on Monday, July 22, at the TMC Innovation Institute (2450 Holcombe Blvd). Learn more.

July 25 — Managing Your Sales Function

Startups with a direct sales model have to evolve from founders doing all the sales to managing a sales function. Since revenue generation is on the line, the stakes are high and the punishment for mistakes are even higher. This supplement to the quarterly Founders Academy boot camp focuses on establishing and effectively managing the sales function for an early stage company.

    Details: The event is from 2 to 4 pm on Thursday, July 25, at The Cannon (1334 Brittmoore Road). Learn more.

    July 30 — Open Project Night with Impact Hub Houston and Sketch City

    Connect and collaborate with real, passionate people who are working on projects, ventures, and collaborations to improve to the city of Houston. If you have an idea, are working on something, or are looking for ways to collaborate with people who are doing work at the intersection of innovation and impact this event is for you.

    Details: The event is from 6 to 8 pm on Tuesday, July 30, at The Black Sheep Agency (611 West 22nd Street). Learn more.

    Life Time Work opening its first Houston location is among this roundup of Houston innovation news. Courtesy of Life Time Work

    Hypergiant receives funding from Japan, UH honored for entrepreneur program, coworking space opens, and more Houston innovation news

    Short stories

    In the Houston innovation news cycle, it's hard to keep up. Three higher education institutions are celebrating big wins within innovation and entrepreneurialism, a new coworking space joins the scene, and a health tech competition launches out of the Texas Medical Center.

    Here are all the short stories within Houston innovation that you may have missed.

    Texas AI company makes international partnership

    Photo via hypergiant.com

    Hypergiant Industries, a Texas industrial AI company with a presence in Houston, announced that it has received funding from and has entered into a partnership with Japan-based Sumitomo Corporation of Americas. The relationship will allow the company to enable and accelerate Hypergiant's AI-driven innovation initiatives across over 900 Sumitomo subsidiaries and associated companies.

    "We're proud to be backed by a global leader like SCOA," says Ben Lamm, CEO and co-founder of Hypergiant, in a release. "SCOA is a company that has advanced so many industries with critical technological breakthroughs decade after decade. This relationship will ensure that both SCOA and Hypergiant remain ahead of the competition in AI for years to come."

    The funding amount wasn't disclosed.

    Bauer College of Business gets top marks

    Photo via bauerticker.uh.edu

    The Deshpande Foundation has selected The University of Houston for its 2019 Entrepreneurial University Award, recognizing the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the C.T. Bauer College of Business.

    "Over the past decade, the Wolff Center's reputation as one of the nation's leading entrepreneurship programs has grown tremendously, and this award from the Deshpande Foundation reinforces that Bauer College is empowering students to innovate through a world-class program that emphasizes experiential learning and personalized attention by dedicated mentors," says Paul A. Pavlou, incoming dean of the Bauer College, in a release.

    The award was announced by the Massachusetts-based organization at the Deshpande Symposium for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education at the University of Massachusetts Lowell on June 11.

    Life Time Work opens its doors

    Courtesy of Life Time Work

    Life Time Work's first Houston-area location has opened its doors in City Centre Five at 825 Town & Country Lane. The next location has already been announced to open in downtown Houston next year.

    "Life Time Work is a natural extension of the lifestyle brand we have built in our athletic resorts over the past 27 years," says Life Time Work president, James O'Reilly, in a release. "With Houston's continued growth and diversified business and entrepreneurial community, City Centre is the perfect location for us to unveil this concept. We look forward to helping our members in their pursuit of a fulfilling and healthy work life."

    The 25,000-square-foot space features 79 desks, 48 offices, lounge spaces, eight phone booths, two phone rooms, five conference rooms, and more features.

    JLABS @ TMC opens contest for health care startups

    Photo via jlabs.jnjinnovation.com

    Johnson & Johnson Innovation, the Texas Medical Center, and AngelMD have teamed up to launch the Breakthrough Medical Technologies QuickFire Challenge, which is looking for game-changing medical device ideas from all over the world for a chance to win prizes.

    The winner — or winners — will "receive up to $250,000 in convertible notes funding from TMC, entry to the TMCx accelerator program, one year of residency at JLABS @ TMC in Houston, Texas, and access to the Johnson & Johnson, Innovation - JLABS global ecosystem," according to the website. Also on the line — an additional convertible note investment up to $100,000 from AngelMD's Catalyst Fund.

    The competition is looking for innovations within a wide range of health technologies, from oncology to 3D printing.

    Houston hospital ranks No. 1 in the state for being one of America's Best Employers

    Courtesy of Methodist Hospital/Facebook

    Forbes partnered with market research company Statista to identify the best employers in each state. In Texas, Houston was represented at the top. Houston Methodist ranked as the number one company on the Texas list.

    Royal Dutch Shell, which ranks at No. 11, is the next Houston-headquartered company on the list, followed by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (No. 19), Katy Independent School District (No. 22), and Texas Children's Hospital (No. 23.)

    HCC recognized for innovation of the year

    Photo courtesy of HCC

    Houston Community College received the Innovation of the Year Award from the League for Innovation in the Community College. HCC won for its Zero Textbook Degree initiative, which launched in 2017 and has grown from 28 to 98 sections across five HCC campuses.

    "The Z-Degree program is managed by an entire group of hardworking and forward-thinking HCC faculty who are all deserving of the accolades currently bestowed on them," says Chancellor Cesar Maldonado in a news release.

    Textbook prices have increased 88 percent since 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and, according to the release, textbooks could end up costing some HCC students more than their tuition.

    Rice University hosts inaugural program for future entrepreneurs

    Photo courtesy of Lilie



    Rice's Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship got a jump on molding its young minds. Lilie hosted 44 incoming freshmen as a part of its inaugural Lilie Change Maker Summit. For four days, the to-be students had the opportunity to get get a taste of the program and entrepreneurialism through workshops, guest speakers, and more.

    The summit was led by Jamie Jones, executive director of Lilie, and Hesam Panahi, lecturer in entrepreneurship at Rice's Jones Graduate School of Business and a faculty member at Lilie.

    "We truly believe this will be a game changer in the Rice entrepreneurial ecosystem," says Caitlin Bolanos, associate director at Lilie, in an email to InnovationMap. "We were able to connect with these students and build loyalty before they even officially started in the fall, and the students are so pumped to have found each other and to continue working on their ideas while at Rice."

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    Houston experts give advice for startups seeking financial aid from the CARES Act

    from the profesisonals

    The United States Congress recently passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act, and it includes several initiatives that provide financial relief for startups and small businesses — but there are a few things these companies should know about the programs.

    Houston Exponential hosted a virtual panel with Carolyn Rodz, CEO of Hello Alice, and Aziz Gilani, managing director of Mercury Fund. They broke down some of the concerns with some of the most popular programs.

    The Payroll Tax Deferral stipulation allows you to push back paying your payroll tax, which is 6.2 percent of payroll, Gilani says in the livestream. Companies will be required to pay back half that tax in a year's time and the other half in two year's time.

    Small businesses can also apply for emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loans, or EIDL loans, that won't require the first payment for a full year. The interest rate is 3.75 percent for for-profit businesses and 2.75 percent for nonprofits with up to a 30-year term. Businesses could even submit to receive a $10,000 grant on their application.

    Then, there's the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP.

    "The PPP program is probably the most lucrative of the three programs for startups," says Gilani, "It's the one that has the largest financial impact."

    To submit for PPP, business owners look at their last year's worth of payroll and utility expenses, then average out their monthly expenses, and multiply that by 2.5. Small businesses can submit for that amount or up to $10 million. If the loan is spent on their employees and utilities, it's turned into a grant and not required to be paid back. Gilani recommends checking with the SBA for the specific details, but notes that contract workers can't benefit from PPP and must submit individually for aid.

    Regarding these programs, Rodz and Gilani shared some other advice as it pertains to Houston's small businesses and tech startups.

    Apply ASAP

    Banks are already overwhelmed with applications, and some have paused accepting new applications from some entities. Plus, you have no excuse, Rodz says, since the application is simple and can be completed in one sitting.

    "Compared to what a normal government loan application looks like, it is light years better in terms of simplicity," says Rodz.

    Go to your own bank

    Banks are giving priority to existing customers, Rodz explains.

    "Go talk to your banker, and really take the time," Rodz says. "They are prioritizing the clients they have relationships with."

    There's a technical reason too, Gilani adds. It's easier for banks to submit for a pre-existing customer, and new customers require more paperwork.

    Document everything

    Currently, Gilani says, the way the program is working right now is it relies on good-faith self-certification of the business owner. The banks, based on approval, will just put the federal money into your bank account. However, there are people put in roles for this act that will come back to verify that everything was honest.

    "Lying to the federal government about money they grant you is a felony that comes with jail time," Gilani says. "It's very important that — after all this craziness passes by and the government comes back to audit what happened — you have a lot of documentation in place in order to show that you were fulfilling your good-faith requirement of answering these questions honestly."

    Gilani recommends keeping track of how you calculated your payroll, as well as being able to show the effect of the crisis is key. Then, after you receive the funds, you need to be able to show that you used the funds on your employees.

    Consult a lawyer if you have questions on eligibility

    There's been a lot of discussion on whether or not venture-backed startups qualify for PPP.

    "One of the challenges of the program is that it is being administered by the Small Business Administration, which traditionally hasn't worked with venture-backed and angel-backed companies," Gilani says.

    Usually, the SBA requires startups to indicate their employee count, which is not to exceed 500. However, if the company is venture-backed, the SBA requires the inclusion of all the employees of all the portfolio companies. Certain legislators have expressed that this wasn't the intention of the program and are working to provide solutions, Gilani explains, and he and Mercury Fund have been working with a legal team to find immediate work arounds.

    "There have been lots of lawyers who have been working really hard on trying to solve this problem," Aziz "If anything, we've now created the lawyer stimulus act in the amount of billable hours we've had trying to figure out this problem."

    Gilani also recommends getting your lawyer to sign a document confirming that, especially if you are a venture-backed company, that you intended to adhere to the rules of the program.

    Now is the time for Houstonians to invest in solar energy, says expert

    Guest column

    Largely due to the growing popularity and falling prices of solar energy in Texas, including incentives at the federal, state, and local level, the number of solar panel installations continues to trend upward throughout the state and especially in Houston.

    For the third year in a row, Houston was named the top municipal user of green energy in the nation by the United States EPA, using more than 1 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of solar and wind power. With 92 percent of the city of Houston's energy coming from green power, solar has solidified its place in the Houston energy market.

    With solar panel system prices dropping 38 percent over the past five years, solar power is also growing in popularity among individual homeowners and business owners who want to take control of their energy costs and become more self-sufficient.

    As the recent COVID-19 pandemic continues to shake industries across the nation, Freedom Solar is working tirelessly to keep our team safe, healthy, and employed. Solar installers provide critical electric generation infrastructure that helps us reduce the strain on the ERCOT grid, especially with higher electricity usage as people stay at home under local shelter in place orders and as we head into the warmer spring and summer months.

    The health and safety of our customers and employees is our top priority, and as an essential business we are following strict operating protocols that are in line with the guidance provided by local, state, and federal authorities. Although these challenging times often result in a pause in investments, I argue that for customers who have been considering investing in solar, now is still the time to do so.

    During these tumultuous times, for many home and business owners, investing in solar energy remains appealing as a smart and stable financial decision. A solar power system is an income-producing asset that will generate a stable return for 25 or more years. The ability to finance that investment without putting cash down upfront allows customers to get the financial benefits of solar now while keeping their money in the securities markets until they recover from the current economic downturn.

    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, overseas manufacturing has been disrupted for months, resulting in shortages in the global supply chain across many industries. These shortages could increase the price of solar panels, inverters and related equipment if US warehouses run low on inventory. For customers who have long been on the fence about investing in solar, I would urge them to reevaluate the numbers now in anticipation of potential price increases in the coming months in the wake of COVID-19.

    Additional macro trends and current events continue to demonstrate the value of home solar power. According to a 2020 study by the financial institution Fundera, the number of regular telecommuting employees has grown by 115% since 2005. As more and more people are required to work remotely, especially during the current and indefinite "Stay in Place" orders, electricity usage and utilities have inevitably increased for many households.

    Investing in solar for your home can help offset increased utility costs, especially while working remotely and in the rapidly approaching summer months. Current events may be accelerating the long-term trend, and even when the immediate crisis is over, the way many people work could be transformed.

    As the energy industry continues to evolve, the reasons why Houston customers choose to invest in solar power evolve and grow. Going solar is no longer solely a testament to your sustainability practices but also a sound long-term investment. The federal solar tax credit — also known as the investment tax credit (ITC) — allows homeowners and businesses to deduct a significant percentage of the cost of installing solar from their federal income taxes.

    The credit remains at 26 percent for the remainder of 2020 but will decrease to 22 percent in 2021 and then in 2022 will drop to 10 percent for businesses and will go away entirely for homeowners. With more than 90 percent of Houston's energy consumption deriving from green power, it is clear that solar is here to stay.

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    Bret Biggart is the CEO of Texas-based Freedom Solar.

    Economists dive into the economic impact of COVID-19, low oil prices on Houston

    double teamed

    Houston's economy continues to suffer as a result of the coronavirus-fueled economic slide and the collapse in oil prices. But just how much are these twin crises injuring Bayou City?

    Economic data and forecasts present an increasingly grim outlook for Houston.

    A new Moody's Analytics analysis commissioned by the Wall Street Journal provides one measurement of the economic damage being inflicted on Houston. The analysis, published April 2, indicates business closures in Harris County — which represents two-thirds of the region's population — have caused a 27 percent drop in the county's daily economic output.

    Ed Hirs, an economics lecturer at the University of Houston, says the 27 percent figure is likely lower than the actual number. He thinks it's closer to 50 percent.

    "The reason is that we are talking about output — actual work getting done — and not including monetary transfers from the bailout bill or unemployment insurance," Hirs says.

    The lingering daily decline undoubtedly will bring down the Houston area's total economic output for 2020. In 2018, the region's economic output (GDP) added up to nearly $478.8 billion. By comparison, the 2018 economic output for the nation of Austria totaled $455.3 billion, according to the World Bank.

    Harris County ranks as the third largest county in the U.S., as measured by population. The Moody's Analytics study shows the country's two largest counties — Los Angeles County in California and Cook County in Illinois — have been hit with even bigger decreases in daily economic output. Los Angeles County's loss sits at 35 percent, with Cook County's at 30 percent.

    Patrick Jankowski, senior vice president of research at the Greater Houston Partnership, says in a podcast interview published April 2 that it's difficult to accurately gauge how the economic climate is hurting Houston right now. That's because economic data lags present-day economic reality.

    "The situation is changing daily," Jankowski says. "There's so many unknowns out there. This is unprecedented."

    Economists predict the Houston area's workforce will see massive losses as a result of the coronavirus and energy downturns.

    Economist Bill Gilmer, director of the Institute for Regional Forecasting at the University of Houston's Bauer College of Business, says a moderate recession could siphon as many as 44,000 jobs from the region's economy by the end of this year. A more dire forecast from The Perryman Group, a Waco-based economic analysis firm, envisions the Houston area losing nearly 256,000 jobs due to the COVID-19 shutdown and racking up $27 billion in coronavirus-related economic losses.

    Jankowski anticipates the Houston area tallying job losses of at least 200,000, meaning losses would be less severe than the 1980s energy bust but more severe than the Great Recession.

    "If we're still working from home after May, everyone's job is at risk," says Jankowski, adding that this would trigger more furloughs, layoffs, and pay cuts.

    Aggravating Houston's situation is the coronavirus clampdown on restaurants and hotels.

    According to survey data released March 30 by the Texas Restaurant Association, 2 percent of the state's more than 50,000 restaurants already had closed permanently, and another 32 percent had closed temporarily. An additional 12 percent of Texas restaurants anticipated shutting down within the next 30 days.

    If you add the 2 percent of restaurants that have closed to the 12 percent that expect to close, that would equal roughly 7,000 shuttered restaurants.

    "Restaurants are in a fight for survival. The statistics from this survey provide a mere snapshot of the extreme economic impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on one of the most important industries in Texas," Emily Williams Knight, president and CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association, says in a release.

    In the lodging sector, Texas is projected to lose 44 percent of its jobs, or more than 64,000 positions, according to a mid-March forecast from the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Experts predict some Texas hotels won't survive the coronavirus crisis.

    "COVID-19 has been especially devastating for the hotel industry. Every day, more hotels are closing, and more employees are out of a job," Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the hotel association, says in a March 26 release.

    While the restaurant and hotel sectors face a shaky future, the energy industry is grappling with the oil war between Russia and Saudi Arabia as well as depressed demand for crude oil and gasoline. Jankowski says gas prices could stay low through mid-2020 or even the end of 2020 as the energy industry copes with a prolonged oil glut.

    Relief funds coming from Washington, D.C., will help stabilize the energy sector and other industries, Jankowski says, but will not "juice" the economy and spark growth.

    "We're going to need to move beyond the pandemic," he says, "and we're going to need for some consumer confidence and business confidence to come back before we start to see growth returning again."