These Houston employers reign supreme when it comes to the best workplaces. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Houstonians looking for their next employment opportunity might want to consider these 22 Houston-based companies that were just named the best workplaces in Texas by Fortune Magazine and Great Place to Work.

David Weekley Homes was named the No. 1 large employer in Texas, with workers celebrating that their company goes "above and beyond in almost every way possible" and values trust more than anything else.

"They trust you to get your work done and you never feel guilty about having to leave early for a medical appointment, or to pick your kid up from school," the report says. "They trust you to get your work done while maintaining a normal personal life."

The report also speaks highly of the construction company's 401K matching plan, and that workers can become owners in the company after two years of employment.

The remaining Houston companies that make up the top three best large Texas employers include information technology providers Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company (No. 2), and real estate investors Camden Property Trust (No. 3).

Also earning a spot in the top 10 is Hilcorp Energy Company (No. 8).

Speaking on Camden Property Trust, employees in the report say their leaders have developed a "one-of-a-kind" workplace culture, similar to a large family.

"Our celebrations, conferences, meetings feel like a family reunion," the report says. "Our leaders truly care about each and every single person and make decisions with everyone's best interest in mind."

The Best Workplaces in Texas award, which saw some of the same companies on the 2022 list, is the only one of its kind in the U.S. that "selects winners based on how fairly employees are treated," according to a press release. The companies are evaluated based on how well they treat their employees across several factors, including race, gender, age, disability status, and more.

The other Houston-based companies that made it onto Fortune's Best Large Workplaces in Texas 2023 include Transwestern (No. 12), Cornerstone Home Lending, Inc. (No. 14), and KBR (No. 24).

Furthermore, 17 additional Houston employers made it onto Fortune's Best Small and Medium Workplaces in Texas ranking. While Dallas companies dominate the top three, Houston's continuing education and learning center Continued made it into No. 4.

"[Continued] provide[s] so many benefits to better our home and work-life balance," the report says. "There is also a great focus on appreciating diversity and inclusion."The other Houston employers that earned spots on Fortune's Best Small and Medium Workplaces in Texas 2023 report are:

  • No. 12 – Hilltop Residential
  • No. 13 – WizeHire
  • No. 14 – Republic State Mortgage Co.
  • No. 16 – E.A.G. Business Holdings, Incorporated
  • No. 23 – Venterra Realty
  • No. 26 – Optimum Consultancy Services
  • No. 39 – 9th Wonder
  • No. 40 – Entelligence
  • No. 52 – Detechtion Technologies
  • No. 53 – Tricon Energy
  • No. 57 – Eagle Point Solutions
  • No. 64 – Hatch Agency Real Estate
  • No. 66 – Simucase
  • No. 69 – Crestwood Equity Partners

Just outside Houston, Cypress-based Specialized Assessment and Consulting ranked No. 31 and TK Trailer Parts in Madisonville ranked No. 65 in the small and medium workplace report.The full list of 2023's best workplaces in Texas can be found on greatplacetowork.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Three Houston companies made Fortune's list of best places for millennials. Photo by Katya Horner

Houston energy company with big perks named among best workplaces for millennials

Young life

When it comes to keeping young professionals happy in the workplace, Houston is doing a bang-up job — some companies more than others. A new report released by Fortune magazine and Great Place to Work finds three Houston companies, and a total of 11 Texas companies, among the top 100 Best Workplaces for Millennials 2018.

Making the national list is Hilcorp Energy Company, an organization known for giving its employees huge bonuses, such as $100,000 in 2015 and $50,000 toward a new car in 2010. The Houston-based company has 93 percent of employees saying their workplace is great, likely because of these aggressive financial incentives, which include a revenue sharing program, a bonus program, "helping hands" community assistance programs, and a generous referral incentive, according to the Fortune piece.

Hilcorp, even with its big perks, isn't actually the top Houston company on the national list. That distinction goes to Houston-based David Weekley Homes. The construction and real estate powerhouse, leads the Texas pack at No. 19. Houston's construction/real estate company Camden Property Trust comes in at No. 94, and manufacturing/production firm Hilcorp appears at No. 95.

More than 434,000 survey respondents from Great Place to Work-Certified companies provided input into this annual list. The study analyzed how millennials rated their organizations on more than 50 different metrics defining great workplaces, such as managers' competence, respect and fairness in the workplace, opportunities for meaningful work, executive leadership, and opportunities to innovate and contribute to the organization's success.

The report also analyzed an index of factors where millennials often lag behind other workers, such as access to meaningful work, fair pay, and plans for a future with their organizations. Companies were evaluated as to whether they were creating great workplaces for all millennials — regardless of who they are or what they do for the organization.

Surveys were anonymous, and companies needed to employ at least 50 millennials to be considered. Employees rated the companies on challenges, atmosphere, rewards, pride, communication, and bosses with a numerical ranking. Here's what made the other Houston companies shine:

David Weekley Homes, where 96 percent of employees say their workplace is great, was lauded for offering an employee's children's scholarship program, product discounts, profit sharing, sabbaticals, and even spiritual assistance.

At Camden, where 92 percent of employees say their workplace is great, employees are given apartment discounts, holiday suites, scholarships, tuition assistance, an aggressive stock purchase plan, and even tickets to hot sporting events.

Elsewhere In Texas, familiar San Antonio insurance/financial service brand USAA (United Services Automobile Association) comes in at No. 40, followed by Dallas professional services firm Ryan, Inc. at No. 44 and Dallas' Prime Lending at No. 58.

Austin is represented by tech firm WP Engine, Inc. at No. 61. Dallas' Encompass Home Health checks in at No. 66, while San Antonio transportation company NuStar Energy L.P. follows at No. 69. Abilene makes an appearance with Funeral Directors Life Insurance Company at No. 92, and rounding out the Texas representation is Arlington's Texas Health Resources, Inc. at No. 96.

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

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Early-stage accelerator returns to Houston, announces finalists

prepare for take-off

CodeLaunch, a traveling seed-stage accelerator, is returning to Houston for its latest cohort.

The startup competition sponsored by software development company Improving will have its ultimate showdown on February 28. The final competition pairs six startups with six startup consulting companies.

Jason W. Taylor, CodeLaunch president and founder, says CodeLaunch isn’t your typical startup showcase, as it incorporates music acts, comedy, and crowd networking. Mirroring the set-up of a TV show, the six finalists all present their working products in front of an audience amid these performances.

“I would describe CodeLaunch as the next generation of venture-tainment in North America and the greatest startup show on earth,” Taylor explains.

The 2024 Houston CodeLaunch participant startups — and their mentor partners — are as follows:

Prior to pitch day, all six teams will receive hands-on instruction from CodeLaunch mentors on how to construct their pitches and free professional software development from their partners. Taylor says the strong relationships between CodeLaunch and these developers played a major role in setting the competition in Houston.

“We love Houston and we’re back for a third year in a row because the Houston startup ecosystem works together better than other major startup ecosystems I’ve seen,” Taylor says. “We have some great software development partners in Houston that are building code for those startups.”

Last year, Houston-based startup Energy360, with the mentorship and help of Honeycomb Software, took home the Championship belt and a $100,000 investment offer from Cyrannus VC fund for their energy management system Matt Bonasera, Energy360’s enterprise architect, says he is grateful for the entrepreneurial community CodeLaunch provides, in particular the team’s mentor Oleg Lysiak, Honeycomb VP of Partnerships and Business Development.

“I happened along this great community of people who are really passionate about supporting each other,” Bonasera says.

Lysiak agrees that CodeLaunch is an ideal opportunity for young entrepreneurs looking to hone their skills and expand their product capabilities. Lysiak says he is looking forward to defending Honeycomb’s title as top consultant development team.

“My whole philosophy is to connect people and have different collisions and collaborations,” Lysiak says.

Houston startup completes testing, prepares biosimilar insulin drug for clinical trials

next steps

A Houston biotech startup is one step closer to releasing its marquee drug for the global insulin market, which is projected to break the $90 billion threshold by 2029.

rBIO says it recently completed testing of the properties of R-biolin, an insulin drug that’s biologically identical to Novo Nordisk’s Novolin drug. The patent for Novolin about two decades ago. In March 2023, the Dutch drugmaker announced it was slashing the list price of Novolin by 65 percent to $48.20 per vial and $91.09 per FlexPen.

Executives at rBIO are now pursuing a partnership with a contract research organization to manage clinical trials of R-biolin. If those trials go well, R-biolin will seek approval to supply its insulin therapy to diabetes patients around the world.

Washington University in St. Louis is rBIO’s academic partner for the R-biolin project.

The rBIO platform produces insulin at greater yields that traditional manufacturing techniques do. The company is striving to drive down the cost of insulin by 30 percent.

About 38 million Americans have diabetes, with the vast majority being treated for type 2 diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many people with diabetes must take insulin to control their blood sugar levels.

Research company iHealthcareAnalyst predicts the global market for insulin will surpass the $90 billion mark in 2029.

“There has been a lot of talk in the media about reducing the cost of insulin for diabetic patients, but what is often overlooked is that the domestic demand for insulin will soon outpace the supply, leading to a new host of issues,” Cameron Owen, co-founder and CEO of rBIO, says in a news release.

“We’re dedicated to addressing the growing demand for accessible insulin therapies, and … we’re thrilled to announce the viability of our highly scalable manufacturing process.”

Professionals from the University of California San Diego and Johns Hopkins University established rBIO in 2020. The startup moved its headquarters from San Diego to Houston in 2022.

CEO Cameron Owen and Chief Scientific Officer Deenadayalan Bakthavatsalam work on insulin purification in the Houston lab. Photo courtesy

How AI is changing product management and what you need to know

guest column

For the past 14 months, everyone has been talking about ways artificial intelligence is changing the world, and product management is not an exception. The challenge, as with every new technology, is not only adopting it but understanding what old habits, workflows, and processes are affected by it.

Product managers — as well as startup founders leading a product function — more than any other role, face a challenge of bringing new life-changing products to market that may or may not be received well by their users. A product manager’s goal is complex — bring value, stay ahead of the competition, be innovative. Yet, the "behind the scenes" grind requires endless decision making and trade offs to inspire stakeholders to move forward and deliver.

As we dive into 2024, it is obvious that AI tools do not only transform the way we work but also help product managers create products that exceed customer expectation and drive businesses forward.

Market research and trends analysis

As product managers, we process enormous amounts of market data — from reviewing global and industry trend analysis, to social media posts, predictions, competition, and company goals. AI, however, can now replace hours, if not days, of analyzing massive amounts of data in an instant, revealing market trends, anticipating needs, and foreseeing what's coming next. As a result, it is easier to make effective product decisions and identify new market opportunities.

Competitive analysis

Constantly following competitors, reviewing their new releases, product updates, or monitoring reviews to identify competitor strengths and weaknesses is an overwhelming and time consuming task. With AI, you can quickly analyze competitors’ products, pricing, promotions, and feedback. You can easily compare multiple attributes, including metrics, and identify gaps and areas for improvement — all the insights that are otherwise much harder to reveal quickly and efficiently.

Customer and product discovery

Of course, the most intuitive use case that comes to mind is the adoption of AI in product and customer discovery. For example:

  • Use AI for customer segmentation and persona creation to help visualize personas, prioritize user motivations and expectations, and uncover hidden behavior and needs. You can then create and simplify customer questionnaires for interviews and user groups and target customers more accurately.
  • Analyze quantitative and qualitative data from surveys, support tickets, reviews, and in-person interviews to identify pain points and unmet user needs and help prioritize features for future updates and releases.

Roadmap and sprint management

AI provides value in simplifying roadmap planning and sprint management. Resource optimization is often a gruesome task and AI can help with feature prioritization and resource allocation. It helps teams focus on critical work and increase their productivity. You can even analyze and manage dependencies and improve results across multiple sprints months in advance.

Prototyping and mockup generation

There is no product manager’s routine without multiple mockups, wireframes, and prototypes that explain concepts and collect feedback among stakeholders. AI has become a critical tool in simplifying this process and bringing ideas to life from concept to visualization.

Today, you can use textual or voice descriptions to instantly create multiple visuals with slight variations, run A/B tests and gather valuable feedback at the earliest stage of a product life cycle.

Job search and job interviews

Consider it as a bonus but one of the less obvious but crucial advantages of AI is using it in job search. With the vulnerable and unstable job market, especially for product roles, AI is a valuable assistant. From getting the latest news and updates on a company you want to join, to summarizing insights on the executive team, or company goals, compiling lists of interview questions, and running mock interviews, AI has become a non-judgmental assistant in a distressing and often discouraging job search process.

Use AI to draft cold emails to recruiters and hiring managers, compare your skills to open positions’ requirements, identify gaps, and outline ideas for test assignments.

We already know that AI is not a hype; it is here to stay. However, remember that customers do not consume AI, they consume your product for its value. Customers care whether your product gets their need, solves their problem, and makes their lives easier. The goal of a product manager is to create magic combining human brain capabilities and latest technology. And the best result is with a human at the core of any product.

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Natasha Gorodetsky is the founder and CEO of Product Pursuits, a Houston company that helps early stage and venture-backed startups build products and create impact.