Check out these workshops, networking events, conferences, and other goings on in Houston this month. Photo via Getty Images

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

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This month, Houstonians have yet another good batch of in-person and online innovation events, and you and your tech network need to know about them.

Here's a roundup of virtual events not to miss this month — like demo days, workshops, conventions, and more.

Note: This post might be updated to add more events.

November 3 — Enventure "Inspire" Seminar Series - With Dr. Alyssa Johnston

The "Inspire" Seminar Series was developed by Enventure to help students learn about the reality of working in the biotech and biomedical fields. This particular event will star Dr. Alyssa Johnston, PhD, AstraZeneca Medical Science Liaison. Currently, Alyssa is a MSL at AstraZeneca specializing in GI/GU/Head & Neck Oncology. She is the study lead for a gastric cancer clinical trial, tumor lead for several liver cancer trials, and also works on several IITs. She is the field medical trainer for the pan tumor team and works on sustainability projects including inclusion and diversity projects.

The event is on Wednesday, November 3, at 6 pm. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

November 4 — The Greentown Labs Climatetech Summit 2021: Empowering the Technology of Tomorrow

The Greentown Labs Climatetech Summit is a deep dive focused on empowering the technology of tomorrow. Climatetech entrepreneurs are developing the solutions that are the core of global decarbonization, yet they need support, cooperation, and collaboration from investors, policymakers, and the growing climatetech workforce in order to scale their critical technologies. The energy transition is here, and the climatetech ecosystem needs your involvement to keep the momentum going.

The event is all day Thursday, November 4. It's free and happening online, or $100 to attend in person at Greentown Houston. Click here to register.

November 8 — Climathon 2021 Awards

Drum roll... and the winning projects of the 2021 Houston Climathon Awards are... going to be revealed soon! Learn More About the Climathon: https://climathonhouston.org

The event is on Monday, November 8, at noon. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

November 8 — The Cannon + Chevron Open House

Join The Cannon and Chevron for some snacks and learn how Chevron leverages relationships with the start up community to deliver higher returns and lower carbon. Members of Chevron Technology Ventures and the IT function will be available to provide some background on our presence at The Cannon and exchange ideas on partnering opportunities.

The event is on Monday, November 8, at noon. It's free and happening at The Cannon (1300 Brittmoore Rd). Click here to register.

November 9 — BEAMW Networking Launch Event

Business Ecosystem Alliance for Minorities & Women (BEAMW) is a newly launched alliance seeking to reduce barriers women and minority small business owners face. This Networking Launch Event will be the first of a series of networking events designed to bring small business owners, different business support organizations, investors, bankers, and collaborators together to gain valuable information and make key connections.

The event is on Tuesday, November 9, at 6 pm. It's free and happening at The Downtown Launchpad (1801 Main St). Click here to register.

November 10 — Go to Market Strategies with RHIS Group

The Cannon has partnered with the RHIS Group to expand available resources. Join the session on Go to Market Strategies to understand different pillars of strategy, organizational capability, challenges and common perceptions, and strategy development.

The event is on Wednesday, November 10, at 10:30 am. It's free and happening at The Cannon (1300 Brittmoore Rd). Click here to register.

November 10 — Investing in the Energy Transition: ESG and Regulatory Impacts

A key aspect of the energy transition is how industry accounts for long-term strategy and competitive positioning in a constantly evolving landscape. With a sharp focus on regulatory and ESG legal implications, this panel discussion examines how companies will address the marketplace changes – not only with its stakeholders, but within the foundation of their products and procedures as they define value creation toward constituents in the court of global opinion.

The event is on Tuesday, November 16, at 10 am. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

November 11 — The Listies Gala

Come one, come all to a night celebrating Houston innovation at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Think "Met Gala meets Houston innovation" and an evening of multicultural Houston food, immersive experiences, and of course HouTech. The host of the evening is Houston's Poet Laureate, Outspoken Bean, who will bring more Houston energy to the Lisites for everyone to enjoy.

The event is on Thursday, November 11, at 7 pm at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Tickets are $75. Click here to register.

November 16 —  Investing in the Energy Transition: The World of External Investment Finance

As global industry continues to embark on an unparalleled pivot toward sustainable energy, crucial questions have risen regarding the financial risks and rewards of such an intrepid move. What is the role of venture capital? Private equity? Institutional investors? Infrastructure funds? Is moving away from traditional fossil fuels sustainable, and are there adequate channels of investments to fund? In what should be an insightful dialogue on our present position and what must be addressed along the way, this panel poses these queries – and more – toward financial experts to determine industry and societal cost of the energy transition. The goal? To explore the mismatch of opportunity and investment as well as the full range of buy-in – literally and figuratively – that the world must achieve to successfully adapt to the new landscape. Moderated by Ahmad Atwan, CEO of VC Fuel.

The event is on Tuesday, November 16, at 10 am. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

November 16 — What happens when you talk to an investor?

Steve Jennis of Founder's Compass responds to questions submitted by members of The Cannon Community related to the fundraising process. This online session will be followed by an AMA session for any other questions, clarifications, or points provoked by his answers.

The event is on Tuesday, November 16, at 10 am. It's free and happening online. Click here to register.

November 17 — Illuminate Houston

The Greater Houston Partnership's Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs group, HYPE, invites you to Illuminate Houston - an event series highlighting businesses and thought leaders challenging the way we think about the future. Join for the final Illuminate Houston of 2021 featuring Juliana Garaizar, Head of Houston Incubator and VP, Innovation, Greentown Labs. Don't miss this dynamic conversation where this climatetech startup leader shares insights on Houston's growing innovation ecosystem and leading the way in the global energy transition.

The event is on Wednesday, November 17, at noon. It's $25 for non-members and happening online. Click here to register.

According to a report, Houston has grown its tech workforce more than other major metros over the past year. Joe Daniel Price/Getty Images

Houston ranks among fastest growing tech hubs amid the pandemic, report finds

growth in HOU

When Americans think of tech hubs, Silicon Valley or even Austin may initially come to mind. However, Houston appears to be making a play for tech-hub status.

Citing data from career platform LinkedIn, the Axios news website reports that Houston has seen a healthy influx of tech workers since the start of the pandemic. In fact, Houston ranks second among 14 major U.S. labor markets for the number of relocating software and IT workers between March 2020 and February 2021 compared with the same period a year earlier.

Miami grabs the No. 1 spot for the gain in software and IT workers (up 15.4 percent) between the two periods, with Houston in second place (10.4 percent) and Dallas-Fort Worth in third place (8.6 percent), according to the LinkedIn data.

"Young engineers and recent college graduates see Miami, Houston, and Philadelphia — not San Francisco, New York, or Seattle — as the hot new places to jumpstart a technology or creative economy career," Axios notes.

At the bottom of the barrel sits the San Francisco Bay Area, which suffered a loss of 34.8 percent when comparing the arrival and departure of software and IT workers. Interestingly, Austin experienced a loss of 8 percent in this category.

The shift from traditional tech hub to emerging tech hub is likely to continue as employers and employees alike further embrace remote work. A survey commissioned in April by the nonprofit One America Works found 47% of tech workers had moved during the pandemic. In addition, 3 in 10 tech workers anticipate living somewhere different than they did during the pandemic.

The CompTIA tech trade group says the Houston metro area is home to 243,908 tech workers. The Houston area's tech workforce grew 12.3 percent from 2010 to 2019, according to the group.

"Houston has been a center for world-changing innovations in energy, life sciences and aerospace for over a century. With science and engineering breakthroughs ingrained in the fabric of Houston's economy, the region has become a thriving hub of digital technology talent and companies thanks to our access to customers and expertise," says a report released in March by the Greater Houston Partnership.

One employer taking advantage of that talent is Bill.com. In 2019, the digital payments company opened a Houston outpost — the company's first office outside Silicon Valley.

"Though the city's technology industry is still developing, it offers a breath of fresh air compared to overcrowded late-stage tech markets like Austin and Denver. Ultimately, the breadth and depth of Houston's talent pool and the neighboring educational pipelines made it an ideal location for a second home," Vinay Pai, senior vice president of engineering at Palo Alto, California-based Bill.com and a Rice University graduate, wrote in April 2020 on LinkedIn.

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Houston ecommerce scale-up company acquires Amazon advertising partner

all aboard

A Houston tech company has tapped an Amazon partner in a strategic acquisition and is bringing the company's full team on board.

Cart.com acquired Ohio-based Amify, a company that provides optimization and advertising solutions. The terms of the deal were not disclosed but Cart.com will on board Amify’s entire employee base, including its founder Ethan McAfee, CEO Chris Mehrabi, and COO Christine McCambridge.

As chief delivery officer, Mehrabi will take the helm of Cart.com’s professional services business and McCambridge will lead Cart.com’s marketplace services team as vice president of marketplace services operations.

“I’m happy to welcome the entire Amify team to Cart.com and have industry veterans Chris Mehrabi and Christine McCambridge join our leadership team,” Cart.com Founder and CEO Omair Tariq says in a news release. “Amify has been widely recognized for their expertise and technology and we’re excited to leverage their experience to help our customers maximize their potential across channels.”

Cart.com's membership will have access to Amify's proprietary technology platform, including advertising, creative content, supply chain strategy, and analytics. The company, which was founded in 2011, currently supports over 50 global brands and manages approximately $1 billion in gross merchandise value. According to LinkedIn, Amify has over 50 employees.

“We could not be more excited to join Cart.com and leverage the company’s resources and scale to deliver value to both our customers and employees,” Mehrabi says. “I’m honored to step into the role of Chief Delivery Officer and contribute to Cart.com’s incredible growth story and innovative reputation.”

Founded in Houston in 2020, Cart.com provides comprehensive physical and digital infrastructure for online merchants. The company raised a $60 million series C and grown its customer base to over 6,000 users. After making several acquisitions, the company also operates 14 fulfillment centers nationwide.

Earlier this year, Tariq sat down with the Houston Innovators Podcast to share a bit about how the company is currently in scale-up mode.

Houston health tech innovator collaborates on promising medical device funded by DOD

team work

The United States Department of Defense has awarded a grant that will allow the Texas Heart Institute and Rice University to continue to break ground on a novel left ventricular assist device (LVAD) that could be an alternative to current devices that prevent heart transplantation and are a long-term option in end-stage heart failure.

The grant is part of the DOD’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP). It was awarded to Georgia Institute of Technology, one of four collaborators on the project that will be designed and evaluated by the co-investigator Yaxin Wang. Wang is part of O.H. “Bud” Frazier’s team at Texas Heart Institute, where she is director of Innovative Device & Engineering Applications Lab. The other institution working on the new LVAD is North Carolina State University.

The project is funded by a four-year, $7.8 million grant. THI will use about $2.94 million of that to fund its part of the research. As Wang explained to us last year, an LVAD is a minimally invasive device that mechanically pumps a person’s own heart. Frazier claims to have performed more than 900 LVAD implantations, but the devices are far from perfect.

The team working on this new research seeks to minimize near-eventualities like blood clot formation, blood damage, and driveline complications such as infection and limitations in mobility. The four institutions will try to innovate with a device featuring new engineering designs, antithrombotic slippery hydrophilic coatings (SLIC), wireless power transfer systems, and magnetically levitated driving systems.

Wang and her team believe that the non-contact-bearing technology will help to decrease the risk of blood clotting and damage when implanting an LVAD. The IDEA Lab will test the efficacy and safety of the SLIC LVAD developed by the multi-institutional team with a lab-bench-based blood flow loop, but also in preclinical models.

“The Texas Heart Institute continues to be a leading center for innovation in mechanical circulatory support systems,” said Joseph G. Rogers, MD, the president and CEO of THI, in a press release.

“This award will further the development and testing of the SLIC LVAD, a device intended to provide an option for a vulnerable patient population and another tool in the armamentarium of the heart failure teams worldwide.”

If it works as hypothesized, the SLIC LVAD will improve upon current LVAD technology, which will boost quality of life for countless heart patients. But the innovation won’t stop there. Technologies that IDEA Lab is testing include wireless power transfer for medical devices and coatings to reduce blood clotting could find applications in many other technologies that could help patients live longer, healthier lives.

Houston investor on SaaS investing and cracking product-market fit

Houston innovators podcast episode 230

Aziz Gilani's career in tech dates back to when he'd ride his bike from Clear Lake High School to a local tech organization that was digitizing manuals from mission control. After years working on every side of the equation of software technology, he's in the driver's seat at a local venture capital firm deploying funding into innovative software businesses.

As managing director at Mercury, the firm he's been at since 2008, Gilani looks for promising startups within the software-as-a-service space — everything from cloud computing and data science and beyond.

"Once a year at Mercury, we sit down with our partners and talk about the next investment cycle and the focuses we have for what makes companies stand out," Gilani says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "The current software investment cycle is very focused on companies that have truly achieved product-market fit and are showing large customer adoption."



An example of this type of company is Houston-based RepeatMD, which raised a $50 million series A round last November. Mercury's Fund V, which closed at an oversubscribed $160 million, contributed to RepeatMD's round.

"While looking at that investment, it really made me re-calibrate a lot of my thoughts in terms what product-market fit meant," Gilani says. "At RepeatMD, we had customers that were so eager for the service that they were literally buying into products while we were still making them."

Gilani says he's focused on finding more of these high-growth companies to add to Mercury's portfolio amidst what, admittedly, has been a tough time for venture capital. But 2024 has been looking better for those fundraising.

"We've some potential for improvement," Gilani says. "But overall, the environment is constrained, interest rates haven't budged, and we've seen some potential for IPO activity."

Gilani shares more insight into his investment thesis, what areas of tech he's been focused on recently, and how Houston has developed as an ecosystem on the podcast.