Mara McFadden (left), CEO of Endolumik, took home the top prize at the Ignite Fire Pitch Competition. Photo courtesy of Ignite

After virtual and postponed events, Ignite Healthcare Network finally got to honor its 2021 cohort and name the annual winners.

The Fifth Annual Fire Pitch Competition was slated to take place last November, but was postponed to January. Affected by the Delta and then Omicron variants of COVID-19, the event finally got to return to in-person networking and pitches on Thursday, March 3.

"The opportunity to bring people together is a really different level of engagement and energy," Ayse McCracken, founder and board chair of Ignite, says ahead of the awards event. "We love seeing the energy that's being generated in Houston around innovation — and particularly health care innovation."

Seven companies pitched and three were awarded monetary prizes. Morgantown, West Virginia-based Endolumik, which has developed a patent-pending fluorescence-guided device to improve visualization and safety of robotic and laparoscopic bariatric operations, took home the top prize, which included a total of $500,000 in investment prizes from the Texas Medical Center Venture Fund and Wavemaker Three-Sixty Health.

Second place was awarded to Rx Bandz of Locust Valley, New York. The company created the MiniJect, the world’s smallest military-grade auto-injector designed to deliver a wide range of injectable medication, and was awarded $250,000 from the Texas Halo Fund and $25,000 from The Southwest National Pediatric Device Innovation Consortium.

San Antonio-based Hera Biotech took third place and was awarded a pilot program prize with Banner Health. Hera has developed the first non-surgical, tissue-based test capable of diagnosing endometriosis.

Ignite taps into Houston health care institutions to provide opportunities for its cohort of companies. According to a news release, this year’s partner organizations included Houston Methodist, Memorial Hermann Health System, Texas Children’s Hospital, Texas Children’s Pediatrics, The Menninger Clinic, Banner Health, Kindred Healthcare, Aetna, Commonwealth Care Alliance, BLUE KC, Hospital for Special Surgery, Summit Health, TMC Ventures, Texas Heart Institute, Golden Seeds, Portfolia, The Artemis Fund, Wavemaker 360 Health, Prosalus Capital Partners, 7Wire Ventures, Texas Halo Fund, Unity Point Ventures and others.

The judges who evaluated the competition’s panel of companies included:

  • Jay Goss, MBA General Partner, Wavemaker Three-Sixty Health
  • Amanda Hammel, Chief Information Officer, Memorial Hermann Health System
  • Karen Hill, MD, MBA, SVP and Chief Medical Officer, Texas Children’s Health Plan
  • Tom Luby, PhD, Director, Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute
  • Fiona Mack, PhD, Head of JLABS @TMC
  • Roberta Schwartz, PhD, EVP and Chief Innovation Officer, Houston Methodist Hospital
  • Andrew Truscott, Global Health Technology Lead, Accenture
Log on to one of these informative online events happening throughout the rest of the month. Getty Images

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

Where to be online

November is usually the last busy month for business events before the end of the year and ahead of the holidays, and this year — even though events have pivoted to virtual gatherings — is no different.

From panels and ask-me-anything meetings to summits and startup competitions, here are over 10 Houston innovation events you can attend virtually via online meetings. This month in particular there's the return of The Houston Innovation Summit and the brand new awards program called, The Listies (nominate now for those). Be sure to register in advance, as most will send an access link ahead of the events.

November 5 — Dell Technologies Ask Me Anything

Dell Technologies is hosting an "Ask Me Anything" session for the Ion community. During this time, attendees can ask experts anything in regards to IT pain points during these times. Entrepreneurs may also use this time to brainstorm the back end IT Infrastructure of their business.

The event will take place online on Thursday, November 5, at 10 am. Register here.

November 5-6 — Greentown Labs Climatetech Summit

Join Greentown Labs for its first Climatetech Summit for a deep dive into scaling climate action. Across the two days, attendees will engage with Greentown's pillars of climate action — technology, finance, policy, and justice — discover groundbreaking startups and their climatetech solutions, learn from industry experts, and forge meaningful connections with entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders, policymakers, startup support organizations, and other climate champions.

The event will take place online on Thursday, November 5, and Friday, November 6. Register here.

November 10 — Igniting Leadership: The State of COVID Vaccines

Join Ignite Healthcare Network for a special night of discussion hosted by IGNITE Steering Committee member Susan Feigin Harris about the status of COVID19 vaccine development with Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, Co-director of Texas Children's Center for Vaccine Development.

The event will take place online on Tuesday, November 10, at 6 pm. Register here.

November 10-12 — Texas Life Sciences Forum

The Texas Life Science Forum is the premier life science event in Texas that brings together members from industry, emerging life science companies, academic, and investors. The 2020 event will be virtual and will still be the "must attend" event for anyone in the life science industry in Texas or affiliated with innovation at the life science academic institutions. This event represents an opportunity to meet investors, learn about promising life science companies, to learn about opportunities for entrepreneurs, investment professionals, big pharma, academics and business executives serving the life science industry.

The event will take place online on Tuesday, November 10, to Thursday, November 12. Register here.

November 12 — Plaza Tec: Funding Fundamentals

Though Latinx-owned businesses and startups make up at least 38 percent of businesses in the Houston area, there is still a lack of access to capital blocking growth and progress for Latinx founders.

In this discussion presented by The Ion, representatives from baMa and NextSeed will join together to discuss angel investing and crowdfunding options for Latinx founders and what challenges one might face when seeking capital.

The event will take place online on Thursday, November 12, at 5:30 pm. Register here.

November 12 — Women in Tech and Biz

If you're interested in hearing from some badass women in tech and business, come to the virtual Women in Tech + Biz event created by the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The event will be split into two sections — one focused on entrepreneurship and the other focusing more on software and engineering — followed by networking.

The event will take place online on Thursday, November 12, at 6 pm. Register here.

November 13 — Climathon 2020: Hacking Solutions to Houston’s Climate Challenges

On Earth Day this year, the City of Houston published its first Climate Action Plan. The plan is the culmination of thousands of volunteer time from industry professionals, policy stakeholders, and community advocates. Together the working groups have laid out a concise plan to address the climate challenges that Houston faces along with maintaining a leadership role in the energy transition. This year's Climathon will look to realize some of the goals of the plan through design sprints led by local subject matter experts in the areas of transportation, energy innovation, building optimization, and materials management.

The event will take place online on Friday, November 13, at 1 pm. Register here.

November 16-20 — The Houston Innovation Summit

The Houston Innovation Summit — THIS — celebrates Houston's innovation ecosystem during Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW). THIS responds to 2020 with a special focus on the intersection of Impact and Innovation, spotlighting Houstonians at the forefront of education, ecosystems, inclusion, and policy. Join Impact Hub Houston and Houston's startup and small business community for a week of exciting programs and connect with the thinkers, doers, makers and innovators driving Houston forward.

The event will take place online on Monday, November 16, to Friday, November 20. Register here.

November 17 — Struggles and Bubbles: Pivoting during a Pandemic

Join General Assembly Houston to listen to a panel of startup founders who will share their journey and entrepreneurial struggles, and what it really takes to launch a startup during global pandemic, and scale a startup.

The event will take place online on Tuesday, November 17 at 5 pm. Register here.

November 17-19 — Capital Factory's Texas Startup Roadshow

For the first time, Capital Factory is taking its roadshow online. For three days, the organization will be introducing investors to the various innovative cities across the Lone Star State.

Houston will be the city of focus on Wednesday, November 18.

The event will take place online on Tuesday, November 17, to Thursday, November 19. Register here.

November 20 — The Listies

Let's toast to the entrepreneurial spirit of Houston in a time when celebrating victories is more important than ever. Introducing the Listies, brought to you Houston Exponential and InnovationMap, commemorating the launch of HTX TechList, Houston's innovation discovery platform.

The event will take place online on Friday, November 20, at 3 pm. Register here.

Unlike past awards programs hosted by Ignite Healthcare Network, the Ignite Madness winners accepted their awards via video call. Photo courtesy of Ignite

Houston female-focused health tech pitch competition names big winners

winner, winner

From the comfort of their own homes, several female entrepreneurs accepted investment and pitch prizes at the finals of an inaugural awards program created by a Houston-based, woman-focused health organization.

Ahead of the Ignite Madness finals on Thursday, October 29, Houston-based Ignite Healthcare Network named nine finalists that then pitched for three investment prizes. The finalists included:

  • Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based Abilitech Medical — medical device company that creates assistive devices to aid those with upper-limb neuromuscular conditions or injuries.
  • New Orleans, Louisiana-based Chosen Diagnostics — a biotech company focusing on custom treatment. First, Chosen is focused on creating two novel biomarker diagnostic kits — one for gastrointestinal disease in premature infants.
  • San Francisco, California-based Ejenta — which uses NASA tech and artificial intelligence to enhance connected care.
  • Highland, Maryland-based Emergency Medical Innovation — a company focused on emergency medicine like Bleed Freeze, a novel device for more efficiently treating nosebleeds.
  • Columbia, Missouri-based Healium — an app to quickly reduce burnout, self-manage anxiety, and stress.
  • Farmington, Connecticut-based Nest Collaborative — digital lactation solutions and support.
  • Palo Alto, California-based Nyquist Data — a smart search engine to enable medical device companies to get FDA approvals faster.
  • New Orleans-Louisiana based Obatala Sciences — a biotech startup working with research institutions across the globe to advance tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
  • Perth, Australia-based OncoRes — a company that's developing a technology to provide surgeons with real-time assessment of tissue microstructure.
The inaugural event that mixed health care and basketball — two vastly different industries with strong connections to women — attracted support from partners and sponsors, such as Intel, Accenture, Morgan Lewis, Houston Methodist, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, and more, according to Ayse McCracken, founder and board chair of Ignite.

"Our partners and sponsors are an integral part of our organization" says McCracken. "Without each and every one of them, the networks, resources, and commitment to advancing women leaders, we would not have grown so rapidly in just four years and our IGNITE Madness event would not enjoy this vibrant ecosystem that now surrounds female entrepreneurs."

First up in selecting their winner for their investment was Texas Halo Fund. Chosen Diagnostics took home the $50,000 investment.

"While we were impressed by everyone who pitched tonight, one company stood out to us," says Kyra Doolan, managing partner. "[Chosen Diagnostics] exemplifies what we are looking for: an innovative solution, a strong CEO, and a real addressable market."

The second monetary award was presented by Tom Luby, director of TMC Innovation. The award was an $100,000 investment from the TMC Venture Fund, as well as admission to TMCx. The recipient of the investment was OncoRes.

"We are absolutely blown away," says Katharine Giles, founder of Onco. "We've already got a great link to Texas and looking forward to more."

The largest monetary award that was on the table was presented by Wavemaker Three-Sixty Health, a leading Southern-California based, early stage venture capital firm, for $150,000. However, at the time of the announcement, Managing Partner Jay Goss decided to award four startups an undisclosed amount of investment. Goss says he and his team will meet with each company to establish an investment.
The companies that were recognized by Wavemaker were: Healium, Ejenta, Emergency Medical Innovation, and Nest Collaborative.
Lastly, Ignite itself had $27,500 cash awards to give out to the pitch competition winners. The funds will be distributed between the winners. OncoRes took first place, Abilitech came in second place, and Obatala Sciences took third place.
This week's innovators to know in Houston includes Ayse McCracken of Ignite Healthcare Network, Philipp Sitter of VIPinsiders, and Diane Yoo of Medingenii. Photos courtesy

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: In today's Monday roundup of Houston innovators, I'm introducing you to three innovators — from health care investing to marketing technology — all making headlines in Houston this week.

Ayse McCracken, founder and board chair of Ignite Healthcare Network

Ayse McCracken joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss women in health care and Ignite Madness. Photo courtesy of Ignite

When the pandemic hit and shut down businesses across the world, Ayse McCracken knew immediately what group of people were likely going to be the most affected: Women in health care. It just so happens that her nonprofit organization, Ignite Healthcare Network, exists to serve this same group of people, so she got to work on creating online events that were intentional and meaningful.

"With COVID, it has only escalated the importance of our work, so we've elevated our voices through our webinar series," McCracken says on this week's Houston Innovators Podcast.

This week, Ignite's virtual startup competition concludes with the finals. She shares more about the program and Ignite's mission on the episode. Click here to read more and stream the episode.

Philipp Sitter, founder of VIPinsiders

Restaurateur Philipp Sitter launched VIPinsiders last year. Photo courtesy of VIPinsiders

Restaurants have undoubtedly suffered due to loss of business during the shutdown, but they face an uphill battle back to normalcy, and restaurateur Philipp Sitter knew his tech tool could help. He created VIPinsiders as a marketing tool to reach customers in a data-driven way.

"The restaurant gets to know me [the customer], it understands how often I visit, it also gets to reward my visitation," explains Sitter. "Most importantly, it reminds me to come back when I haven't visited in a while."

Data recorded by VIPinsiders shows that 48 percent of users visit restaurants with the platform "more often" in the first 90 days. Click here to read more.

Diane Yoo, managing partner at Medingenii

Diane Yoo, who was hospitalized due to COVID-19 earlier this year, created a VC fund that's investing in health tech solutions for the disease. Photo courtesy of Medingenii

Just a few weeks after being hospitalized from COVID-19, Diane Yoo was investing in a medical device startup that could have made a world of difference to her recovery. After closing its initial fund, Medingenii invested in several Houston health startups including Vitls, a wearable device that can track and send vitals remotely.

"The pandemic has really validated some of the business models we're invested in," she tells InnovationMap.

Now, fueled by her first round of success and eager to advance other life-changing technologies, Yoo is looking toward a second fund. Click here to read more.

Here's what interactive, virtual events to log on to this month. Getty Images

Updated: 15+ can't-miss virtual business and innovation events in Houston for October

where to be online

Every year, October is jam packed with tons of business events across Houston. Even in light of the pandemic, the shows must go on — online, that is.

From fireside chats and ask-me-anything meetings to summit and startup competitions, here are over 10 Houston innovation events you can attend virtually via online meetings. Be sure to register in advance, as most will send an access link ahead of the events.

Note: This post has been edited and republished to reflect new events.

October 5 — Introduction to the Latinx Startup Alliance

The Ion is hosting this fireside chat to allow attendees to learn what resources San Francisco-based Latinx Startup Alliance will bring to Houston and the importance of promoting opportunities and access for all Houstonians launching a tech startup and funding resources.

The event will take place online on Monday, October 5, at 5:30 pm. Register here.

October 6 — HXTV| VC Ask Me Anything Virtual Event ft Companyon Ventures

Houston Exponential is hosting a virtual ask-me-anything event with Companyon Ventures, which funds B2B software startups into their expansion-stage by injecting decades of startup and VC experience through operational hands-on investing.

The event will take place online on Tuesday, October 6, at noon. Register here.

October 6, 13, 20, & 27 — ABC's of Accelerators Series

Join The Ion for a series of virtual events throughout the month that tackle the ins and outs of startup accelerator programs.

The events will take place online on every Tuesday of the month at noon. Register here.

October 8 & 15 — Houston Low-Carbon Energy Innovation Summit

The Center for Houston's Future has put together two full days of programming centered around low-carbon innovation. Registration options $50 one-day passes or $75 two-day passes.

The event will take place online on Thursday, October 8, from 9 am to 1:30 pm, and Thursday, October 15, from 9 am to 3 pm. Register here.

October 14 — HXTV| VC Ask Me Anything Virtual Event ft IronSpring Ventures

Houston Exponential is hosting a virtual ask-me-anything event with IronSpring Ventures, a network-driven venture capital fund investing in digital industrial innovation.

The event will take place online on Wednesday, October 14, at noon. Register here.

October 14 — Pandemic Rising: The Threat to Female Ambition & Our Nation's Recovery

Join Sesh Coworking for a virtual town hall to discuss the impacts of the global pandemic and economic downturn on female career trajectory, female unemployment rates, increased childcare burdens and how the pandemic has thrust female equality in the workspace backwards by decades.

The event will take place online on Wednesday, October 14, at 1 pm. Register here.

October 14 — Core Conversations: Transition with Purpose

Join a Core Conversation with Brandy Guidry to learn how she leveraged her outreach and advocacy work to start consulting with startups.

The event will take place online on Wednesday, October 14, at 4 pm. Register here.

October 16 — Design Thinking for Tech and Innovation Workshop | Prototypes+User Testing

At this Ion Online event, learn some of the ways to prototype and identify features that will make up your MVP and usability testing techniques.

The event will take place online on Friday, October 16, at 11:30 am. Register here.

October 19 — PR 101 for Startups and Small Businesses

Want to generate press for your startup but have no budget? Join General Assembly for this PR 101 session to learn how to leverage PR strategies to grow your business. This session is ideal for startup founders and marketers and general enthusiasts who would like to learn PR strategies and tips. Our panelists will cover effective story telling, media relations, and content development.

The event will take place online on Monday, October 19, at 5 pm. Register here.

October 19-29 — Space Com Expo

We are dedicated to accelerating the global business of space. SpaceCom 2020's online event will feature eight days of unprecedented innovation, superior thought-leadership, and forward-thinking strategies all for free.

The event will take place online at various times from Monday, October 19, to Thursday, October 29. Register here.

October 20 — Houston, We Have a Leader: Fireside Chat with Head of JLABS @ TMC

Fiona Mack, the new regional head for JLABS @ TMC has landed in Space City, and she's sitting down with the one-any-only Melinda Richter, Global Head of JLABS, for a fireside chat on all things Lone Star State, JLABS and her Texas-sized plans for the future of JLABS @ TMC.

The event will take place online on Tuesday, October 20, at 11 am. Register here.

October 21 — Diversity Investor Academy's panel on cleantech

The Diversity Investor Academy has announced a panel will be discussing the latest reports published, the trends in Cleantech, and how it could affect early-stage investment from different perspectives: startups, BA, and VC.

The event will take place online on Wednesday, October 21, at 2 pm. Register here.

October 22 — MassChallenge 2020 Virtual Awards

MassChallenge Texas's Houston Cohort will reveal its top companies of 2020 at MCTX's first virtual awards. Cohorts from Austin, Boston, and Rhode Island will also be represented, and headliners for the event include Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, and Linda Pizzuti Henry, managing director of the Boston Globe, and Chris Denson of Innovation Crush will be the host.

Click here to see the Houston finalists.

The event will take place online on Thursday, October 22, at 4 pm. Register here.

October 22 — How to Start a Startup: Heath Butler, Mercury Fund

Learn how to identify problems, needs, and trends worth pursuing and then how to create and evaluate possible solutions to these problems.

The event will take place online on Thursday, October 22, at 5:30 pm. Register here.

October 26-28 — 2020 Ken Kennedy Institute Data Science Conference

Now in its fourth year, the Ken Kennedy Institute Data Science Conference is a research, development, and innovation (RD&I) gathering, bringing together university and research labs (technology developers), key industry verticals (technology consumers), and IT industry (technology providers) that are looking at opportunities created by advances in AI, data analytics, machine learning and deep learning. It is structured to facilitate engagement and networking across all of these boundaries. The conference is specifically interested in highlighting use-cases that translate data to knowledge enabled by data and fueled by advances in data analytics, machine learning, deep learning, and AI.

The event will take place online on Monday, October 26, to Wednesday, October 28. Register here.

October 27-29 — ATCE Startup Village 

In addition to the Energy Startup Competition, the event will include expert presentations and table discussions. Participants will have opportunities to ask questions and hear advice from investors, industry representatives and veteran entrepreneurs. ATCE Startup Village is a partnership between the Society of Professional Engineers and the Rice Alliance.

The event will take place online on Tuesday, October 27, to Thursday, October 29. Register here.

October 28 — Venture Development Series #3: No Coding Required

In the last of its Venture Development Lilie workshop series, the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will build upon the themes covered in previous events and show participants how to create low fidelity prototypes without spending a dollar or knowing how to write a single line of code.

The event will take place online on Wednesday, October 28, at 4 pm. Register here.

October 29 — Ignite Madness finals

Female-led health tech founders face off in a startup competition like none other. Catch the first round bracket on October 22 at 9:30 am, or just tune in to the finals to see who takes the win (and, more importantly, the investment prizes).

The event will take place online on Thursday, October 29, at 6 pm. Register here.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston hospital joins the metaverse with new platform

now online

Houston Methodist has launched a platform that is taking medical and scientific experts and students into the metaverse.

The MITIEverse, a new app focused on health care education and training, provides hands-on practice, remote assistance from experienced clinicians, and more. The app — named for the Houston Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation and Education, aka MITIE — was created in partnership with FundamentalVR and takes users into virtual showcase rooms, surgical simulations, and lectures from Houston Methodist faculty, as well as collaborators from across the world.

“This new app brings the hands-on education and training MITIE is known for to a new virtual audience. It could be a first step toward building out a medical metaverse,” says Stuart Corr, inventor of the MITIEverse and director of innovation systems engineering at Houston Methodist, in a news release.

Image courtesy of Houston Methodist

The hospital system's DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center has created a virtual showcase room on the app, and users can view Houston Methodist faculty performing real surgeries and then interact with 3D human models.

"We view the MITIEverse as a paradigm-shifting platform that will offer new experiences in how we educate, train, and interact with the health community,” says Alan Lumsden, M.D., medical director of Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center, in the release.

“It essentially democratizes access to health care educators and innovators by breaking down physical barriers. There’s no need to travel thousands of miles to attend a conference when you can patch into the MITIEverse," he continues.

Image courtesy of Houston Methodist

Houston doctors get approval for low-cost COVID vaccine abroad

green light

A Houston-born COVID-19 vaccine has gotten the go-ahead to be produced and distributed in Indonesia.

PT Bio Farma, which oversees government-owned pharmaceutical manufacturers in Indonesia, says it’s prepared to make 20 million doses of the IndoVac COVID-19 vaccine this year and 100 million doses a year by 2024. This comes after the vaccine received authorization from the Indonesian Food and Drug Authority for emergency use in adults.

With more than 275 million residents, Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country.

IndoVac was created by the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and Baylor College of Medicine. Drs. Peter Hotez and Maria Elena Bottazzi lead the vaccine project. Bio Farma is licensing IndoVac from BCM Ventures, the commercial group at the Baylor College of Medicine.

“Access to vaccines in the developing world is critical to the eradication of this virus,” Hotez, co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, says in a news release.

Aside from distributing the vaccine in Indonesia, Bio Farma plans to introduce it to various international markets.

“The need for a safe, effective, low-cost vaccine for middle- to low-income countries is central to the world’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Bottazzi, co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and associate dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor.

“Without widespread inoculation of populations in the developing world, which must include safe, effective booster doses, additional [COVID-19] variants will develop, hindering the progress achieved by currently available vaccines in the United States and other Western countries.”

Bio Farma says it has completed Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials for IndoVac and is wrapping up a Phase 3 trial.

IndoVac is a version of the patent-free, low-cost Corbevax vaccine, developed in Houston and dubbed “The World’s COVID-19 Vaccine.” The vaccine formula can be licensed by a vaccine producer in any low- or middle-income country, which then can take ownership of it, produce it, name it, and work with government officials to distribute it, Hotez told The Texas Tribune in February.

Among donors that have pitched in money for development of the vaccine are the Houston-based MD Anderson and John S. Dunn foundations, the San Antonio-based Kleberg Foundation, and Austin-based Tito’s Vodka.

“During 2022, we hope to partner with the World Health Organization and other United Nations agencies to vaccinate the world. We believe that global vaccine equity is finally at hand and that it is the only thing that can bring the COVID pandemic to an end,” Hotez and Bottazzi wrote in a December 2021 article for Scientific American.

Houston research: How best to deliver unexpected news as a company

houston voices

According to Forbes, the volume of mergers and acquisitions in 2021 was the highest on record, and 2022 has already seen a number of major consolidation attempts. Microsoft’s acquisition of video game company Activision Blizzard was the biggest gaming industry deal in history, according to Reuters. JetBlue recently won the bid over Frontier Airlines to merge with Spirit Airlines. And, perhaps most notably, Elon Musk recently backed out of an attempt to acquire Twitter.

It can be hard to predict how markets will react to such high-profile deals (and, in Elon Musk and Twitter’s case, whether or not the deal will even pan out). But Rice Business Professor Haiyang Li and Professor Emeritus Robert Hoskisson, along with Jing Jin of the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, have found that companies can take advantage of these deals to buffer the effects of other news.

The researchers looked at 7,575 mergers and acquisitions from 2001 to 2015, with a roughly half-and-half split between positive and negative stock market reactions. They found that when there’s a negative reaction to a deal, companies have two strategies for dealing with it. If it’s a small negative reaction, companies will release positive news announcements in an attempt to soften the blow. But when the reaction is really bad, companies actually tend to announce more negative news afterward. Specifically, companies released 18% less positive news and 52% more negative news after a bad market reaction.

This may seem counterintuitive, but there’s a method to the madness, and it all has to do with managing expectations. If people are lukewarm on a company due to a merger or acquisition, it’s possible to sway public opinion with unrelated good news. When the backlash is severe, though, a little bit of good PR won’t be enough to change people’s minds. In this case, companies release more bad news because it’s one of their best chances to do so without making waves in the future. If people already think poorly of a company due to a recent deal, more bad news isn’t great, but it doesn’t come as a surprise, either. Therefore, it’s easier to ignore.

It might make more sense to just keep quiet if the market reaction to a deal is bad, and this study found that most companies do. However, this only applies when releasing more news would make a mildly bad situation worse. If things are already bad enough that the company can’t recover with good news, it can still make the best out of a bad situation by offloading more bad news when the damage will be minimal. Companies are legally obligated to disclose business-related news or information with shareholders and with the public. If it’s bad news, they like to share it when the public is already upset about a deal, instead of releasing the negative news when there are no other distractions. In this case the additional negative news is likely to get more play in the media when disclosed by itself.

But what happens when people get excited about a merger or acquisition? In these cases, it also depends on how strong the sentiment is. If the public’s reaction is only minimally positive, companies may opt to release more good news in hopes of making the reaction stronger. When the market is already enthusiastic about the deal, though, companies won’t release more positive news. The researchers found that after an especially positive market reaction to a deal, companies indeed released 12% less positive news but 56% more negative news. Also, one could argue that the contrasting negative news makes the good news on the acquisition look even better. This may be important especially if the acquisition is a significant strategic move.

There are several reasons why a company wouldn’t continue to release positive news after a good press day and strong market reaction. First of all, they want to make sure that a rise in market price is attributed to the deal alone, and not any irrelevant news. A positive reaction to a deal also gives companies another opportunity to disclose bad news at a time when it will get less attention. If the bad news does get attention, the chances are better that stakeholders will go easy on them — a little bit of bad press is forgivable when the good news outshines it.

Companies may choose to release no news after a positive reaction to a merger or acquisition, the same way they might opt to stay quiet after backlash. They’re less likely to release positive news when stakeholders are already happy, preferring to save that news for the next time they need it, either to offset a negative reaction or strengthen a weak positive reaction.

Mergers and acquisitions can produce unpredictable market reactions, so it’s important for companies to be prepared for a variety of outcomes. In fact, Jin, Li and Hoskisson found that the steps taken by companies before deals were announced didn’t have much effect on the public’s reaction. They found that it’s more important for companies to make the best out of that reaction, whatever it turns out to be.

The researchers also found that, regardless of whether the market reaction was positive or negative, as long as the reaction was strong, companies could use the opportunity to hide smaller pieces of bad news in the shadow of a headline-making deal. Overall, the magnitude of the reaction mattered more than the type of reaction. People tend to have stronger reactions to unexpected news, though, so companies prefer to release negative news when market expectations are already low.

These findings are relevant beyond merger announcements, of course; they also point to strategies that could be useful in everyday communications. A key takeaway is that negative information is less upsetting when people already expect bad things — or when it comes after much bigger, and much better, news. Bad news is always hard to deliver, but this research gives us a few ways to soften the blow.

------

This article originally ran on Rice Business Wisdom and was based on research from Jing Jin, Haiyang Li and Robert Hoskisson.