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

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

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

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

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

Get personal.

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

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

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

Be ready to compromise.

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

Grow internal talent.

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

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

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Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

How to prevent micromanaging at your Houston startup, small biz

guest column

A manager’s job is to coach their teams and create opportunities for them to succeed. Yet, as managers rise through the ranks, they are not always trained in how to delegate, trust their teams and let the little things go. If managers lack these skills, their micromanaging can quickly lead to an unhappy work environment and increase employee turnover.

A team can become even more successful when managers do not try to control and monitor everything. Instead of getting caught up in the project’s minutia, managers should focus on the bigger picture. The best approach is to delegate tasks and trust the team to complete their assignments, without interfering with the direct work.

Startups and small businesses are full of people with an entrepreneurial mindset who love to roll up their sleeves and get to work, no matter their job description. Just like frontline managers, founders and leaders need to be mindful not to become micromanagers, by giving their teams both the guidance and autonomy to make the business a success.

To prevent micromanagers from taking root in the organization, follow these tips.

Identify the micromanager

Micromanagement is not always easy for founders to detect. However, recognizing and understanding micromanagement is paramount to well-functioning teams and businesses.

When looking for signs of a micromanager, start by searching for managers who tend not to delegate and, if work is delegated, take over from their teams again and again, even after only a simple and harmless mistake. As a result, most of their time is spent overseeing others, while failing to progress on their own work. This can lead managers to lose focus on larger projects and strategy, unable to see how their daily tasks relate to the larger goals of the organization. Additionally, micromanagers request frequent updates and often find deliverables unsatisfactory.

As leaders, it is important to know the signs of micromanagement in order to prevent employee work dissatisfaction and high turnover, which is detrimental to a small business. The culture of a brand-new startup encourages everyone to do everything, which is exciting and rewarding. Managers may grow accustomed to being deeply ingrained in their employees’ day-to-day work. That said, as business scales and becomes more successful, teams expand, and micromanagement is no longer a sustainable management style.

Establish a process

Implementing a formalized process or workflow can help those who tend to micromanage track team projects. Since some use micromanagement to feel in control of a larger project, a project management system or software can help them focus on the higher-level strategy. When the company has a specific method for recording common tasks, they reduce the risk that managers will check-in too often while still lending structure to the overall projects. Beyond helping micromanagers, project management systems help everyone stay on track and communicate at every step in the process. This can increase self-management and efficiency within the organization.

Provide training

Leadership training provides the tools to improve team management and discuss the company’s expectations of managers, which can prove helpful, no matter the leader’s tenure. Management training often highlights a manager’s current leadership style, encourages self-reflection on their strengths and weaknesses, and provides the tools for growth.

Oftentimes, micromanagers are perfectionists and need to simply set their expectations with team members. These expectations can include preferred communication methods and frequency, how to ensure clarity of the tasks, workflow/project management and alerts surrounding urgent updates/mistakes. Once a manager knows their own expectations and communicates them with the team, they establish a better working environment.

Set objectives and key results

Savvy business leaders know micromanagers want to control the end goal. Setting objectives and key results (OKRs), which are actionable, quantifiable, have a deadline and ambitious, allows managers to practice control by meeting the objectives without feeling the need to control every aspect of the project. OKRs encourage managers to focus on big, impactful objectives that can be accomplished in a set amount of time.

Once the OKRs are set, regular, once a week meetings can give everyone the chance to present their progress and give group feedback on the OKRs. Management is also likelier to look at the bigger picture and allow their teams to thrive independently.

Bottom line

Teams need managers, but they need managers who provide guidance and give them the space to thrive. Addressing micromanagement does not mean managers should eliminate one-on-one check-ins or knowing a few of a project’s details. It does mean managers should trust team members to do their jobs. Mutual trust works wonders for workplace culture and a small business’s retention efforts.

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Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

Of all employees, managers have faced some of the most significant changes, and their engagement levels paint a sobering picture. Photo via Getty Images

Houston HR expert: Mitigating the manager squeeze

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Middle managers are in a precarious position in today’s workplace as they are caught in the crossfire of conflicting demands from leadership and their teams, also known as the “manager squeeze.”

Of all employees, managers have faced some of the most significant changes, and their engagement levels paint a sobering picture. With only 31 percent of managers engaged, 55 percent looking for new jobs and barely one in five stating their organization cares about their wellbeing (Gallup), employers need to look more closely at their management teams and take action.

A strategic approach and effective communication can help mitigate the manager squeeze and provide a more pleasant work environment.

Provide clear expectations

Even though managers need to meet the expectations of their own supervisors, they should also set clear expectations. By proactively establishing clear and realistic expectations with leadership and their own team members, managers can ensure everyone is aligned from the start so there are not conflicting demands. Expectations can include setting achievable goals, agreeing to schedules and timelines, and communicating any potential changes that may occur.

Set priorities

Managers tend to juggle their most productive hours with people management responsibilities. Knowing the importance of people management, managers should prioritize their own tasks and delegate as appropriate. The act of delegation can lighten the manager’s workload and also empower team members to take on and learn new skills that contribute to the project’s success.

Encourage open communication

Open, transparent communication is a benchmark for many organizations. Encouraging managers to keep communication channels open, going both up and down, is imperative. Managers who can express concerns or challenges, and their team members who can do the same, allow teams to more quickly identify potential challenges and allay misunderstandings.

Offer learning and development opportunities

Not everyone is an innate manager and those who do it well put effort into it. Learning and development (L&D) opportunities are crucial for this group as they need to stay up to date with industry trends, but also it offers time for them to fine tune their leadership techniques and communication skills. Investing in L&D provides valuable returns in the form of a revived manager base, a more engaged workforce and increased productivity overall.

Create a network

Support is an important tool to avoid the manager squeeze. Superiors or mentors can provide guidance when there are issues or conflicting demands, while peer groups can help provide valuable insights into managerial styles and offer constructive feedback. In all situations, creating a network of leaders to lean on and trust can become a crucial element for manager success.

The manager squeeze is bound to happen when there are conflicting priorities. However, when a workplace establishes a culture based on open communication, managers can address the challenges early. Keeping the channels of communication open from top to bottom allows all parties to set expectations, collaborate and provide solutions. When managers are given the leeway to communicate freely and are given the instruction and tools to do so effectively, it lessens burnout, the manager squeeze and establishes a more positive work environment for all.

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Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

On the precipice of the new year, be sure you're factoring these human resources trends. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert shares 5 HR trends to expect to see in 2024

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Several catchy names to common workplace issues surfaced in 2023, from “quiet quitting” and “quiet promotions” to “monk mode” and “coffee badging.” What came to the forefront of these conversations was employers need to take care of their people to increase engagement and productivity, which results in happy employees and business success.

On the precipice of the new year, there are HR trends that will carry over and other trends employers may want to consider to create a workplace culture that supports its employees and sets the organization up to meet its goals.

Building Skills to Fill the Labor Shortage

Depending on the industry, business leaders continue to have a hard time finding qualified workers to fill open positions, even though there are 6.3 million unemployed workers in the U.S. labor market. The reason this is difficult, many times, is the need for a specific educational background, exact experience or new skills in technology.

A business on the verge of growth needs to fill roles as quickly as possible, but it can do more harm than good hiring the wrong people. Training current employees whose positions are easier to back-fill to take on a new role and building the specific skills needed in-house can be the ideal solution.

Hiring Based on Experience

Many people are not taking the traditional career path and business leaders must look beyond the degree and standard experiences when hiring. With the tight labor market, it is imperative to look at the entire person and skills that can translate into the role. For example, military veterans were quickly trained in several very technical areas, they can make quick decisions, lead effectively and many are goal oriented. Even though they may not tick the standard boxes, the soft skills they bring to business can make them great hires. With training, they will quickly learn the skills needed for the specific task at hand.

Offering Wellness Programs

Employee benefits took center stage during the pandemic, from extended medical benefits to mental health resources. An even more well-rounded approach to wellness will continue into 2024. Beyond health-related benefits, wellness extends to child and elder care, including flexible schedules, as more employers require in-office days. Additionally, financial wellness programs continue to gain momentum. These benefits take shape with financial education classes/coaching, savings programs, investment opportunities, budgeting tools and credit resources. When employers implement financial wellness benefits, they help reduce employees’ financial stress and boost their financial confidence, which impacts every facet of their lives, including work engagement and productivity.

Creating a Living AI Policy

AI is in the workplace, but it is changing daily. Employers will need to set policies on how AI can be used with their organization if they haven’t done so already. That said, the policy needs to change as the technology evolves. AI is a tool that will change the way we work; however, it is important to know its weaknesses and not lose sight of the human element of business. For example, AI can help streamline administrative tasks for the organization, which frees up staff time to have one-on-one conversations, collaborate more effectively and develop broader strategies to move the business forward.

Offering Frontline Manager Support

Frontline managers are in a precarious position. They have the difficult task of managing remote and hybrid employees, ensuring they are taken care of and meeting expectations, while also managing up to leadership. Frontline managers ensure work gets done and new initiatives are implemented. Many managers were put into the position during the great resignation and others are still struggling with managing today’s evolving workplace structure. Training frontline managers and offering them the support and tools they need to do their jobs well is something employers need to make trend in 2024.

Bottom Line

There are always trends in the workplace, but there is one thing that holds true year after year. Great relationships inspire great performance. These relationships start at the top and require real conversations to take place. When a culture is established where employees know they are heard and there are people within the organization who care about them and their success, business becomes easier to conduct and success follows. Start 2024 by putting intentional effort into relationships. It’s the best decision any leader can make.

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Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

As much as leaders may wish the labor market were not so competitive, it is important to accept the reality and take action. Photo via Getty Images

How Houston businesses can attract tech talent amid a tight labor market

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It is no surprise to recruiters that, despite high profile layoffs at major corporations, the labor market remains tight, especially in the tech industry.

According to data from McKinsey from the first half of this year, more than 80 percent of tech workers who were laid off found a new job within three months. Many of them found jobs outside of the tech industry, where technically skilled employees are in increasingly high demand.

If small businesses want to remain competitive, they need to evolve their hiring strategies. One answer to expanding the talent pool is skills-based hiring. Unlike traditional recruitment, which focuses mainly on applicants with college degrees or direct experience in their field, a skill-based hiring approach prioritizes specific competencies.

Research from LinkedIn revealed employers who practice skills-based hiring are 60 percent more likely to have success with hiring. A winning skills-based hiring strategy will identify diverse candidates, promote internal upskilling and accelerate the hiring process.

Find diverse candidates

Conventional hiring strategies tend to overlook many of the diverse candidates who benefit from skills-based hiring. One important aspect of skills-based hiring is connecting with these groups, who may not apply through traditional pipelines like online applications, employee referrals, or job fairs.

For example, candidates such as veterans, parents reentering the workforce and people without a college degree may not have the same connections as traditional applicants. Yet they often bring transferable skills and an ability to learn, enabling them to succeed in the role.

To expand their talent pool, businesses can start by connecting with organizations and events in Houston that target diverse groups. For example, the Texas Veterans Commission recommends that employers reach out to their local Texas Workforce Solutions Center to link with veterans seeking employment.

By making an effort to connect specifically with underrepresented groups, small businesses and startups can quickly deepen their pool of available talent.

Provide internal upskilling

Skills-based hiring focuses on the competences employees have already. Through upskilling, however, employers can internally train candidates to take on a new role or hire candidates with strong learning potential. Upskilling is the practice of offering ongoing learning and development (L&D) opportunities to employees to close skill gaps.

Upskilling opportunities cannot only expand the talent pool by enabling employers to train candidates on the job. They can also attract more applications across the board because they are in high demand from job candidates. The American Upskilling Study from Gallup found 57 percent of workers were “extremely” or “very” interested in an upskilling program, especially Black and Hispanic workers.

For small businesses trying to stay competitive, upskilling is an essential component of a skill-based hiring approach.

Accelerate the hiring process

Time-to-hire is telling about the effectiveness of an organization’s recruitment process. When recruitment drags on too long, candidates may accept another offer or grow disengaged with the process. Meanwhile, open roles may go unfilled. Unsurprisingly, LinkedIn data has found over six in 10 HR leaders named time-to-hire as their most important metric for success.

Small businesses and startups who want to increase their competitiveness should start by calculating their current time-to-hire. Once they understand the situation, they can analyze their approach for weaknesses.

Some of the most effective solutions to improve time-to-hire could include redesigning the application process, streamlining interviews, implementing an applicant tracking system or refining job descriptions. The goal is a highly efficient recruitment process that identifies qualified candidates and puts out an offer as soon as possible.

As much as leaders may wish the labor market were not so competitive, it is important to accept the reality and take action. Much like larger corporations, small businesses and startups will find the upper echelon of talent when they embrace skills-based hiring as the future of recruitment.

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Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

Retirement is coming for the energy industry's workforce. Here's how to prepare for it. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert shares strategies for addressing  potential workforce shortages

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The energy industry, a vital part of Houston’s business ecosystem, faces the challenge of a shrinking workforce.

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce report indicates the workforce has nearly two million fewer workers today as compared to February 2020. A considerable part of this decline can be attributed to retirement and early retirement rates, with the pandemic prompting three million people to early retirement. Furthermore, with an estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 daily, the entire generation is expected to reach retirement age by 2030.

The tight labor market, coupled with the growing brain drain associated with retirement rates, should serve as a wake-up call for employers in the energy sector. There are tried-and-true strategies to prepare businesses for waves of retirement and ensure the knowledge does not walk out the door.

Upskilling: Invest in the workforce

Knowledge and skills go with workers are they retire. To mitigate the brain drain, companies need to invest in upskilling their existing employees and new hires. Establishing formal training and development opportunities can help enrich the workforce to pick up the responsibilities of retiring colleagues. This investment ensures a smooth transition, shows employees they are valued by the organization, and increases employee loyalty and engagement.

Adopting innovative training programs that cater to the specific needs of the energy sector is one approach. Technologies rapidly evolve, and employees must stay current to remain effective in their roles. Investing in the latest training programs, workshops and certifications will enable the workforce to thrive in a rapidly changing industry.

Mentoring programs: Pass the torch

Mentorship programs can play a pivotal role as more employees retire. Experienced employees nearing retirement can mentor younger workers, transferring knowledge and skills while ensuring a seamless transition of expertise. The value of mentorship programs can be priceless for an organization as they help transfer on-the-job learning and experiences that are not taught in the classroom.

A structured mentorship program usually proves most effective as it outlines the responsibilities of the mentors and mentees. A structured approach, which should have built-in accountability measures, ensures there is a productive knowledge transfer process.

Intentional recruitment: Attract and retain talent

A proactive recruitment approach is essential as businesses work to fill knowledge gaps. Companies in the energy sector should seek out talent to bridge the generational divide. This may include targeting candidates who have the relevant skills and knowledge, yet they are willing to adapt to the industry’s changing landscape.

Workplace culture is still a relevant and important component of attracting and retaining top-notch talent. Beyond competitive compensations packages, today’s job candidates look for growth opportunities and a focus on work-life balance.

Retaining knowledge: Document the expertise

Institutional knowledge will walk out the door as experienced employees retire. Companies can prepare for and mitigate the knowledge migration with knowledge-sharing systems and comprehensive documentation processes. An established process can help preserve information that may seem like second nature to more experienced employees and make it accessible to current and future employees. Asking retiring employees to document their expertise and best practices can safeguard their insights within the organization.

Covering bases: Create an alumni network

Retirement does not always mean the employee wants to hang up their proverbial hat entirely. Filling the knowledge gap as employees retire can be daunting. However, the development of an alumni network can extend the life of the institutional knowledge and knowledge-sharing process. Bringing back retirees on a project basis or to consult is a solution benefiting everyone involved.

Every industry must prepare for the impending wave of retirements. The energy industry’s significant impact on the Houston economy requires proactive and thoughtful solutions. The tight labor market and retirement rates should have businesses in this sector working diligently to fill the upcoming knowledge gaps through upskilling, mentoring, intentional recruitment, knowledge-sharing systems and alumni networks. Taking these steps now, the energy industry can circumnavigate workforce shortages and prepare for continued success.

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Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions. This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

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Annual Houston student startup competition doles out over $1.5M in cash, investment prizes

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For the 24th year, the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship hosted its Rice Business Plan Competition, facilitating over $1.5 million in investment and cash prizes to the top teams.

The 42 startups competing this year, which were announced earlier this year and included teams from around the world, participated in the three-day event that culminated in a reception on Saturday, April 6. The companies were divided into five categories: Energy, Cleantech and Sustainability; Hard Tech; Life Sciences and Healthcare Solutions; Digital Enterprise; Consumer Products and Services.

“We award the competitors $1 million in prizes, prizes that serve as foundational capital to launch their startup,” RBPC Director Catherine Santamaria says at the awards gala April 6. “That’s a large number of prizes, but the biggest thing our startups leave with is a feeling of generosity and community from this room. This community is always ready and willing to help our founders and support our vision for the competition by investing time, money and resources in these student innovators.”

While all participating teams received $950 for being selected, several teams walked away with thousands in funding, cash, and in-kind prizes. Here's which companies won big.

MesaQuantum, Harvard University — $335,000​

MesaQuantum is developing accurate and precise chip-scale clocks. While not named a finalist, the company secured the most amount of funding across a few prizes:

  • $250,000 OWL Investment Prizes
  • $60,000 nCourage Courageous Women Entrepreneur Investment Prize
  • $25,000 Jacobs, Intuitive Machines and WRX Companies Rising Stars Space Technology and Commercial Aerospace Cash Prize

Protein Pints, Michigan State University — $251,000

The big winner of the night was Protein Pints, a high-protein, low-sugar, ice cream product from Michigan State University. Not only did the company win first place and the $150,000 GOOSE Capital Investment Grand Prize, as decided by the more than 350 judges, but it won a few other investment prizes, including:

  • $100,000 The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) Texas Angels Investment Prize — Protein Pints, Michigan State University
  • The Eagle Investors Prize
  • $1,000 Anbarci Family Company Showcase Prize
  • Mercury Elevator Pitch Competition Prize (Best in Consumer Products)
  • An invitation to Entrepreneur Magazine's elevator pitch show

Osphim, RWTH Aachen University —$201,000

Osphim, a data acquisition and monitoring platform from Germany, won these prizes despite not being named a finalist:

  • $200,000 Goose Capital Investment Prize
  • $1,000 Anbarci Family Company Showcase Prize
  • Mercury Elevator Pitch Competition Prize (Best in Digital)

Somnair, Johns Hopkins University — $200,000

Taking second place and a $100,000 from David Anderson, Jon Finger, Anderson Family Fund, Finger Interests, Greg Novak and Tracy Druce was Somnair is a novel non-invasive neurostimulation device for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. The company also won:

  • $100,000 Houston Angel Network Investment Prize
  • Mercury Elevator Pitch Competition Prize (Best in Life Science)
  • An invitation to Texas Medical Center's Accelerator Bootcamp
  • An invitation to Entrepreneur Magazine's elevator pitch show

Icorium Engineering Company, University of Kansas — $171,000

Icorium Engineering Company — a chemical engineering startup developing technologies to make sustainable, circular economies a reality for refrigerants and other complex chemical mixtures — won fifth place and a $5,000 prize sponsored by Norton Rose Fulbright, EY, Chevron Technology Ventures and Shell Ventures, as well as:

  • $100,000 OWL Investment Prizes
  • $40,000 nCourage Courageous Women Entrepreneur Investment Prize
  • $25,000 from Finger Interests, the Anderson Family Fund at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, Greg Novak and Tracy Druce
  • $1,000 Anbarci Family Company Showcase Prize
  • Mercury Elevator Pitch Competition Prize (Best in Energy, Sustainability)
  • An invitation to Entrepreneur Magazine's elevator pitch show

Informuta, Tulane University — $70,000

Informuta's proprietary technology leverages DNA sequencing to predict if bacteria will respond to different antibiotics or, for the very first time, develop future resistance thus causing treatment failure. The company won fourth place and a $5,000 prize sponsored by Norton Rose Fulbright, EY, Chevron Technology Ventures and Shell Ventures.

  • $40,000 Pearland EDC Spirit of Entrepreneurship Cash Prize
  • $25,000 from Finger Interests, the Anderson Family Fund at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, Greg Novak and Tracy Druce

EndoShunt Medical, Harvard University — $55,000

EndoShunt created a rapid, targeted blood flow control device to be use in emergency or trauma settings. The company won sixth place and the $5,000 prize, sponsored by Norton Rose Fulbright, EY, Chevron Technology Ventures and Shell Ventures, as well as:

  • $25,000 Southwest National Pediatric Device Consortium Pediatric Device Cash Prize
  • $25,000 from Finger Interests, the Anderson Family Fund at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, Greg Novak and Tracy Druce

Power2Polymers, RWTH Aachen University —$50,000

Tackling the challenge of forever chemicals, Power2Polymers is creating safe alternatives free of forever chemicals. The German company took third place and the $50,000 investment sponsored by Finger Interests, the Anderson Family Fund at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, Greg Novak and Tracy Druce. The company also won the Mercury Elevator Pitch Competition Prize (Best Overall).

D.Sole, Carnegie Mellon University — $30,000

D. Sole won the wild card ticket to the finals and took seventh place. The company is advancing the development of remote patient monitoring in podiatry with foot insoles designed for the early detection and monitoring of diabetic foot complications, such as ulcers and deformities. They also won $30,000 from Finger Interests, the Anderson Family Fund at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, Greg Novak and Tracy Druce.

Other prizes:

  • $25,000 New Climate Ventures Sustainable Investment Prize went to Oxylus Energy from Yale University
  • $25,000 Dream Big Ventures Latino Entrepreneur Investment Prize went to Dendritic Health AI from Northwestern University
  • $25,000 NOV Energy Technology Innovation Cash Prize went to LiQuidium from the University of Houston
  • $25,000 Urban Capital Network Diversity Investment Prize in Partnership with South Loop Venture Investment Prize went to TouchStone from University of California, Berkeley

Troubled Texans are the 10th most stressed out people in America, report finds

new report

There is a plethora of reasons to be stressed out in 2024. Among the list of grievances are budgeting woes, lapses in addressing racial inequity, a significant amount of drunk driving, and prohibitively high healthcare costs.

So it comes as no surprise that Texas was ranked the No. 10 most stressed state of 2024, according to the latest annual report from WalletHub. Texans' stress levels are only slightly better than they were in 2023, when the Lone Star State ranked No. 9.

The personal finance website compared all 50 states across 40 unique metrics to determine every state’s worries on certain issues, such as employment, finance, health, or family-related stress.

Here's how Texas performed in the major categories in the study:

  • No. 5 – Work-related stress
  • No. 8 – Family-related stress
  • No. 11 – Health- and safety-related stress
  • No. 23 – Money-related stress

Texas employees have the second-longest workweek in the nation, the report found, placing the state right behind Alaska and tied with Wyoming. Places like Houston, Corpus Christi, and San Antonio are a few of the most stressful U.S. cities for workers in 2024 (with several other Texas cities not far behind), clearly showing that there's much more work to be done to alleviate Texans' work-related stress.

Hardships with work may have an influence on Texans' ability to rest at night, as the report additionally found Texas fell behind into No. 23 for its share of adults that get adequate sleep.

Other Texas-sized stress factors like crime rates, housing affordability, health troubles, and poverty rates also put a damper on residents' well-beings. Texans have the fourth lowest credit scores in the nation, the ninth highest share of adults with fair or poor health, and the 11th highest number of residents living in poverty.

It's not just young and middle-aged adults who experience these worries, the report claimed.

"[E]very age group except people 65 and older reported being under more stress in 2023 than they were in 2019 before the pandemic," the report's author wrote.

WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe suggested a few ways frazzled Texans can try to improve their stress levels, such as exercising, participating in hobbies, going on vacations — of course, in whatever capacity that is most accessible — and seeking help from a mental health professional.

"What many people don’t realize, though, is that changing location can also be a big stress reducer," Happe added. "For example, states that have lower crime rates, better health care, and better economies tend to have much less stressed residents."

Texans surely aren't envious of Louisiana, which traded places with Mississippi (No. 2) in 2024 to become the nation's No. 1 most stressed out state. Louisiana residents experience the third highest work- and health-and-safety-related stress, the fourth highest money-related stress, and the 10th highest family-related stress. Louisianans may want to try some breathing exercises in their spare time.

Texas residents can, however, be filled with jealousy over Minnesota (No. 50), which was crowned the least stressed out city in America. Maybe that's where Texans need to be taking vacations.

The overall top 10 most stressed states are:

  • No. 1 – Louisiana
  • No. 2 – Mississippi
  • No. 3 – Nevada
  • No. 4 – New Mexico
  • No. 5 – Arkansas
  • No. 6 – West Virginia
  • No. 7 – Alabama
  • No. 8 – Kentucky
  • No. 9 – Oklahoma
  • No. 10 – Texas
The full report and its methodology can be found on wallethub.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Welcome to another Monday edition of Innovators to Know. Today I'm introducing you to three Houstonians to read up about — three individuals behind recent innovation and startup news stories in Houston as reported by InnovationMap. Learn more about them and their recent news below by clicking on each article.


Aziz Gilani, managing director at Mercury

Aziz Gilani, managing director at Mercury, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via LinkedIn

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." Read more.


Yaxin Wang, director of the Texas Heart Institute's Innovative Device & Engineering Applications Lab

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. Photo via texasheart.org

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. Read more.

Atul Varadhachary, managing director of Fannin Innovation

Atul Varadhachary also serves as CEO and president of Allterum Therapeutics. Photo via LinkedIn

Allterum Therapeutics, a Houston biopharmaceutical company, has been awarded a $12 million product development grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).

The funds will support the clinical evaluation of a therapeutic antibody that targets acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), one of the most common childhood cancers.

However, CEO and President Atul Varadhachary, who's also the managing director of Fannin Innovation, tells InnovationMap, “Our mission has grown much beyond ALL.” Read more.