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

Happy Q2, everyone. With 2019 already a quarter of the way through, it's a bit overwhelming to prioritize what networking and thought talks to attend. We've rounded up a list of over 10 (and growing) events for you to consider adding to your calendar.

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

April 4 — FIRMSPACE Houston Grand Opening Celebration

A national high-end workspace brand has opened its latest location in Houston. Check out the space and network with potential coworkers.

Details: The event is from 7 to 10 pm on Thursday, April 4, at FIRMSPACE Houston (2200 Post Oak Boulevard). Learn more.

April 4 — Accelerator Info Session and Panel

Join the Social Enterprise Alliance for an info session on BBVA Momentum's accelerator program followed by a panel discussion led by Grace Rodriguez, CEO of Impact Hub Houston.

Details: The event is from 11:30 am to 1 pm on Thursday, April 4, at Station Houston (1301 Fannin, suite 2440). Learn more.

April 4-6 — Rice Business Plan Competition

This weekend, 42 teams will be competing for over $1.5 million in awards at the 19th annual Rice Business Plan Competition. Learn more about the awards and teams here.

Details: The three-day challenge takes place in a few different buildings on Rice University Campus. Learn more.

April 5 — ChIPs Texas' Houston Innovation Ecosystem

Gina Luna of Houston Exponential and Tom Luby of the TMC Innovation Institute will take the stage for a panel moderated by Payal Patel of Station Houston. It's the first ChIPs event in Houston. ChIPs is a nonprofit organization that advances and connects women in technology, law, and policy.

Details: The event is from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm on Friday, April 5, at TMC Innovation Institute (2450 Holcombe Blvd, Suite X). Learn more.

April 10 — MassChallenge Texas' Houston Launch Party

In case you missed it, MassChallenge Texas has a new Houston program and it's officially launching this month. Network with the international program, potential applicants, and other members of the Houston innovation ecosystem.

Details: The event is from 6 to 8 pm on Wednesday, April 10, at Four Seasons Houston (1300 Lamar St.). Learn more.

April 11 — 2019 Future of Leadership Luncheon

The annual event honors leadership and celebrates the important role of philanthropy in the Houston community. Tickets start at $250 for the luncheon that features a conversation between Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, and Laura Arnold, co-chair of Arnold Ventures, on the future of philanthropy.

Details: The event is from noon to 1:30 pm on Thursday, April 11, at the Hilton Americas (1600 Lamar Street). Learn more here.

April 11 — Startup Pains: What I Wish I Knew

This monthly series hosted by the University of Houston lets you learn from someone else's mistakes and successes. This month's speaker is Jason Eriksen, Ph.D.UH associate professor of pharmacy, and founder of Alzeca Biosciences and Teomics LLC.

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

April 11 — B2B Startup Pitch Party

Cannon Ventures is hosting another night of pitches. This event is focused on all things B2B and will feature some B2B startups looking for early stage funding in Houston.

Details: The event is from 6:30 to 9 pm on Thursday, April 11, at The Cannon (1336 Brittmoore Road). Learn more.

April 12 — The Agile Shift Conference

Join industry professionals to network and talk the unification of Agile and DevOps to build and deliver better teams and software.

Details: The event is from 8 am to 5 pm on Friday, April 12, at the Hyatt Regency Houston (1200 Louisiana St.). Learn more.

April 18 — Lemonade Day at Station Houston

Join Station Houston for what is likely going to be the cutest pitch competition you'll ever see. Ten teams made up of future entrepreneurs will pitch their ideas for a lemonade stand.

Details: The event is from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on Thursday, April 18, at Station Houston (1301 Fannin Street, suite 2440). Learn more.

April 18 — Rice Alumni | Entrepreneurs & Innovators, Houston Launch

A Rice University organization has a new name, and they are ready to celebrate it. Meet the new Rice Alumni | Entrepreneurs & Innovators network, or RA|EI, and discuss what you want out of the organization.

Details: The event is from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on Thursday, April 18, at Pitch 25 (2120 Walker Street). Learn more.

April 23 — Houston Female Founder Roundtable: How to Get Ahead in Entrepreneurship with Alice

A panel of entrepreneurial women will share their stories, challenges, successes, and tips.

Details: The event is from 11 am to 1 pm on Tuesday, April 23, at The Cannon (1336 Brittmoore Rd). Learn more.

April 25 — EO Talks Houston

Think TED Talks but from Houston entrepreneurs. The goal is to share success stories and inspire other entrepreneurs in town.

Details: The event is from 7:30 to 10:30 am on Thursday, April 25, at Houston Baptist University, Linda & Archie Dunham Theater (7502 Fondren Road). Learn more.

April 25 — 7th Annual City of Houston Investor Conference

The City of Houston is gathering professionals to talk money for a full day of presentations by local government CFOs and an update on the region's economy.

Details: The event is from 8 am to 5 pm on Thursday, April 25, at Hilton Americas-Houston (1600 Lamar Street). Learn more.

April 25 — Enterprise XR: How AR/VR is Preparing Modern Workers

Immersive technology is shifting the paradigm of corporate training, and you and your company need to learn about it. The event has a keynote speaker and networking before and after.

Details: The event is from 6:30 to 8 pm on Thursday, April 25, at Station Houston (1301 Fannin St., suite 2440). Learn more.

April 26 — Data Science and You: Ethics in Data Science

Visiting professor Lawrence Hunter, director of the Computational Bioscience Program and of the Center for Computational Pharmacology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, talks advances in data science and what you need to know.

Details: The event is from 3 to 5 pm on Friday, April 26, at the University of Houston Student Center (4455 University Drive).Learn more here.

April 26 — SPE Pitch Perfect

Join the Society of Professional Engineers' GCS Innovate! Committee for an event that will help you perfect your business plan.

Details: The event is from 9 am to 2 pm on Friday, April 26, at the Newpark Drilling Fluids (21920 Merchants Way). Learn more here.

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Amazon rolls out hundreds of new electric vans for Houston's holiday delivery season

Electric avenue

Amazon CEO/occasional space traveler Jeff Bezos is doing his best to supplant a certain jolly fellow from the North Pole as tops for holiday gift delivery.

His latest move: Amazon is rolling out more than 1,000 electric delivery vehicles, designed by electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian, ready to make deliveries in more than 100 cities across the U.S. On the Texas good list: Houston, Austin, and Dallas. Bezos' juggernaut began deliveries in Dallas in July, along with Baltimore, Chicago, Kansas City, Nashville, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, and St. Louis.

These zero-emissions vans have delivered more than 5 million packages to customers in the U.S., according to Amazon. The latest boost in vehicles now includes Houston and Austin; Boston; Denver; Indianapolis; Las Vegas; Madison, Wisconsin; Newark, New Jersey; New York, Oakland, California; Pittsburgh, Portland, Oregon; Provo, Utah; and Salt Lake City.

Plans for the Amazon and Rivian partnership call for thousands of vehicles on the road by the end of the year and 100,000 vehicles by 2030.

“We’re always excited for the holiday season, but making deliveries to customers across the country with our new zero-emission vehicles for the first time makes this year unique,” said Udit Madan, vice president of Amazon Transportation, in a statement. “We’ve already delivered over 5 million packages with our vehicles produced by Rivian, and this is still just the beginning—that figure will grow exponentially as we continue to make progress toward our 100,000-vehicle goal.”

This all comes as part of Amazon's commitment to reaching net-zero carbon by 2040, as a part of its The Climate Pledge; Amazon promises to eliminate millions of metric tons of carbon per year with it s commitment to 100,000 electric delivery vehicles by 2030, press materials note.

Additionally, Amazon announced plans to invest more than $1 billion over the next five years to further electrify and decarbonize its transportation network across Europe. This investment is meant to spark innovation and encourage more public charging infrastructure across the continent.

“Fleet electrification is essential to reaching the world’s zero-emissions goal,” said Jiten Behl, chief growth officer at Rivian, in a statement. “So, to see our ramp up in production supporting Amazon’s rollout in cities across the country is amazing. Not just for the environment, but also for our teams working hard to get tens of thousands of electric delivery vehicles on the road. They continue to be motivated by our combined mission and the great feedback about the vehicle’s performance and quality.”

A little about the vans: Drivers’ favorite features include a spacious cabin and cargo area, superior visibility with a large windshield and 360-degree cameras, and ventilated seats for fast heating and cooling — a must for Bayou City summers ... or winters, for that matter.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston low-carbon fuel company scores United investment, plans to IPO via spac

big moves

It’s been a momentous month for Houston-based NEXT Renewable Fuels Inc.

On November 15, United Airlines Ventures announced an investment of up to $37.5 million in the next-generation, low-carbon fuel producing company.

Just a week later, the company revealed it’s going public through a SPAC merger with Industrial Tech Acquisitions II Inc. The deal, expected to close in the second quarter of 2023, assigns a $666 million equity value to NEXT. The publicly traded company will be named NXTCLEAN Fuels Inc.

NEXT, founded in 2016, produces low-carbon fuels from organic feedstock. The company plans to open a biofuel refinery in Port Westward, Oregon, that’s set to start production in 2026. The refinery could produce up to 50,000 barrels per day of sustainable aviation fuel, renewable diesel, and other renewable fuels.

“West Coast states are demanding a clean fuels conversion of the transportation and aviation industries with aggressive targets necessitating rapid increases in clean fuel supplies,” Christopher Efird, executive chairman and CEO of NEXT, says in a news release. “[The company] is advancing toward becoming one of the largest U.S.-based suppliers of clean fuels for these markets, and is investigating and pursuing potential vertical expansion into other clean fuels.”

The proposed public listing of NEXT’s stock on the Nasdaq market and United’s investment are poised to help NEXT reach its goal of becoming a leader in the clean fuel sector. United’s investment appears to be the first equity funding for NEXT.

“Right now, one of the biggest barriers to increasing supply and lowering costs of sustainable fuel is that we don’t have the infrastructure in place to transport it efficiently, but NEXT’s strategic location and assets solve that problem and provide a blueprint for future facilities that need to be built,” Michael Leskinen, president of United Airline Ventures, says in a news release.

United’s investment arm, launched in 2021, targets ventures that will complement the airline’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.