Don't miss these informative online events happening throughout the month of May. Photo by Getty Images

This month, Houstonians have yet another good batch of online innovation events — from Zoom panels to virtual conferences — and you and your tech network need to know about them.

Here's a roundup of virtual events not to miss this month — like Houston Tech Rodeo, a virtual showcase from Rice University's data science students, and more.

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

May 4 — Perfecting Your Pitch

Join The Ion for our series with DeckLaunch and Fresh Tech Solutionz as they discuss the importance and value of your pitch deck when reaching your target audience.

The event is on Tuesday, May 4, at 1 pm. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

May 5 — D2K Virtual Showcase - Spring 2021

Join Rice University online for the interactive D2K Showcase. Student teams from the D2K Capstone and other data science programs will showcase their data science work and compete for prizes.

The event is on Wednesday, May 5, at 5 pm. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

May 6 — Carbon to Value Initiative Kickoff

Kick off a new accelerator dedicated to carbontech. The Carbon to Value (C2V) Initiative is a multi-year collaboration between The Urban Future Lab, Greentown Labs, and the Fraunhofer USA TechBridge Program. Welcome the first cohort of startups to this exciting new program, which includes Houston-based Cemvita Factory.

The event is on Thursday, May 6, at 3 pm. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

May 12 — Enventure "Inspire" Seminar Series - With Dr. Reece Norris

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 Mr. Reece Norris, JD, co-founder and COO of WeInfuse. Reece began his career in corporate law and eventually entered the provider-based infusion center market, where he went on to create a first-of-its-kind infusion delivery business model.

The event is on Wednesday, May 12, at 6 pm. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

MAy 13 — Changing the Colors of Investment

Maria Maso of the Business Angel Minority Association and Stephanie Tsuru of SheSpace are planning an inspiring conversation on diversity in investment.

The event is on Thursday, May 13, at 11:30 am. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

May 14 — Investor Speaker Series: Navigating Corporate Venture Capital

Greentown Labs is putting on a virtual event about Corporate Venture Capital. CVCs have played an important role in advancing climatetech in general, and supporting the Greentown ecosystem specifically. In this conversation, we will connect with CVCs within the Greentown network—and representing diverse industries—to discuss what they look for in startups, how they work with startups, how they like to participate in deals, and their perspective on key trends in climatetech investing. Panelists include:

The event is on Friday, May 14, at 11 am. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

May 17-23 — Houston Tech Rodeo

The Houston Tech Rodeo — a festival of events put on both online and in person — celebrates the convergence of popular culture and innovation in Houston and has transformed into an essential destination for founders and talented individuals to spur new connections and ideas while highlighting all that Houston has to offer.

The round-up of events takes place May 17 to 23. Check out all the events and register by clicking here.

May 18 — Accessibility in Tech presented by Microsoft

Attendees at this event presented by Capital Factory can look forward to a keynote chat from a serial entrepreneur or investor, insightful discussion sessions, a startup showcase pitch competition, multiple future of accessibility breakout sessions, and panels on accessibility in design and accessibility in hiring and human resource management.

The event is on Tuesday, May 18, at noon. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

May 20 — Future of Patient Experience

Healthcare centered around the patient's experience is becoming a bigger priority for systems around the world. Join experts from Houston, Texas Medical Center, the UK, and Denmark for a Biobridge event. Healthcare centered around the patient's experience is becoming a bigger priority for systems around the world.

The event is on Thursday, May 20, at 9 am. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

May 25 — Industrial XR Forum: Enterprise Projects & Tech Roundup

The Industrial XR Forum is hosting an industry-wide event focused specifically on industrial/energy and engineering large enterprise and rapidly scaling immersive tech program leaders to gain insights, use cases and technology needed for their large and often global VR/AR/XR, 3D, Digital Twin and Spatial Computing projects.


The event is on Tuesday, May 25, at 10 am. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

May 25 — HYP Referral Networking: Building Stronger Relationships

Join the Houston Young Professionals and General Assembly for a virtual networking event.

The event is on Tuesday, May 25, at 11:45 am. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

May 25 — HALO Presents: Ongoing Changes in Consumer Behavior as a Result of Covid-19

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a significant shift in consumer behavior as cities around the world saw shut downs and restrictions. Every aspect of life was affected. As the the country reopens and we enter our new normal what trends from the pandemic will stick around and what will change? Join the Texas HALO Fund and some of its portfolio companies operating in the consumer space to hear their experiences of the pandemic first hand.

The event is on Tuesday, May 25, at 5 pm. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

May 26 — Houston Startup Showcase Semifinals

Four semifinalists will come together on the virtual stage and compete for a chance to move on to the The Ion's Startup Showcase Finals. Watch the four startups pitch their company and see who the judges will select to move on to the Final and have the opportunity to compete for a prize package. The presenting companies are:

The event is on Wednesday, May 26, at 6 pm. It's free and can be accessed online. Click here to register.

Greentown Labs CEO Emily Reichert called on members of Houston's energy community to speak at Greentown Houston's grand opening. Photo by Lee Bond/Greentown Labs

Overheard: Houston's energy sector welcomes Greentown Labs

eavesdropping in Houston

Greentown Houston is officially open for business, and it's safe to say the energy innovation community is excited about it. The 40,000-square-foot space is expecting to move its inaugural 30 companies in throughout the summer.

The grand opening event, which was streamed online with an outdoor invite-only event, took place on Earth Day and featured speakers from across the energy sector. The speakers represented some of the almost 30 corporate partners Greentown Houston has announced.

Click here to read more about the grand opening and take a peek inside the facility.

Missed the discussion or just want a refresher on on the highlights? Here are some significant overheard moments from the Greentown Houston Grand Opening.

"Houston has all the necessary ingredients and it has momentum."

Photo by Lee Bond/Greentown Labs

— Barbara Burger, vice president of innovation at Chevron and president of Chevron Technology Ventures. "Let's celebrate. And then let's get busy."

"Houston, as the energy capital of the world, has a moral obligation to reduce carbon emissions."

Photo by Lee Bond/Greentown Labs

— Mayor Sylvester Turner. "We need to invest in our innovation ecosystem and support the climatech and clean tech entrepreneurs who will be building Houston's new energy economy and creating the new jobs of tomorrow."

"Houston has the talent, know how, and can-do spirit to tackle the dual challenge of leading dual energy demand while aggressively lowering the carbon footprint."

Photo by Lee Bond/Greentown Labs

— Bob Harvey, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership.

"Houston must remain the center of the future energy industry, and today is an important step in restoring that."

Photo by Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

— David Leebron, president of Rice University. "We look forward to our strong partnership."

"We can't solve climate change from the coasts. We need the whole United States to be engaged, and I'm bullish on Houston leading this transition for many reasons."

Photo by Lee Bond/Greentown Labs

— Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs. "Houston is home to world-leading energy organizations, incredible engineering strength, talent, and assets, that can, and frankly must, be redeployed to decarbonize resources."

"This is a city that does not stand still."

Photo by Lee Bond/Greentown Labs

— Ajay Mehta, General Manager of Shell. "At Shell, we have a mission to reach net zero emissions by 2050."

"For bp, partnering with Greentown Labs represents living our purpose to reimagine energy."

Photo by Lee Bond/Greentown Labs

— Jane Stricker, senior relationship manager, regions, cities and solutions at bp.

"Innovation is like oxygen, and it breathes life into hope and possibility. The work we are doing around the energy transition is hard and challenging, and frankly is going to take all of us."

Photo by Lee Bond/Greentown Labs

— Darryl Willis, corporate vice president, energy industry, at Microsoft. "We think that the future is all about partnerships and platforms, and our mission is to help from Microsoft's vantage point to accelerate the energy transition and to help the city of Houston around its aspirations around the energy transition as well."

"We appreciate being part of not only maintaining Houston's position as the energy capital of the world but also establishing it as the energy transition capital of the world."

Photo by Lee Bond/Greentown Labs

— Scott Burns, vice president of retail innovation, customer experience, and market intelligence at NRG.

"[Greentown Houston] will provide this center of gravity for the energy community to come together and work toward the transition plan."

Photo by Lee Bond/Greentown Labs

— Tim Ong, head of innovation at BHP Petroleum. "


Microsoft has announced it will be leasing space in The Ion. Courtesy of Rice University

Microsoft announces lease in rising Houston innovation hub

eyes on the ion

Microsoft and Rice Management Company — the owner and management of The Ion, a rising innovation hub in Houston — announced that the tech company will be leasing space on the 288,000 square-foot building's fifth floor.

"Over the last several years, Microsoft has made it clear it is committed to Houston," says Mayor Sylvester Turner in a press release. "With the work Microsoft is already doing with the City and The Ion to support entrepreneurs, workforce development and energy transition, it is only fitting its new home should be in our City's hub for innovation. This news is an exciting next step in our partnership with Microsoft as we continue to grow Houston's innovation ecosystem and become a leader in the global energy transition."

Microsoft has an existing partnership with The Ion and is a founding sponsor of its Smart and Resilient Cities Accelerator. Earlier this year, the technology leader has also committed $1 million to skills programming.

"The Ion is fast becoming a hub for Houston's startup community and driving forward innovation in energy transition technologies," says Ravi Krishnaswamy, corporate vice president of Azure Global Industry at Microsoft, in the release. "My team and I are excited to get to work there, supporting Microsoft's vision of powering a sustainable future and accelerating energy transition with the expertise of partners, customers, and industry."

According to the press release, Microsoft will also be a programming partner for The Ion and will host advancement opportunities and events, including a monthly executive forum and virtual symposiums, and support future accelerators for advanced manufacturing, digital skilling, and smart and resilient city innovation.

"The Ion and Microsoft will provide the necessary tools and knowledge needed to become more resilient, strengthen our workforce and create new innovations to accelerate the energy transition," says Jan E. Odegard, interim executive director, in the release. "We were delighted this summer when we announced Microsoft's sponsorship of The Ion programming and are now even more ecstatic to welcome a division of Microsoft to its new home. My team and I look forward to showcasing our great programs that are enabled by corporate sponsors like Microsoft to the entrepreneurs, academics, corporations and community in Houston and around the world."

Microsoft's partnership with The Ion, which is set to open in just a few months, is due in part to the city's collaboration with Microsoft.

"Having Microsoft as a major tenant is a huge step forward in realizing the vision for The Ion as a dynamic hub bringing together key elements of innovation in Houston," Rice President David Leebron says in the release. "We are very grateful to Microsoft and Mayor Turner for advancing this vision."

A statewide initiative backed by Microsoft will bring new digital education to the University of Houston campus. Photo via UH.edu

University of Houston joins Microsoft-backed initiative for digital tech workforce development

teamwork

The University of Houston College of Technology has been selected for a new initiative to bring digital and technical skills to students and the workforce.

Microsoft's Accelerate program is a part of the tech giant's Global Skills Initiative, a multimillion-dollar investment seeking to increase digital skills to equip 25 million people worldwide by the end of 2020, according to the website.

"The University of Houston is proud to be part of an effort to prepare strong professionals and leaders in Texas who think innovatively and are equipped with next-generation skills to be successful," says Paula Myrick Short, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at UH, in a press release. "The College of Technology is well-positioned to strengthen this workforce pipeline and create a stronger Texas."

Along with Microsoft, UH is also working with the Texas Education Agency to develop courses that will teach a variety of tech skills, including STEM engagement for students in K-12, professional development, workforce development for high school and college students, and even parents and professionals seeking opportunities to enhance business and technical skills, according to the release.

"The College of Technology is working with Microsoft to provide Texas communities with resources to create meaningfully unique opportunities," says Dean Anthony Ambler in the release. "From high schools to professionals across the state, our programs transcend the classroom to support workforce creation and upskilling. These activities champion Texas communities with a focus on digital equity among underserved areas that solve problems and improve lives."

The college joins other Texas partners, including STEMuli, The Ion, NASA, the Dallas Independent School District, Bell, Big Thought, Stedman Graham and Associates, Tribute to Valor, National Math and Science Initiative, Dallas Regional Chamber, and the Irving Chamber of Commerce.

"Texans are some of the brightest, most productive people in the world. It is exciting to work to establish a statewide innovation ecosystem to support a sustainable culture of opportunity," says David Crawley, professor of practice with the College of Technology, in the release.

Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that Microsoft has expanded its partnership with the city. Photo courtesy of Mayor's Office

Microsoft doubles down on partnership with the city of Houston by committing $1M to programs

tech jobs

Microsoft and the city of Houston have introduced a new program aimed at addressing technology skills development across Houston.

Accelerate: Houston is part of Microsoft's larger global skills initiative. Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the program at a press conference on Monday, August 24.

"More than two years ago, I announced our first transformative alliance with Microsoft — the first of its kind in the United States," says Mayor Sylvester Turner, according to a press release. "Today, I am pleased to say we are taking another leap toward strengthening Houston's global standing as a center for innovation and technology."

The Houston partners on the initiative include The Ion, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Kino-Eye Center, Upskill Houston, University of Houston College of Technology, and Space Center Houston

"Microsoft launched the Accelerate program at a time when closing the digital divide has never been more important," says Kate Johnson, president of Microsoft U.S., in the release. "We're thrilled to be joining Mayor Turner and an impressive group of partners in this effort to expand access to in-demand digital skills—and close digital skills gaps widened by COVID-19—through Accelerate: Houston."

Through this expanded partnership, Microsoft has committed $1 million into programs for The Ion, an entrepreneurship hub being built by Rice Management Co. and currently under construction in Midtown.

"With this digital alliance, one of history's most important and innovative technology companies becomes a key pillar of The Ion," says David Leebron, president of Rice University, in the release. "Microsoft will help implement the vision to make Houston's new innovation district a focal point for the future of energy, artificial intelligence, data science and smart cities."

Microsoft has previously partnered with Houston in a few ways, including partnering on The Ion Smart Cities Accelerator.

Susan Davenport, chief economic development officer with the Greater Houston Partnership, says the announcement shows that the city is on the right track for upskilling its workforce.

"As we have continued to navigate the global COVID-19 crisis and are steering the changes in our energy sector, we feel Microsoft's commitment validates the strong direction into which Houston is now moving," she says in a statement.

Houston-based Decisio's virtual care technology has been paired with GE Healthcare and Microsoft technology in a new initiative for hospitals dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. Photo via decisiohealth.com

GE, Microsoft tap Houston startup's technology for virtual COVID-19 treatment initiative

team work

Houston-based health tech startup Decisio Health Inc. has been enlisted in the war against the novel coronavirus.

Chicago-based GE Healthcare Inc. has tapped Decisio's AI-powered DECISIOInsight software, which enables health care providers to remotely monitor patients, for an initiative involving Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp. that's designed to help treat COVID-19 patients.

The coronavirus-targeted Mural Virtual Care Solution, which was introduced April 15, marries Decisio's virtual monitoring software with GE Healthcare's telehealth technology and Microsoft's Azure cloud-computing platform. It's designed to offer hospitals a broad view of COVID-19 patients who are hooked up to ventilators in ICUs. This platform merges data from ventilators, patient monitoring systems, electronic health records, labs, and other sources.

This special technology package is a stripped-down version of the Mural Virtual Care Solution, which pairs Decisio's and GE Healthcare's technology to virtually track hospital patients. GE Healthcare invested in Decisio in 2019.

Until January 31, 2021, the Mural coronavirus bundle is being provided at no cost to hospitals. Among the users is Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

"We're trying to carry as much of the cost burden to make this as sustainable as possible for our hospital partners that we know are hurting economically right now," says Bryan Haardt, CEO of Decisio.

"There has to be a moralistic compass," he adds. "You have to be driven by something more than just profit."

GE Healthcare, which contributed to Decisio's $13 million Series B round in December, was already partnering with the startup on the Mural Virtual Care Solution. Microsoft was brought into the mix to speed up delivery of the platform in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"This relationship did not exist prior to this initiative," Haardt says. "We all came together and said, 'Guys, we've got to do our part. It is absolutely a moral imperative that we get together.' And we said, 'OK, well, what are the parts?'"

Haardt says this project equips hospitals to adhere to the best standards of care when it comes to treating COVID-19 patients who are relying on ventilators. In a COVID-19 treatment setting, one of the key benefits of the Mural Virtual Care Solution is that a health care clinician can monitor a patient's vital signs and other data without physical contact, he says.

Founded in 2013, Decisio built its virtual health platform using technology licensed from and developed at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. Coupling real-time clinical surveillance with data visualization, the DECISIOInsight software can pinpoint risks and guide clinicians toward better decisions about patient care.

Haardt says Decisio's software aims to reduce the rate of hospital deaths, length of hospital stays, and burden on hospital resources by helping health care providers decrease the severity of hospital-acquired infections, pneumonia, the flu, and other conditions. Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center in Houston is among the customers for Decisio and GE Healthcare's broad-based Mural Virtual Care Solution, which was rolled out last year.

Also, Decisio has teamed up with professional services firm Deloitte to deliver virtual patient monitoring at U.S. Department of Defense hospitals. This technology is being piloted at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and Naval Medical Center San Diego.

"We look at doctors and nurses as heroes, because they're really good at getting people out of trouble," Haardt says. "And we like to think of our solution as keeping people out of trouble, because if you can keep them out of the trouble, then these heroic, herculean efforts [by doctors and nurses] are not required as much … ."

Haardt explains that Decisio's technology can monitor patient activity and detect patient trends in not just one area of a hospital (such as an ICU) or throughout an entire hospital but across a commonly managed group of hospitals. Those insights help hospitals ensure all of their health care professionals are following the same treatment protocols.

The No. 1 economic detriment to hospitals "is doing things different at all their different facilities," Haardt says. "If you can reduce the variability of care, we know the cost to provide goods and services goes down, and we know the outcomes improve."

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Houston innovator joins VC world to increase her social impact

Q&A

Kelly Avant didn't exactly pave a linear career path for herself. After majoring in gender studies, volunteering in the Peace Corps, and even attending law school — she identified a way to make a bigger impact: venture capital.

"VC is an awesome way to shape the future in a more positive way because you literally get to wire money to the most innovative thinkers, who are building solutions to the world’s problems," Avant tells InnovationMap.

Avant joined the Mercury Fund team last year as an MBA associate before joining full time as investment associate. Now, after completing her MBA from Rice University this month, Avant tells InnovationMap why she's excited about this new career in investment in a Q&A.

InnovationMap: From law school and the peace corps, what drew you to start a career in the VC world?

Kelly Avant: I graduated from Rice University with an MBA, starting scouting for an investment firm in my first year, and by the summer after my first year I was essentially working full-time interning with Mercury. But, I like to tell people about my undergraduate degree in gender studies and rhetoric from a little ski college in Colorado. If you meet someone else in venture capital with a degree in gender studies, please connect us, but I think I might be the only one. I’ll spare you what I used to think — and say — about business students, but I have really come full circle.

I always thought I would work in a nonprofit space, but after serving in Cambodia with the Peace Corps, working for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and briefly attending Emory Law School with the intention of becoming a civil rights lawyer.I found that time and time again the root of the problem was a lack of resources. The world’s problems were not going to be solved with my idealism alone.

The problem with operating as a nonprofit in a capitalism is you basically always pandering to the interests of the donors. The NFL was a key sponsor of The National Domestic Violence Hotline. The United States has a complicated, to put it lightly, relationship with Cambodia and Vietnam. It became pretty clear that the donor/nonprofit relationship was oftentimes putting the wrong party in the driver’s seat. I was, and still am, very interested in alternative financing for nonprofits. I became convinced that the most exciting businesses were building solutions to the world’s problems while also turning a profit, which allows them to survive to have a sustainable positive impact.

VC is an awesome way to shape the future in a more positive way because you literally get to wire money to the most innovative thinkers, who are building solutions to the world’s problems.

IM: What are some companies you’re excited about?

KA: There are a couple super interesting founders I’ve met directly engaging with . To name a few: CiviTech, DonateStock, and Polco.

I’m very proud to work on mercury investments like Houston’s own, Topl, which has built an extremely lightweight and energy efficient Blockchain that enables tracking of ethical supply chains from the initial interaction.
I’m also excited about mercury’s investment in Zirtue, which enables relationship based peer to peer lending to solve the massive problem of predatory payday loans.

We have so many awesome founders in our portfolio. The best part about working in VC is meeting passionate innovators every day. I get excited to go to work everyday and help them to build better solutions.

IM: Why are you so passionate about bringing diversity and inclusion into Mercury?

KA: I love working with exciting, highly capable, super smart people. That category includes so many people who have been historically excluded. As an investment team member at Mercury, I do have a voice, and I have an obligation to use that voice to speak highly of the best people in rooms of influence.

IM: With your new role, what are you most focused on?

KA: In my new role, I am identifying and researching high potential investments. We’re building out a Mercury educational series to lift the veil of VC. We want to facilitate a series that gives all founders the basic skills to pass VC due diligence and have the opportunity to build the next innovative companies. My goal is ultimately to produce the best returns possible for our investors, and we can’t accomplish that goal unless we’re building out resources to meet the best founders and help them grow.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Houston college system plans to open $30M resiliency-focused center

to the rescue

Houston’s initiative to protect the city from catastrophes is getting a big boost from Houston Community College.

The college is developing the Resilience Center of Excellence to aid the city’s resilience campaign. At the heart of this project is the 65,000-square-foot, $30 million Resiliency Operations Center, which will be built on a five-acre site HCC’s Northeast campus. The complex is scheduled to open in 2024.

HCC estimates the operations center will train about 3,000 to 4,000 local first responders, including police officers and firefighters, during the first three years of operation. They’ll be instructed to prepare for, manage, and respond to weather, health and manmade hazards such as hurricanes, floods, fires, chemical spills, and winter freezes.

According to The Texas Tribune, the operations center will include flood-simulation features like a 39-foot-wide swift water rescue channel, a 15-foot-deep dive area, and a 100-foot-long “rocky gorge” of boulders.

The college says the first-in-the-nation Resilience Center of Excellence will enable residents, employers, civic organizations, neighborhoods, and small businesses to obtain education and certification aimed at improving resilience efforts.

“Our objective is to protect the well-being of our citizens and our communities and increase economic stability,” Cesar Maldonado, chancellor of HCC, said when the project was announced.

Among the programs under the Resiliency Center of Excellence umbrella will be non-credit courses focusing on public safety and rescue, disaster management, medical triage, and debris removal.

Meanwhile, the basic Resilience 101 program will be available to businesses and community organizations, and the emergency response program is geared toward individuals, families, and neighborhoods.

HCC’s initiative meshes with the City of Houston’s Resilient Houston, a strategy launched in 2020 that’s designed to protect Houston against disasters. As part of this strategy, the city has hired a chief resilience and sustainability officer, Priya Zachariah.

“Every action we take and investment we make should continue to improve our collective ability to withstand the unexpected shocks and disruptions when they arrive — from hurricanes to global pandemics, to extreme heat or extreme cold,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said last year. “The time is now to stop doing things the way we’ve always done them because the threats are too unpredictable.”

In an InnovationMap guest column published in February 2021, Richard Seline, co-founder of the Houston-based Resilience Innovation Hub, wrote that the focus of resilience initiatives should be pre-disaster risk mitigation.

“There is still work to be done from a legislative and governmental perspective, but more and more innovators — especially in Houston — are proving to be essential in creating a better future for the next historic disaster we will face,” Seline wrote.