From oil and gas deals to finance-focused initiatives, this week's innovators are ones to watch. Courtesy photos

As Houstonians head back to work or school following a fun summer break, we know two things for sure.

The first is that traffic will get back to its headache inducing craziness and that Houston startup news will only get more frequent. This week's innovators to know include oil and gas entrepreneurs with big deals on the line plus a finance-savvy woman who wants to encourage others to take control of their personal finance.

Tara Karimi, co-founder and chief scientist at Cemvita Factory

Cemvita Factory

Courtesy of Cemvita Factory

A brother-sister team has taken a huge step forward with their biotech startup, Cemvita Factory. Moji Karimi, who has a background in the oil and gas industry, and his sister, Tara, who has a background in biotech, teamed up a few years ago to create a technology that can mimic photosynthesis, turning carbon dioxide into glucose. It was Tara who figured out the technique and then the two worked backward to identify the industries — oil and gas and space — to work within.

Now, Cemvita is celebrating an investment from an Occidental Petroleum subsidiary — Oxy Low Carbon Ventures LLC.

"We have an ambitious goal to take one gigaton of CO2 out of the carbon cycle in the next decade and are very excited about being a part of Occidental's journey to become a carbon-neutral company," says Tara, co-founder and chief scientist, in a release.

Read more about Cemvita Factory here.

Travis Parigi, founder and CEO of LiquidFrameworks

Courtesy of LiquidFrameworks

Travis Parigi has built his software company from the ground up. Now, for the first time, he's thinking strategically about growth, thanks to a new financial partner.

Parigi's company, LiquidFrameworks, is an enterprise software company with applications in the upstream and downstream services industry. While the software focuses on automation and AI applications, Parigi tells InnovationMap that he has his eyes on emerging technology all the time. I keep a keen watch on a lot of the different technologies that are emerging out there.

"Blockchain is certainly one of them that we're looking at," Parigi says. "I think there's some interesting things that we might be able to do with that as it relates to price book management, which is complex and varied. It could be that blockchain could end up providing a nice mechanism for both parties to independently have pricing data verified."

Read more about Parigi and LiquidFrameworks here.

Eryn Schultz, co-founder of pHERsonal Finance Day

Courtesy of pHERsonal Finance Day.

Eryn Schultz wanted to encourage women to take control of their finances. So she created her own holiday for it called pHERsonal Finance Day. She hosted Houston panels and talks on the day — Friday, August 23 — and motivated women everywhere to take a moment and make a smart financial plan.

"In a world of women's marches and the 'Future is Female' t-shirts, women should be stepping up to shape their financial futures," Schultz writes in a guest column for InnovationMap. "For that reason, women should take a financial health day."

Schultz had a great turnout and reception for the Houston event, and she's already planning for next year.

Read more about pHERsonal Finance Day here.

August 23 is pHERsonal Finance Day — a day dedicated to education about financial practices for women. Getty Images

Why women should take a personal finance day from this Houston founder

Guest column

You've seen the statistics on Americans' financial health. The average American is not in great shape: $6,000 per person in credit card debt, $4,900 per person in student loan debt, and 51 percent of all workers who feel they aren't saving enough for retirement.

You also probably know about two other trends: women are living longer than men and divorcing at higher rates. What you may not know is that in 2019, most married women still say their husbands manage their finances. Even more surprisingly, millennial women have their husbands manage their financial futures at higher rates than their mothers. According to a 2017 UBS survey, 61 percent of millennial married women say their husbands manage their finances versus 54 percent of boomers. How do these trends come together?

Each year, there are two million American women who get divorced or widowed. These women grapple with a traumatic life event while trying to figure out the passwords to their investment accounts. In addition, married women are waking up to discover their retirement savings are short of their expectations. In a world of women's marches and the "Future is Female" t-shirts, women should be stepping up to shape their financial futures. For that reason, women should take a financial health day.

What's a financial health day? It's 24-hours where you take the day off work or dedicate a Sunday to writing down the balances of your investment accounts, renegotiating your auto insurance, and deciding if you should roll over that old 401K. A financial health day is not going to magically wipe away your student loans or solve your spending problem, but it can give you a plan for paying off debt or your mortgage three years early.

There is growing consensus on what being financially healthy means: you should maintain a four to six-month emergency fund, carry zero credit card debt, and contribute 10 to 20 percent of your monthly income to a retirement fund. Additional goals, like buying a house or paying for your kids' college, don't come until you have achieved a stable foundation.

Along with knowing what "financial health" means, there is also general agreement among financial experts on the best ways to achieve it:

  • Know your money situation. Physically write out your loans (credit cards, auto loans) with their interest rates, and all of your savings (including retirement). Seeing it all in one place will help you figure out your priorities.
  • Create money goals. Set multiple goals and prioritize them (you can also fund more than one goal at once). Is it saving for the down payment on a house or becoming debt free?
  • Track your spending. Where is your money going? There are budgeting apps from Mint or YNAB to help you keep track. Are there places where you can tweak your spending habits to fund your savings goal? Can you cancel a recurring expense you aren't using? Could you negotiate a better rate on your phone bill?
  • Automate to achieve your goals. Set up recurring payments to your debt and savings. Automated monthly transfers from your checking account to your savings goals make sure you aren't as tempted to spend that money. Schedule monthly and yearly calendar alerts to check your spending, rebalance your portfolio, etc. One advanced tip is to enroll in your 401K plan's "save more later" option. This will increase the percentage of your paycheck you put into your 401K annually.

These items seem simple. Yet, why are so few people doing them? It takes a LOT of work to get this money infrastructure set up. At the end of a long day of client meetings, chasing a toddler, or some combo of the two, it's difficult to muster the mental energy to address your finances – especially if you have the option of outsourcing this responsibility to a capable partner. That's where a day dedicated to your financial to-dos will help. You don't need to be solely in charge of your money, but you definitely need to understand the plan.

While we feel that everyone can benefit from a financial health day, the first pHERsonal Finance Day targeted to millennial women is scheduled for August 23. Check out our schedule if you want to get started. If taking a whole day off feels like a long-shot, take this quiz here to help you prioritize your financial to-dos. Whether it's a daily money minute or an appointment with a financial adviser (pick one who is a fiduciary), what are you doing to own your financial future?

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Eryn Schultz is the co-founder of pHERsonal Finance Day.

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10+ can't-miss Houston business and innovation events for June

Where to be

It's time to look at what's on the agenda for June for Houston innovators — from pitch competitions to networking events.

Here's a roundup of events not to miss this month. Mark your calendars and register accordingly.

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


June 2 — Boost Your Brand's Online Visibility with a Book

Discover the untapped potential of self-publishing a book to establish your expertise, increase your visibility, and build your network. If you have ever considered publishing a book someday, this event is for you.

The event is Friday, June 2, from 8:30 to 10:30 am, at Impact HUB (Amegy Building - 1801 Main St 10th floor.) Click here to register.

June 2 — Best AI Tools for Business Innovation and Growth

This informative workshop is aimed at introducing participants to the latest AI tools available for businesses to innovate and grow. The interactive sessions will provide practical insights and expert advice from speakers who are experts in the field of AI. Participants will learn about the various AI tools that can be used for businesses, including machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, and more.

The event is Friday, June 2, from 10 to 11 am, online. Click here to register.

June 7-9 — The Future of Global Energy Conference

To highlight Houston's role in the global energy transition, the Greater Houston Partnership, Houston Energy Transition Initiative, and Center for Houston's Future will host a dynamic three-day conference focusing on the role community engagement, innovation and technology, workforce, and funding play in implementing Houston's energy transition strategy.

The event is Wednesday, June 7, to Friday, June 9. The event is hybrid at various locations in Houston. Click here to register.

June 8 — Out in Tech Houston | Monthly Mixer

Out in Tech provides an inclusive networking space for LGBTQ+ people and allies working in tech. Join this relaxed, social-mixer event, hosted on the second Thursday of every month.

The event is Thursday, June 8, at 6:30 to 8:30 pm at Avant Garden. Click here to register.

June 9 — The Future of Global Energy Conference: Luncheon

The Future of Global Energy conference concludes with a gathering of experts and thought leaders, exploring the roadmap for Houston to lead the transition to an energy-abundant, low-carbon future. Panelists include:

  • Jim Gable, President, Chevron Technology Ventures
  • John Hall, President & CEO, Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC)
  • Dr. Ramanan Krishnamoorti, Chief Energy Officer, University of Houston
  • MODERATOR: Jane Stricker, Senior Vice President, Energy Transition & Executive Director, Houston Energy Transition Initiative, Greater Houston Partnership

The event is Friday, June 9, from 10 am to 3 pm, at Hilton Americas. Click here to register.

June 9-10 — Mission Innovate - Reimagining Space Technology to Solve Today’s Challenges

This summer, innovators from around the greater Houston area will convene for a two-day event to innovate, disrupt, and help design innovative solutions that can address gaps in numerous key areas. Entrepreneurs will work with licensable intellectual property from NASA’s IP portfolio to solve some of the largest problems facing the industry. Experienced and first-time founders will form teams, ideate, and pitch their ideas to renown technology entrepreneurs, including members of the innovation teams at NASA. As part of the event, teams will be taught critical startup methodologies, advised by experienced business leaders, and network with an entire community that dreams of shaping key areas in emerging technology.

The event is Thursday, June 9, to Friday, June 10, at the Cannon West Houston. Click here to register.

June 12-14 — Energy Drone & Robotics Summit

The most influential gathering of over 1,500 industrial, energy, and engineering leaders from around the globe where the key challenges and solutions are addressed for operating robotics, drones, satellites, and remote systems successfully and managing AI/data, from the stars to the sea floor.

The event is Monday, June 12, to Wednesday, June 14, at Woodlands Waterway Marriott & Convention Center. Click here to register.

June 13 — Investor Studio Series: VC Due Diligence Best Practices

During this event, Golden Section, a venture capital fund and founders studio obsessed with B2B SaaS product development, will discuss how VCs approach investing and conduct due diligence, and why this matters for founders. The presentation will cover:

  • Market changes that effect how VCs approach investing
  • What founders need to prepare for this new environment
  • How Golden Section approaches due diligence

The event is Tuesday, June 13, from 4 to 6 pm, at the Ion. Click here to register.

June 13 — Using ChatGPT to Grow Your Business

Learn how to harness the power of artificial intelligence and use ChatGPT to not only stay ahead of the game but to redefine it. Whether it's handling queries, managing customer relationships, or generating leads, AI can automate and enhance many aspects of your work. This session will guide attendees through the fascinating world of AI and show them how to leverage it for maximum results.

The event is Tuesday, June 13, from 11 am to 1 pm, at Amcap Mortgage. Click here to register.

June 15 — Female Founders and Funders Meetup

Monthly, every third Thursday, Softeq Venture Studio and Sesh Coworking invite all rockstar female founders and funders in the Houston area to network and empower each other.

The event is Thursday, June 15, from 9 to 10 am, at Sesh Coworking. Click here to register.

June 20 — Co-Creating the Future: An African Startup Symposium on Collaboration

This physical symposium explores opportunities for cross-border entrepreneurial collaboration between the US/Houston and Africa. From Idea to Impact, delving into the African startup ecosystem, highlighting growth and potential for cross-border collaboration, key sectors driving innovation and growth, and legal, regulatory, and cultural considerations and challenges for cross-border collaborations. Startups and investment opportunities will be showcased.

The Agenda:

6:00 pm - 6:10 pm - Introduction to the event and The Beta Collective
6:15 pm - 6:20 pm - Sponsors Highlight
6:20 pm - 6:35 pm - Startup showcase
6:35 pm - 6:40 pm - Panel Introduction
6:40 pm- 7:30 pm - Panel
7:30 - 7:50 pm - Q&A
7:50 - 8:00 pm- Closing and Thanks
8:00 - 8:30 pm - Strategic Networking

The event is Tuesday, June 20, from 6 to 8:30 pm, at The Ion. Click to register.

June 22 — Ultrasound. Integrated. Everywhere.

Pump & Pipes is hosting an event focused on thin-film ultrasound technologies from energy applications into aerospace, health, and medtech sectors.

In collaboration with NASA Tech Talks, and the Mingle Monday Health & MedTech series at The Ion, join Pumps & Pipes as they venture into a discussion on the use of ultrasound technologies from both terrestrial and space medicine perspectives.

The event is Thursday, June 22, from 6 to 9 pm, at the Ion. Click here to register.

June 28 — June Transition On Tap

Transition On Tap is Greentown Labs' monthly networking event devoted to fostering conversations and connections among the climate and energy transition ecosystem in Houston and beyond. Entrepreneurs, investors, students, and friends of climatetech are invited to attend, meet colleagues, discuss solutions, and engage with our growing community. If you’re looking for a job in climatetech or energy, trying to expand your network, or perhaps thinking about starting your own energy-related company, this is the event for you.

The event is Wednesday, June 28, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, at the Ion. Click here to register.

Texans take note — council warns of summer energy shortfalls

heating up

The North American Electric Reliability Council issued a statement in its 2023 Summer Reliability Assessment earlier this month warning that energy shortages could be coming this summer for two-thirds of North America if temperatures spike higher than normal.

“Increased, rapid deployment of wind, solar and batteries have made a positive impact,” Mark Olson, NERC’s manager of reliability assessments, says in a news release. “However, generator retirements continue to increase the risks associated with extreme summer temperatures, which factors into potential supply shortages in the western two-thirds of North America if summer temperatures spike.”

For Texans, the combined risk of drought and higher than normal temperatures could stress ERCOT system resources, especially in a case of reduced wind. But before there’s a mad rush on generators, keep in mind, electricity consumers can take simple actions to minimize the possibility of widespread shortfalls.

Electricity demand begins rising daily around 2 pm in the summer and peaks in the final hours of daylight. These hours are generally not only the warmest hours of the day, but also the busiest. People return from work to their homes, crank down the air conditioner, turn on TVs, run a load of wash, and prepare meals using multiple electric-powered appliances.

In light of NERC's findings, Americans are recommended to take s one or two small steps to avoid unnecessary stress on the grid in the hours after coming home from work, we can prevent energy shortfalls. Modify routines now to get into the habit of running the dishwasher overnight, using the washer and dryer before noon or after 8 pm and pulling the shades down in the bright afternoon hours of the day. Delaying powering up devices – including EVs – until after dark and turning off and unplug items to avoid sapping electricity when items are not in use is also recommended, in addition to turning up thermostats a couple of degrees.

Meet the innovator who's leveraging big tech to advance Houston's ecosystem equitably

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 188

At a glance, Rob Schapiro's resume might not make the most sense. A trained geologist with decades of experience in the energy sector, Schapiro made the move to Microsoft three years ago.

"I saw this disconnect between technology companies and energy companies — they didn't really speak the same language," he says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "I thought I could help potentially solve this problem and work between the two as a sort of translator."

Now, as Microsoft’s Energy Acceleration Program director and site leader for the company’s Houston office, which is located in the Ion, Schapiro is deeply embedded in Houston's innovation ecosystem and is dedicated to helping advance Houston's role energy transition in a sustainable and equitable way.

Inspired by the murder of George Floyd, Schapiro says he sought out opportunities in his personal life to expand his contribution to the community as an ally, and he became a big brother in Big Brothers Big Sisters. Microsoft, too, is active in supporting the community through partnering with local organizations, including SUPERGirls SHINE Foundation, the G-Unity Foundation Inc., and more.

"This has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my job, that I've had the ability to leverage the might of Microsoft and my own privilege to have an impact on real people," Schapiro says. "Microsoft's mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, and when you think about how you do that, it's really daunting. We realized that in order to do that, it's going to require a workforce that looks really different than it does today."

Microsoft knows too well the changing workforce, both from a diversity perspective and when it comes to artificial intelligence and other new technology. In its recent Work Trend Index report, the company found that, rather than being afraid of AI replacing jobs, the majority of the workforce is interested in applying AI to mundane tasks.

Schapiro shares more about his view of how AI will affect the workforce, plus what all the energy industry needs to focus on amid the energy transition, on the podcast. He also weighs in on how Houston's innovation ecosystem has evolved and where he hopes it's going. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.