Pitch decks in San Francisco and New York tend to be simpler. Getty Images

There's something about California pitch decks that Houston companies can learn a thing or two from. Most of them are simpler and highlight those few key points that really show a company might be a success. Simpler, in this case, is good.

However, the investor pitch deck doesn't get you the investment, the deck gets you the meeting. And when an investor is considering a company to meet with, they don't want to comb through scientific detail before getting to know the entrepreneur. It's the entrepreneur who we want to talk to. We want to see and hear their ability to communicate the complex information.

The simple pitch deck is crucial for the entrepreneur to get that initial meeting. It forces the entrepreneur to showcase their best and most important key metrics. Then, it's the entrepreneurs live performance is the real key to attaining an investment.

In Houston — and in other more conservative towns — we tend to see pitch decks that have a lot more information density on each page. It ends up being a traditional business plan, but in landscape orientation instead of portrait orientation.

A lot of more traditional investors in cities like Houston must prefer this additional detail in the deck, right?

Perhaps, but the trend I see is that cities where more venture capital dollars are raised (seed-stage and otherwise) tend to have simpler pitch decks for that initial outreach. San Francisco's are simpler than New York's. New York's are simpler than Austin's. Austin's are simpler than Houston's. And so on.

Maybe I am wrong to recommend having the simpler pitch deck in an environment where there are fewer investors and fewer deals. However, when the simpler pitch deck can be made by cutting away parts of the longer more complex one, shouldn't entrepreneurs be able to create this pitch deck? The process is boiling down the core message, and who doesn't want to work on that?

Work on that elevator pitch and work on that short pitch deck. Of course you need to detail, but sometimes you need the simplicity.

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Mark Friday is an associate leading venture capital investments at Houston-based Cathexis Holdings LP.

From enlightening talks to anniversary celebrations, here's where you need to be in January. Getty Images

Updated: 10 can't-miss innovation events for January

Where to be

Houston's innovation community is starting 2019 strong with plenty of business professional events.

If you know of innovation-focused events for February, email me at natalie@innovationmap.com with the details.

1. How to Start a Startup with Roberto Moctezuma, founder & CEO of Fractal River

Thinking 2019 is the year you finally turn your business idea into a startup? Station Houston wants to help. It's free to attend this discussion lead by Roberto Moctezuma, the founder and CEO of Houston-based Fractal River, an advisory firm. The talk will focus on identifying problems, determining market needs, learning important metrics, and more.

The event is from 6 to 7 pm on Tuesday, January 8, at Station Houston (1301 Fannin St., Suite 2440).

Learn more here.

2. January U.S. Oil & Gas Blockchain Forum Luncheon

For the first event of the year, the U.S. Oil & Gas Blockchain Forum is focusing on how blockchain can help the energy industry. Guest speakers are Andrew Bruce, CEO and founder of Houston-based Data Gumbo, and Rebecca Hofmann, blockchain strategist at Equinor.

The luncheon is from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm on Tuesday, January 15, at the Equinor Auditorium (2107 CityWest Blvd). Tickets to attend are $50.

Learn more here.

3. Salesforce Essentials Workshop: Houston

Attention small business owners: Salesforce has a workshop designed for you. Learn about the platform and how it can help your business strategy over lunch.

The workshop isn Tuesday, January 15, from noon to 2 p.m. at The Cannon (1336 Brittmoore Road) and is free to attend.

Learn more here.

4. Society of Petroleum Engineers Women-in-Energy Congress

Energy industry ladies take center stage of a full-day event focused on women in oil and gas. Susan Dio, chairman and president of BP America, will deliver the keynote address before the rest of the day's panels and presentations begin.

This event is January 18, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at the Houston Community College West Houston Institute (2811 Hayes Road).

Learn more here.

5. Houston Startup Demo Day

Three Houston startups will present their product and business plan at The Station's monthly demo day. The companies and judges are still being determined, but the event details are finalized.

Hear the pitches on Wednesday, January 23, from 6 to 8 p.m., at Station Houston (1301 Fannin Street, Suite 2440). The event is free to attend.

Learn more here.

6. NRLC Workshop: Pitching Part 2: The Physical Pitch with Beth O'Sullivan

If you thought you were pitch perfect, think again. Beth O'Sullivan, a management senior lecturer at Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business, is giving a free lecture on the art of pitching your company. The Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is offering the event.

The lecture will be from 4 to 5:30 pm on Wednesday, January 23, at the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (6100 Main Street Cambridge Office Building, Suite 130).

Learn more here.

7. Women Entrepreneurs Pitch Party at The Cannon

Calling all angel investors — The Cannon Ventures would like to introduce you to a few female entrepreneurs this month. InnovationMap is a media partner for the event, and the goal is to generate connections between the entrepreneurs and potential investors.

The event takes place on Thursday, January 24, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at The Cannon (1336 Brittmoore Road).

If you're an interested investor and would like to attend, email Jake Askew at jaskew@cannonventureshouston.com.

8. Oil & Gas Happy Hour Hosted by OGGN + The Cannon

Grab a beer and some bites at Oil & Gas Global Network's monthly happy hour — this time in collaboration with Houston-based The Cannon.

Join oil and gas professionals at The Cannon (1336 Brittmoore Road) on Tuesday, January 29, from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 for this happy hour event, and proceeds go to Redeemed Ministries, a local charity to help human trafficking victims.

Learn more here.

9. Station Houston 3.0 and Launch Party

As Station Houston officially becomes a nonprofit on January 1, and, in preparation for its move to the Midtown Innovation District, the organization is revealing Station Houston 3.0 to start 2019 with. The free event is Wednesday, January 30, from 6 to 8 pm at Station Houston (1301 Fannin St., Suite 2440).

Guests can mingle until the short program and announcement, which is followed by light bites. Station will also be showing off Houston's first VR Lab and its new space.

Learn more here.

10. Inaugural meeting of the Houston Industrial Digital Transformation & IoT Meetup

Calling all digital and tech innovation leaders in oil and gas or utilities — there's a new group for you to join. The Houston Industrial Digital Transformation and IoT Meetup formed to bring leaders of industrial innovation together for collaboration and so that they can learn from each other's digital transformations.

The inaugural meetup is from 6 to 8 pm on Wednesday, January 30, at ChaiOne HQ (9 Greenway Plaza, Suite 850). It's free to attend.

Learn more here.

Whether you're pitching your startup in a competition or for capital, here are some expert tips. Getty Images

4 secrets to being pitch perfect from a startup founder

Down pat

One of the things our team at EllieGrid is most famous for is pitching. We have pitched our smart pill box in over 20 business plan competitions, on television, radio, and to so many investors that I have lost count. I can't remember what our first pitch was like but I know it has certainly evolved overtime. You could even say that we A/B tested some of our methods.

When you first organize your thoughts, you want to consider the basics, so before I give my advice, consider these tried-and-true tips.

  • Get to the point — say what your company is in the first 10 seconds
  • Know your audience
  • Shorter usually means better
  • Keep numbers to a minimum
  • Have a clear ask

In order to save you a little time, here are some of the of the lessons I learned the hard way to help you perfect your pitch.

Don't pitch. Tell a story.
I am going to let you in on a little secret: most people don't want to hear your pitch, especially if yours is not the first they have heard that day. Put yourself in their shoes, do you really want to listen to someone ramble on about facts and figures? Chances are, no. Instead, tell a story. Use engaging voices and set the scene. Recall your creative writing classes from high school and how you should mention what it was like in terms of feel, smell, taste, etc. and don't use generic adjectives such as "too small" or "the old way was hard."

People remember how you made them feel
What is in it for your audience? Is it wealth, power, fame, praise or glory, and/or pleasure? It might sound obvious to make this point when pitching, but I suggest you write out your pitch and highlight exactly where you say what is in it for them, maybe even more than once. Making the audience feel like you are caring about their desires and engaging them in conversation will help you be more memorable.

Come full circle
My favorite technique in any pitch or speech is if the speaker can connect the closing back to something they said at the beginning of their pitch. I enjoy this because sometimes the speaker will leave a question unanswered and then reveal how their solution is the answer in a creative way. This keeps your listeners engaged and connects the pain to your solution. Watch a few TED talks and you will see what I mean.

Pitch to a kid
This is probably the best advice I can give because it is a surefire way to make sure your pitch makes sense to a wide range of listeners. This also forces you to leave out jargon and filler words that you think might make you sound fancy like "innovative" or "disruptive" but actually make you sound like everyone else.

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Regina Vatterott is the COO and co-founder of Ellie Grid, a Houston-based company reinventing medical devices. Read more about Regina here.

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Houston family's $20M donation drives neurodegeneration research

big impact

Neurodegeneration is one of the cruelest ways to age, but one Houston family is sharing its wealth to invigorate research with the goal of eradicating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

This month, Laurence Belfer announced that his family, led by oil tycoon Robert Belfer, had donated an additional $20 million to the Belfer Neurodegeneration Consortium, a multi-institutional initiative that targets the study and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

This latest sum brings the family’s donations to BNDC to $53.5 million over a little more than a decade. The Belfer family’s recent donation will be matched by institutional philanthropic efforts, meaning BNDC will actually be $40 million richer.

BNDC was formed in 2012 to help scientists gain stronger awareness of neurodegenerative disease biology and its potential treatments. It incorporates not only The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, but also Baylor College of Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

It is the BNDC’s lofty objective to develop five new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders over the next 10 years, with two treatments to demonstrate clinical efficacy.

“Our goal is ambitious, but having access to the vast clinical trial expertise at MD Anderson ensures our therapeutics can improve the lives of patients everywhere,” BNDC Executive Director Jim Ray says in a press release. “The key elements for success are in place: a powerful research model, a winning collaborative team and a robust translational pipeline, all in the right place at the right time.”

It may seem out of place that this research is happening at MD Anderson, but scientists are delving into the intersection between cancer and neurological disease through the hospital’s Cancer Neuroscience Program.

“Since the consortium was formed, we have made tremendous progress in our understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of neurodegenerative diseases and in translating those findings into effective targeted drugs and diagnostics for patients,” Ray continues. “Yet, we still have more work to do. Alzheimer's disease is already the most expensive disease in the United States. As our population continues to age, addressing quality-of-life issues and other challenges of treating and living with age-associated diseases must become a priority.”

And for the magnanimous Belfer family, it already is.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a podcast with the founder of a new venture firm, a former astronaut and recent award recipient, and a health care innovator with fresh funding.

Zach Ellis, founder and managing partner of South Loop Ventures

Zach Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that South Loop Ventures plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston has a lot of the right ingredients for commercialization and scaling up companies, so when Zach Ellis moved to town to stand up a venture capital firm that made investments in diverse founders, he decided to go about it in an innovative way.

South Loop Ventures, which Ellis launched two years ago, invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups across health care, climatetech, aerospace, sports, and fintech. While the first handful of investments, which have already been made, are into Houston-based companies, Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that the firm plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale.

"Any investor wants to feel like they are looking at the best possible investment opportunities in which to deploy capital," Ellis says on the show. "So that's reason No. 1 to cast your net as widely as possible.

"At the same time, you want to give any investment that you make greatest chances of success," he continues. "The biggest factor of success outside of the team and the capital you give them, is the customers that they can call upon. In bringing targeted companies to Houston or connecting them with Houston, you introduce the opportunity for them to achieve rapid scale and work with world-class partners very efficiently." Read more.


Toby R. Hamilton, founder and CEO of Hamilton Health Box

Dr. Toby Hamilton has secured $10 million to grow his company. Photo via tmc.edu

A Houston company that is working on a value-based model for primary care has fresh funding to support its mission.

Hamilton Health Box announced the completion of a $10 million series A funding round led by 1588 Ventures with participation from Memorial Hermann Health System, Impact Ventures by Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the Sullivan Brothers.

The company, founded in 2019 by Dr. Toby R. Hamilton, will use the funding to fuel its expansion into rural areas to help assist those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs. Read more.

Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and center director at the NASA's Johnson Space Center

Ellen Ochoa was recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and for being the first Hispanic woman in space. Photo via NASA

Two astronauts recently received Presidential Medals of Freedom from President Joe Biden for their leadership in space.

Ellen Ochoa, the former center director and astronaut at the NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Jane Rigby, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, were honored at the White House on May 3.

Ochoa spent 30 years with NASA, which included being the 11th director of JSC, deputy center director of JSC, and director of Flight Crew Operations. She served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993, and became the first Hispanic woman in space. She flew four more times to space with STS-66, STS-96, STS-110, and more.

“I’m so grateful for all my amazing NASA colleagues who shared my career journey with me,” Ochoa says in a NASA news release. Read more.

Houston health care institutions receive $22M to attract top recruits

coming to Hou

Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine has received a total of $12 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas to attract two prominent researchers.

The two grants, which are $6 million each, are earmarked for recruitment of Thomas Milner and Radek Skoda. The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced the grants May 14.

Milner, an expert in photomedicine for surgery and diagnostics, is a professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine and the university’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

In 2013, Milner was named Inventor of the Year by the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, he was a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. One of his major achievements is co-development of the MasSpec Pen, a handheld device that identifies cancerous tissue within 10 seconds during surgical procedures.

Skoda is a professor of molecular medicine in the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel, both in Switzerland. He specializes in developing treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are a group of blood diseases including leukemia.

Other recruitment grants provided by the institute to Houston-area organizations are:

  • $4 million for recruitment of Susan Bullman to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was an assistant professor at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, where she studied the connection between microbes and cancer.
  • $4 million for recruitment of Oren Rom to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Rom is an assistant professor of pathology and translational pathobiology at Louisiana State University Shreveport.
  • Nearly $2 million for recruitment of Lauren Hagler to conduct RNA cancer biology at Texas A&M University. She is a postdoctoral scholar in biochemistry at Stanford University.

The institute also awarded grants to five companies in the Houston area:

  • $4.7 million to 7 Hills Pharma for development of immunotherapies to treat cancer and prevent infectious diseases.
  • $4.5 million to Indapta Therapeutics for the Phase 1 trial of a cell therapy for treatment of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • $2.75 million to Bectas Therapeutics for development of antibodies and biomarkers to overcome a type of resistance T-cell checkpoint therapy.
  • $2.69 million to MS Pen Technologies for development of technology that differentiates between normal tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery.
  • $2.58 million to Crossbridge Bio for development of an antibody-drug combination to treat certain solid tumors.