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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New Houston incubator launches to support media tech innovation

ready to grow

Houston has a new incoming incubator program for innovators within the media technology space.

The Ion announced a new partnership with MediaTech Ventures, an Austin-based global media industry venture development company, that will bring the MediaTech incubator program to Houston. Applications are open now, and the first cohort will kick off the program in January.

“Modern media has to continually evolve and adapt to new market channels, and with each platform comes the opportunity for innovation to leverage what is possible. It’s why Houston continues to build its market and resources for media technology entrepreneurs and startups looking to make an impact in this constantly evolving space,” says Jan E. Odegard, executive director of the Ion, in a news release.

“We’re thrilled to partner with MediaTech Ventures to further bolster the startups that are an integral part of our innovation community," he continues.

The 12-week program will help early-stage companies tackle marketing, development, and production with education and mentorship with MediaTech Ventures' startup curriculum and platform. The Ion will house the initiative and startups will have access to the hub for programming and networking.

“Ion is the perfect home for our incubator program,” says Josh Sutton, Houston Program Manager at MediaTech Ventures, in the release. “Our goal is to not only tap into the Ion’s valuable innovation ecosystem both within its four walls and beyond it, but to catalyze the development of media technologies and offer more resources for entrepreneurs looking to advance modern media.”

Founded in 2016 to advance the media technology economy, MediaTech Ventures focuses on "unifying innovation with capital, and validating and scaling technology-enabled media startups," per the news release. The program's startups have raised over $10 million following the completion of the curriculum.

An info session is taking place on December 5 at Second Draught in the Ion, and interested applicants can meet, ask questions, and learn more about the program.

Here's how Houston makes the grade as best college town in new report

STUDIES SHOW, STUDY HERE

Houston is called many things: Space City, Bayou City, Medical City. But college town?

The Bayou City boasts two world-class, top-ranked institutions in Rice University and the booming University of Houston. So where does that put the city as far as college town rank?

No. 64, according to the financial website WalletHub, which has just released its list of best college cities in the U.S. for 2023.

Meanwhile, Austin takes the No. 1 spot for best college big city. Another Texas town, College Station, comes in at No. 6 on the small city list.

The most represented state, perhaps not surprisingly, is Florida, with four cities in the overall top 10. The top 10 college cities for 2023, according to WalletHub, are:

1. Austin
2. Ann Arbor, Michigan
3. Orlando, Florida
4. Gainesville, Florida
5. Tampa, Florida
6. Rexburg, Idaho
7. Provo, Utah
8. Scottsdale, Arizona
9. Miami
10. Raleigh, North Carolina

Notably, Austin scored best, No. 12, in the “social environment” category, determined by metrics like students per capita; breweries, cafés, and food trucks per capita; and safety issues like vaccination and crime statistics. Its ranking at No. 21 in the “academic & economic opportunities" category puts it in the 95th percentile, even above Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, famous for their Ivy League prevalence.

Elsewhere in Texas, El Paso did well on the overall list at No. 36, followed by Dallas (99), Fort Worth (153), and San Antonio (169). Cities that tend to fall lower in similar studies ranked relatively well among college towns.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

WHO'S WHO

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from health tech to data analytics — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.


Luis Silva, vice president and general manager at AT&T

Not everyone is as holly jolly amid the holidays. Image courtesy

In a guest column, Luis Silva, Houston-based vice president and general manager at AT&T, cautions that the holiday season is prime time for hackers and cyber security threats.

"The good news is you can protect yourself from scams and fraud," he writes. "Just remember that cybercriminals don’t discriminate, they can prey on anyone."

In his article, Silva shares the top five ways to guard against cyberthreats. Read more.

Devin Dunn, head of TMC's HealthTech Accelerator

Devin Dunn leads TMC's HealthTech Accelerator, which is getting ready to welcome its next cohort in January. Photo via TMC.edu

Earlier this year, Devin Dunn joined TMC Innovation as head of TMC's HealthTech Accelerator, a career move that represented Dunn's move to a different side of the startup world. As an early employee at London-based Huma, Dunn was instrumental in growing the health tech company from its early stages to international market expansion.

"I really like working with the dreamers and helping them work backwards to (figure out) what are the milestones we can work toward to make the grand vision come true in the future," Dunn says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "The opportunity to work with different founders on that same journey that we had been through was really appealing." Read more.

Eric Anderson, CTO of SynMax

Houston-based SynMax has closed its first round of funding. Photo courtesy

A Houston-based satellite data analytics company is celebrating an oversubscribed round of recent funding. SynMax announced this week that it closed its seed round at $6 million with an oversubscription of $2 million. The startup is providing geospatial intelligence software as a service to customers within the energy and maritime industries. The technology combines earth observation imagery and key data sources for predictive analytics and artificial intelligence.

Founded in 2021, SynMax is led by CTO Eric Anderson, who previously worked as an analyst at Skylar Capital, according to LinkedIn. Headquartered in Houston, SynMax is hiring employees from all over. Read more.