A New York-based nonprofit that provides tech training has announced its opening a location in the Ion. Photo courtesy of the Ion

Houstonians can now apply to a new, tuition-free program at the Ion to boost their tech skills and knowledge.

Earlier this year the Ion announced New York-based Per Scholas as its workforce development partner. And starting October, Per Scholas will launch its 12- to 15- week technology skills training courses at the innovation hub, the Ion announced this week.

The new operation, known as Per Scholas Houston, is backed by support from from BlackRock Inc. and Comcast NBCUniversal.

Per Scholas Houston will first introduce the nonprofit's IT Support course. The program will give students an opportunity to earn a Google IT Support Professional Certificate and the CompTIA A+ certification. Click here to apply.

“Per Scholas commends the vision and commitment of the City of Houston, Ion, Rice University, and so many others, to catalyze change, grow ideas and innovation, and drive impact. We are thrilled that Per Scholas Houston is now part of the effort,” Plinio Ayala, president and CEO of Per Scholas, says in a statement. “With tremendous investment from Ion, BlackRock, Comcast, our proven skills training will develop technologists to power Houston’s workforce today – and tomorrow–creating a more inclusive and equitable economy. We can’t wait to get started.”

According to the company, more than 80 percent of those who complete Per Scholas training programs find full-time employment within a year of graduating, and about 85 percent of Per Scholas graduates are people of color. Per Scholas has 20 locations in the U.S., including a location in downtown Dallas.

Applicants must be 18 or older to apply and have earned a high school diploma or equivalent and be a U.S. citizen or authorized to work in the U.S., according to Per Scholas's website. They must pass an assessments review before beginning coursework, meet the nonprofit's learner pre-training income criteria and be available to attend classes Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In early May, The Ion announced 10 new tenants that were either relocating or expanding their presence in Houston, bringing the total space leased to 86 percent. Later that month, it added corporate giants Occidental, United Airlines Ventures and Woodside Energy as partners.
The Ion has implemented a new program that will spark workforce development in Houston. Photo courtesy of the Ion

Growing Houston innovation hub announces new workforce partnership

doing the work

Houston's The Ion announced this week that it will partner with New York-based Per Scholas as its new workforce development partner.

The partnership is part of the Ion District's Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that was approved by Houston City Council in late 2021. The $15.3 million agreement aimed to ensure that the 12-block innovation hub developed by Rice University, which is home to the Ion, would benefit all Houstonians, expanding tech jobs while also committing to preserving affordable housing and creating opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses.

Per Scholas was founded in 1995 and works to advance economic mobility for individuals through its tuition-free training programs, which focus on in-demand tech skills. According to the company, more than 80 percent of those who complete Per Scholas training programs find full-time employment within a year of graduating, and about 85 percent of Per Scholas graduates are people of color.

“Per Scholas is thrilled to join the Ion District and offer our tuition-free tech skills training in Houston,” Plinio Ayala, president and CEO of Per Scholas, said in a statement. “There is such synergy in our approach to innovation and equity. I’m confident that together, we’ll increase opportunity and unlock potential for both individuals and companies that call Houston home."

Per Scholas currently has a campus in downtown Dallas and virtual operations in Houston. It operates out of 20 locations in the U.S.

In addition to announcing the new partnership, the Ion District also released an update on its CBA one year after its launch.

“We’re committed to making Ion District and Ion a catalyst for opportunity, not just for the tech community but city-wide,” Sam Dike, who oversees the CBA’s implementation, said in a statement. “We are proud of the progress thus far. It’s a testament to the community stakeholders who came together to recommend the greatest areas of impact and need. However, this is just the beginning.”

According to the announcement, Ion District is now home to more than 300 businesses. In the next year, the district aims to continue to implement the inclusive hiring, community building, housing affordability and other practices outlined in the CBA.

The organization outlined a few accomplishments in the statement, including:

  • Escrowing $5 million at Unity National Bank, the only certified Minority Depository Institution (MDI) in Texas
  • Contracting opportunities for Ion District Garage, worth $16.9 million, to 19 minority- and women-owned businesses
  • Investing in women and minority tech accelerator and innovation programs, including three DivInc accelerator cohorts
  • Commencing first year of funding for selected housing counseling providers which were: Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation, Houston Area Urban League and Tejano Center for Community Concerns, to serve the Third Ward, Kashmere Gardens, and Magnolia Park neighborhoods
  • Opening multiple local restaurants at the Ion and in the Ion District that are owned and operated by minority and women chefs and operators
  • Selecting a consulting firm to recommend strategic pathways to achieve MWBE objectives
  • Conducting 10 public outreach events with over 500 minority- and women-owned firms attending
  • Hosting over 130 community-focused events, including Activation Festival, BlackStreet, and additional monthly programming and events accessible to the community

Earlier this month The Ion announced 10 new tenants that were either relocating or expanding their presence in Houston, bringing the total space leased to 86 percent, according to a news release.

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TMC Innovation announces second cohort of promising Danish health tech companies

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A new cohort of scientists from the Texas-Denmark BioBridge has been selected to join a Texas Medical Center Accelerator, joining forces with some of Houston’s best advisers and mentors.

This is the second year that four Danish companies have been chosen to join a special TMC Innovation Accelerator program with plans to bring their technologies to the American market. In a joint press release, the Texas Medical Center (TMC) and the BioInnovation Institute (BII), announced that the participants are scheduled to arrive in Houston on May 13 for their first session, in which they’ll work on US customer validation. After that, they’ll take part in the full program, which will allow the founders to make their plans for strategic development over the course of six months.

Just as the TMC Innovation Factory offers help for founders who have set their sights on success in the US market, the Danish BioInnovation Institute provides life science startups with the connections, infrastructure and financial support necessary to bring their ideas to the public.

The companies selected include:

  • Alba Health is pioneering a gut microbiome test for young children that’s informed by AI.
  • AMPA Medical has created InterPoc, a more discrete alternative to types of stoma bags currently available for ileostomy patients.
  • Droplet IV is a medical device that automatically flushes IV lines, reducing waste and making nurses’ jobs easier.
  • Metsystem is a cancer metastasis platform aimed at predicting what the most effective cancer drug is for each patient.

“We are excited to welcome these startups to TMC as Danish companies are making significant strides in drug discovery and health tech developments” says Devin Dunn, head of the accelerator for Health Tech, in the release. “As they look to expand into the US market, the collaborative environment fostered by our dedicated team, programs, and clinical community will help them advance their innovations, foster research collaborations, and further develop their technologies here in Houston.”

The program for the accelerator is based on the successes of the TMC Innovation (TMCi) Health Tech Accelerator program. The TMC Denmark BioBridge was established in 2019 as a collaboration between TMC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.

Houston hospital flies in drone delivery service for medical supplies, prescriptions

incoming

A Houston hospital system has announced that it has plans to launch a drone delivery service for specialty prescriptions and medical supplies in 2026.

Memorial Hermann Health System announced that it intends to be the first health care provider in Houston to roll out drone delivery services from San Francisco-based Zipline, a venture capital-backed tech company founded in 2014 that's completed 1 million drone deliveries.

"As a system, we are continuously seeking ways to improve the patient experience and bring greater health and value to the communities we serve. Zipline provides an innovative solution to helping our patients access the medications they need, quickly and conveniently, at no added cost to them," Alec King, executive vice president and CFO for Memorial Hermann, says in a news release.

Zipline boasts of achieving delivery times seven times faster than traditional car deliveries and can usually drop off packages at a rate of a mile a minute. The drones, called Zips, can navigate any weather conditions and complete their missions with zero emissions.

Per the release, the service will be used to deliver items to patients or supplies or samples between its locations.

"Completing more than one million commercial deliveries has shown us that when you improve health care logistics, you improve every level of the patient experience. It means people get better, faster, more convenient care, even from the comfort of their own home," adds Keller Rinaudo Cliffton, co-founder and CEO of Zipline. "Innovators like Memorial Hermann are leading the way to bring better care to the U.S., and it's going to happen much faster than you might expect."

Houston tech founder shines spotlight on small businesses with new awards initiative

houston innovators podcast episode 234

For decades, small businesses have operated in essentially the same manner — handwritten notes to request time off, manual punch cards to clock in, and verbal agreements to swap shifts. And 10 years ago, Houstonian Rushi Patel thought it was time to upgrade these local shops, eateries, and other businesses.

Homebase, which was founded in San Francisco in 2014 and has its largest office in Houston, provides a suite of software tools for employee scheduling, time tracking, communication, and task management for its users, most of which are small businesses.

After a decade of growing its technology and clientbase, Patel, co-founder and COO of the company, explains the unique challenges these small businesses face on the Houston Innovators Podcast — as well as how Homebase helps.

"It's a bit of an orchestra in terms of what entrepreneurs have to do. Your job is to compose a little, but conduct as well," Patel says on the show. "You've built the song of what you want to have happen, but you're conducting lots of different things to make it a reality as a small business owner."



Patel explains how optimizing these personnel aspects of the business frees up founders and managers and improves the employee experience too. Currently, the job market is competitive for these types of businesses, and retention and hiring are major focus points for entrepreneurs.

With 10 years of data and experience of working with small businesses, Homebase introduced a new awards program this week in honor of National Small Business Week. The inaugural Top Local Workplace Awards honored over 50,000 businesses across the country for a range of positive workplace factors — like pay transparency and employee engagement.

"There are over 2 million employee-centric, main street type of businesses in the United States," Patel says, "these are the restaurants, the retailers, and the service providers. They employ north of 70 million people, so there's a lot of impact that these businesses can have. But what we found was they deserve recognition, and there wasn't recognition for the good practices that these employers were doing."

Using its data, which includes over 2.5 million hourly worker data points, Homebase's team implemented the awards to highlight the companies providing their employees — who are in most cases considered a work family, as Patel says — with a great experience.