Houston's not so hot for remote workers, as it turns out. thumbor.forbes.com

With many companies encouraging — or commanding — that remote workers return to the office in 2023, more and more Americans are seeking employment opportunities that will give them the freedom to work from elsewhere.

Houston is (remotely) clocking in as the No. 49 best city for remote workers in 2023, according to a study by Forbes Advisor. The study examined 100 U.S. cities and metro areas, and ranked them based on the earning potential of remote workers, internet access, lifestyle amenities, worker friendliness, living costs, and more.

The Bayou City did get some points for providing a quality lifestyle, the report found. Of the cities with the best access to arts, entertainment, and dining establishments, Houston came in No. 8 — outpaced slightly by No. 4 Dallas-Fort Worth.

"Remote work saves workers time and money on commuting and office clothing, while keeping their morale and productivity levels high," the report said. "Ideally, you’d live in a place with an affordable cost of living, high earning potential, reliable internet connection, low taxes, a low unemployment rate, and various entertainment options."

Out of All of Texas, only one region makes the top 10. San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas, snagged the No. 6 spot. Here's yhe top 10 U.S. metro areas for remote workers are:

  • No. 1 – Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Florida
  • No. 2 – Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Indiana
  • No. 3 – Omaha-Council Bluffs, Nebraska-Iowa
  • No. 4 – Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • No. 5 – Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan
  • No. 6 – San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas
  • No. 7 – Jacksonville, Florida
  • No. 8 – Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida
  • No. 9 – Tuscon, Arizona
  • No. 10 – Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio

Houston ranks in dead last when compared to the other Texas cities in the top 50. Behind San Antonio is Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, ranked No. 15 nationally. Austin-Round Rock ranks as the third overall best metro area in Texas for remote workers at No. 39.

Austin did great in one category — internet access — but it seems that earning potential and lifestyle amenities just couldn't keep up. for Austinites, it's all in the Wi-Fi: a remote worker's most important tool.

Austin's average internet download speed is 425.90 Megabits per second (Mbps), and when coupled with the wide variety of free Wi-Fi hotspots around the city, Austin earned No. 3 in the category for "cities with the best internet access." And we do like to take advantage of that at restaurants and bars around town.

Rounding out the ranking was El Paso at No. 46, sneaking ahead of Houston, and McAllen-Edinburg-Mission gets an honorable mention at No. 85.

The full study can be found on forbes.com.

------

This article originally ran on CultureMap.

A remote workforce has a lot to offer Houston startups, according to the University of Houston. Miguel Tovar/University of Houston

Why Houston startups should consider a remote workforce

Houston voices

There are myriad reasons why it behooves a startup to hire remote workers. This article takes a look at the benefits of expanding your hiring pool.

Remote work by the numbers

According to the State of Remote Work 2017 report, over 60 percent of engineers working in product development work remotely about once a week. That’s 20 percent more than average. The report also sheds light on why startup settings are particularly ideal for working remotely.

The report found that small businesses are twice as likely to hire remote employees as bigger, more corporately structured companies. Startups have an advantage because of their penchant for innovation, their hiring needs, and their willingness to be flexible.

Here are three reasons why startups are idea for working remotely.

Remote work maximizes your chances for acquiring great talent. Once you remove geographical boundaries from your talent search, you will see a wider range of talent from which to cull. Chew on this: what if your ideal lead engineer is in Boise, Idaho, rather than Houston, TX where your startup is based? Removing those geographic limitations means you can hire this person!

The State of Remote Work report showed that fully remote businesses hire employees 30 percent faster than big companies. It would be wise to take advantage of that and cut down on the time it takes for a hire to be processed.

Remote controlling workflow

Diversity of perspective. When you erase geographic limitations, you will get people from all over the country, and that means people with different views. People with different ways of looking at things. Different opinions and thought processes. In fact, study from the London Annual Business Survey discovered a connection between diversity and innovation where more culturally diverse teams were more likely to come up with new products than less diverse teams.

Buildingtrust. It’s quite common for employers to worry about a remote employee’s productivity. They’re hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles away. It’s only natural to fear that they’re at the amusement park on the company dime. But is the problem really distance? Maybe the problem is the perceived lack of trust. Have faith in your hiring process and ultimate decision. Startup companies have too much to worry about to be concerned with babysitting an employee. Let your team’s work and results do the talking, and put your focus on other things.

Work-life balance. One of the biggest reasons an employee would want to work remotely to begin with is that it allows them to balance their work with their personal life. In fact, The State of Remote Work report revealed that over half of all remote workers chose remote work for precisely that reason. This helps your startup because happier workers work better, and that positivity trickles down and invigorates the whole.

------

This article originally appeared on the University of Houston's The Big Idea. Rene Cantu was the writer and editor at UH Division of Research.

Conroe is tops in Texas and No. 3 in the nation's list of boomtowns. Photo courtesy of Visit Houston

Houston neighbor clocks as one of the best U.S. cities for remote workers

working from home

Working remotely is increasingly part of the modern lifestyle, and a new report cements a Houston neighbor as one of the top places for remote workers.

Apartment search website RentCafe ranks Conroe No. 15 in its Top 50 Cities for Remote Workers, released in November.

The study looked at 150 U.S. cities, comparing them across five main categories: leisure, affordability, comfort, rental demand, and remote work readiness. Scores were based on 19 metrics, from cost of living, availability of apartments with short-term leases, and rental demand to coworking spaces, percentage of remote workers, and internet speed.

"With remote work migration on the rise, we uncovered the most desirable cities to move to across the nation if you work remotely," the website says. It suggests that remote workers on the move "look toward the South and Southeast, where we identified several cities that offer the perfect balance between comfort, value, leisure and remote work-readiness."

Conroe ranks best for:

  • Number of high-end units
  • Share of new apartments
  • Number of apartments with access to sports amenities

Three other Texas cities join Conroe in the top 15. College Station (No. 9) makes the cut for remote workers due to its high availability of short-term rentals, large population of rentals, and access to sports amenities.

In the Austin metro area, both Austin (No. 13) and Round Rock (No. 11) appear, thanks in part to access to internet connection, average download speed, and the number of remote workers.

Lower on the list, but still in the top 50, are: Plano (No. 23), Lubbock (No. 27), Houston (No. 35), Amarillo (No. 36), San Antonio (No. 41), Dallas (No. 42), and Fort Worth (No. 46).The top city for remote workers, according to RentCafe, is Greenville, South Carolina.

------

This article originally ran on CultureMap.

A growing number of independent professionals call Houston home. Photo via Pixlr

Houston clocks in as one of the fastest-growing cities for freelancers

WFH FTW

Visitors to Memorial Park on an early weekday afternoon probably have to stop and wonder where all these people are coming from. Don’t they have work to do?

Maybe they do, but on their own schedules. Fiverr, a marketplace for connecting freelancers and new clients, released its fifth annual Freelance Economic Impact Report, ranking Houston as the tenth fastest-growing city for freelancers.

According to the report, some 144,000 workers in Houston made $6.6 billion. That means the Bayou City led Texas with around $46,000 for per capita income.

Elsewhere in Texas, Austin came in as the fourth fastest-growing city for freelancers. The city's 77,262-person independent workforce earned $3.4 billion in 2021. In Dallas, which came in at No. 8, some 177, 500 workers made $7.6 billion.

Joining Houston, Austin, and Dallas in the top 10 were:

1. Orlando, Florida
2. Nashville, Tennessee
3. Miami, Florida
5. Tampa, Florida
6. Las Vegas, Nevada
7. Charlotte, North Carolina
9. Portland, Oregon

Although on the surface the report focuses on geography, it collected data that shows eight out of 10 freelancers believe they can live anywhere and work anytime. However, fewer than half reported that it was “a primary factor” in becoming freelancers, and a third said that work was “a primary influence” in their choice of location.

Most important, 70 percent of respondents said they were “highly satisfied” with working independently.

------

This article originally ran on CultureMap.

More square footage and cost of internet are two big reasons Texas stands out. Photo by Maskot/Getty Images

Texas punches in as one of best states for working from home, says study

remote possibilites

The meaning of “going to work” is swiftly changing. The Ladders career platform forecasts that one-fourth of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022.

“This change in working arrangements is impossible to overhype. As big as it is, it’s even bigger than people think,” Marc Cenedella, CEO of The Ladders, said in December. “Hiring practices typically move at a glacial pace, but the pandemic turned up the heat so we’re seeing a rapid flood of change in this space. It’s really rather amazing.”

Given the dramatic shift in what it means to go to work, some folks with remote jobs may be wondering where they should live. It turns out that Texas sits at No. 7 on a new list from personal finance website WalletHub of the best states for working from home. So, if you hold a remote job and already call Texas home, you might just want to stay put.

To identify which places are best for working from home, WalletHub compared 12 key metrics for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Those metrics include the cost of internet service and the size of a typical home. “Together, these metrics show how feasible working from home is in terms of cost, comfort, and safety,” WalletHub says.

Here’s how Texas fares in six categories, with a No. 1 position being best and a No. 25 position being average:

  • No. 1 for average square footage of homes.
  • No. 2 for cost of internet service.
  • No. 19 for share of potential telecommuters.
  • No. 25 for average price of electricity.
  • No. 25 for share of population working from home.
  • No. 29 for household internet access.

New Jersey grabs the No. 1 spot on the list, and Alaska ranks last.

“I believe that working from home will need to become a more viable option for many industries, regardless of the pandemic status, as we continue to see increasing fuel prices,” Sean Walker, professor of behavioral management in the College of Business and Global Affairs at the University of Tennessee at Martin, tells WalletHub.

------

This article originally ran on CultureMap.

As more and more offices have remote workers, managers need to know how to measure virtual employee success. Getty Images

Rice University research calls for more ways to measure virtual employee success

Houston Voices

Managers are always hunting for ways to measure performance. They need to know what's succeeding and what's not so they can make adjustments and improve a work team's output. This has led to countless research that looks at ways to measure and boost employee performance. Indeed, one recent study showed there were more than 130 models and frameworks for measuring team performance in the workplace.

But how we do business has been changing in the last two decades. Communication technology and information sharing increasingly has decentralized the workforce. More and more people are working remotely. Consider telecommuters, online messenger services such as Slack and customer service call centers routing their calls across the world. What forces determine how these virtual teams function?

In a recent study, Rice Business professor Utpal Dholakia and colleagues René Algesheimer of the University of Zurich and Călin Gurău of GSCM-Montpellier Business School looked closely at what motivates remote teams and how to measure what they do. They began with a standard input-mediator-output-input model (IMOI) to measure team characteristics such as size, tenure, communication, strategic consensus and intentions. Then they dove further, including expected team performance, actual team performance and past team performance into the equations. Finally, they analyzed the influence of motivational (desire to perform) and rational (shared goals) dimensions.

To conduct the research, Dholakia, Algesheimer and Gurău analyzed professional computer gaming teams, reasoning that such teams work together in highly competitive environments. The gamers' lack of organizational context, meanwhile, eliminated any bias that could be linked to traditional institutional structures such as culture and goals. There was a downside, however: the gaming teams didn't fully replicate the situation of virtual teams in business organizations.

Still, by choosing the European Electronic Sports League (ESL) the researchers were able to pick from more than half a million teams that play in excess of 4 million matches a year. In the end, 606 teams participated in the study by answering a questionnaire in the course of a year. The teams all had stable structures and specific objectives, strategies and training, just like virtual work teams. Data was also collected from the ESL database and included in the model.

The findings: most studies do not consider expected and actual team performance in their calculations. This is important because research shows a strong link between expectation and performance. Including both sets of results can help managers choose the right steps to enhance team strategy and effectiveness. (The study did not analyze issues such as trust, training, conflict resolution or leadership, areas Dholakia recommends for further research).

The framework devised by Dholakia and his colleagues gives researchers a more precise way to analyze remote or international teamwork. It also could help guide managers in examining a team's cultural diversity, and how that might affect output. In a time when the workplace is growing ever less tangible, Dholakia's model is a sturdy tool to measure what's happening out there.

------

This article originally appeared on Rice Business Wisdom.

Utpal Dholakia is the George R. Brown Professor of Marketing at Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Early-stage accelerator returns to Houston, announces finalists

prepare for take-off

CodeLaunch, a traveling seed-stage accelerator, is returning to Houston for its latest cohort.

The startup competition sponsored by software development company Improving will have its ultimate showdown on February 28. The final competition pairs six startups with six startup consulting companies.

Jason W. Taylor, CodeLaunch president and founder, says CodeLaunch isn’t your typical startup showcase, as it incorporates music acts, comedy, and crowd networking. Mirroring the set-up of a TV show, the six finalists all present their working products in front of an audience amid these performances.

“I would describe CodeLaunch as the next generation of venture-tainment in North America and the greatest startup show on earth,” Taylor explains.

The 2024 Houston CodeLaunch participant startups — and their mentor partners — are as follows:

Prior to pitch day, all six teams will receive hands-on instruction from CodeLaunch mentors on how to construct their pitches and free professional software development from their partners. Taylor says the strong relationships between CodeLaunch and these developers played a major role in setting the competition in Houston.

“We love Houston and we’re back for a third year in a row because the Houston startup ecosystem works together better than other major startup ecosystems I’ve seen,” Taylor says. “We have some great software development partners in Houston that are building code for those startups.”

Last year, Houston-based startup Energy360, with the mentorship and help of Honeycomb Software, took home the Championship belt and a $100,000 investment offer from Cyrannus VC fund for their energy management system Matt Bonasera, Energy360’s enterprise architect, says he is grateful for the entrepreneurial community CodeLaunch provides, in particular the team’s mentor Oleg Lysiak, Honeycomb VP of Partnerships and Business Development.

“I happened along this great community of people who are really passionate about supporting each other,” Bonasera says.

Lysiak agrees that CodeLaunch is an ideal opportunity for young entrepreneurs looking to hone their skills and expand their product capabilities. Lysiak says he is looking forward to defending Honeycomb’s title as top consultant development team.

“My whole philosophy is to connect people and have different collisions and collaborations,” Lysiak says.

Houston startup completes testing, prepares biosimilar insulin drug for clinical trials

next steps

A Houston biotech startup is one step closer to releasing its marquee drug for the global insulin market, which is projected to break the $90 billion threshold by 2029.

rBIO says it recently completed testing of the properties of R-biolin, an insulin drug that’s biologically identical to Novo Nordisk’s Novolin drug. The patent for Novolin about two decades ago. In March 2023, the Dutch drugmaker announced it was slashing the list price of Novolin by 65 percent to $48.20 per vial and $91.09 per FlexPen.

Executives at rBIO are now pursuing a partnership with a contract research organization to manage clinical trials of R-biolin. If those trials go well, R-biolin will seek approval to supply its insulin therapy to diabetes patients around the world.

Washington University in St. Louis is rBIO’s academic partner for the R-biolin project.

The rBIO platform produces insulin at greater yields that traditional manufacturing techniques do. The company is striving to drive down the cost of insulin by 30 percent.

About 38 million Americans have diabetes, with the vast majority being treated for type 2 diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many people with diabetes must take insulin to control their blood sugar levels.

Research company iHealthcareAnalyst predicts the global market for insulin will surpass the $90 billion mark in 2029.

“There has been a lot of talk in the media about reducing the cost of insulin for diabetic patients, but what is often overlooked is that the domestic demand for insulin will soon outpace the supply, leading to a new host of issues,” Cameron Owen, co-founder and CEO of rBIO, says in a news release.

“We’re dedicated to addressing the growing demand for accessible insulin therapies, and … we’re thrilled to announce the viability of our highly scalable manufacturing process.”

Professionals from the University of California San Diego and Johns Hopkins University established rBIO in 2020. The startup moved its headquarters from San Diego to Houston in 2022.

CEO Cameron Owen and Chief Scientific Officer Deenadayalan Bakthavatsalam work on insulin purification in the Houston lab. Photo courtesy

How AI is changing product management and what you need to know

guest column

For the past 14 months, everyone has been talking about ways artificial intelligence is changing the world, and product management is not an exception. The challenge, as with every new technology, is not only adopting it but understanding what old habits, workflows, and processes are affected by it.

Product managers — as well as startup founders leading a product function — more than any other role, face a challenge of bringing new life-changing products to market that may or may not be received well by their users. A product manager’s goal is complex — bring value, stay ahead of the competition, be innovative. Yet, the "behind the scenes" grind requires endless decision making and trade offs to inspire stakeholders to move forward and deliver.

As we dive into 2024, it is obvious that AI tools do not only transform the way we work but also help product managers create products that exceed customer expectation and drive businesses forward.

Market research and trends analysis

As product managers, we process enormous amounts of market data — from reviewing global and industry trend analysis, to social media posts, predictions, competition, and company goals. AI, however, can now replace hours, if not days, of analyzing massive amounts of data in an instant, revealing market trends, anticipating needs, and foreseeing what's coming next. As a result, it is easier to make effective product decisions and identify new market opportunities.

Competitive analysis

Constantly following competitors, reviewing their new releases, product updates, or monitoring reviews to identify competitor strengths and weaknesses is an overwhelming and time consuming task. With AI, you can quickly analyze competitors’ products, pricing, promotions, and feedback. You can easily compare multiple attributes, including metrics, and identify gaps and areas for improvement — all the insights that are otherwise much harder to reveal quickly and efficiently.

Customer and product discovery

Of course, the most intuitive use case that comes to mind is the adoption of AI in product and customer discovery. For example:

  • Use AI for customer segmentation and persona creation to help visualize personas, prioritize user motivations and expectations, and uncover hidden behavior and needs. You can then create and simplify customer questionnaires for interviews and user groups and target customers more accurately.
  • Analyze quantitative and qualitative data from surveys, support tickets, reviews, and in-person interviews to identify pain points and unmet user needs and help prioritize features for future updates and releases.

Roadmap and sprint management

AI provides value in simplifying roadmap planning and sprint management. Resource optimization is often a gruesome task and AI can help with feature prioritization and resource allocation. It helps teams focus on critical work and increase their productivity. You can even analyze and manage dependencies and improve results across multiple sprints months in advance.

Prototyping and mockup generation

There is no product manager’s routine without multiple mockups, wireframes, and prototypes that explain concepts and collect feedback among stakeholders. AI has become a critical tool in simplifying this process and bringing ideas to life from concept to visualization.

Today, you can use textual or voice descriptions to instantly create multiple visuals with slight variations, run A/B tests and gather valuable feedback at the earliest stage of a product life cycle.

Job search and job interviews

Consider it as a bonus but one of the less obvious but crucial advantages of AI is using it in job search. With the vulnerable and unstable job market, especially for product roles, AI is a valuable assistant. From getting the latest news and updates on a company you want to join, to summarizing insights on the executive team, or company goals, compiling lists of interview questions, and running mock interviews, AI has become a non-judgmental assistant in a distressing and often discouraging job search process.

Use AI to draft cold emails to recruiters and hiring managers, compare your skills to open positions’ requirements, identify gaps, and outline ideas for test assignments.

We already know that AI is not a hype; it is here to stay. However, remember that customers do not consume AI, they consume your product for its value. Customers care whether your product gets their need, solves their problem, and makes their lives easier. The goal of a product manager is to create magic combining human brain capabilities and latest technology. And the best result is with a human at the core of any product.

------

Natasha Gorodetsky is the founder and CEO of Product Pursuits, a Houston company that helps early stage and venture-backed startups build products and create impact.