pride month

Q&A: How the Houston tech community can support LGBTQIA+ innovators

Tammi Wallace of the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce is a panelist on The Ion's Pride in Tech event. Photo via LinkedIn

It's Pride Month, and the Houston tech community is celebrating its LGBTQIA+ community — as well as addressing some challenges faced within the business arena.

The Ion Houston, Austin-based Pride.VC, and Houston-based Sesh Coworking are collaborating on a Pride in Tech event, tomorrow, June 24, at noon at the Ion. It's free to attend and all is welcome. The Ion is also encouraging attendees to come early for a cup of coffee at Common Bond for the weekly Cup of Joey networking happy hour from 8:30 to 10:30 am.

The event will feature a panel moderated by Sesh's Maggie Segrich and Meredith Wheeler, and will tackle topics around how Houston can do more to build a truly inclusive business community. The panelists include

Wallace, who co-founded the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce in 2016, joined InnovationMap for a quick Q&A ahead of the event.

InnovationMap: What kind of challenges do LGBTQIA+ founders in Houston face these days?

Tammi Wallace: First, LGBTQIA+ founders need to be at the table and have a voice. When we launched the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce in 2016, our primary goal was to make sure we were seen, heard and engaged.

A seat and a voice at the table matters because LGBTQIA+ founders often lack visibility in the broader economic ecosystem and continue to experience discrimination. This means they cannot engage with their full and authentic selves as entrepreneurs and experience unique challenges. More specifically, they face challenges with access to venture capital and angel investment funds and these entrepreneurs lack strong LGBTQIA+ role models and mentors.

In fact, some LGBTQIA+ business owners never come out because they fear losing customers or clients. We hear stories all the time about LGBTQIA+ founders not seeking either traditional or non-traditional funding because they fear that they will have to out themselves in the process and fear discrimination and a lack of acceptance in the process. Disclosing personal information, such as financial information, in some cases, can effectively out them as an LGBTQIA+ person. Funding paths must be fully inclusive and ensure that the process is viewed from the lens of the LGBTQIA+ entrepreneur and how that can impact their access to capital.


    IM: How would you recommend these founders find the community and support they are looking for? 

    TW: Definitely get involved with the Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Since 2016, the chamber has been working to build a strong community to support LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs and get them access to resources to help their businesses grow and thrive.

    We create connections and give LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs a space and place to walk through the door as their full and authentic selves. Through the Chamber, LGBTQIA+ founders can find support, whether from other entrepreneurs, mentors and Corporate Partners. We collaborate with the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) as well as the other LGBTQIA+ chambers in Texas to drive connections and build a strong LGBTQIA+ business network across the country and the state.

    We encourage LGBTQIA+ businesses to get LGBTBE® Certified as well which offers even more connection with other certified businesses, major corporations and other key stakeholders and mentoring opportunities with major companies. We can help these founders get started with the LGBTBE® certification process and tap into national, regional and statewide resources.

    IM: How do you recommend startup development organizations, investors, and other businesses become better allies to the LGBTQIA+ startup community? 

    TW: Ensure that LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs and business and community leaders are engaged with your organization. Organizations like the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce and the Ion are working "boots on the ground" to support the LGBTQIA+ business community and can offer the opportunity for meaningful collaboration. We also recommend advocating for others -- when you are around a table, look around and if the LGBTQIA+ community is not being represented, ask why.

    If representation is around the table, be intentional to ensure that we have a voice. As organizations that are involved in Houston's economic ecosystem, be strong and visible advocates for the LGBTQIA+ business community through engagement of businesses and the Chamber throughout the year. Be engaged -- not just during Pride Month, but twelve months out of the year.

    Whether a startup, investor or a business, you can help raise the profile for LGBTQIA+ businesses and the LGBTQIA+ business movement.

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    Check out these conferences, pitch competitions, networking, and more all happening in September. Photo via Getty Images

    From networking meetups to pitch competitions, September has a smorgasbord of opportunities for Houston innovators.

    Here's a roundup of events you won't want to miss out on so mark your calendars and register accordingly.

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

    Mark your calendars for November 8 for the annual Houston Innovation Awards, and nominate your company or another deserving business by September 19.

    September 5 — Tech + Tequila Talk: Houston Innovation

    Natara Branch, CEO of Houston Exponential, will delve into the most recent developments within the Houston Innovation Community, shedding light on Houston Exponential's latest initiatives. She will also provide insights into upcoming events, including the highly-anticipated Tech Rodeo and the forthcoming Innovation Awards Gala. After all of that education and conversation, unwind with an authentic tequila tasting and network with tech industry peers.

    The agenda:

    5:50 pm - 6 pm: Sign-in/Registration

    6 pm - 6:30 pm: Tequila tasting

    6:30 pm - 7 pm: Tech talk

    7 pm - 8 pm: Networking & Tequilas

    This event is Tuesday, September 5, from 6 pm to 8 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

    September 7 — Venture Houston 2023

    Venture Houston 2023 is a major event for entrepreneurs, venture investors and ecosystem builders to plug into what is happening in Houston. Come learn how you can decarbonize in a digital world, connect with Houston's best founders, corporate leaders and top tier investors, and develop meaningful relationships.

    The agenda:

    7 am - 8:45 am: Registration

    8:45 am - 12:30 pm: General Programming

    12:30 pm - 1:45 pm: Networking Lunch

    2:00 pm - 4:15 pm: General Programming

    4:15 pm - 6 pm: Networking Cocktail Reception

    This event is Thursday, September 7, from 7 am to 6 pm at Stude Concert Hall. Click here to register.

    September 8 — Inspire & Transform: Celebrating Women In Data

    Hosted by the Houston Chapter of Women in Data and Solidatus, this event will feature influential women who have made significant contributions to the field of data from the City of Houston, Exxon, EY, Google, Houston Methodist and more. The event will discuss and debate "The Intersection of Data, AI and Sustainability" and "What Does Good Look Like" through insightful panel discussions, and networking opportunities. Price of admission is $10.

    The agenda:

    9 am - Check-in and Network

    9:15 am - Welcome

    9:20 am - Panel 1: The Intersection of Data, AI & Sustainability

    10 am - Networking Break

    10:10am - Panel 2: "What Does Good Look Like"

    10:45am - Scholarships Awarded

    11am - End of event + Networking Opportunities

    This event is Friday, September 8, from 9 am to 11 am at 200 Park Place. Click here to register.

    September 9 — Revolutionizing Your Work: Eight Innovative Ways Entrepreneurs Can Leverage ChatGPT & AI to Scale, Grow & Succeed

    Discover how successful entrepreneurs are harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and ChatGPT to drive their businesses forward. At this event, you'll gain valuable insights from industry experts who have leveraged AI and ChatGPT to grow, scale, and succeed. Learn how these technologies can enhance customer experiences, streamline operations, and drive innovation in your own entrepreneurial journey.

    This event is Saturday, September 9, from 12:30 to 1:30pm at The R.O.C.K. - Broadway Campus. Click here to register.

    September 13 — Small Business Exchange

    The Small Business Exchange, powered by US SBA, is a lively and informative event designed to connect small business owners and entrepreneurs.

    At the Small Business Exchange, you'll have the opportunity to network with like-minded individuals, share your experiences, and gain valuable insights from industry experts. Whether you're a seasoned business owner or just starting out, this event offers a unique chance to learn, grow, and collaborate.


    This event is Wednesday, September 13, from 11 am to 2 pm at SBDC Office. Click here to register.

    September 21 — 20th Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum

    The Energy Tech Venture Forum, hosted by The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, will showcase energy tech innovations to shift towards a more sustainable, reliable and lower carbon future across interactive panels, inspiring keynotes and over 50 dynamic venture pitches, leaders.

    At the 20th annual conference, discover more than 90 new technology ventures commercializing energy transition innovations and meet investors looking for disruptive energy technologies that can accelerate clean and renewable energy. Check to see if you are a Rice Alliance member or sponsor to confirm your free registration. Rice university faculty and staff can also attend for free. For non-Rice community members tickets are $245.

    This event is Thursday, September 21, from 7:30 am to 5:15 pm at Rice University. Click here to register.

    September 21 — UH Energy Symposium: Plastics, Chemicals, Circularity: What’s Next?

    Focusing on the multifaceted nature and enormity of the challenge, this discussion will focus on what circularity means for the future of production and consumption, meeting consumer demand, and creating and preserving utility across the value chain, while addressing emissions reduction and waste management through new technologies, standards, regulatory mechanisms like extended producer responsibility, and stakeholder engagement.

    This event is Thursday, September 21, from 6 to 7:30 pm at the University of Houston. Click here to register.

    September 23 — OPEN Houston 11th Annual Conference

    Head over to the OPEN Houston 11th annual conference which will focus on the important players building Houston’s emerging technology and startup ecosystem. Hear from and connect with the founders, executives, investors, and other leaders that are building Houston’s innovation economy. Admission is $25-$50.

    The agenda:

    9:00 AM - 10.00 AM - Registration

    10.00 AM - 10:30 AM - Mayor Sylvester Turner Welcoming

    10:30 AM - 11:30 AM - Keynote by Andrew Yang

    11:30 AM - 12:30 PM - Founder’s Panel

    12:30 PM - 1:30 PM - Lunch

    1:30 PM - 3:30 PM - Business Pitch Competition

    3:30 PM - 3:45 PM - Award Ceremony

    3:45 PM - 4:00 PM - Happy Hour

    This event is Saturday, September 23, from 9 am to 4 pm at Moran Hotel. Click here to register.

    September 27 — Space IT UP: Demo Day

    Presented by ITA and ASI in collaboration with the Space Foundation, this event celebrates the journey of six Italian companies as they launch their groundbreaking space ventures from Houston's thriving space ecosystem. Following a five-week accelerator program, these companies will be pitching their innovative space solutions at this Demo Day.

    This event is Wednesday, September 27 , from 5:30 to 8 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

    September 27 — Pearland Innovation Hub Grand Opening

    Come learn more about the Pearland Innovation Hub, tour the new space, and celebrate the expansion. Raffle prizes will be available for attendees and f ood and drinks will be provided for registered attendees.

    This event is Wednesday, September 27, from 6 to 8 pm at Pearland Innovation Hub. Click here to register.

    September 28 — Chevron Technology Ventures Pitch Competition

    Chevron is looking for novel technologies or approaches that can be applied to transform their operations. With the goal of removing people from hazardous environments (e.g., confined spaces, working at heights), reducing the environmental impact (e.g., leak detection, emissions monitoring), and increasing the operational efficiency (e.g., autonomous operations, advanced inspection capabilities, predictive asset health capabilities) of their facilities in the decades to come.

    Registered attendees will be able to take a tour of the Chevron workspaces within the Cannon West Houston, enjoy refreshments and network.

    This event is Thursday, September 28, from 4 to 7:30 pm at the Cannon. Click here to register.

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