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5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week

Startup pitch winners from CERAWeek made this week's top stories in Houston innovation. Photo via CERAWeek.com

Editor's note:Another week has come and gone, and it's time to round up the top headlines from the past few days. Trending Houston tech and startup news on InnovationMap included startup pitch winners from CERAWeek, a diversity-focused panel recap from SXSW, and more.

Houston showcases 12 energy transition startups at annual CERAWeek conference

Twelve startups pitched at this annual Houston energy conference — and one went home with a golden ticket into Chevron Technology Ventures' catalyst program. Photo by Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

CERAWeek by S&P Global wrapped up last week after five days of energy transition panels, leadership talks, emerging tech showcases, endless networking and so much more.

While dozens of Houston energy innovators and investors bopped around the Agora innovation section of the conference in George R. Brown Convention Center, the highest concentration of startups had to be at the Energy Transition Ventures Day pitch competition hosted by the Greater Houston Partnership's Houston Energy Transition Initiative and in collaboration with Halliburton Labs, Greentown Houston, The Ion, and more.

Twelve startups across four categories — carbon capture, use and storage, hydrogen solutions, energy storage, and circular economy — pitched to a panel of investors who then selected one winner per category. Additionally, Chevron Technology Ventures selected one lucky startup from the pitches to be a part of its catalyst program. Click here to continue reading.

March Madness: 4 tips for Houston businesses to embrace 'The Big Dance'

This major sporting event doesn't just have to disrupt your team. Photo via Getty Images

For sports enthusiasts, one of the most popular competitions that attracts tens of millions of viewers is here – March Madness, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. As fans gear up for three weeks of action, employers are also excited, but for very different reasons.

March Madness can be a distraction in the workplace that hinders productivity. According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., lost productivity during the tournament can cost employers over $13 billion, with nearly 50 percent of workers spending more than six hours of work time on March Madness activities. With an increase in hybrid/remote workers, the stage is set for more employees to view games during the workday, leading to higher levels of productivity losses.

Although these numbers are staggering, savvy employers can leverage March Madness to promote team building and boost employee engagement, which can have a positive impact on long-term success. Click here to continue reading.

SXSW panel: What Houston needs to do to develop as an equitable tech ecosystem

Three Houston innovators discussed the strides the city is making in terms of equitable funding opportunities. Photos courtesy

Houston has consistently been recognized as one of the most diverse cities in the country — but is that translating into equitable funding opportunities for diverse founders? A panel at SXSW this year discussed whether or not Houston's playing field is level for people of color within the innovation ecosystem.

"People do business with who they know — and who they like," says Felix Chevalier, co-founder of Urban Capital Network, when the panel was asked where the disconnect is with funding diverse founders. "I think it boils down to a lack of exposure and a lack of relationships."

Chevalier was joined by Jesse Martinez of Resolved Ventures and VamosVentures and Denise Hamilton of WatchHerWork, who moderated the discussion, which was hosted in the Greater Houston Partnership's Houston House on Sunday, March 13, at SXSW in Austin. Click here to continue reading.

These Houston startups and companies clock in as the top employers in the U.S.

MD Anderson Cancer Center is a top place to work in the U.S. and Texas. Photo by F. Carter Smith/courtesy of MD Anderson

Whose boss is doing something right in Houston? Forbes set out to find out.

New rankings from Forbes identified the top employers in Houston and beyond, and that included both bigger companies and the country’s best startup employers.

When it comes to more traditional businesses, Dr. Pete Pisters, CEO of MD Anderson Cancer Center, continues his reign. He was named a top boss in 2021. Now, the cancer treatment facility/research center he leads has been named one of the best employers in a new report. Click here to continue reading.

2 Houston universities team up to premiere small business accelerators

Rice University and the University of Houston have opened applications for its inaugural cohort for a new small business accelerators. Photo by Hero Images

After years of supporting university-affiliated tech startups, two Houston colleges are launching a new program to support small businesses.

University of Houston and Rice University have announced two new programs — RED Launch and BlueLaunch, respectively — to run alongside its tech startup programs. While RED Labs and OwlSpark are geared toward technology startups, RED Launch and BlueLaunch focus on small businesses. The programs are open to University of Houston and Rice University affiliates who are interested in starting or growing a small business.

"Since inception, RED Labs programming focused mostly on tech entrepreneurship," says Kelly McCormick, managing director of RED Labs. "A few years ago, we began to build out course offerings at the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship for students interested in small businesses. Click here to continue reading.


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Houston-based Melax Tech has developed multiple Natural language processing tools that are used by more than 650 health care and life science organizations. Photo via MelaxTech.com

Melax Tech Partners, a leader in natural language technology processing, announced a new partnership with the University of California at Irvine that will help researchers derive insights from the UCI Health Data Science Platform’s electronic health records system and improve patient care.

Melax will implement its signature text annotation tool LANN to pull information from clinical notes, and its CLAMP product to develop natural language processing customizations through the use of AI, according to a statement from the company.

“There has been a strong desire among UCI researchers to have the capability to analyze free-text clinical narrative data using cutting-edge NLP technologies," Kai Zheng, chief research information officer at UCI Health Affairs, says in a statement. "We are delighted to have this opportunity to work with Melax Tech to deploy their AI-driven annotation and analytics tools to help our researchers advance their research agenda by leveraging the vast amount of free-text data that our health system has accumulated in the past two decades.”

Natural language processing, or NLP, allows organizations and healthcare groups to sift through and analyze massive amounts of data at a rapid rate through the use of machine learning and AI. Houston-based Melax Tech, founded in 2017, has developed multiple NLP tools that are used by more than 650 health care and life science organizations, according to its website.

In addition to the recent partnership with UC Irvine, Melax has also recently partnered with Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the University of Western Pennsylvania on similar clinical projects.

Melax has also used its platforms to pull vital information from datasets relating to COVID-19, in both medical and social settings.

In March 2022, it was awarded a Phase 1 NIH Award, valued at $300,000, to develop informatics tools based on COVID-19 datasets with the San Diego Supercomputer Center at UC San Diego. The tool aims to help researchers better understand vast amounts of virus-related data and connect findings with other similar results.

In August, Melax also received another $300,000 grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop NLP-based algorithms that will "model, extract and synthesize vaccine misinformation from multiple popular social media sources," according to a statement. Melax will also develop a visualization that presents its findings on the misinformation into a compressible format.

"This is a very real topic affecting culture at present," Andre Pontin, CEO at Melax Tech, says in a statement. "And shows that we as a collective business and group of experts continue to be on the cutting-edge of science in the NLP and AI domain."

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