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UH launches sales program with a special technology focus

The Sales Academy at the University of Houston is a eight-week program for graduates with an interest in technology sales. Photo via uh.edu

The University of Houston is looking to train the future workforce of technology sales with a new educational program.

The Sales Academy — an eight-week sales program that focuses on sales and lead generation skills for technology companies — is open to anyone who has a Bachelor's degree and an interest in technology and sales. The program aims to prepare its students for careers at startups and even large technology companies.

"We're designing this certification course to put people directly into a role that is extremely necessary for startups as they are growing and as their biggest investment needs to be in sales and lead generation roles," John Pingel, a Bauer College of Business professor who's behind the program, tells InnovationMap.

The idea for the program came out of the fact that tech companies are struggling to find employees with the skillset to sell and generate leads. Companies in Silicon Valley are finding it expensive and challenging to fill these sales roles, Pingel says, and Houston is an affordable city with tons of education opportunities.

"The city of Houston wants to attract new tech companies, and they also want to retain the companies that are starting up in town," Pingel says. "We want to play the role of sales talent."

The program, which launched its first class a week ago, will have 30 students in each class. Currently, Pingel says the program is looking for recent grads who maybe didn't find a job they are satisfied with their degree and are looking for a new path. The goal, Pingel says, is to run as many iterations per year as the organization can handle.

One of the most unique aspects of the program is its deferred tuition plan. Students can enroll in the program for free, and then The Sales Academy's team has 60 days after the program's completion to find the student a job. If the program can't place the student in time, the tuition is waived.

This initiative gives the students the financial freedom to develop new skills and start a new career. UH has seen success in the business school's Professional Excellence in Selling — a minor that prepares undergraduate students for sales position — that the school has run for 22 years. Pingel says that PES has a 98 percent placement rate for its students. Plus, The Sales Academy has worked all year to develop connections with companies interested in hiring students from the program.

"It's a risk, but it's still a calculated risk," Pingel says. "If we select the right student, and give them the right skills, that they are going to have the same type of success."

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Building Houston

 
 

The Ion has fresh funds to commit to its accelerator programs. Courtesy of Rice University

The Ion — a rising hub for innovation being developed in Midtown by Rice Management Company — has received a $1.5 million grant to go toward supporting its startup accelerator programs.

The grant from the Economic Development Administration is a part of the organization's Build to Scale (B2S) program and will also benefit three accelerators: the Ion Smart and Resilient Cities Accelerator, the Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator, and DivInc Accelerator.

"Receiving this grant is a big win for our city — furthering the Ion's opportunity to bring together leading minds to solve some of our toughest challenges," says Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance, in a news release from Rice. "We believe that it's a fully collaborative approach that will lead to accelerating energy innovation and sustainable solutions."

All three of these accelerators will be represented in The Ion's Accelerator Hub and will work in collaboration, according to the release, in The Ion, which is expected to open in 2021 with cohorts set to open applications in early 2021.

"We are really excited about working together with DivInc and the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship to realize the full potential of the opportunities that these funds will help unleash," says Jan Odegard, interim executive director of the Ion, in the release.

The Ion Smart and Resilient Cities Accelerator has cycled through two rounds of cohorts — first focusing on resilience and mobility in Cohort 1 then air quality, water purification, and other cleantech in Cohort 2.

The 12-week Clean Energy Accelerator was only recently announced by The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship at the annual Energy Tech Venture Forum earlier this month. The program is established to support Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's Climate Action Plan.

Meanwhile, DivInc's accelerator comes out of a partnership with the Austin-based nonprofit and The Ion, which was announced in spring of this year. The goal with this program is to increase access to minority entrepreneurs.

"DivInc embodies the mindset that this generation and all the generations of innovators to follow must be inclusive of people of color and women entrepreneurs – who will build successful scalable growth companies to address tomorrow's challenges and opportunities," says Preston James, chief executive officer at DivInc, in the release.

"By removing the barriers that currently exist, we unleash this untapped potential and lift Houston to new economic heights. To do this we must establish strong collaboration with partners like The Ion, Rice University, the EDA and many others."

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