who's who

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Veronica Wu of First Bight Ventures, Kate Evinger of Pokatok, and Jill Chapman of Insperity. Courtesy photos

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from synthetic biology to sportstech — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Veronica Wu, founder of First Bight Ventures

Photo courtesy of First Bight Ventures

Veronica Wu saw the potential in Houston for a vibrant synthetic biology hub that can propel one of the most exciting field of technology into the future. So, she founded First Bight Ventures to invest in synthetic biology startups in hopes to attract them to Houston.

“We have a moment in time where we can make Houston the global epicenter of synthetic biology and the bio economy," Wu says to a group of stakeholders last week at First Bight's Rocketing into the Bioeconomy event. "Whether its energy, semiconductor, space exploration, or winning the World Series — Houstonians lead. It’s in our DNA. While others look to the stars, we launch people into space.”

At First Bight's event, Wu introduced the company's new team members. Click here to read more.

Kate Evinger, director of Pokatok Labs

Photo courtesy of gBETA

Pokatok Labs — a scale-up program for sportstech startups — is in between its first and second cohorts, and Director Kate Evinger joined the Houston Innovators Podcast to look back at the inaugural class and share what the team is looking for in applications.

"Our mission is to help be a partner with all the exciting things happening in Houston — from the startup entrepreneurship side to the things we're seeing in the sports community — to continue to elevate and uplift the voices here in addition to bringing folks in from all over the world to celebrate the human experience in sports and to continue driving innovation in this space," she says on the show.

Evinger shares more about Pokatok Labs and the potential she sees for Houston to continue evolving as a hub for sports innovation on the podcast. Click here to read more.

Jill Chapman, senior performance consultant with Insperity

Photo courtesy of Insperity

Workplace culture can make or break a company of any size — especially now in this labor market. Making your office environment a place employees feel like they can take paid time off and vacations is key to prevent burnout and turnover. Jill Chapman, senior performance consultant with Insperity, writes in a guest column her tips for fostering this type of environment.

"As small business owners continue to navigate the labor shortage, savvy leaders recognize the significance of retaining existing employees, so it behooves them to encourage PTO usage to foster a highly engaged and energized workforce," she writes. Click here to read more.

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Building Houston

 
 

The Greater Houston Partnership announced a new mentorship-focused initiative in the region. Photo via Houston.org

A mix of corporate and university organizations have teamed up with the Greater Houston Partnership for a new program that enables mentorship for local college students.

The GHP announced PartnerUp Houston, a new regional mentorship initiative, this week. Ten companies — including Calpine, Boston Consulting Group, and HP — have agreed to provide professional mentors and a handful of universities will offer the mentorship opportunity to students. The local universities that are signed on include Houston Christian University, Rice University, Sam Houston State University, University of Houston, and University of St. Thomas.

“Since 2017, the Partnership has facilitated collaboration between higher education leaders and the business community to strengthen the region’s talent pipeline and ensure more opportunity for Houstonians,” says Partnership Chair Thad Hill, who serves as president and CEO of Calpine, in a news release. “We believe a robust, regional mentorship program like PartnerUp will help accelerate career outcomes for students and help Houston area employers identify and cultivate great talent.”

The program is still seeking individuals and corporate partners for mentors. Those interested have until January 20 to opt in and can head online to learn more.

The program is a collaboration between the GHP and Mentor Collective, which has organized more than 250,000 successful mentorship matches since its founding in 2016.

“The United States increasingly lags behind the developed world in economic mobility," says Jackson Boyar, co-founder and CEO of Mentor Collective, in the release. "Proactively bridging these equity and skills gaps requires local employers and post-secondary institutions to collaborate on initiatives that allow students to acquire professional experiences and skills.”

“Institutions enrolling and graduating a diverse class with strong employment outcomes are those implementing holistic student support, including career mentorship," he continues. "Mentor Collective is proud to play a role in the PartnerUp Houston initiative and offer the technology needed to scale high-impact practices that drive student and economic success.”

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