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Mercury and Ion Team Up to Launch Software Day at the Ion: Apply by July 1

Mercury and Ion team up to launch Inaugural Software Day at the Ion to support the growth of Houston software startups.


The Ion, in partnership with Mercury, has announced the inaugural “Software Day at the Ion,” a monthly series aimed at nurturing software innovation and supporting startups on their path to rapid, sustainable growth.

Key Links and Details: 

  • Apply for Mentor Office Hours + Pitch Opportunity – Next Session, July 9 (Apply by June 1): apply here
  • Next Event: July 9: Software Investor Panel: register here

This monthly series, comprising mentor office hours, keynote sessions, and networking, establishes a critical axis for the software innovation community to rally around at the Ion. It brings together leading mentors, promising early-stage startups, and like-minded Houstonians focused on building transformative software innovations.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Rice Alliance to launch Software Day at the Ion. While Houston has thriving innovation ecosystems around energy and life sciences, there are still hundreds of software startups outside these key verticals that need nurturing and assistance. Our goal is to come together as a tech community to cultivate the next generation of software startups, so that we launch more companies like Brassica, Cart.com, RepeatMD, and many others,” said Mercury Managing Director Blair Garrou. “We have a remarkable community of mentors and industry professionals in the Houston ecosystem coming together to support local founders. Our team is looking forward to working with more local entrepreneurs as they amplify their startup’s growth journey.”

Software Day at the Ion kicked off on Tuesday, May 14 with a fireside chat on “Raising Seed Capital in Uncertain Times” followed by a networking happy hour at Second Draught where founders can connect with fellow software entrepreneurs, investors, and industry professionals, fostering connections that could shape the future of a company.

Prior to the fireside chat, a select group of seed-stage software startups will participate in mentor office hours. Over the course of 2 hours, startup entrepreneurs looking for guidance and seasoned founders needing help tackling tough challenges will have access to a group of curated mentors from the Mercury network. The ideal profile of a company for this mentorship program is a pre-Series A software startup that is in the early stages of revenue generation. Interested startups are encouraged to submit their applications here. Each month, startups will be selected to participate in the mentor office hours.

Software Day at the Ion isn’t just an event series- it’s a catalyst for growth and collaboration. Don’t miss this opportunity to be part of Houston’s thriving tech ecosystem.

About Ion: Located in Ion District, the namesake building is the transformative centerpiece of Houston’s innovation corridor, powered by Rice University. Designed to bring our city’s entrepreneurial, corporate, and academic communities into collaborative spaces and programs, the sunlit structure of steel and glass is a home for advancing diverse knowledge, teams, technologies, and products that propel our world forward.
From Fortune 500s seeking flexible office space to first-time startups looking for the funding to design a prototype, the Ion provides wide-reaching space and support—welcoming individuals and teams of all kinds to a place to build a better way. The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship leads programming at the Ion.

About Mercury: Mercury is an early-stage venture capital firm focused on software startups outside the coasts. Mercury’s investment themes target B2B and B2B2C SaaS and data platforms enabling the digital transformation of markets, industries, and customer relationships. To date, Mercury has created over $9 billion of value with an operationally focused investment strategy helping startups achieve rapid, sustainable growth. Mercury is headquartered in Houston with offices in Austin, Chicago, and Detroit. To learn more, visit mercuryfund.com.

University of Houston and Rice University Announce 11th Cohort in Ongoing Acceleration Partnership

The University of Houston and Rice University continue their 11-year collaboration to support Houston entrepreneurship by announcing the latest cohort of their respective startup and small business accelerators, RED Labs and OwlSpark. This summer the accelerators will host their ventures at the Ion, the heart of the Houston innovation corridor in Midtown. This summer the accelerators will host their ventures at the Ion, the heart of the Houston innovation corridor in Midtown.

Over the course of 11 weeks, 18 startup and small business teams will engage in an immersive experience that blends supportive founders, industry leaders, investors and mentors, entrepreneurial training and an invitation to Houston’s innovation ecosystem.

By uniting forces, the University of Houston and Rice provide tailored support to emerging startups and small businesses, further solidifying Houston’s position as a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. This partnership creates an environment that cultivates entrepreneurs and early-stage startup teams, enabling founders to share ideas, experience the value of collaboration and surround themselves with the best people and resources.

Hosting the cohort at the Ion reflects a commitment to providing participants with access to Houston’s thriving startup ecosystem. The Ion offers collaborative spaces and community where ideas go to grow. Through the accelerator, teams will access top-tier mentors, training, and coworking space, making it the ideal location to foster innovation and collaboration among aspiring entrepreneurs.

The cohort encompasses a diverse range of sectors, reflecting the dynamic landscape of Houston’s economy.

University of Houston RED Labs Class 12

  • Root Planters develops smart indoor plant care devices designed to prevent plant death by providing automatic watering, tailored for busy individuals and gardeners looking to maintain plant health with minimal effort.
  • Burb Groceries is an online grocery retailer for people with chronic health conditions.
  • That Dude’s Bakehouse offers premium, half-pound cookies, combining choice ingredients and craftsmanship with the mission of being the best part of somebody’s day
  • Mulligan Bandit aims to redefine golf fashion, offering affordable yet high-quality clothing that seamlessly transitions from the fairway to the streets, reflecting personal style while ensuring durability and comfort.
  • Surreal Vision offers immersive Mixed Reality (MR) solutions that provide dynamic visualization experiences to enhance design collaboration and client presentations.
  • Agave Catering is a catering company focused on providing high-quality, gourmet boxed lunches for professionals on the go.
  • Digitally Marie is a purposeful creative agency dedicated to reducing the opportunity gap for female entrepreneurs. Through our heart-driven approach, we elevate content production embodying their brand perception with unapologetic authenticity.
  • Unison is a personal contact relationship management tool that alleviates the risk of data loss and helps to build more meaningful professional and personal relationships.
  • Brain-eNet is a platform that provides hardware and software tools to enable the development of braincontrolled Internet of Things applications.
  • Pasha Blend Collection specializes in creating modern skincare products that embodies purity, authenticity and inclusivity.
  • Arresting Motion is a brand strategy design consultancy and marketing agency that transforms Houston’s top real estate firms into the brands they deserve.
  • CalliDanna is a consulting company that coaches girls 12 to 18 to help improve their lives professionally and personally.

Rice University OwlSpark Class 12

  • EcoFleet Solutions offers rechargeable electric power units for semi-trucks, powering air conditioning and cabin functions during stops without engine idling, cutting fuel costs, maintenance, and emissions.
  • Houston Community Print Shop offers printmaking classes and equipment access, focusing on community building and supporting underserved areas.
  • KOQ Agency curates and organizes global tours and live entertainment opportunities for Queer and Ally artists in drag, music, and entertainment.
  • Euvivo Diagnostics is developing a direct-to-consumer test that analyzes cell aging by examining mitochondrial performance and new aging markers, tailored for individuals with mitochondrial disorders.
  • Hair Hub provides a compilation of styling tutorials, educational content, planning tools and a comprehensive database of products tailored for Black hair to provide resources for users to perform cost-efficient DIY haircare.
  • xMAD.ai is a compression-as-a-service platform that democratizes access to LLMs (Large Language Models) by making them faster, more private, cost-effective and accessible to businesses of all sizes.

“The collaboration the University of Houston has with Rice University gives founders in RED Labs and OwlSpark a unique opportunity to grow along their peers in the larger Houston community and really exemplifies the spirit of collaboration that the Houston business ecosystem is known for,” said Managing Director of RED Labs Liana Gonzalez-Schulenberg. “It never fails to surprise me at the end of the summer the relationships built, the support systems created and collaborations produced across our universities. By working together, we empower the next generation of entrepreneurs to work together as they turn their visions into reality and drive positive change in the community.”

“We’re celebrating more than just an 11-year partnership; we’re recognizing a dynamic alliance that has been instrumental in fostering entrepreneurship and propelling Houston to the forefront of innovation,” said Managing Director of OwlSpark Jessica Fleenor. “This partnership exemplifies our dedication to cultivating a thriving environment where entrepreneurs can connect, grow and succeed surrounded by unparalleled resources and support. We are incredibly excited to see these new ventures grow as they join our growing network and are thrilled to host our cohorts at the Ion, positioning us at the core of our city’s vibrant innovation landscape.”

OwlSpark and RED Labs, founded in 2013, are renowned for their commitment to supporting founders and fostering innovation at UH and Rice. OwlSpark, Rice’s startup and small business accelerator supporting students, faculty and alumni, has supported 97 ventures which have raised nearly $106 million in funding. RED Labs, housed within the C. T. Bauer College of Business, is UH’s startup accelerator program and has been instrumental in helping students, faculty and recent alumni accelerate their business ideas.

The accelerator programs conclude with the Bayou Startup Showcase on August 1, where participants will showcase their ventures to the Greater Houston community. For those interested in attending, sign up here and details will be shared as they become available.

For more information about the accelerator programs, please visit RED Labs and OwlSpark.