Tap into Houston’s buzzing business community at the Ion’s Activation Festival

A bustling floor with people gathered at booths and talking in small groups in Houston's Ion building
The Ion Activation Festival offers three days of industry insights, networking and community fun | Courtesy of the Ion

Hear from industry leaders, explore emerging technology and network with Houston’s business communities at the 2nd annual Activation Festival at the Ion in Midtown from Wednesday, May 17 to Friday, May 19, 2023.

After a successful inaugural fest that drew more than 2,500 attendees, the Activation Festival at the Ion returns for a three-day event of outreach programming designed to showcase and cultivate entrepreneurial talent, impart vital wisdom on the ever-changing landscape of tech and business, and connect Houstonians and visitors in an environment that fosters shared knowledge and collaboration.

A haven for entrepreneurs, innovators and educators, the Ion in Midtown serves as the vibrant catalyst to a growing 16-acre district rooted in forward-thinking ideas and inclusiveness of all backgrounds and community members.

The flagship event of the Ion District, the Activation Festival builds upon an already energetic atmosphere of collaboration by providing indispensable access to pressing discussions and networking opportunities that help fuel Houston’s dynamic entrepreneurial, academic, startup and corporate investor communities.

Register for sessions or learn more about the Ion Activation Festival 2023.

A panel discussion guest addresses a crowd at Houston's Ion building
Hear from industry insiders at panel discussions and talks at the Ion Activation Festival | Courtesy of the Ion

Industry Insights & Panel Discussions

The Ion Activation Festival is an opportunity to explore the state-of-the-art facilities of the Ion and the broader district, while taking part in a curated program of events with industry leaders, inventive minds, and those on the front lines of rapidly developing technologies.

Across three days, attendees can participate in any of the 17 sessions at the Activation Festival for free, including Thursday’s keynote address from Hap Klopp, founder of The North Face, who will discuss how entrepreneurship as a mindset can help channel innovation and business growth to ensure an organization’s vitality.

Other educational talks include a crash course on the transformational power of ChatGPT, the importance of upskilling and reskilling with Houston’s future workforce, how space tech helps us reach for the stars with Douglas Terrier of NASA, and the ins and outs of corporate-startup partnerships with insights from global technology law firm Baker Botts, Scott Gale of Halliburton Labs, Dr. Tom Luby from TMCi, and Nazeer Bhore of ExxonMobil.

Register for sessions or learn more about the Ion Activation Festival 2023.

People gathered in small groups and pairs chat with one another at Houston's Ion building
Network with Houston’s business and innovation community at the Ion Activation Festival | Courtesy of the Ion

Networking & Business Building Sessions

In addition to the highlighted discussions at Ion Activation Festival, registered guests will have multiple opportunities to mingle among great minds at social events held throughout the three days of programming.

On Wednesday, all are welcome to the second floor co-working space at Common Desk to get a look at the inspired work areas and meet with reps, potential members and other office mates.

Friday morning’s weekly Cup of Joey networking session expands into the nearby Greentown Labs building where you can openly meet other professionals, talk tech and create community—followed by a conversation with Global Customer Commerce, United Airlines and Woodside Energy.

Later in the afternoon, SCORE Houston representatives will meet at the Ion to dole out business advice and chat plans for marketing, storytelling, pitch deck preparation and more.

Finally, Friday night wraps up the Activation Festival with the community-wide Block Party, where visitors can get hands-on with new products and technologies from local entrepreneurial businesses, dine on delicious eats from visiting food trucks, and get down to tunes from crowd favorites, The Slags and The Outsiders.

Register for sessions or learn more about the Ion Activation Festival 2023.

An outdoor scene at the Ion with people gathered at tables and walking around
The Ion District hosts three days of business and tech programming at the Ion Activation Festival | Courtesy of the Ion

Ion Activation Festival 2023 Schedule

Each of the captivating workshops and panels below will also be open to all and free to the public. By registering for one event, you’ll have access to the full three days of programming.

Explore more sessions at the Ion Activation Festival 2023.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

  • Engage VC – HX Venture Fund hosts Alex Niehenke of Scale Ventures for an insightful discussion on early-stage venture capital and moving from founder-led growth to a repeatable go-to-market machine. 9am to 10am.
  • Corporate-Startup Partnerships – An assortment of guests from Baker Botts, Halliburton Labs, TMCi and ExxonMobil discuss how to build partnerships between corporations and startups, sustain them, and why they’re key to fast-tracking innovation and growth. 11am to noon.
  • ChatGPT Panel – Academic scholars in computer science and digital media discuss the transformative power of ChatGPT, as well as its uses and pitfalls. 2pm to 3pm.
  • Common Desk Happy Hour – Mingle upstairs with Common Desk members and potential members as you learn about the vibrant coworking community at the Ion. 3pm to 5pm.
  • What’s Next, Now: Ion District Showcase – Startups and corporations—including Aramco, Microsoft, Oxy and Woodside Energy—gather to showcase their innovative solutions and emerging tech that are transforming the way we live and work. 5pm to 7pm.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

  • Workforce Development with Per Scholas – This panel discussion gathers representatives of Per Scholas, TEKsystems, Comcast and Capgemini to explore the critical role of skills training and partnerships in building Houston’s tech industry. 9am to 10:45am.
  • Entrepreneurship as a Business Style by Hap Klopp – In the keynote speech, The North Face Founder and former CEO Hap Klopp discusses how businesses can avoid stagnation by incorporating an entrepreneurial mindset to drive growth. 11am to noon.
  • Back to the Future of Innovation – Explore the ways the Office of Innovation at Rice University is helping to create game-changing tech startups at speed and scale through a variety of public-private partnerships. 2pm to 3pm.
  • Innovation on Tap: EntrepreNeuro – Held in conjunction with Rice University’s InterfaceRice 2023 conference on neuroengineering, this one-hour TEDx-style presentation features three presenters discussing what they’ve learned during periods of transition. 5pm to 7pm.

Friday, May 19, 2023

  • Cup of Joey: Ion District Edition – The weekly open networking session is held at the Ion and nearby Greentown Labs at the same time, complete with a discussion featuring Global Customer Commerce, United Airlines and Woodside Energy. 8:30am to 10:30am.
  • Greentown Labs + Ion Activation Festival 2023 – A central figure in the Ion District, Greentown Labs opens their doors all afternoon for networking, a panel discussion, an innovation showcase and food trucks for lunch. 8:30am to 3:30pm.
  • The Future of Space Tech by Douglas Terrier – Douglas Terrier and Alicia Llewellyn of NASA Johnson Space Center feature in this fireside chat about the future of space technologies, opportunities on the horizon for startups and students, and what future missions might bring. 11:30am to 12:30pm.
  • SME Office Hours & Mingle Lounges – Reps from SCORE Houston will be on hand for networking and business advice across a wide range of topics, including media tech, aerospace, fintech, health and more. 1:30pm to 2:30pm.
  • Ion Block Party: Innovation on DisPLAY – The community-wide wrap-up bash offers hands-on opportunities with products and tech, as well as live music in a “battle of the bands” competition, visiting food trucks and more. 5pm to 8pm.

Register for sessions or learn more about the Ion Activation Festival 2023.

About the Ion District

The Ion serves as anchor for a 12-block district in Midtown that is rapidly becoming Houston’s entrepreneurial watering hole.

At the Ion, businesses, residents, start-ups, and leaders from the city’s corporate, academic and civic life can come together to collaborate, inspire, and make new things.

Acting as the hub of this new District, the Ion building spans 266,000 square feet and includes premier office space, shared workspace, prototyping and maker resources, classrooms, and indoor/outdoor communal areas with shared amenities.

Learn more about the Ion District.

2nd Annual Ion Activation Festival in Midtown Houston

An aerial image of the Ion building and crowds gathered across an outdoor area with food trucks and a concert stage
The Activation Festival Block Party wraps up three days of curated programming | Courtesy of the Ion

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A longtime Houstonian, Justin Jerkins always keeps an eye out for what's ahead on Houston's horizon while serving as Editor-in-Chief of 365 Things to Do in Houston. When he's not passing along the latest events, destinations and hidden treasures in H-Town, he loves diving into the city's food scene, shopping local and learning about Houston's rich history.