SMALL BIZ SLAM DUNK

BBVA Compass and the Rockets team up to launch revamped startup contest

The winner of the contest will be announced at a Rockets game in early April. Courtesy of Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

This article originally appeared on InnovationMap and was written by Natalie Harms.

Houston startups have a chance at $10,000 thanks to the Houston Rockets and BBVA Compass' LaunchPad Contest. The application process begins on February 19 and concludes on March 5.

In its third installment, the contest is doing things a little differently this year. Previously, small businesses had to respond to questions about their organization and what they would do with the prize money. This year, with a special focus on startups, applicants are also being asked about using new technology to increase productivity.

"BBVA Compass is in a unique position and we want to leverage that to help elevate entrepreneurship through digital capabilities," says BBVA Compass Houston CEO Mark Montgomery in a release. "We are a leader in the financial industry's digital transformation, and have won multiple awards because of our innovative products and services in that realm. We want to create ample opportunities for a rising business through that industry-leading expertise. The Rockets are excellent teammates, and we are excited to unveil this new version of our collaborative contest with them."

Following the application process, BBVA and the Rockets will select four finalists before opening the contest up to fans to pick their favorite. The winner will then be announced at a game in early April. The winning company will receive, in addition to the $10,000, consultations with both BBVA and the Rockets executives.

"We are excited to partner with BBVA again for this annual contest," says Rockets Chief Revenue Officer Gretchen Sheirr in the release. "They have been best in class in their industry with their digital strategy, so it's fantastic that they will be providing an opportunity for other businesses to thrive in this space. We look forward to reviewing our fans' contest submissions and seeing the great work being done by startup businesses in our great city."

Continue reading on InnovationMap to learn about last year's Launchpad winner.

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Upton and Verlander are headed to the Big Apple. Photo by Elsa/ Getty Images.

News erupted on a relatively quiet Monday, December 5 that Houston Astros superstar ace and Cy Young Award-winnerJustin Verlander inked a deal with the New York Mets.

According to the New York Post, Verlander, a free agent, agreed to a two-year, $86 million deal with the Mets, with a vesting, third-year option for $35 million. While that's huge news in the world of pro baseball, Verlander's superstar model wife Kate Upton has been also trending on Twitter.

No surprise there, as cover girl and fashion influencer Upton boasts more than 6 million followers on Instagram alone and one of the most followed models on the globe. But it's not a cover shot or sizzling bikini pic making the rounds, but rather, a video of the supermodel shooting the bird to Philadelphia Phillies fans.

Upton, an oft-smiling mom and wife, had no problem backing down from Philly Fan with a double-barreled, middle finger salute. While the audio is hard to decipher, we're guessing Upton didn't edit her smack talk in the dubious City of Brotherly Love.

Plenty of local talk (if one is interested in that sort of thing) points to the Mets being the team for "real" NYC baseball fans, while Yankees fans are said to be band-wagoning, late to games, and full of corporate partners. It's also good optics that Verlander didn't bolt for the team that the Astros dispatched in a four-game sweep on the way to their second World Series title.

Houston fans will no doubt miss Upton, who wed Verlander, gave birth to darling daughter Genevieve, and essentially broke the internet when she donned a retro Astros jacket — making it an instant sellout — all while here in the Bayou City. As transplants from there regularly point out, Houston is notoriously friendlier than the Big Apple.

But, something tells Upton, who has proven that she's not afraid to go publicly potty-mouthed in defense of JV, will have zero problem handling any mouthy NYC fans.

Upton clearly gives zero bleeps when defending her man. Kate Upton/Twitter

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