houston innovators podcast episode 150

Innovator introduces Houston's tech scene to leading VCs, entrepreneurs

Aleece Hobson of HX Venture Fund shares what people can expect from Venture Houston on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo courtesy of HXVF

In less than a week, hundreds of innovators and investors — from Houston and beyond — will congregate for a day full of networking, thought leadership, and more. And the spotlight is on Houston.

Aleece Hobson — venture partner for the HX Venture Fund, a fund of funds investing in venture capital firms across the country that have interest in investing in Houston companies — joined the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss Venture Houston and why it is so important to HXVF to showcase Houston.

"Houston is a destination for innovation — we are not a flyover city," she says on the show.

The inaugural edition of Venture Houston took place virtually last year — and the turnout shocked HXVF and its team.

"We wanted to bring together prominent VCs alongside the corporates in Houston and include Houston-based founders and get those three communities talking and engaging. And to show all of Houston and outside of Houston what the city's tech ecosystem was all about," Hobson says of last year's event. "We weren't quite sure what to expect with that first event. We thought we'd get 300 or so participants."

The event actually attracted over 2,500 registrants from across the nation, and accomplished what the organization wanted to do, Hobson says.

Now, the event is able to return — this time in an in-person capacity — at the Ion on Sept. 13. Hobson says her team is expecting several hundred attendees and even has plans for overflow tickets.

The full day of programing will kick off with a conversation with Goop founder and Academy Award-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow in conversation with Dana Settle, co-founder and managing partner of New York-based Greycroft. Goop is among Greycroft's portfolio companies, and HXVF invested in Greycroft in 2020.

Venture Houston is the ultimate showcase for HXVF, bringing together the three entities that make up the model — the limited partners and corporations that invest in HXVF, the venture capital firms that receive investment from HXVF, and the founders from Houston that then see new investments from HXVF's portfolio funds. The three types of players will all be a part of the day as speakers, panelists, and guests.

"We hope that all the attendees can understand how the innovation ecosystem comes together with these three groups," Hobson explains.

Hobson shares more details about the event on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

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Building Houston

 
 

Juliana Garaizar is now the chief development and investment officer at Greentown Labs, as well as continuing to be head of the Houston incubator. Image courtesy of Greentown

The new year has brought some big news from Greentown Labs.

The Somerville, Massachusetts-based climatetech incubator with its second location at Greentown Houston named a new member to its C-suite, is seeking new Houston team members, and has officially finished its transition into a nonprofit.

Juliana Garaizar, who originally joined Greentown as launch director ahead of the Houston opening in 2021, has been promoted from vice president of innovation to chief development and investment officer.

"I'm refocusing on the Greentown Labs level in a development role, which means fundraising for both locations and potentially new ones," Garaizar tells InnovationMap. "My role is not only development, but also investment. That's something I'm very glad to be pursuing with my investment hat. Access to capital is key for all our members, and I'm going to be in charge of refining and upgrading our investment program."

While she will also maintain her role as head of the Houston incubator, Greentown Houston is also hiring a general manager position to oversee day-to-day and internal operations of the hub. Garaizar says this role will take some of the internal-facing responsibilities off of her plate.

"Now that we are more than 80 members, we need more internal coordination," she explains. "Considering that the goal for Greentown is to grow to more locations, there's going to be more coordination and, I'd say, more autonomy for the Houston campus."

The promotion follows a recent announcement that Emily Reichert, who served as CEO for the company for a decade, has stepped back to become CEO emeritus. Greentown is searching for its next leader and CFO Kevin Taylor is currently serving as interim CEO. Garaizar says the transition is representative of Greentown's future as it grows to more locations and a larger organization.

"Emily's transition was planned — but, of course, in stealth mode," Garaizar says, adding that Reichert is on the committee that's finding the new CEO. "She thinks scaling is a different animal from putting (Greentown) together, which she did really beautifully."

Garaizar says her new role will include overseeing Greentown's new nonprofit status. She tells InnovationMap that the organization originally was founded as a nonprofit, but converted to a for-profit in order to receive a loan at its first location. Now, with the mission focus Greentown has and the opportunities for grants and funding, it was time to convert back to a nonprofit, Garaizar says.

"When we started fundraising for Houston, everyone was asking why we weren't a nonprofit. That opened the discussion again," she says. "The past year we have been going through that process and we can finally say it has been completed.

"I think it's going to open the door to a lot more collaboration and potential grants," she adds.

Greentown is continuing to grow its team ahead of planned expansion. The organization hasn't yet announced its next location — Garaizar says the primary focus is filling the CEO position first. In Houston, the hub is also looking for an events manager to ensure the incubator is providing key programming for its members, as well as the Houston innovation community as a whole.

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