HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 79
Diversity-focused nonprofit leader announces new VC partner, calls for Houston to be sports tech hub
For 15 years, Ashley DeWalt has been working within the sports and entertainment industry — particularly within branding and consulting. Now, as managing director for DivInc, he's taking his business acumen and relationship-focused style to fostering startup growth for diverse founders in Houston.
DivInc, which was founded and is based in Austin, is a nonprofit focused on identifying hurdles for diverse founders as well as providing support for these founders. The organization recently announced its expansion into the Houston market, and DeWalt joined as managing director to focus on building the nonprofit's relationships with startups, corporations, universities, and more.
"I'm laser focused on identifying corporate partners aligned with our mission and vision of what we are striving to do within this ecosystem," DeWalt says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast.
Also on his list of groups to partner with is investors — whether that's individual angel investors or venture capital funds. The very first official partner DeWalt himself has brought on is Houston-based Mercury Fund.
"I've always been about building long-term relationships with people that are meaningful relationships," DeWalt says. "With Mercury, they understood that and were willing to commit and step up to the plate."
The new partnership, which was officially announced today, includes bringing on Mercury Fund's team to provide mentorship and support from a programming perspective, but also financial support. Mercury committed to partnering on a $1 million capital campaign that will support the organization.
DivInc's first Houston cohort, which was recently announced, will be able to benefit from this partnership as well as a partnership with Verizon that is providing each company in this current cohort a $10,000 undiluted grant.
While his involvement with DivInc is fairly recent, DeWalt has been working with sports startups from all over the world for a few years through Stadia Ventures, a sports innovation hub. DeWalt shares on the show how he has been a huge advocate for Houston and the sports activity in the area. From his perspective, the city has so many coaches and athletes on both the professional and collegiate levels — and these coaches and athletes are the future sports innovators and investors.
"We have a very high concentration of current and former professional athletes that live in Houston," DeWalt says, "and I truly believe — and the data shows this — these professional athletes are going to invest in sports tech."
Fostering diverse innovators and sports tech are two separate but overlapping goals that DeWalt has and is passionate about — and he's determined to help Houston's innovation ecosystem develop in an inclusive and equitable way.
"At the end of the day, if we can't figure out that rubix cube here in Houston, no one can," he says.
DeWalt shares more about what he's focused on and where DivInc is headed on the episode. Listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.