teamwork

New startup accelerator emerges in Houston to promote collaboration between Black and Hispanic communities

BH Ventures is seeking Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs for its inaugural cohort. Photo via Getty Images

Two local business leaders have teamed up to create a Houston-based accelerator focused on Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs.

BH Ventures has applications open for its inaugural cohort until August 21, and co-founders Sharita M. Humphrey and Enrique Castro are looking for founders who have hit the revenue-generating phase with their business but are looking for mentors and support as they grow.

"Enrique and I know that there can sometimes be a barrier between Black and Hispanics doing business together," says Humphrey. "This is why I wanted, as an African American woman, and him, being a Hispanic male, to be able to show that we should be doing business together — especially in the city of Houston."

Humphrey and Castro met at an alumni event for the University of Houston's SURE program, which creates educational programming for entrepreneurs from under-resourced communities. The duo thought that they could create a program that built upon UH's. In February, after building out the curriculum, BH Ventures ran a successful pilot program in collaboration with UH.

Enrique Castro and Sharita M. Humphrey met at an alumni event at UH and decided to work together on an inclusive accelerator program. Courtesy photos

The seven-month program will launch virtually at the beginning of September and will work with 15 entrepreneurs across the country. Additionally, The Cannon is a partner and a resource for the program.

As of now, the program has over 20 mentors and speakers lined up, and sessions will occur virtually every other Saturday and will be a mix of presentations and Q&As with an emphasis on fostering networking connections.

"Sometimes for a Black or Hispanic entrepreneur, just being able to have that conversation or be able to ask (a mentor) certain questions and get feedback about their particular business — it's better than money," Humphrey says. "The right relationships can open up doors that money can't."

After the programming, Humphrey says BH Ventures will continue to follow each company from the cohort for 90 days in a sort of incubation period to make sure they have support after the accelerator.

"It's a lot to get the information — but how do you execute it? We're going to still follow their path," Humphrey says.

While Houston has been renown for being the most diverse city in the country, Humphrey says she's seen a shift in leadership diversity across the greater Houston area. This has motivated her to do everything she can to promote inclusion and business growth across demographics.

"(Blacks and Hispanics are) not doing as much business together as we could," Humphrey says. "And that makes no sense when we are normally at the bottom of things when it comes to finances — personal, savings, credit, wealth, business. I think that this is something that's going to be amazing for the city."

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Building Houston

 
 

"There's something magical happening in Houston, and [VCs] want a piece of it." Photo via Getty Images

Houston's seen a growth in startup and venture investment — even amid the pandemic — and a group of Houston innovators sat down for a virtual event to discuss what's lead to this evolution.

The Greater Houston Partnership hosted an installment of its Houston Industry Series focused on Digital Tech on Thursday, September 24. The panel of experts, moderated by Krisha Tracy of Google Cloud, discussed how they've observed the paradigm shift that's occurred in Houston over the past few years — and why.

Missed the discussion? Here are some significant overheard moments from the virtual event.

“I think there really is an interest for venture capital here, both locally and also welcoming it from outside of Houston. … There’s something magical happening in Houston, and [VCs] want a piece of it. I think that magical piece is a renewed interest in collaborating.”

Stephanie Campbell, managing director of Houston Angel Network and co-founder of The Artemis Fund. "I think a lot [of this progress] is due to the GHP, Houston Exponential, and the founding of the HX Venture Fund to bring those venture funds to Houston to say, 'what's happening here?'" Campbell adds, saying that this connectivity and collaboration that's happening in Houston VC is unique.

“I think there’s a misconception around all we do is oil and gas and life science in Houston, but when you think about what VC-backable companies look like, they’re tech, they’re B2B SaaS, they’re highly scalable, and they don’t tend to be capital-intensive types of things we see corporate venture backing.”

Campbell says, adding "the connectivity and the interest in VC is really taking off. It's an exciting time to be in Houston and Texas in general."

“Plug and Play’s ventures team is based in Silicon Valley and one thing they enjoy about meeting Houston-based founders is valuations tend to be more reasonable than in the Bay Area."

Payal Patel, director of Plug and Play Tech Center in Houston. "There are gems to be found," she adds.

“I don’t know what it is — if it’s something in the water or just Texans being very friendly, but the investors here share deal flow. It takes a village, and I think we all understand a rising tide lifts all boats."

Patel says on the collaborative nature of Houston. "It's really magical."

“What you’re witnessing is a city that has been waiting for industrial innovation to reach the point where it can be adopted at a really high scale, and that happened around 2017.”

Jon Nordby, managing director at MassChallenge Texas in Houston. Nordby adds that MassChallenge in Houston hasn't been keen on consumer tech, or the "grilled cheese delivery apps," as he describes. "We like companies that are in love with problems, not so much in love with solutions. … We build really meaningful tech."

“Over the last year or two, we’ve seen that sleeping giant get awoken. Open and external innovation is newly adopted by more legacy industries where it wasn’t before — and that’s just created a mountain of opportunities for startups and investors alike.”

Nordby says on the shift toward this meaningful, problem-solving technology, which Houston is full of, as he observes.

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