HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 193
Serial entrepreneur launches new fund to support Houston's East End community development
Innovation isn't always tinkering with tech or programming software, although serial entrepreneur Erik Ibarra knows that world well. Sometimes it's about rethinking how a community improves and develops without doing the residents a disservice.
That's why Ibarra started Magnolia Fund, a mission-driven investment fund dedicated to enriching the East End community and preserving the neighborhood's culture and history. Ibarra, who has lived in the area the majority of his life, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast, that he's looking to turn residents into investors.
"Our investors from the neighborhood, today they walk around and look at their house and say, 'I own that,' and that's great," Ibarra says. "In the future, our investors should be able to say that, and then point to a building and say, 'I own a portion of that building too. And I helped that small business over there.'"
Ibarra explains that he's seen the East End area evolve a lot, and he wants to create a way to make sure residents are a part of that evolution and aren't being left behind in that process.
"Over the years, I've felt like there's so much development going on. But, the people from the neighborhood are very often just passive — they don't get a chance to benefit from or think about how they could participate in these new developments," Ibarra says. "The neighborhood is very close to my heart, and, about a year ago, I realized I wanted to do something about this."
The limited partners of the Magnolia Fund will contribute as investors, and then Ibarra and his team will identify a worthy development to take control of. As he explains, the vision for the property is "La Sala," a living room for the community, with an open area for communing, a kitchen incubator for food entrepreneurs, and an outdoor patio and stage for music and events.
While this is his first foray into the investor side of the equation, Ibarra has been an entrepreneur in Houston since the early 2000s. He's been an active mentor to startup founders, and has seen the ecosystem develop as he's started and grown his businesses.
He's currently the founder and CEO of ORDRS, a digital health platform for optimized lab testing founded in 2018. The company's B2B platform enables health care providers to better manage lab testing, and Ibarra says ORDRS saw a lot of growth during the pandemic. Something he's passionate about with this venture is the ability to provide better access and information about lab testing to patients.
"As a company we strive for transparency in health care," Ibarra says. "If we could provide instant access to a menu of tests for our customers, ... then hopefully our customers can pass those savings on to those customers. Access to testing is important. Access to the transparency in pricing is equally important."
Ibarra shares more about ORDRS, his role as a mentor, and his vision for the fund on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.
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