What's poppin'

Houston-based shopping startup flips the script on retail leasing

PopUp founders Rob Dobson, Scott Blair, Megan Silianoff, and Barry Goldware. Courtesy photo

If you're a mall or shopping center, the last thing you want is an empty storefront. If you're a small retailer or entrepreneur, the last thing you want is to be unable to get your product into the hands of customers. Houston-based tech start-up PopUp Shops has a solution: Its Match.com-esque system connects those retailers with property managers who are looking to lease space for the short term.

Launched in the Bayou City last year, the platform made its nationwide debut following an appearance at the International Council of Shopping Centers national conference in Las Vegas in May.

"It's exciting," says Megan Silianoff, a partner in PopUp Shops, of the coast-to-coast expansion. "It's proof our concept — and our hypothesis about it — works."

Silianoff says that retail shopping as we know it is dying. Across the country, malls and shopping centers have spaces sitting empty. Meanwhile, consumers purchase things online and have them delivered to their doors. That's why PopUp Shops' matchmaking concept works so well, she feels.

"Some rent is better than no rent," she reasons, for landlords. "We're a solution to get retailers into brick-and-mortar spaces, even if it is for the short term. It helps the retailer build awareness and excitement about their brand, and it creates foot traffic for the shopping center. It's win-win."

PopUp Shops' website lists spaces available for rent and retailers can peruse the listings and lease space. Silianoff says the system is also a great way for a retailer to test out a market before deciding to have a permanent presence there. She's quick to point out that pop-up stores aren't necessarily new. During the holidays in the 1980s and 1990s, it wasn't uncommon to see temporary stores selling Christmas décor or calendars in malls all over the U.S.

"My business partner Barry Goldware of Sun and Ski Sports likes to say the Romans probably had pop-up shops," she jokes. "But what is new is the platform we're using to connect landlords and retailers."

And, while landlords and sellers connect to find business solutions that are mutually beneficial, Silianoff says that customers wishing to find out what's happening and who's in town will soon be able to go to the website and check out the calendar, which lists which stores are popping up where.

While the nationwide launch is still in its early days, Silianoff says she hopes someday to see it like Craigslist. "You know how when you go there, there's a drop-down of all the cities in the country? That's what I'm envisioning for us. I really want us to revolutionize the shopping experience."

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Tvardi Therapeutics Inc. has fresh funds to support its drug's advancement in clinical trials. Photo via Getty Images

A Houston-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company has raised millions in its latest round.

Tvardi Therapeutics Inc. closed its $74 million series B funding round led by new investors New York-based Slate Path Capital, Florida-based Palkon Capital, Denver-based ArrowMark Partners, and New York-based 683 Capital, with continued support and participation by existing investors, including Houston-based Sporos Bioventures.

"We are thrilled to move out of stealth mode and partner with this lineup of long-term institutional investors," says Imran Alibhai, CEO at Tvardi. "With this financing we are positioned to advance the clinical development of our small molecule inhibitors of STAT3 into mid-stage trials as well as grow our team."

Through Slate Path Capital's investment, Jamie McNab, partner at the firm, will join Tvardi's board of directors.

"Tvardi is the leader in the field of STAT3 biology and has compelling proof of concept clinical data," McNab says in the release. "I look forward to partnering with the management team to advance Tvardi's mission to develop a new class of breakthrough medicines for cancer, chronic inflammation, and fibrosis."

Tvardi's latest fundraise will go toward supporting the company's products in their mid-stage trials for cancer and fibrosis. According to the release, Tvardi's lead product, TTI-101, is being studied in a Phase 1 trial of patients with advanced solid tumors who have failed all lines of therapy. So far, the drug has been well-received and shown multiple durable radiographic objective responses in the cancer patients treated.

Dr. Keith Flaherty, who is a member of Tvardi's scientific advisory board and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, offered his support of the company.

"STAT3 is a compelling and validated target. Beyond its clinical activity, Tvardi's lead molecule, TTI-101, has demonstrated direct downregulation of STAT3 in patients," he says in the release. "As a physician, I am eager to see the potential of Tvardi's molecules in diseases of high unmet medical need where STAT3 is a key driver."

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