Featured Innovator

Houston entrepreneur explains how he's seen the city's LGBT and innovation communities evolve

Corey Allen had entrepreneurialism in his blood — but it wasn't until he got involved with the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber that he got the courage to break out on his own. Courtesy of Corey Allen

Corey Allen grew up surrounded by entrepreneurship. His family owned several small businesses when he was growing up. But it took the support of his community to push him toward leadership.

From working in an accounting firm to dabbling in a few oil and gas companies, Allen's career trajectory changed when he joined the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Within the organization, for which he serves as treasurer, he met other motivated entrepreneurs and was given the support needed to open his own business, Ecotone.

Allen spoke with InnovationMap about his career and the importance of the LGBTQ community in entrepreneurship.

InnovationMap: How does Houston differ from other cities in the U.S. in terms of technology and entrepreneurship? What makes Houston different?

Corey Allen: I think everybody does default to Austin, right? People believe that that's the only technology hub in Texas. Houston is new and different from other cities in terms of tech and entrepreneurship, right now especially. In creating three local startups, we experienced tremendous support from well-established groups like the Greater Houston Partnership, the city of Houston with the Mayor's entrepreneurship program, the Greater Houston Chamber of Commerce. But, you know, what I think what is really new especially for Texas, within in Houston, is the local coworking spaces that are globally recognized brands and the coding camps. I think that is what is creating the infrastructure and ecosystem that we've been talking about for the last five years at least. I think that compared to other cities in the U.S., I don't see that type of energy and that type of investment being created in Houston right now.

IM: You mentioned a little bit about being involved in the process of creating three local startups. What makes Houston the right place to be involved in the startup culture that’s cultivating right now?

CA: I think there's two things that come to mind. Houston really is home, and it's always been home for me. And it really is a big, small town. I came from a small town in Texas, about halfway between Houston and Dallas, and our family always navigated to Houston for fun, but also for business. It was really the foundation for my own family, and I think what we get out of Houston is that southern hospitality is a real thing. So, that's certainly the first thing. And the second is that Houston has the foundation for a prosperous ecosystem. Obviously, there's a lot of oil and gas and the Texas Medical Center is already globally recognized. The more that we continue to focus on venture capital and innovation, which is what is wanted and needed right now, Houston is creating our own new technology and entrepreneurship to capture everybody's attention.

IM: What are some of the ways the tech and innovation community support their LGBTQ colleagues throughout the month of June?

Yeah, I love this question. I think it goes without saying for the community to come out and support the LGBTQ community by joining the chamber of commerce. Also, attending our second annual Pride in Business, which is June 28. That's been an outstanding event for all of the businesses in the community to be involved in the LGBT community. In three years time, (the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber) has been growing exponentially to over 125 visible members. And we have corporate partnerships that really speak to the impact that is being made in the community and in Houston. We have corporate partners like Shell and United. And also celebrate and attend the Houston Pride Parade, which is on June 22.

IM: What advice do you have for up-and-coming lgbtq entrepreneurs?

CA: The learning is the action. I used to really be annoyed by the phrase "sell faster." I actually live that now. You can't fail until you act, and now I know that you can't compete until you fail.

IM: That's great advice right there. What does pride month mean to you?

CA: It's very personal, and it hits home. My partner and I are going to be celebrating 19 years together in September, and I think that pride means celebrating a history that we don't stop to think about everyday. We were at a chamber meeting recently, and a member was sharing her experience of walking in the second pride parade. And she said that it wasn't the same. Even the police at the time did not protect the community. And that's a big difference from today. And I think anybody that goes out to the pride parade this year, I want them to know they're safe. And you know, I think that that's what we have to be thankful for today is to know that we can love without constant fear. It really just reminds us that we're not going to let anyone take that away again.

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Portions of this interview have been edited.

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Building Houston

 
 

Houston saw the biggest year-over-year jump in tech job postings among the top 25 U.S. cities for tech job growth, according to this report. Photo via Getty Images

Houston is experiencing a boom in tech employment.

A recent report from Dice, a job platform for the tech industry, says Houston saw the biggest year-over-year jump in tech job postings among the top 25 U.S. cities for those postings.

From January through October this year, the number of tech job postings in Houston soared 45.6 percent versus the same period a year earlier. That compares with a 22.8 percent statewide increase during the same time span.

“Although sometimes overshadowed by the cachet of Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio, Houston is absolutely a tech hub in its own right, attracting a mix of major tech companies and VC-backed startups to join its already established base of aerospace, defense, and energy companies,” Dice says.

For the one-year period covered by the Dice report, San Antonio witnessed a 17.3 percent rise in tech job postings, with Austin at 9.6 percent and Dallas at 7.7 percent.

In citing Houston’s astronomic showing, Dice notes that the region benefits from the presence of tech employers like Asurion, AWS, Fiserv, Dell, IBM, and Siemens, along with a number of venture-backed startups.

Top tech occupations in the Houston area include software developer/engineer, business analyst, .NET developer, data analyst/engineer/scientist, DevOps engineer, network engineer, and full stack engineer, according to Dice. The region’s average tech salary is $100,341.

More broadly, the Greater Houston Partnership forecasts healthy job growth in 2023 while noting that a recession could temper the growth.

A “short and shallow” recession in the first half of 2023 would mean a net gain of 60,800 jobs next year, the partnership says. If no recession hits Houston, that number could climb as high as 79,200 jobs. However, a prolonged recession would limit job growth to about 30,400 jobs.

The partnership predicts 2023 job growth will be strongest in the region’s construction, energy, government, health care, professional services, and restaurant sectors. Within the professional category, which includes tech services, the partnership anticipates the addition of anywhere from 2,000 to 7,900 new jobs next year.

Through the first 10 months of this year, the Houston area added 144,000 new jobs, according to data from the Texas Workforce Commission. In November, the region’s unemployment rate stood at 4 percent, down from 5.1 percent a year earlier.

“As we look ahead to 2023 and what the future has in store, I’m incredibly optimistic about Houston’s prospects, despite a possible recession,” Bob Harvey, president of the partnership, says in a news release. “We have our challenges — from ensuring we lead on the energy transition to effectively competing for top talent — but each time Houston has been underestimated, we’ve come out on top. I believe that will be the case once again.”

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