Mover and shaker

Houston Exponential hires serial entrepreneur and investor as president

Harvin Moore, who has a 20-year career in tech and innovation, has been named as president of Houston Exponential. Courtesy of HX

There's a new leader at the helm of the city's startup and innovation nonprofit — and he has some familiarity with the innovation ecosystem.

Harvin Moore was announced to be the new president of Houston Exponential, replacing Russ Capper, the inaugural executive director of HX. Capper has served since April 2018 and will stay involved with the organization, according to a news release.

Moore, a Houston native, has a 20-year career in tech and startups in Houston. He is a principal at an early-stage investment firm, Frontera Technology Ventures, and before that served as COO for Space Services Holdings Inc.

"We are excited to welcome someone with Harvin's track record to lead Houston Exponential through the next phase of growth in the ecosystem," says Gina Luna, chair of HX, in the release. "The Houston innovation community has made great strides in the last couple of years, and with Harvin's leadership, HX will take our work to the next level."

Moore, who was re-elected three times as Houston Independent School District's Board of Education, is described as an active advisor, mentor, and angel investor for the likes of Houston Angel Network, Capital Factory and Station Houston.

"As someone who has been involved in Houston's digital tech ecosystem since its earliest days, I am inspired by the tremendous momentum generated in just the last few years," Moore says in the release. "We are at an inflection point, and I believe Houston Exponential will continue to be a catalyst driving Houston to become a leading innovation hub within the next two to three years."

Moore joins HX at a pivotal moment as many exciting innovation projects are expected to deliver the next few years, such as MassChallenge Texas' inaugural Houston cohort, the Texas Medical Center's TMC3 campus, Rice Management Co.'s The Ion, the close of the HX Venture Fund and more.

"The pace of the wins and major announcements in our innovation space is rapidly accelerating, and I am pleased that HX has played a role in many of these, including being an enthusiastic champion for the work of many of our partners," Luna says in the release. "In this next phase of work, I expect we will continue to build valuable partnerships and will activate the venture capital firms that are showing tremendous interest in the Houston ecosystem and the startups here."

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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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