HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 191
Long-time innovator shares why she's optimistic about Houston's future as a hub for startups, tech
As she describes, Emily Keeton's strength and her curse is that she lacks patience. For this reason, her career, launched originally in investment banking, has taken her from the startup world to media and beyond.
"I'm a person of action, and I think that works well when you work with a startup. You tend to get things done," Keeton says on the Houston Innovators Podcast, adding that she's been called a change agent, and while the terminology isn't her preference, she agrees its an accurate identifier for her. "I can step into a situation, and, after many years of working with so many different companies, I have a lens of pattern recognition of what's worked in the past and potential footfalls. It's what keeps me coming back to startups."
Keeton was one of the founding members of Station Houston — along with John "J.R." Reale, Grace Rodriguez, Blair Garrou, and some other innovators who played a central role in the organization almost a decade ago. The goal was to create a community where startup founders in Houston can go for support from mentors and peers. The organization rolled into into a few entities like the Ion and Capital Factory in 2018.
After her role at Station, Keeton's career took her back to New York, where she worked with WeWork, Mercado, Tempest, and other consumer-facing businesses. She always had one foot still in Houston, until she recently relocated to Houston entirely. She served as COO of Houston Landing, a new nonprofit journalism platform, and her latest endeavor is working with Michael Loeb on Loeb.nyc, a New York-based investment firm with shared services — marketing, design, etc. — with his portfolio.
"I'm based here, and I'll be doing a couple of things, working with a few of the portfolio companies," she says. "And I'm on the lookout for early stage companies here in Texas."
Keeton's perspective, having seen the Houston innovation ecosystem develop — first hands on in Houston, and later from outside looking in from New York — is hopeful. She says that with Station, they realized the power of mentorship — specifically of mentors who have led a startup through scale and exit. Now, Houston just needs more exits and success stories to grow that mentorship base.
"I am very optimistic about the future of Houston. It's a long game, and I think people need to keep showing up," she says on the show.
She adds that what's happening right now is a winter for startups, and she notes that this isn't just something seen in Houston. But this period of time can be an advantage to innovators.
"It's a great time to launch a company," Keeton says, explaining that a few years ago, checks were being written without significant due diligence. Now, this pace has slowed. "It provides a bit of breathing room for people to figure out their business model."
Keeton shares more on her observations of Houston's tech and startup scene and what she looks for in the startups she invests her time and money in on the show. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.
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