who's who

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's Houston innovators to know include Yared Akalou of Alcove Group, Serafina Lalany,of Houston Exponential, and Patrick Lewis of Sustainability Ventures Group. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: This week's group of Houston innovators you need to know might be pretty familiar to you, however each of them have a new endeavor they are excited to launch — from an energy investment group with a new name to new virtual platforms to benefit entrepreneurs.

Yared Akalou, founder-and-CEO of Alcove Group

Yared Akalou founded IAmOther50 to capture the brand of the freelancer along with their personality and experience. Photo courtesy of Alcove

Yared Akalou describes himself as a designer-focused entrepreneur. As founder-and-CEO of Alcove Group, his latest venture, IAmOther50, is a platform for creatives and freelancers to connect to work. This innovation he's focused on is in light of the growth in jobs that are freelance and remote.

"I am really on a mission," Akalou tells InnovationMap. "I have been talking about the future of work for over a decade now. The paradigm will change to viewing work as a service, so it is important to tell a freelancer's story through a more engaging and novel way." Read more.

Serafina Lalany, chief of staff at Houston Exponential

Serafina Lalany joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss the HTX TechList, which launches this week. Photo courtesy of Serafina Lalany

Serafina Lalany is pinpoint focused on creating resources for Houston innovators through her work at Houston Exponential. Most recently, that's meant creating and launching the HTX TechList, which went live last week. For her, one of the most important benefits the platform will afford the city is access to data about the ecosystem.

"We needed a centralized datasource classifying startups, investors, startup development organizations, and corporate innovators," she says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "There was not any good resource on the internet that was verified, centralized, and adhered to a data standard." Read more and stream the episode.

Patrick Lewis, managing partner of Sustainability Ventures Group

Houston-based Sustainability Ventures Group is focused on connecting energy companies to innovative, sustainable solutions. Photo courtesy of SVG

As Patrick Lewis started to get a feel for what his network within the energy industry was looking for amid the pandemic, he thought some of the sustainability-focused ventures might be on the back burner.

"We thought we would hear that sustainability in this environment may have slipped down the priority list, but it was the exact opposite," Lewis says. "Pretty consistently across all the operators, sustainability, reducing emissions, and greenhouse gases — those are all even more important today."

This confirmation that the energy industry is committed to innovative sustainability projects led Lewis to rebrand his energy tech investment group from BBL Ventures to Sustainability Ventures Group, or SVG. The investment team focuses on reverse engineering the startup innovation process by sourcing the concerns and goals of the energy companies, then finding solutions from the startup world through reverse pitch competitions and challenges. Read more.

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Building Houston

 
 

Both Houston and the Lone Star State as a whole have been named top places to start a business. Photo via Getty Images

When it comes to corporate giants, the Houston area has plenty to brag about: It’s home to the headquarters of two dozen Fortune 500 companies.

However, Houston can also boast that it’s one of the best U.S. metro areas to launch a business. Houston ranks ninth on a new list from the 42Floors real estate website of the top spots for new entrepreneurs. Austin lands at No. 3 on the list, Dallas appears at No. 8, and San Antonio winds up at No. 19. Las Vegas ranks first.

The website judged metro areas based on factors reflecting business opportunity and affordability.

“Starting out in a business-friendly environment, being able to afford a small office, or even having access to the right consulting services and networking opportunities can all contribute to your new business’s chances for success,” 42Floors says.

Among the factors favoring Houston are:

  • A cost of living on par with the national average, and lower than Austin’s and Dallas’ averages.
  • Average annual labor costs of $45,750 per employee, below the figures for Austin and Dallas.

Referring to Houston, Austin, and Dallas, 42Floors says: “As you might expect, each metro in the Texas trio offered a different context in which different businesses could thrive. For this reason, entrepreneurs will need to weigh the importance of affordability and opportunity for their respective business ideas.”

The presence of Houston, Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio in the top 20 of the 42Floors study underscores the Lone Star State’s standing as a top state for startups.

Job search platform Lensa recently ranked Texas as the best state to launch a startup. To developing its ranking, Lensa examined factors such as volume of new-business applications, corporate tax rates, and cost of living.

Texas earned a 7.09 out of 10 on Lensa’s scale. Helping driving that score was the 492,243 new-business applications filed in the past year in Texas, beating all other states except California and Florida. The application number “demonstrates just how many ambitious entrepreneurs there are in Texas,” Lensa says.

In addition, Texas lands at No. 2 among the top 10 startup states for the lowest corporate tax rate, at 3.95 percent, and at No. 3 among the top 10 startup states for the lowest cost of living.

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