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City of Houston rolls toward greater connectivity with $3.3M bridge project

Mayor Sylvester Turner bikes the new Brays Bayou Greenway Bridge. Photo by Anthony Rathbun

In effort to make Houston more walkable and bike-friendly, city organizations have completed an important step in connectivity with the opening of a crucial new bridge.

Leaders from various city groups recently celebrated the ribbon cutting for the Brays Bayou Greenway Bridge, which will serve as an important connection between the University of Houston and the future home of the UH College of Medicine — as well as MacGregor Park.

The Brays Bayou Greenway Bridge runs along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the METRO Rail Purple Line. The pedestrian/bike bridge is an essential link in the 36.98-mile Brays Bayou Greenway.

Land acquisition, design, and construction of the Brays Bayou Greenway Bridge project cost $3.3 million. Engineering firm Halff Associates, along with SWA, designed the project. The Texas Department of Transportation led the construction effort and was provided funding through the Houston-Galveston Area Council. Altus was the general contractor. The University of Houston provided the easement for the bridge.

The new connector is part of the city's Bayou Greenways 2020, a public-private partnership between the Houston Parks Board, the City of Houston, the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, and the Harris County Flood Control District.

Bayou Greenways 2020 will transform 3,000 acres of underutilized land along nine major waterways and create a 150-mile network of connected parks and trails along Houston's major waterways, according to a release. In 2012, Houston voters overwhelmingly approved a bond proposal that set aside $100 million for Bayou Greenways 2020.

Houston Parks Board is raising an additional $120 million and is managing acquisition, design and construction of the Bayou Greenways. More than $110 million has been raised to date, including a historic $50 million donation from the Kinder Foundation.

"The Brays Bayou Greenway Bridge is significant because it is an essential connector in the Brays Bayou Greenway trail system. In addition to benefiting the University of Houston, this bridge is also a new link for the Third Ward community," said Beth White, President and CEO of Houston Parks Board, in a statement. "Individuals and families can use the trails to commute to work, walk to school, or just for fun."

Also at the ribbon-cutting event, Houston BCycle celebrated its 100th bike share station located in MacGregor Park, which opened in October 2019. To date, the organization has 109 bike share stations across Houston.

"Bayou Greenways 2020 is about more than just recreation; it's about bringing Houstonians together," said Mayor Sylvester Turner, at the event. "Communities are strengthened through partnerships like this. Not only do we have a beautiful bridge connecting neighborhoods, like the Third Ward Complete Community, but we have a great way to explore the trails through BCycle's bike share stations."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Plug and Play, an international accelerator and investment group with a presence in Houston, joined a panel to discuss startup investment, networking, and more during the pandemic. Photo by Zview/Getty Images

It's no secret that the spread of COVID-19 has greatly affected startup ecosystems by shutting down coworking and accelerator spaces and providing economic uncertainty in the venture capital world. However, organizations focused on investment and acceleration are still working to virtually guide startups virtually.

Plug and Play Tech Center, an accelerator and investment group based in Silicon Valley that recently launched its Houston presence, is still offering support and even investments to startups as the pandemic continues on. One way they've recently done so is through Houston Exponential on a virtual panel to answer questions from Houston entrepreneurs.

On the panel, Neda Amidi, partner and global head of health at Plug and Play Tech Center, Milad Malek, associate at Plug and Play Ventures, and Payal Patel, director at Plug and Play Houston, discussed concerns and questions about the organization's dedication to Houston, advice amid the pandemic, and more. If you missed it or don't have time to stream the whole conversation, here are some impactful moments of the chat.

“Timing and opportunity set up the Plug and Play Houston office. The mayor and other business leaders in Houston had seen what happens in our Silicon Valley office and with all the things that are going on in the burgeoning startup community in Houston, we saw the opportunity.”

— Patel says on how Houston snagged its very own Plug and Play location. "Given the high concentration of large companies here — as well as the growing number of investment opportunities — we moved quite quickly to open the office here," she adds.

“There’s a number of great entrepreneurs here in this city. I think a missing ingredient has been the number of early stage investments — especially in that Seed or series A stage. So, we hope to make an impact in that. Our CEO has publicly stated that he’d like to make five investments in Houston a year.”

— Patel shares about Plug and Play's investment strategy in Houston. She adds that five investments in Houston a year is the bare minimum, and they actually are striving for more.

“[Investing virtually is] kind of the same process, but we definitely try to make sure we have cameras on and distractions are away, really giving that entrepreneur that same experience as we can in a face-to-face meeting."

— Amidi says on how Plug and Play's investment team approaches investment meetings and pitches during this time. She explains that during the beginning of the pandemic, most of their investments were with companies that had existing relationships with or follow on deals. Now they have made investments in companies they've never met in person. She says Plug and Play has relied on its network to give feedback on these potential deals.

“During COVID, we’ve recommended to a lot of our portfolio companies to raise more than what they needed at the time to be able to power through what’s happening now and what will happen on the economy side as well."

— Amidi says about investment advice they've given to Plug and Play startups.

“A lot of hardware companies get too intense in terms of thinking about one avenue of fundraising. Spend a lot more time thinking about fundraising strategy.”

Malek says on fundraising for hardware startups specifically. He adds that there are other options for generating cash flow, like grants. "Don't forget the business side of things" he adds. "I know early on, a lot of founders are focused on the technology and prototyping, but it's important as well to think about a compelling narrative for potential investors — even if you're pre-revenue."

"For SaaS, it’s important to have a unique differentiation. There are a lot of copy cats in this realm. It’s ok to be doing something that has competitors — every startup has competitors."

— Malek says about software-as-a-service startups pitching to investors. "It's a red flag when we're talking to a startup — especially one with a SaaS product — that says we don't have competitors," he adds, saying it's usually not true.

“A lot of investors out there prefer teams with multiple founders and not just one founder. It never hurts, at least in an investor’s eyes, to have two or three founders.”

— Malek explains, responding to a question about how to begin the process of bringing another co-founder on board. Investors, he says, value a team with diverse backgrounds and expertise.

“Take your time — it’s kind of like picking a spouse or partner. You want to make sure you’re compatible.”

Amidi adds, saying it's an exceptionally difficult process nowadays. She recommends reaching out to your network for leads on a potential co-founder or even looking into sites like AngelList or LinkedIn.

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