Startup city

Houston named one of the fastest growing metros for tech startups

Houston has seen an almost 150 percent increase of tech startups over the past decade. Nick Bee/Pexels

Houston has seen an influx of new startups entering the market — and that growth hasn't gone unnoticed.

A new study from New York-based Center for an Urban Future analyzed Crunchbase data to find 17 cities have have had the most percentage of growth in startup activity. While Houston ranked last on the list, the city's numbers speak for themselves.

In 2008, Crunchbase's data reflects that Houston only had 567 startups, and, by 2018, that figure had increased to 1,409, representing a 149 percent growth. It's worth noting that Crunchbase's data tracks tech startups in particular through various avenues of public and private reporting.

The study included a few other Texas cities that outranked Houston, including Dallas (223 percent growth), Austin (with 221 percent growth), and San Antonio (with 155 percent growth). While the percentage is larger, Dallas' number of startups —according to Crunchbase — is slightly lower than Houston's at 1,293.

Chart via the Center for an Urban Future

While indicative of Houston's growth, the study unintentionally omits non-tech startups or companies that haven't been entered into the Crunchbase system. The study also seems to recognize only Houston data, rather than the greater Houston area as a whole.

Meanwhile, the Greater Houston Partnership's data reflects that the greater Houston area added 11,700 firms between 2013 to 2018 — an average addition of 2,340 per year.

Last month, WalletHub found that Houston was the 13th best city to start a business. The study analyzed 19 key metrics — such as five-year business-survival rate and office-space affordability — to compare 100 cities in the U.S.

More recently, Houston grabbed the fifth spot on a new 2019-20 list of the 10 North American Cities of the Future produced by the fDi Intelligence division of the Financial Times. The ranking is based on data in five categories: Economic potential, business friendliness, human capital and lifestyle, cost effectiveness, and connectivity.

To Susan Davenport, senior vice president of economic development at the Greater Houston Partnership, the results of the study make a lot of sense. Houston's diversity and friendly business climate are prime.

"Houston's future is a bright one," Davenport says in a previous InnovationMap article. "Our young and well-educated workforce, coupled with targeted infrastructure investments, will help us become a hub for innovation in the years ahead."

Wind energy usage in Texas has been slowly creeping up on coal — and now the two are neck-and-neck. Getty Images

In an electrifying sign for the renewables sector of Houston's energy industry, wind for the first time has essentially tied with coal as a power source for Texas homes and businesses.

In 2019, wind (19.97 percent) and coal (20.27 percent) were locked in a statistical dead heat to be the No. 2 energy source for customers of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT. Natural gas ranked first (40.2 percent). The Austin-based nonprofit manages about 90 percent of the state's electrical grid.

Houston stands to benefit greatly from these winds of change.

Long dominant in the oil and gas industry as the Energy Capital of the World, Houston is adapting to the shifting tide from traditional energy sources to renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Over 30 companies involved in wind energy are based in the Houston area. Major local players in wind energy include BP Wind Energy North America Inc., EDP Renewables North America LLC, and Pattern Energy Group Inc. In addition, many of the state's more than 130 wind-generation projects are operated from Houston.

Bob Harvey, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, says the region's "unparalleled experience" with massive energy initiatives supplies an edge in the burgeoning renewable energy sector.

"Houston's talent base knows energy, from development to commercial operations, and the region offers a competitive advantage to renewable energy companies looking to develop projects both domestically and around the world," Harvey says. "Houston and Texas are well positioned as leaders who are developing large-scale renewable energy projects in both wind and solar."

Harvey says ERCOT's aggressive pursuit of wind and solar power also bodes well for Houston and the entire state.

"When combined with our natural advantages of great sites for wind and solar, our market structure has made Texas a global leader in the transition to low-carbon power generation," he says. "We expect Houston will continue to play a major role as wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources continue to rise on a global scale."

Susan Sloan, vice president of state affairs at the American Wind Energy Association, notes that Texas leads all states for wind energy, with 25 gigawatts of capacity generated by nearly 14,000 wind turbines. The Lone Star State produces about one-fourth of the country's wind power, and the wind energy industry employs more than 25,000 Texans.

With another 9 gigawatts of capacity coming online, "Texas continues to champion investment in wind energy as the state's electric load continues to increase," says Sloan, who's based in Austin. "Wind is an established and growing part of the Texas energy economy, and will be for years to come."

Texas has made great strides in wind energy in the past decade. In 2010, wind represented only 7.8 percent of ERCOT's power generation and ranked as the grid's No. 4 energy source, while coal stood at 39.5 percent and ranked first.

In September 2019, Norwegian energy research firm Rystad Energy predicted wind will bypass coal as a Texas energy source in 2020. Rystad Energy, which has an office in Houston, expects wind to generate 87 terawatt-hours of electricity in Texas this year compared with 84.4 terawatt-hours from coal. One terawatt-hour equals the output of 1 trillion watts over a one-hour period.

"Texas is just one of many red states that have recently 'gone green' by harnessing their great wind-generation potential," Carlos Torres-Diaz, head of gas market research at Rystad Energy, said in a release. Renewable energy sources like wind "are reaching a level where new installations are not driven solely by policies or subsidies, but by economics," he added.