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Laura Arnold, Richard Kinder, and more pump $20M into Houston nonprofit news outlet

Laura Arnold (pictured with husband John) is a big backer of the project. ArnoldVentures.com

Houston will soon have a new source for independent and community-minded journalism, thanks to a $20 million infusion by a group of local nonprofits.

Houston Endowment, the Kinder Foundation, and Arnold Ventures announced the launch of an independent Houston nonprofit news operation in Houston that promises to be one of the largest in the country, according to a press release.

The operation is slated to launch in late 2022 or early 2023 on multiple platforms, the new nonprofit news organization will “elevate the voices of Houstonians and address the needs of the community” as identified in the American Journalism Project’s extensive research.

Specifically, this project was cultivated after a two-year research effort, led by the American Journalism Project. The organization relied on focus groups, community listening sessions, and surveys conducted in four different languages, as well as content analyses of existing coverage to examine local information gaps and news needs.

Notably, this new operation will be free to readers as well as other news organizations. Name, news coverage strategies, and office location will be determined by its new leadership, the announcement notes.

The organization is described as being charged with striving to be the center of conversation about Houston’s critical issues, bridge communities, and foster community engagement while building a vibrant and active following, a release adds.

An introductory web page at localnewsforhouston.org has been created; currently applications for CEO and editor-in-chief are being accepted there.

A search committee for staffing includes:

  • Ann Stern, President & CEO, Houston Endowment
  • Dr. Anne Chao, Manager of the Houston Asian American Archive, Rice University
  • Armando Perez, Executive Vice President, H-E-B Houston, chairman, United Way Greater Houston
  • Jeff Cohen, Executive Vice President, Arnold Ventures
  • Reginald DesRosches, Howard R. Hughes Provost and President-Elect, Rice University
  • Rich Kinder, chairman, Kinder Foundation, and Executive Chairman, Kinder Morgan Inc.

“Commercial news organizations across the United States have rapidly declined in recent years, a trend that directly undermines the foundations of American democracy,” said Laura Arnold, co-founder and co-chair of Arnold Ventures, in a statement. “A free press is essential, and until the industry finds its footing, philanthropy must do its part to help strengthen and safeguard the Fourth Estate. We have long invested in nonprofit journalism, and we are honored to support the establishment of a robust newsroom endeavor in our hometown.”

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Activate is planting its roots in Houston with a plan to have its first set of fellows next year. Photo via Getty Images

An organization that directs support to scientists developing impactful technology has decided on Houston for its fifth program.

Activate was founded in Berkeley, California, in 2015 to bridge the gap between the federal and public sectors to deploy capital and resources into the innovators creating transformative products. The nonprofit expanded its programs to Boston and New York before launching a virtual fellowship program — Activate Anywhere, which is for scientists 50 or more miles outside one of the three hubs.

"Our mission is to empower scientists to reinvent the world by bringing their research to market," Aimee Rose, executive managing director of Activate, tells InnovationMap. "There's so much technical talent that we educate in this country every year and so many amazing inventions that happen, that combining the two, which is the sort of inventor/entrepreneur, and giving them the support mechanisms they need to get on their feet and be successful, has the potential to unlock an incredible amount of value for the country, for the environment, and to address other social problems."

This year, Activate is planting seeds in Houston to grow a presence locally and have its first set of fellows in 2024. While Activate is industry agnostic, Rose says a big draw from Houston is the ability to impact the future of energy.

"We're super excited about Houston as an emerging ecosystem for the clean energy transition as being the energy capital of the world, as well as all the other emerging players there are across the landscape in Houston," Rose says. "I think we can move the needle in Houston because of our national footprint."

The first order of business, Rose says, is hiring a managing director for Activate Houston. The job, which is posted online, is suited for an individual who has already developed a hardtech business and has experience and connections within Houston's innovation ecosystem.

"We want to customize the program so that it makes the most sense for the community," Rose says about the position. "So, somebody that has the relationships and the knowledge of the ecosystem to be able to do that and somebody that's kind of a mentor at heart."

The program is for early-stage founders — who have raised less than $2 million in funding — working on high-impact technology. Rose explains that Activate has seen a number of microelectronics and new materials companies go through the program, and, while medical innovation is impactful, Activate doesn't focus on pharmaceutical or therapeutic industries since there are existing pathways for those products.

Ultimately, Activate is seeking innovators whose technologies fall through the cracks of existing innovation infrastructure.

"Not every business fits into the venture capital model in terms of what investors would expect to be eventual outcomes, but these these types of businesses can still have significant impact and make the world a better place," Rose says, explaining how Activate is different from an incubator or accelerator. "As opposed as compared to a traditional incubator, this is a very high touch program. You get a living stipend so you can take a big business technical risk without a personal risk. We give you a lot of hands on support and mentoring."

Each of the programs selects 10 fellows that join the program for two years. The fellows receive a living stipend, connections from Activate's robust network of mentors, and access to a curriculum specific to the program.

Since its inception, Activate has supported 104 companies and around 146 entrepreneurs associated with those companies. With the addition of Houston, Activate will be able to back 50 individuals a year.

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