Money moves

Houston sees significant jump in annual venture capital investments, according to new data

The city of Houston still lags behind Dallas and Austin when it comes to venture capital funds raised but did outshine compared to its 2018 numbers. Getty Images

While Houston fell behind Austin and Dallas when it came to amount of venture capital raised last year, the Bayou City still closed out 2018 with more funds raised than it reported in 2017, according to Crunchbase data.

Houston had a reported $372.8 million in investments in 77 known deals across 2018. In 2017, Houston had 95 deals reported but with a smaller total of funding dollars — $257.7 million — which gives Houston a 45 percent increase year over year.

Compared to other Texas metros, Houston still lags behind. Austin reported $1,285.5 million and Dallas companies had $601.8 million. These figures reflect only the reported deals to Crunchbase.

Photo via news.crunchbase.com

Even though 2018 overall shows Austin had a huge lead, in the third quarter of last year, Houston reported a similar amount of VC funds as Austin. In Q3, Houston startups pulled in $138.8 million — 39.2 percent of the state's entire VC funding — while Austin startups reported receiving $150.6 million — 42.6 percent of the funds, according to Crunchbase.

The fourth quarter was a slightly different story. Houston still edged out Dallas, but Austin took a significant lead. Houston had a reported $121.4 million from 11 reported VC deals, compared to Dallas' $101 million and Austin's $299.9 million. For Houston, the largest 2018 deal took place in Q4. Apex International, and oil and gas company, raised $75 million.

Austin-based Capital Factory's co-founder, Joshua Baer, tells Crunchbase that it will take some time for Houston's VC economy to catch up to Austin's, but that he doesn't think there's any reason it couldn't happen. Capital Factory, which has contributed to some Houston startups, recently announced it has preleased space in Houston-based The Cannon's new 120,000-square-foot space that's expected to deliver in spring.

Baer tells Crunchbase that Houston's biggest problem is access to venture capital — something that isn't rare of a problem at all. But Houston has a unique opportunity too.

"What Houston has that most places don't is a lot of corporate VCs," Baer says to Crunchbase. "Almost every energy company headquartered in Houston has a venture arm. They tend to fund companies that are Series B and later… so not the seed-stage stuff that is so popular in Austin and they do it all over the world, not just in Houston."

Five different Houston startups closed out 2018 with some funds. Here's how they plan to spend their investments.

Houston-based NextSeed has been approved as a broker-dealer platform, allowing for larger investments. Getty Images

NextSeed, which launched in Houston four years ago as a crowdfunding online investment platform, has expanded its services to become a broker-dealer. The platform also rolled out a new website.

Now that NextSeed Securities LLC is a SEC-registered broker-dealer, NextSeed campaigns aren't limited to the $1 million cap instated by crowdfunding rules, according to a news release. The new function also means that, rather than just debt securities (where investors are paid back based on revenue of the company), investors can also engage in equity investing (where money can be exchanged for ownership of the company).

"We previously focused only on debt securities, in part because we wanted to facilitate the right type of capital to the local small business community," says CFO Tae Mi Lee in the release. "With the launch of our broker-dealer practice, we are able to expand our services to offer both debt and equity offerings for different types of issuers and investors."

In the past, NextSeed deals have focused on local brick-and-mortar companies. However, this new capability opens doors to other types of deals.

"We have always wanted investors on the platform to have the ability to diversify their investment portfolios across multiple industries and asset classes, while providing the right investment structure for our business clients through a broader range of options," Tae Mi Lee continues. "We are excited about what this expansion means for our NextSeed community."

The broker-dealer model shifts more responsibility on NextSeed as the vehicle for trading securities, but also represents a growth in investing in Houston.

"The standards of review and compliance obligations for both issuers and investors become stricter and more comprehensive for offerings made via our broker-dealer, but we wanted to be able to offer a more extensive and flexible service to our community," says CEO and Co-Founder Youngro Lee in the release. "Since day one of our funding portal operations, we tried to adhere to certain standards above and beyond the minimal legal requirements. We're now just taking another leap forward into a new phase of NextSeed."

Since its launch in 2015, NextSeed has raised $11 million for companies on its platform. While not all in Houston, NextSeed focuses on funding its portfolio by locals who want to support nearby establishments. Here are some examples of deals made on the platform:

  • Buffalo Bayou Brewery in Houston raised $1,000,000.
  • Alkalign Studio in Menlo Park, California, raised $100,000.
  • The Native Hostel Bar & Kitchen in Austin raised $396,500.
  • Fair Isle Brewing in Seattle raised $327,800.

Earlier this year, NextSeed announced another new capability for its portfolio of companies. NextSeed Space launched to help provide local entities turnkey retail space with short-term leases. The space is located in Greenway Plaza, and the first tenant was announced as The Waffle Bus, however NextSeed moved in traditional Mexican restaurant, Tlahuac, which will reside in the food court until the end of June.