Show me the money

Houston still needs capital, talent, and success stories to grow its innovation ecosystem, according to a panel of experts

Capital Factory's Texas Startup Roadshow made a pit stop in Houston to discuss investment. Photo by Tim Leviston/Getty Images

While Houston has increased its number of capital investments in startups over the recent years, there's more work to be done.

A panel of experts at Capital Factory and J.P. Morgan's Texas Startups Roadshow discussed what the city still needs if it is going to accomplish its mission of being a vibrant, successful place for innovation.

For Blair Garrou, managing director of Mercury Fund, Houston has experienced a growth in the number of opportunities for deals, but his firm can only do so much.

"There's more activity going on right now than my 20 years here — it's coming," Garrou says. "And we don't have enough capital to support it."

Garrou says out-of-Houston firms want to invest in deals here, but they don't want to lead a round — they want Mercury Fund to, and they'll follow. For Garrou, that indicates a credibility problem that needs to be addressed.

Houston Exponential is attempting to right the course on this issue with its HX Venture Fund, says Sandy Wallis, managing director. The fund of funds puts money into non-Houston VCs in hopes that those VCs turn around and invest back into Houston.

"The number one problem I'm trying to help with, which I hear a lot from entrepreneurs, is getting more venture here, Wallis, who co-founded Weathergage Capital, says. "What we're trying to do is make sure that our entrepreneurs are meeting with VCs — not just the ones HX invests in, but all the ones that get into town."

She wants to connect the dots for startups — both to visiting VCs and local corporations, which, she says, are already engaged and interested.

"You can see the fluid activation of our corporates here," Wallis says. "Those corporates are engaging directly with the innovation going on in Houston, and we have our headliner tech companies in place."

One of the things that would spir interest and investment into Houston companies is more success stories coming out of Houston, says Paul Hobby, founding partner at Genesis Park. Focusing on talent — developing leadership, recruitment, and retention — is what the city needs to get there. It has all the other ingredients, he says.

"In Houston, we have the means, the opportunity, the will, the capital, and the risk tolerance to solve our own problems," Hobby says to the crowd.

Houston has been working on developing talent and providing resources for entrepreneurs for the past couple years, and many of those accelerator and incubator programs — like Station Houston, The Cannon, Impact Hub Houston, MassChallenge Texas, etc. — have launched to serve startups.

"We probably have 12 to 15 startup development organizations all with different flavors," Garrou says. "And in doing that, we're still looking to the outside for best practices, like Capital Factory, to ask how we could do this better."

The focus on improving resources for startups will continue, he says, and even more will deliver. However, not every single effort will see success, but that's OK, Garrou says.

"All of these are grand visions that Houston has to keep building," Garrou says. "Some of that won't pan out, but the fact that it's all happening and if 50 percent is successful, then I think we've done our jobs to meet entrepreneurs where they are."

Wallis agrees — in capitalism, you can't win it all.

"Developing Houston is going to have failures and successes, and it's about failing successfully," she says.

From startup competitions to thought-provoking talks, here's where you need to be in August. Getty Images

If you subscribe to the idea that your net worth is your network, then here's your guide to networking this month in Houston's innovation ecosystem. August has meetups, pitch nights, and networking aplenty.

If you know of innovation-focused events for this month or next, email me at natalie@innovationmap.com with the details and subscribe to our daily newsletter that sends fresh stories straight to your inboxes every morning.

August 1 — Sixth Annual Bayou City Startup Showcase

Rice University's OwlSpark and University of Houston's RED Labs are coming together again for a startup pitch and showcase — this time in The Cannon's new building.

Details: The event is from 3 to 5:30 pm on Thursday, August 1, at The Cannon/Bayou City Fellowship (1400 Brittmoore Road). Learn more.

August 6 — Houston Unfiltered with Jeff Garoon, COO of FlowCommand

Station Houston has rebooted its Open Coffee series to Houston Unfiltered. Each month has a new speaker, and in August, startups can hear from Jeff Garoon, COO of FlowCommand.

Details: The event is from 8 to 9 am on Tuesday, August 6, at Station Houston (1301 Fannin Street, #2440). Learn more.

August 6 — Managing Your Sales Function 

Capital Factory's next Houston Founder's Academy installation is focused on sales.

Details: The event is from noon to 2 pm on Tuesday, August 6, at The Cannon (1336 Brittmoore Road). Learn more.

August 7 — Deep 6 AI: Advancing Clinical Research @ TMC

Imagine knowing every patient you want to recruit on day 1 of your trial. Doug Cassidy, vice president of Clinical and Academic Research at Deep 6 AI, explains how Deep 6 AI can help you find more better matching patients for trials in minutes, not months.

Details: The event is from 4:30 to 5:30 pm on Wednesday, August 7, at Third Coast Restaurant (6550 Bertner Avenue, 6th Floor). Learn more.

August 8 — Summer Salon: Broadband Internet Access & Digital Inclusion

The Center for Houston's Future is hosting a fireside chat to focus on all things digital.

Details: The event is from 6:30 to 8:30 pm on Thursday, August 8, at the Omni Houston Hotel (4 Riverway). Learn more.

August 13 — Entrepreneurship Burn-out: The Power of Nutrition Psychology

Entrepreneurs are creative, highly driven, and high-performing individuals. But in the pursuit of success, entrepreneurs often neglect their health. Our guest speaker will share practical tips/advice for entrepreneurs to prioritize nutrition to prevent burnout and/or help in the recovery process.

Details: The event is from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on Tuesday, August 13, at Impact Hub Houston #PopHUB @HX (410 Pierce Street). Learn more.

August 15 — SPE Talk: The Energy Dot

This inaugural digital innovation event will combine oil and gas, academia, and Silicon Valley innovation with multiple tracks of engaging programming.

Details: The event is from 8 am to 5 pm on Thursday, August 15, at Midtown Arts and Theatre Center (3400 Main Street). Learn more.

August 17 — Enventure Basecamp - Business Building Workshop

Basecamp is an inclusive environment for those who are interested in adapting their life science experiences to real business applications. All are welcome, and the event is free.

Details: The event is from 9 am to noon on Saturday, August 17, at the TMC Innovation Institute (2450 Holcombe Blvd). Learn more.

August 17 — re:3D's sixth birthday, discount print day, and design contest

re:3D is turning six, but the party is actually for you. Discount printing, plus a contest with $100 credit on the line.

Details: The event is from 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday, August 17, at re:3D Houston HQ (1100 Hercules Ave, STE 220). Learn more.

August 22 — TMCxAlpha: August meeting with Ashok Gowda

TMC alpha provides a pathway for any innovator affiliated with a TMC member institution to find support for the development and commercialization of their idea or product. Lunch and parking validation will be available.

Details: The event is from noon to 1 pm on Thursday, August 22, at the TMC Innovation Institute (2450 Holcombe Blvd). Learn more.

August 22 — Federal Funding 101 Introduction to the SBIR

This program is purpose-made to provide seed money of up to $1.5M to small businesses to enable them to break into the market. Following the workshop, Inspiralia experts will be available for one-on-one technology validation meetings.

Details: The event is from from 3 to 7 pm on Thursday, August 22, at the CUBIO Innovation Center (7707 Fannin St., Ste 200). Learn more.

August 28 — Enventure Biodesign Workshops

Biodesign workshops is a free course designed to provide new entrepreneurs with an understanding of the innovation process, teaching them how to evaluate a life science technology as the basis for starting a new business. Whether you're an engineer, scientist, physician, or business expert, this class will bring you up to speed on the medical innovation process.

Details: The event is from 6 to 8 pm on Wednesday, August 28, at the TMC Innovation Institute (2450 Holcombe Blvd). Learn more.

​August 29 — The Greenlight Guru True Quality Roadshow

Enjoy specially selected drinks, hors d'oeuvres, and intimate networking with medical device professionals. Finish the night hearing from leaders in the industry.

Details: The event is from 4:30 to 6:30 pm on Thursday, August 28, at the JLABS @ TMC (2450 Holcombe Blvd). Learn more.