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Report finds Houston is 3rd fastest growing tech ecosystem

Houston Exponential released a new report on venture capital activity in the Bayou City. Sky Noir Photography by Bill Dickinson/Getty Images

In the startup world, small funding deals are a big deal in Houston.

A new Houston Exponential analysis based on data from PitchBook shows early-stage and angel rounds accounted for 151 venture capital deals under $5 million last year. Nearly two-thirds of those VC deals were less than $1 million.

Thanks to that robust activity, Houston now ranks as the third-fastest-growing tech ecosystem for early-stage companies in the country, according to the analysis.

Meanwhile, last year’s overall VC deal count exceeded 200 for the first time, “a harbinger of future growth potential as new company creation continues to explode,” the analysis says.

Texas Medical Center is contributing to that explosion. It recently raised the size of its TMC Venture Fund to $50 million. TMC says the fund now will be able to back a wider range of early-stage startups.

“When we launched the TMC Venture Fund, our goal was to drive collaboration and entrepreneurship, and establish Texas as a life science hub,” William McKeon, president and CEO of TMC, says in a news release. “Our initial investment was extremely successful, and this influx of capital creates a unique opportunity for TMC to invest in companies in the earliest stages of commercialization, further bolstering Houston’s thriving life science community.”

Although Houston’s average early-stage deal size of $18 million remains shy of the national average of $21 million, that still represents a 68 percent growth rate since 2019, according to the analysis from Houston Exponential, an entrepreneurship hub. Compared with the national growth rate of 23 percent, “this demonstrates the broader expansion and maturities within the Houston ecosystem,” the analysis says.

The size of deals at the Series A and Series B levels also is on the rise. According to the analysis, the median Series A round in Houston grew from less than $3.2 million in 2020 to more than $10 million in 2021. The size of Series B rounds rose 35 percent, from a median of $13.6 million in 2020 to $21 million in 2021.

While those numbers are impressive, mega-deals stole the spotlight in 2021. Six Houston companies raised at least $100 million last year, with three of those deals surpassing $300 million. Collectively, Axiom Space, Cart.com (now based in Austin), HighRadius, Lancium, Solugen, and Vyripharm Biopharmaceuticals raised $1.3 billion last year.

Last year’s mega-deals brought the number of Houston unicorns, including Cart.com, to five. Unicorns are startups valued at $1 billion or more. In Houston, the newest members of that club are Solugen, with a $357 million Series C round in 2021, and Cart.com, with a $240 million Series B1 round last year.

“That VC-backed companies were able to generate such enormous value in 2021 during a time characterized by great uncertainty and extraordinary circumstances highlights the continued importance of VC-backed companies to the resilience of Houston’s economy,” says Serafina Lalany, executive director of Houston Exponential.

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Building Houston

 
 

This explains all the traffic. Sky Noir Photography by Bill Dickinson/Getty Images

Houston has moved up in Penske Truck Rental’s annual ranking of the country’s most popular moving destinations.

In 2021, Houston ranked first among the hottest U.S. moving destinations, Penske says. That’s up from the No. 6 position in 2020.

“It’s not hard to see why Houston is an attractive city for many people. A booming job market combined with low cost of living and sunny weather year-round make Houston a great choice for building a life and raising a family,” says Life Storage, an operator of self-storage facilities.

From 2020 to 2021, the Houston metro area gained 78,220 residents, putting it in third place for numeric population growth among U.S. metros (behind Dallas-Fort Worth and Phoenix, and just ahead of Austin).

Houston shares the Penske top 10 with three other places in Texas:

  • Sixth-ranked San Antonio, up from No. 9 the previous year.
  • Seventh-ranked Dallas, up from No. 8 the previous year.
  • Ninth-ranked Austin, down from No. 4 the previous year.

Penske compiles the annual list by analyzing one-way consumer truck rental reservations made over a 12-month span.

Houston and its big-city counterparts in Texas continue to see their populations swell for a number of reasons, including warm weather, no state income tax, relatively low housing costs, and plentiful job opportunities. From 2010 to 2020, Texas posted the third largest population increase (15.9 percent) among the states, with Utah ranked first and Idaho ranked second, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“There are lots of places in America with jobs and lower climate risks or jobs and racial diversity, but if you want all three, Texas will take care of you best,” The New York Timesnoted in 2021.

U-Haul, another provider of moving trucks, ranked Texas as the No. 1 destination for DIY movers in 2021.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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