HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 32

Startup founder sees 'the waves are hitting the shore' for Houston innovation ecosystem

Joe Alapat is the CEO of Houston-based Liongard, which just raised a $17 million series B round. Courtesy of Liongard

Last week, Houston-based software-as-a-service startup, Liongard, announced the closing of its $17 million series B fundraising round, ending what was a bit of a dry spell for Houston venture capital investment caused by COVID-19's effect on the economy.

But for Liongard's CEO Joe Alapat, who co-founded the company with COO Vincent Tran in 2015, the round was the result of ongoing relationships with advisers and investors that meant a successful round — even in light of a pandemic.

"The process for us with the series B was much like our seed or series A round. We chose to communicate early and keep in touch with the investment community," Alapat says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast, and he shares his experience as an example to other startups looking to raise venture capital investment.

"Communicate early and share progress, so that when you get to the point when you are looking for an investment, it's not a fresh start. It's a continuation of that conversation."

With the money, Liongard will gear up for growth, expanding its teams and getting the word out on the value the company is providing.

"The purpose for raising this money is really to advance our growth, accelerate what we've done with our platform to continue to execute on our mission, and really serve our customers on a higher degree," Alapat says.

In the episode, Alapat also shares his advice for Houston startups looking to tap into the Houston innovation ecosystem — something he's watched grow over the past five years. Now, he says, when it comes to new startups in Houston, "the waves are hitting the shore."

"Houston has always been an entrepreneurial city, and this is just that next stage," Alapat says on the episode. "For me, it's the technology side that excites me even more to see technology companies really succeeding."

Listen to the full interview with Alapat below — or wherever you get your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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Building Houston

 
 

Vanessa Wyche, director of the Johnson Space Center, gave the keynote address at this year's State of Space event. Screenshot via houston.org

Is the Space City poised to continue its reign as an innovative hub for space exploration? All signs point to yes, according to a group of experts.

The Greater Houston Partnership hosted its annual State of Space this week. The virtual event featured a keynote address from Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA Johnson Space Center, and a panel moderated by David Alexander, chair of aerospace and aviation committee at the GHP and the director of the Rice Space Institute.

The conversations focused on the space innovation activity happening in Houston, as well as an update on the industry as a whole has space commercialization continues to develop. All the speakers addressed how Houston has what it takes to remain a hub for the sector.

"The future looks very bright for Houston that we will remain a leader in Houston spaceflight," Wyche says in her address.

Here are a few other memorable moments from the event.

"Houston, I feel, is poised to be a leader. We have led in human space flight, and we will a leader in commercialization."

— Wyche says in her keynote address, which gave a thorough overview of what all NASA is working on at JSC. She calls out specifically how startups are a driving force in commercialization. JSC is working with local accelerator programs at The Ion and MassChallenge.

"These startups help us to connect to tomorrow's space innovation leaders, and gives our team the opportunity to mentor these entrepreneurs as we work to advance both our scientific and technical knowledge," she says.

"The ability to have a place where government, academia, and industry can come together and share ideas and innovation is incredibly powerful."

​— Steve Altemus, president and CEO of Intuitive Machines LLC, specifically talking about the Houston Spaceport, where Intuitive Machines has signed on as a tenant. Altemus adds that a major key to leading space commercialization is a trained workforce, which the spaceport is focused on cultivating.

"We shouldn't discount the character that Houston has from the standpoint as a great place to build a business."

— Tim Kopra, vice president of robotics and space at MDA Ltd., says, adding that Houston is a big city that feels like a small town. "We need to incentivize companies to come and stay," he says.

"Great cities — like great companies — understand that if you're still, you're probably moving backwards. ... I think Houston gets it in that regard."

— Todd May, senior vice president of science and space at KBR, says, adding that Houston realizes it needs to be on the offensive side to bring innovation to the game, positioning the city very well for the future.

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