HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 49

Houston entrepreneurial hub plans to scale with new virtual platform

Jon Lambert, CEO of The Cannon, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss Cannon Connect and the growth of The Cannon. Photo courtesy of The Cannon

When Jon Lambert joined The Cannon as CEO about a year ago, he was preparing to grow the coworking company across Houston and beyond. However, In March, when COVID-19 turned into a pandemic and forced the closure of The Cannon's three campuses, Lambert's goals instead shifted to how to keep a company so focused on fostering an in-person community going.

"Nothing prepares you for this kind of situation," Lambert says on the Houston Innovators Podcast about how COVID-19 has affected the organization.

But The Cannon had something they were working on up their sleeves. Cannon Connect — an online platform for community tools like a resource center, forums, calendar, and more — launched a few weeks ago in order to help connect The Cannon community virtually. The plans for Cannon Connect, as Lambert says, were actually concocted prior to the pandemic as a way to connect the coworking company's multiple locations as it continued to expand.

"We pretty quickly identified that our vision and our desire to provide value to the entrepreneurial ecosystem went well beyond what we had the ability to do in the physical spaces we had," Lambert says. "We started thinking through the need to have a digital experience that was aligned with the physical experience."

Lambert says the pandemic — as well as the launch of this platform — has adjusted the expansion track The Cannon was on. Prior to the coronavirus, The Cannon's team had conversations with about 30 different cities around the world that wanted to explore the process of getting their very own coworking hub. Now, instead of entering into these places with a physical space first, it might make more sense to begin with the digital product first.

"[We can] bring the players of the ecosystem together inside the digital component so that we can then use those connections and that dialogue to then determine the right time and place to do the physical hub development," Lambert says, adding that the these pre-pandemic conversations have picked up again. "That's where we are right now."

Lambert shares more on where he plans to lead The Cannon and other challenges his team has overcame this year in the podcast episode. You can listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

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Building Houston

 
 

"There's something magical happening in Houston, and [VCs] want a piece of it." Photo via Getty Images

Houston's seen a growth in startup and venture investment — even amid the pandemic — and a group of Houston innovators sat down for a virtual event to discuss what's lead to this evolution.

The Greater Houston Partnership hosted an installment of its Houston Industry Series focused on Digital Tech on Thursday, September 24. The panel of experts, moderated by Krisha Tracy of Google Cloud, discussed how they've observed the paradigm shift that's occurred in Houston over the past few years — and why.

Missed the discussion? Here are some significant overheard moments from the virtual event.

“I think there really is an interest for venture capital here, both locally and also welcoming it from outside of Houston. … There’s something magical happening in Houston, and [VCs] want a piece of it. I think that magical piece is a renewed interest in collaborating.”

Stephanie Campbell, managing director of Houston Angel Network and co-founder of The Artemis Fund. "I think a lot [of this progress] is due to the GHP, Houston Exponential, and the founding of the HX Venture Fund to bring those venture funds to Houston to say, 'what's happening here?'" Campbell adds, saying that this connectivity and collaboration that's happening in Houston VC is unique.

“I think there’s a misconception around all we do is oil and gas and life science in Houston, but when you think about what VC-backable companies look like, they’re tech, they’re B2B SaaS, they’re highly scalable, and they don’t tend to be capital-intensive types of things we see corporate venture backing.”

Campbell says, adding "the connectivity and the interest in VC is really taking off. It's an exciting time to be in Houston and Texas in general."

“Plug and Play’s ventures team is based in Silicon Valley and one thing they enjoy about meeting Houston-based founders is valuations tend to be more reasonable than in the Bay Area."

Payal Patel, director of Plug and Play Tech Center in Houston. "There are gems to be found," she adds.

“I don’t know what it is — if it’s something in the water or just Texans being very friendly, but the investors here share deal flow. It takes a village, and I think we all understand a rising tide lifts all boats."

Patel says on the collaborative nature of Houston. "It's really magical."

“What you’re witnessing is a city that has been waiting for industrial innovation to reach the point where it can be adopted at a really high scale, and that happened around 2017.”

Jon Nordby, managing director at MassChallenge Texas in Houston. Nordby adds that MassChallenge in Houston hasn't been keen on consumer tech, or the "grilled cheese delivery apps," as he describes. "We like companies that are in love with problems, not so much in love with solutions. … We build really meaningful tech."

“Over the last year or two, we’ve seen that sleeping giant get awoken. Open and external innovation is newly adopted by more legacy industries where it wasn’t before — and that’s just created a mountain of opportunities for startups and investors alike.”

Nordby says on the shift toward this meaningful, problem-solving technology, which Houston is full of, as he observes.

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