Guest column

Non-Houstonian identifies why the Bayou City is prime for a tech and startup boom

What does Houston's tech scene look like from an outsider's perspective? Ripe for success, according to this guest article. Getty Images

Houston might be known abroad as the Space City, but it's got a lot more to offer than interstellar exploration. As we continue toward the second half 2020 — even in light of the COVID-19 crisis, Houston is attracting the best talent, tech, and businesses around — and with good reason.

Here we look at why Houston is such an attractive prospect for enterprise in 2020.

More bang for your buck

While the likes of New York or Los Angeles are established places to launch and grow a business, they are expensive. But in Houston, your important dollar goes a long way.

The cost of living in Houston is around 35 percent lower than in New York. Consequently, cash-strapped but ambitious graduates flock to Houston to enjoy a better (and more affordable) quality of life.

For startups looking to gradually and sustainably grow in their first year (and succeed), Houston is an attractive place to start. They get more bang for their buck, so they can focus on growing their business without paying through the nose for expensive office space (and staff).

It's a beautiful, historic city

Founded in 1836, Houston has a long and rich history, and its aesthetics perfectly represents that — something Houstonians and Texans don't take enough time to recognize usually. Its architecture is a healthy mix of historic and modern.

Downtown Houston features gorgeous old buildings spreading out from Allen's Landing. Its residential architecture too offers some stunning mansions, as well as some rustic row houses. As the city developed throughout history, its skyline has grown to include some breathtaking skyscrapers, including the Heritage Plaza and the JPMorgan Chase Tower — one of the tallest composite buildings in the world.

Looking beyond architecture, Houston offers plenty of green spaces to enjoy. Hermann Park is an impressive 445 acres, and acts as a community space for the entire city. If you want somewhere to run a few miles before heading to work, Memorial Park offers plenty of open space and trails to take advantage of too.

Looks aren't everything, of course. But with the rich sprawl of Houston all around you, they certainly help.

There's a thriving coworking scene

Houston is home to dozens of stellar coworking spaces — with more opening regularly. There's a few WeWork outposts from the Galleria area to The Woodlands, as well as home-grown spaces like The Cannon, Station Houston, and Wicowork, where businesses from virtually every industry come together to work and collaborate.

These spaces form part of a thriving startup scene with plenty of scope for networking and collaborating. Growing a business is easier when you're doing it alongside others, and Houston's coworking spaces offer a fertile ground for meeting and sharing inspiration.

It's not all about established businesses either. Houston is also the perfect place for individuals to launch a creative side hustle, with a thriving scene of artistic self-starters and passionate solopreneurs available to draw upon for inspiration. These coworking spaces provide the perfect place to meet like-minded individuals and get your vision further.

Although COVID-19 has affected coworking spaces, the crisis has pushed coworking to provide virtual resources, which will only benefit coworkers across companies.

Choose from a great pool of talent

Every growing business needs the best and brightest talent to join its ranks and help it succeed. Thankfully, Houston is home to some of the finest universities in the state. The University of Houston and Rice University produce plenty of smart, driven graduates looking to make their mark on the chosen industry.

These universities also have a close relationship with local startups too. Each has its own startup accelerator to help small enterprises get ahead. UH's RED Labs has helped launch dozens of companies since its inception in 2013, and Rice University's OwlSpark has 54 startups to its name to date.

Consequently, plenty of businesses are looking to Houston to seek growth and attract top talent. With such a wide pool of talent on tap, startups and growing businesses alike will have their pick of the crop.

Everything's bigger in Texas, and Houston is no exception. With a growing pool of bright talent, a stellar startup scene, and beautiful surroundings to match, Houston is the top destination for talent and business in 2020.

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Kayleigh Alexandra is an entrepreneur and writer at WriterZone and Micro Startups based in the United Kingdom.

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Building Houston

 
 

Having diversity of thought among the leadership team is usually regarded as a positive, Houston researchers found that conflict can cause more harm than good. Photo via Getty Images

For the past 40 years, management researchers have assumed that diversity of opinion about company strategy, even when it causes conflict among senior managers, leads to higher-quality strategic decisions and improved firm performance.

It turns out there isn’t evidence to support that belief.

Rice Business Professor Daan Van Knippenberg has spent his career studying topics related to team performance, decision making, diversity and conflict. When a research team led by Codou Samba, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, approached him with an offer to test longstanding assumptions about conflict related to company strategy in senior management teams, he jumped at the opportunity.

In his experience, the business case for diversity is strong, but it comes with caveats. “Diversity of perspectives can lead to better solutions to complex problems, but only when team members are open-minded enough to listen carefully to each other and really integrate another point of view into their decision-making process,” he says. This does not seem to apply to differences in opinion about what company strategy should be.

When managers dig in their heels and refuse to consider and integrate other perspectives, that two-way door of communication slams shut and conflict ensues. “The popular idea that conflict is actually good for firms went against all my knowledge,” says Van Knippenberg. “It’s annoying that this idea has floated around in my field for so long when the evidence really points the other way.”

The team led by Samba, which also included C. Chet Miller, a professor at the University of Houston, conducted a quantitative summary and integration of 78 papers that provide data about strategic dissent — a term used to describe diverging opinions about strategic goals and objectives on senior management teams — and its influence on strategic decision making and firm performance.

Every paper that made a prediction about strategic dissent (only a few did not) posited that strategic dissent leads to better outcomes for firms.

In their paper, “The impact of strategic dissent on organizational outcomes: A meta-analytic integration,” the research team used a deep well of empirical data to demonstrate that the opposite is true. Turning common wisdom on its head, they found that strategic dissent among senior managers actually leads to lower-quality decisions and impaired firm performance.

The authors identify two major reasons for the negative impact of strategic dissent on firm outcomes.

First, strategic dissent causes relational breakdown among senior managers. “If managers walk away from a team meeting thinking they just had a conflict instead of a productive discussion, the outcome is rarely positive,” says Van Knippenberg. The two sides retreat into their respective corners, believing the other side to be wrong and closing their minds to further information.

Second, strategic dissent leads to less relevant information being exchanged among managers. Inevitably, this blockage impairs the decision-making process. If a marketing director and an operations director are at odds, for example, they are less likely to share the marketing- or operations-specific information that is needed to make an optimal team decision.

Teams can benefit from diversity of thought, but it is not always clear what conditions need to be in place for that to happen on senior management teams that disagree about the firm’s strategic direction. CEOs — the leaders of senior management teams — would do well to realize that it takes an effortful investment to foster open-minded discussions of diverging views on the organization’s strategy, to create an environment that encourages members to express dissenting perspectives while absorbing the perspectives of others, and to prevent vested interest and power dynamics from determining the outcomes of such discussions.

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This article originally ran on Rice Business Wisdom and was based on research from Daan Van Knippenberg, the Houston Endowed Professor of Management at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University, C. Chet Miller, the C.T. Bauer Professor of Organizational Studies at C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston, and Codou Samba, an assistant professor at Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

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