houston innovators podcast episode 233

Houston investor calls for all angels to move the ecosystem forward

Mitra Miller, vice president and board member of the Houston Angel Network, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to share her passion for growing angel investors in Houston. Photo via LinkedIn

One of the biggest components of a well-functioning startup ecosystem is inarguably access to capital, and Mitra Miller is dedicated to enhancing education around investment and growing Houston's investor base.

As vice president and board member of the Houston Angel Network, the oldest angel network in Texas and one of the most active angel networks in the country, Miller strives to provide guidance to new and emerging angel investors as well as founders seeking to raise money from them.

"Most founders have no idea or understanding of how investors think — we are not an ATM," Miller says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "We are really partners you are getting married to for the next 5, 8, 10 years — sometimes longer. We need to bring your allies in every sense of the word."

HAN, a nonprofit, provides a unique opportunity for its members, as Miller explains. The group consists of around 100 individuals from all business backgrounds, so evaluating companies together brings more than just a wealth of capital — but also a wealth of knowledge.

"What HAN provides is access to investments," Miller says, adding that members have the benefit in evaluating companies together with people from different backgrounds. "Inside a group like HAN, we have extraordinary expertise."

In addition to educating both founders and investors in the process, Miller has dedicated herself to providing opportunities for students in low-income parts of Houston to learn about the startup world. Eight years ago, she founded Eagle Investors, an organization that provides a year-long program that culminates in a group of students participating as judges for the Rice Business Plan Competition.

"They spend a year learning about innovation, entrepreneurship, and investing by meeting local investors, entrepreneurs, and service providers. They go around Houston to get to visit and ... experience all of the ecosystem," Miller says.

At RBPC, the cohort of high school students evaluate the pitches and select a company to provide a $5,000 prize.

Miller herself has been a judge at RBPC for 20 years now, and she's had a front row seat for watching Houston develop as an ecosystem. She's seen the city make real progress, but has one major call to action.

"The piece that I am most aware of that I would like to see grow is activating more accredited investors who are interested in this asset class of early-stage companies and plugging in," Miller says. "They can also invest their time and knowledge to help companies in our region grow and scale."

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