Luxe life

New high-end workspace opens in Houston's Galleria area

Austin-based FIRMSPACE has opened its third location in Houston with a 32,000-square-foot space in BBVA Compass Plaza. Courtesy of FIRMSPACE

Houston's getting another high-end coworking space. FIRMSPACE, an Austin-based company, selected Houston as its third location.

With 32,000 square feet of space, FIRMSPACE Houston is open for business in BBVA Compass Plaza (2200 Post Oak Boulevard) on the 10th and 11th floors of the 22-story building. The company opened its first location in Austin, followed by a Denver location last December.

"This opening is particularly close to my heart given that I'm from here," says co-founder and CEO, Matt Ferstler, in a release. "We launched FIRMSPACE to serve an unmet need in the coworking market, and our Houston site is unlike anything we've ever done. I think it will exceed our members' expectations."

The space has the normal coworking office offerings — high-speed internet, standing desks, shared conference rooms and common areas — but takes the perks a step further with onsite dry cleaning, catered lunches, evening programing, and more. FIRMSPACE caters to lawyers, financial services firms, and remote corporate executives, according to the release, and members have access to the firm's other locations, which soon should include Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, New York City, Salt Lake City, and Washington D.C.

The building was designed by Houston-based architecture firm, Page, and was completed in 2014. Page design director, Jen Bussinger, oversaw FIRMSPACE's integration into the building.

"Since we're in the Energy Capital of the World, we drew our inspiration from curves and fractal shapes found within a geode stone for texture and natural rock formations for the color palette," says Bussinger in a release. "In the age of biophilia – the hypothesis that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature – we go out of our way to feature different representations of nature."

Uptown views

Courtesy of FIRMSPACE

The new FIRMSPACE Houston resides in BBVA Compass Plaza, which opened in 2014.

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Building Houston

 
 

Plug and Play, an international accelerator and investment group with a presence in Houston, joined a panel to discuss startup investment, networking, and more during the pandemic. Photo by Zview/Getty Images

It's no secret that the spread of COVID-19 has greatly affected startup ecosystems by shutting down coworking and accelerator spaces and providing economic uncertainty in the venture capital world. However, organizations focused on investment and acceleration are still working to virtually guide startups virtually.

Plug and Play Tech Center, an accelerator and investment group based in Silicon Valley that recently launched its Houston presence, is still offering support and even investments to startups as the pandemic continues on. One way they've recently done so is through Houston Exponential on a virtual panel to answer questions from Houston entrepreneurs.

On the panel, Neda Amidi, partner and global head of health at Plug and Play Tech Center, Milad Malek, associate at Plug and Play Ventures, and Payal Patel, director at Plug and Play Houston, discussed concerns and questions about the organization's dedication to Houston, advice amid the pandemic, and more. If you missed it or don't have time to stream the whole conversation, here are some impactful moments of the chat.

“Timing and opportunity set up the Plug and Play Houston office. The mayor and other business leaders in Houston had seen what happens in our Silicon Valley office and with all the things that are going on in the burgeoning startup community in Houston, we saw the opportunity.”

— Patel says on how Houston snagged its very own Plug and Play location. "Given the high concentration of large companies here — as well as the growing number of investment opportunities — we moved quite quickly to open the office here," she adds.

“There’s a number of great entrepreneurs here in this city. I think a missing ingredient has been the number of early stage investments — especially in that Seed or series A stage. So, we hope to make an impact in that. Our CEO has publicly stated that he’d like to make five investments in Houston a year.”

— Patel shares about Plug and Play's investment strategy in Houston. She adds that five investments in Houston a year is the bare minimum, and they actually are striving for more.

“[Investing virtually is] kind of the same process, but we definitely try to make sure we have cameras on and distractions are away, really giving that entrepreneur that same experience as we can in a face-to-face meeting."

— Amidi says on how Plug and Play's investment team approaches investment meetings and pitches during this time. She explains that during the beginning of the pandemic, most of their investments were with companies that had existing relationships with or follow on deals. Now they have made investments in companies they've never met in person. She says Plug and Play has relied on its network to give feedback on these potential deals.

“During COVID, we’ve recommended to a lot of our portfolio companies to raise more than what they needed at the time to be able to power through what’s happening now and what will happen on the economy side as well."

— Amidi says about investment advice they've given to Plug and Play startups.

“A lot of hardware companies get too intense in terms of thinking about one avenue of fundraising. Spend a lot more time thinking about fundraising strategy.”

Malek says on fundraising for hardware startups specifically. He adds that there are other options for generating cash flow, like grants. "Don't forget the business side of things" he adds. "I know early on, a lot of founders are focused on the technology and prototyping, but it's important as well to think about a compelling narrative for potential investors — even if you're pre-revenue."

"For SaaS, it’s important to have a unique differentiation. There are a lot of copy cats in this realm. It’s ok to be doing something that has competitors — every startup has competitors."

— Malek says about software-as-a-service startups pitching to investors. "It's a red flag when we're talking to a startup — especially one with a SaaS product — that says we don't have competitors," he adds, saying it's usually not true.

“A lot of investors out there prefer teams with multiple founders and not just one founder. It never hurts, at least in an investor’s eyes, to have two or three founders.”

— Malek explains, responding to a question about how to begin the process of bringing another co-founder on board. Investors, he says, value a team with diverse backgrounds and expertise.

“Take your time — it’s kind of like picking a spouse or partner. You want to make sure you’re compatible.”

Amidi adds, saying it's an exceptionally difficult process nowadays. She recommends reaching out to your network for leads on a potential co-founder or even looking into sites like AngelList or LinkedIn.

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