Ready, aim, fire

Photos: West Houston coworking space 50 percent leased ahead of early 2019 opening

The Cannon's 120,000-square-foot space is on track to open March 1. Courtesy of The Cannon

Everything's bigger in Texas, and Houston will soon have a coworking space to reflect that. The Cannon is on track to open its West Houston 120,000-square-foot, 32-acre coworking and entrepreneurship campus by March 1.

"We're going to have, as far as I know, the biggest coworking space in the world," says Lawson Gow, founder and CEO of The Cannon. "It's a really Houston-sized solution to the problem of the challenge we set out to face."

The construction broke ground in April, and Gow — son of David Gow, owner of InnovationMap's parent company Gow Media — says they haven't seen any real delays so far. The new space will have 11 meeting rooms, sound-proof phone booths, 24-hour access, health and wellness room, courtyard, movie theater, a gameroom, and more to offer its coworkers.

Currently, The Cannon's coworkers are functioning out of a 20,000-square-foot space at 1336 Brittmoore Road, also known as the waiting room, which is adjacent to the construction.

The Cannon has 50 percent of the new space already leased — and Gow says about 75 percent of the pre-leased companies are already companies working out of The Cannon. Gow says he's just started doing some promotion around leasing — hard hat happy hours and tours — but he's not too worried about being 100 percent leased. He just wants to make sure there are enough companies in there by opening day.

"We've painstakingly created the culture of the community in The Cannon in the space we're in now, and we have to do that all over again," Gow says. "We want to have the hustle and bustle in the space, and you can't do that if it's empty."

Two Houston-based companies are responsible for the project; Burton Construction is the general contractor and Abel Design Group is the architect.

A few years ago, Gow says he recognized a need in Houston — and The Cannon was his solution.

"The problem that we're addressing — every startup is addressing a problem — is Houston has really struggled to develop vibrant startup communities," Gow says. "Entrepreneurs and talent will leave to go to Austin and beyond, and so the mission was to create a place and an infrastructure and a density of resources to prevent them from having to do that and keep our entrepreneurs here."

Large and in charge

Courtesy of The Cannon

The new Cannon facility will be the largest coworking space in Houston, says Lawson Gow, founder and CEO of The Cannon.

On his failed investor attempt on Shark Tank, Brooks Powell couldn't secure a shark investment for $400,000. Now, he just closed on $2.1 million for his startup. Courtesy of Cheers

When Brooks Powell's Houston-based startup got passed over by the investors on Shark Tank last year, he didn't let it deter him. Instead, the Houston entrepreneur buckled down and started seeking investments off the screen.

It paid off, and Cheers (née Thrive+) recently closed a $2.1 million seed round. The round was lead by NextView Ventures, which has the likes of TaskRabbit, threadUP, and Letgo among its portfolio.

With the new investment, Brooks says the company is rebranding from Thrive, its original moniker, to Cheers.

"Thrive+ doesn't really say anything about what we did or who we are about," Powell says. "We knew we needed something fitting for the alcohol industry but at the same time has the connotation of fun, responsibility, and health."

The process has been daunting, but worth it, Powell says, citing companies like Ring, which changed its company name from Doorbot.

"It would be hard to imagine Amazon buying a company named Doorbot," Powell says.

It's worth noting that Doorbot rebranded also following a similar rejection on Shark Tank.

Once Cheers had its new name, Powell began the process of the transition — relabeling bottles, redoing marketing materials, etc. There's still a long road ahead for the rebranding, but Powell says he wasn't going to drag his feet, since the change would just become more expensive and more challenging. Ring, for instance, had to pay $1 million for its new domain name.

"We wanted to become Cheers as soon as possible, because it would only become harder as time went on," he says.

From student to CEO
Cheers' formula isn't new. The key ingredient, Dihydromyricetin, a natural extract — like caffeine to coffee, which made the FDA process smooth sailing. DHM started being identified as an anti-alcohol treatment in 2012 following experiments on the effects on rats.

Around that time, Powell was a sophomore at Princeton University, and he came across the science surrounding DHM and knew if he could harness the natural extract for commercial use, it'd change the game of hangover health.

"I started working with some of my professors and asking them if it was safe and would it be effective," Powell says.

At the time, there was very little amount of DHM in the United States, so the company became the first to import the ingredient on a large scale.

Powell graduated from Princeton in 2017 and moved his company to its workspace in The Cannon.

Serving up growth
Cheers has seen a tremendous amount of growth over the past year. The company's revenue increased 20 times year over year. A key determiner of success for the company, Powell says, has been strategic marketing and a working product.

"Primarily products such as this, historically, have never worked," he says. "And they've always been marketing toward binge drinkers and partiers."

Another strategy Powell has is giving the company a presence nationwide by having advisers and investors from both coasts.

"What we have tried to do is have our cake and eat it too. We set roots in Houston, but we have our hands in other markets."

In addition to rebranding, Cheers plans to continue its growth, as well as research and development of the product.