by the numbers

Report: Houston sees huge jump in new businesses amid the pandemic

A recent report finds that the rate of new Houston startups has popped up significantly. Photo by Zview/Getty Images

By one measure, Houston could be considered the startup capital of Texas.

A new study by personal finance website LendingTree shows the Houston metro area experienced a 37.4 percent jump in new-business applications from 2019 to 2020. That was the highest growth rate among Texas’ six biggest metro areas and the 20th highest growth rate among the 100 U.S. metro areas with the most new-business applications in 2020.

In 2019, the Houston area racked up 85,998 new-business applications, according to U.S. Census Bureau data cited by LendingTree. A year later, the number of applications in the region soared to 118,183. The data measures applications for nine-digit employer identification numbers (EINs), which the IRS uses to track businesses for tax purposes. An EIN is similar to a person’s Social Security number.

“The pandemic has created so much financial chaos for so many people, and that uncertainty surely spurred many Americans to take the plunge,” says Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at LendingTree.

“Some folks did it out of necessity because of income or job losses,” he adds. “Some folks did it to feel more secure, as the idea of relying on one source of income just didn’t make sense anymore for a lot of people. Others likely did it because they’d wanted to for years but never felt the time was right.”

Across the U.S., the retail sector witnessed the heftiest increase (59.7 percent) in new-business applications from 2019 to 2020.

“So many companies have made it so easy to sell online that people feel good about taking the plunge,” Schulz says. “Setting up an online store is generally simpler, quicker and less expensive than ever, so the barriers to entry that once scared potential entrepreneurs away from opening a new store aren’t the obstacles that they once were.”

Memphis, Tennessee, topped the LendingTree list. The metro area saw a 77.9 rise in new-business applications from 2019 to 2020.

Elsewhere in Texas:

  • Dallas ranked 37th nationally and second in Texas, with a 29 percent increase in new-business applications.
  • San Antonio ranked 62nd nationally and third in Texas, with an 18 percent increase in new-business applications.
  • McAllen ranked 77th nationally and fourth in Texas, with a 13.3 percent increase in new-business applications.
  • Austin ranked 78th nationally and fifth in Texas, with a 13.2 percent increase in new-business applications.
  • El Paso ranked 79th nationally and sixth in Texas, with an 11.9 percent increase in new-business applications.

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Building Houston

 
 

Ben Jawdat, CEO and founder of Revterra, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via LinkedIn

With more and more electric vehicles on the road, existing electrical grid infrastructure needs to be able to keep up. Houston-based Revterra has the technology to help.

"One of the challenges with electric vehicle adoption is we're going to need a lot of charging stations to quickly charge electric cars," Ben Jawdat, CEO and founder of Revterra, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "People are familiar with filling their gas tank in a few minutes, so an experience similar to that is what people are looking for."

To charge an EV in ten minutes is about 350 kilowatts of power, and, as Jawdat explains, if several of these charges are happening at the same time, it puts a tremendous strain on the electric grid. Building the infrastructure needed to support this type of charging would be a huge project, but Jawdat says he thought of a more turnkey solution.

Revterra created a kinetic energy storage system that enables rapid EV charging. The technology pulls from the grid, but at a slower, more manageable pace. Revterra's battery acts as an intermediary to store that energy until the consumer is ready to charge.

"It's an energy accumulator and a high-power energy discharger," Jawdat says, explaining that compared to an electrical chemical battery, which could be used to store energy for EVs, kinetic energy can be used more frequently and for faster charging.

Jawdat, who is a trained physicist with a PhD from the University of Houston and worked as a researcher at Rice University, says some of his challenges were receiving early funding and identifying customers willing to deploy his technology.

Last year, Revterra raised $6 million in a series A funding round. Norway’s Equinor Ventures led the round, with participation from Houston-based SCF Ventures. Previously, Revterra raised nearly $500,000 through a combination of angel investments and a National Science Foundation grant.

The funding has gone toward growing Revterra's team, including onboarding three new engineers with some jobs still open, Jawdat says. Additionally, Revterra is building out its new lab space and launching new pilot programs.

Ultimately, Revterra, an inaugural member of Greentown Houston, hopes to be a major player within the energy transition.

"We really want to be an enabling technology in the renewable energy transition," Jawdat says. "One part of that is facilitating the development of large-scale, high-power, fast-charging networks. But, beyond that, we see this technology as a potential solution in other areas related to the clean energy transition."

He shares more about what's next for Revterra on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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