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Houston expert shares 3 venture capital predictions for 2022

Blockchain growth and funds reaching new groups of people — this Houston investor has VC trends for 2022. Image via Getty Images

New Year’s resolutions are all well and good, but this year, in true VC fashion, I’m making some New Year’s predictions, too. Though I’m not an oracle, I am an investor, which means I use what I learned in the past to guide my decisions in the present. With that in mind, here are three predictions for 2022.

Blockchain’s gaining ground and will be used to solve some of the world’s toughest problems.

This year, expect to see more corporates adopting blockchain. Blockchain is the digital recordkeeping technology that cryptocurrencies depend on, but its impact goes far beyond powering Bitcoin and giving speculative traders something to do. It allows corporations to do everything from transferring data more securely, to tackling supply chain issues (a problem we became all too familiar with last year), to eradicating the double spending problem in carbon credit markets and helping businesses prove their ESG claims.

When it comes to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing, blockchain will be a major part of the solution to a myriad of pressing issues, from climate change to social unrest.

On the environmental front, expect blockchain to be an essential tool in our quest to get to net zero: the technology allows companies to better track and trace their carbon footprint, and will lead to greater accountability across industries. It also has the potential to bring much-needed transparency to the global food supply chain, so that consumers can make informed decisions about the products they’re buying.

So much of the social unrest we are experiencing today is the result of power concentrated in too few hands and the lack of access to financial services. Blockchain is already being used to help the unbanked to improve their credit scores through microloans and to provide farmers with crop insurance. In 2022, blockchain will continue to democratize access to capital and unlock opportunities for retail investors to build wealth on their own terms.

As of last fall, 85 percent of the market cap of digital assets was driven by retail investor interest. In the first half of 2021 we saw a 100 percent increase in crypto users and a 700 percent growth in the DeFi token market cap. And there’s no signs of a slowdown. In December, Visa announced they were launching a “crypto advisory practice” to help their clients understand this next frontier. Visa’s announcement is just one of many announcements from major firms embracing the notion that digital assets will soon be a vital thread in the broader financial ecosystem.

If you let 2021 pass without getting educated on blockchain, 2022 is the time to dive deep.

The tech industry knows entrepreneurs can build from anywhere, and they’re doubling down on geographic diversity.

Until a few years ago, the conventional wisdom was that you couldn’t build a successful startup from anywhere but Silicon Valley. In 2022, entrepreneurs will build — and build successfully — in cities across the country, basing themselves in communities that best align with not only their industries, but their interests.

Rising innovation hubs will succeed based on how well they distinguish themselves from their counterparts. Want to build in a vibrant metropolitan area which is also the most diverse city in America and has built an inclusive startup ecosystem? Join us in Houston. Want to join a thriving ecosystem that is close to nature activities and still (somewhat) affordable? Move to Austin.

Though this geographic diversification started pre-pandemic, COVID-19 sped it up. In 2021, for the first time in more than 10 years, the percentage of seed capital going to Bay Area startups fell under 30 percent. The possibility of building an innovation community anywhere is finally becoming a reality as the pandemic years forced digital adoption and innovative thinking.

The upshot: if you’re a founder looking to lay roots, you can find the soil that’s best for your growth.

For women, Black and Latinx founders, the needle is moving in 2022.

For years now, a few in the tech industry have been working hard to diversify capital allocation, planting seeds aimed at getting more capital into the hands of women, Black and Latinx founders. In 2022, those seeds will sprout.

Two years ago, only 5.6 percent of VC firms in the U.S. were women-led, and of those 73 percent had been founded in the previous five years. But venture is a long game so investing initiatives can take years. When women are writing the checks, they tend to fund more diverse teams, which, in turn, routinely outperform teams with no women or people of color.

The work, in short, is paying off. In 2021, venture firms founded by women were on pace to bring in over 7 billion dollars, nearly one billion dollars over the previous high, from 2019. Expect the trend to continue into this year.

In summary, expect 2022 to be a blockbuster year for blockchain utility, and enjoy the increased capital deployed into previously underrepresented founders living all across America. We’ll check back in 2023 to see how I did.

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Samantha Lewis is principal at Houston-based venture capital firm, Mercury Fund.

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Building Houston

 
 

Catch up on two big pieces of news landing at the Houston Spaceport. Image via fly2houston.com

The Space City is starting 2022 off strong with news launching out of the Houston Spaceport — a TK-acre space in TK Houston.

The two big headlines include a unicorn company releasing the latest details of its earthbound project and fresh funds from the state to support the space ecosystem in Texas.

Governor Abbott doles out $10M in spaceport grants

Texas has launched fresh funding into two spaceport projects. Image via fly2houston.com

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced $10 million in funding to two Texas spaceports as a part of the state's Spaceport Trust Fund. The Houston Spaceport Development Corp. received $5 million and the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corp. received $5 million.

The fund is administered by the Governor's Office of Economic Development and Tourism and was created to support the development of spaceport infrastructure, create quality jobs, and attract continuing investments that will strengthen the economic future of the state, according to a news release.

"For decades, Texas has been a trailblazer in space technology and we are proud to help cultivate more innovation and development in this growing industry in Cameron and Harris County," says Abbott in the release. "This investment in the Cameron County and Houston Spaceport Development Corporations will create even more economic opportunities for Texans across the state and continue our legacy as a leader in space technology."

Axiom Space hires Dallas-based architecture and engineering firm

Axiom Space has made progress on developing its 14-acre headquarters. Image via axiomspace.com

Houston-based unicorn Axiom Space has announced that it awarded Dallas-based Jacobs the architecture and engineering phase one design contract. The firm will be working on the 100,000-square-foot facility planned for the 400-acre Houston Spaceport at Ellington Airport.

Axiom Space's plans are ro build the first commercial space station that will provide a central hub for research, to support microgravity experiments, manufacturing, and commerce in low Earth orbit missions, according to a news release.

"This is an exciting and historic moment for Axiom and the greater Houston area," says Axiom CTO Matt Ondler in the release. "For the first time, spacecraft will be built and outfitted right here in Houston, Texas. This facility will provide us with the infrastructure necessary to scale up operations and bring more aerospace jobs to the area. With this new facility, we are not only building next generation spacecraft, but also solidifying Houston as the U.S. commercial industry's gateway to space."

Axiom Space, which raised $130M in venture capital last year, is building out its 14-acre headquarters to accommodate the creation of more than 1,000 high-paying jobs, from engineers to scientists, mathematicians, and machinists.

"Houston is a city built on innovation and is becoming a next-generation tech hub in the United States," says Ron Williams, senior vice president at Jacobs. "Privately funded infrastructure will drive U.S. leadership in space. Jacobs is committed to providing integrated solutions to accelerate the future of commercial space operations."

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