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Houston ranked in the top emerging North American startup ecosystems

Houston fell on the international list of emerging startup hubs, but — when it comes to North America — Houston still ranks favorably. Photo via Getty Images

The evolution of Houston’s startup scene continues: A new report awards the region a No. 1 ranking for the robustness of early-stage funding among North America’s emerging startup ecosystems.

Policy advisory and research firm Startup Genome reports that startups in the Houston area attracted $884 billion in early-stage funding from the second half of 2020 to the end of 2022. Early-stage funding generally refers to a startup’s seed and series A rounds.

The $884 million figure puts Houston at No. 1 for early-stage funding among emerging startup ecosystems in North America and at No. 9 globally. Istanbul, Turkey, grabs the top global spot. Startup Genome characterizes the funding meccas in this ranking category as “Strong Starters.”

Startup Genome’s 2023 report on startup ecosystems emphasizes that early-stage funding “is an important indicator of potential success,” since most startups that receive series A rounds have demonstrated their potential by generating revenue, creating a minimal viable product, or being close to launching a product.

In Startup Genome’s global ranking of emerging startup ecosystems as a whole, Houston falls to No. 11 this year from No. 5 in 2022. The report doesn’t cite a reason for the drop. Copenhagen, Denmark, takes the No. 1 ranking in this category.

While its global ranking slipped, Houston still makes this year’s list of the top five emerging ecosystems in North America:

  1. Detroit (same position as last year)
  2. North Carolina’s Research Triangle (up two spots from last year)
  3. Minneapolis (down one spot from last year)
  4. Houston (down one spot from last year)
  5. Phoenix (up two spots from last year)

Startup Genome pegs the value of Houston’s startup ecosystem at $22 billion, based on startup exits and valuations from the second half of 2020 to the end of 2022.

A 2022 report from the Greater Houston Partnership noted that the Houston area is home to more than 60 organizations that foster startup growth. These include incubators, accelerators, coworking spaces, makerspaces, college and university programs, and nonprofit initiatives.

“These organizations have formed a growing web of resources assisting tech entrepreneurs across the Houston region,” says the report.

Silicon Valley once again tops Startup Genome’s list of the world’s leading startup ecosystems, followed by New York City and London (tied at No. 2), Los Angeles (No. 4), and Tel Aviv, Israel (No. 5).

Startup Genome defines a startup ecosystem as a shared pool of resources generally within a 60-mile radius of a central point, such as the city of Houston. These resources include accelerators, incubators, funding groups, coworking spaces, schools, and policymakers.

Startup Genome’s six ranking factors for ecosystems are performance, funding, talent and experience, market reach, knowledge, and “connectedness.”

“Despite current economic challenges, we are confident that, equipped with the right knowledge, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and community leaders everywhere can leverage opportunities to come together and show how innovative technologies can not only continue to drive growth and job creation, but simultaneously help save the planet and ensure a better future for everyone,” JF Gauthier, founder and CEO of Startup Genome, says in a news release. “This essential mission cannot be put on hold while we wait out rocky economic times.”

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