stacking up

Houston rise in the ranks of the top emerging ecosystems in the world

According to a new report, Houston is among the top emerging ecosystems. Photo by Zview/Getty Images

If you need evidence that Houston's startup ecosystem is flourishing, look no further than a new report from Startup Genome and the Global Entrepreneurship Network.

This year's Global Startup Ecosystem Report, released September 22, places Houston at No. 19 among the world's top 100 emerging startup ecosystems. Furthermore, it puts Houston at No. 4 among the top regional challengers in North America. Last year's report lumped Houston with other emerging startup ecosystems in the 31-to-40 ranking range.

Mumbai, India, appears at No. 1 among the world's top 100 emerging startup ecosystems this year, while Miami lands at No. 1 among the top regional challengers in North America.

According to Houston Exponential, the city's startup ecosystem "is experiencing a growth spurt that appears to show no signs of abating."

Case in point: Houston startups raised more than $1 billion in the first six months of 2021, surpassing all annual totals from previous years. In 2020, Houston startups reaped a record-high $753 million in venture capital.

"Venture capital invested in Houston startups has nearly quadrupled since 2016," according to a recent Houston Exponential report. "The sustained level of progress we've seen in startup formation and growth over the past four years shows that Houston has what it takes to build a vibrant, healthy innovation economy with an emphasis on equity."

Collectively, the health care and information technology sectors accounted for nearly 60 percent of Houston's VC deals in the first half of 2021, the report says.

Another sign of the expansion of Houston's startup ecosystem: the rising number of workspaces, incubators, and accelerators designed to foster startups.

"These key institutions create density and drive collisions among founders, investors, and talent, significantly increasing the rate of startup formation and growth," according to the Greater Houston Partnership.

Those institutions include The Ion entrepreneurial hub, the Greentown Labs climate-tech incubator, and the DivInc startup accelerator. All are new arrivals on the Houston startup scene.

"DivInc is about broadening the startup ecosystem by making it more authentically diverse, equitable, and inclusive of underrepresented entrepreneurs," Preston James II, CEO of DivInc, said in April. "When we, as a community, do this successfully, we optimize our opportunities for economic GDP growth, we can help reduce racial/gender wealth divide, and drive greater innovation."

Elsewhere in Texas, Austin ranks 20th among the leading startup ecosystems in the Global Startup Ecosystem Report, down from No. 19 last year, and Dallas repeats its 31st-place tie. Silicon Valley tops the global list.

The report says North America represents half of the top 30 ecosystems in the world.

"Entrepreneurs, policymakers, and community leaders in North America have been working hard to build inclusive innovation ecosystems that are engines of economic growth and job creation for all," JF Gauthier, founder and CEO of Startup Genome, says in a news release.

San Francisco-based Startup Genome is a research and advisory firm specializing in startup ecosystems.

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Building Houston

 
 

Fertitta and his family have gifted $50 million to UH's medical school. Photo courtesy

As Houston’s most high-profile billionaire and owner of the posh 5-star Post Oak Hotel and Houston Rockets, Tilman J. Fertitta has become synonymous with over-the-top opulence and big-time entertainment.

But the CEO of the massive Feritta Entertainment empire’s latest move has nothing to do with penthouses or point guards, but rather a legacy, game-changing appropriation meant to aid his home state’s health.

The longtime UH board member and former chairman and his family have just pledged $50 million to the University of Houston College of Medicine. In turn, the new medical school has been christened the Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine.

The projected school, upon completion. Rendering courtesy of University of Houston

This landmark gift aims to address the state’s critical primary care physician shortage, (especially in low-income and underserved communities), as well as attract innovation-focused scholars, UH notes.

Additionally, the grant is meant to further clinical and translational research, with an emphasis on population health, behavioral health, community engagement, and the social determinants of health, according to a press release.

Here is how the Fertitta family gift will be distributed:

  • $10 million funds five endowed chairs for faculty hires who are considered national stars in their fields with a focus on health care innovation. This portion of the gift will be matched one-to-one as part of the University’s “$100 Million Challenge” for chairs and professorships, doubling the endowed principal to $20 million.
  • $10 million establishes an endowed scholarship fund to support endowed graduate research stipends/fellowships for medical students.
  • $10 million will cover start-up costs for the Fertitta Family College of Medicine to enhance research activities including facilities, equipment, program costs and graduate research stipends/fellowships.
  • $20 million will create the Fertitta Dean’s Endowed Fund to support research-enhancing activities.

No stranger to writing big checks, Fertitta donated $20 million to UH Athletics — the largest individual donation ever — in 2016 to transform UH’s basketball arena into the now high-tech Fertitta Center.

CultureMap caught up with the CEO (who just sold his Golden Nugget gaming for $1.6 billion), best-selling author, and Billion Dollar Buyer to discuss his landmark gift.

CultureMap: Congratulations on this legacy grant, which has been a long time coming. What does this gift mean to you, now that it’s finally official?

Tilman Fertitta: This was a vision of our chancellors and, you know, I’m on my third, six-year term and not been the chairman for eight years — and we started working on this, seven, eight years ago.

To be able to be in the beginning and the nucleus, and the idea, and what we wanted, and to get the approval from Austin—to watch it come to fruition, how often does somebody get to do a naming gift at the same time they had a lot to do with the creation of the school? So, it was very special in my heart.

CM: Many know you as the CEO of a hospitality empire, author, and even TV personality. But not many know of your commitment to healthcare.


TF: I think there’s one thing in this world that we definitely should always be treated equally on, and that's that’s equal health care for all. This medical school will serve the whole community.

We’re trying to recruit students who want to be primary physicians who will take care of the community that we live in. It’s just something that was very important to me in my whole family.

CM: Academia, scholarship, and research aside, this could essentially be looked at as seed capital for a fledgling operation. Is that a fair assessment?

TF: I know where you’re going with this and yes, it’s no different than business.

I have the vision to know that being in nearly the third largest city in America and a top 100 university in the United States — as University of Houston is according to U.S. News & World Report — that I know what this is going to be in 50 years. It’s no different than looking at another business that you start and you can have the vision to see how successful it'll be in the years to come.

Being on the ground floor of the University of Houston Medical School and being a part of it from its inception, and to help the seed money that will attract other money, I know that in the years to come what a special nationwide medical school this is going to be — because it’s in one of the great cities of America.

So, to be a part of it today and still be a part of it when I’m not here 50 years from now, maybe even sooner than that [laughs], you know, it’s going to be something very special to always be attached to.

CM: Other Houston medical schools here have distinctions in pivotal research or groundbreaking procedures. Is there a specific direction you’d like UH Med to take, going forward?

TF: Honestly, you know, what I’ve been saying? There’s a significant shortage of primary care physicians, not only in the country, but in the state of Texas. We ranked number 47th in the nation.

What we need in the state of Texas, as well in Houston and everywhere, is primary care physicians to take care of your everyday people—and to see them to know if you need a specialist.

I hope that this medical school looks back and we see that they’re graduating more primary care physicians than any other university in the United States and that's our goal. We’re going to be a med school of the community.

CM: You have zero problem with issuing directives, Tilman. What’s your message to the first graduating class, the one that will initially benefit from this $50 million gold mine?

TF: Go out and take care of the people.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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