CNBC’s ranking doesn't think too kindly of Texas. Photo via Getty Images

It’s a tale of two states. A new study from CNBC ranks Texas as the fifth best state for doing business. But CNBC simultaneously puts Texas in second place among the worst states to live.

Texas rates poorly for life, health, and inclusion, CNBC says. In fact, the Lone Star state holds the No. 49 spot in that category. Texas’ weaknesses include childcare, health resources, inclusiveness, and voting rights, according to CNBC.

Skilled workers continue to flock to Texas despite lingering quality-of-life issues, CNBC says.

“But when they arrive, they are finding limited childcare options, a stressed health care system with the highest rate of uninsured, new curbs on voting rights, and few protections against discrimination,” CNBC says.

Only Arizona fared worse on CNBC’s list of the worst states to live.

In 2021, Texas wound up at No. 31 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best states. Texas’ highest rankings came in the economy (No. 9) and fiscal stability (No. 10) categories. But it notched rankings below 30 in five other categories: healthcare (No. 31), education (No. 34), crime and corrections (No. 37), opportunity (No. 39), and natural environment (No. 40).

Louisiana came in last place on U.S. News’ list of the best states.

Despite its poor showing in the CNBC study as a place to live, Texas claims the No. 5 spot in the cable news network’s study of the best states for doing business. It ranks especially high for its workforce (No. 2), technology and innovation (No. 4), and economy (No. 8). In CNBC’s 2021 study, Texas landed at No. 4 among the best states for doing business.

This year, North Carolina grabs the CNBC crown as the best state for business, up from second place in 2021.

In an interview last year with CNBC, Gov. Greg Abbott emphasized Texas’ growing stature as a business magnet.

“We continue to see a massive influx of these employers coming to the state of Texas because, candidly, not only do they like the business environment, but … there’s a lot of businesses and a lot of Americans who like the social positions that the state of Texas is taking,” said Abbott, referring to recent legislative restrictions on abortion and voting rights.

Abbott went on to note that Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, decided in late 2021 to shift the headquarters of the automaker from “very liberal” California to Texas.

“People vote with their feet,” the governor said, “and this [wave of socially conservative legislation] is not slowing down businesses coming to the state of Texas at all. In fact, it is accelerating the process of businesses coming to Texas.”

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

WalletHub ranks these Texas towns among the best for starting a business. Photo via Getty Images

These are the best small cities in Texas to start a business

Where to work

When it comes to launching a business in Texas, you might want to look into the suburbs that surround the state's major metros.

Personal finance website WalletHub ranked the best and worst small towns to start a business — and the Lone Star State had plenty of suburbs making the top 400 in the list of more than 1,300 towns.

The report found that Georgetown as the best small city in Texas for starting a business. The website classifies a small city as one with a population of 25,000 to 100,000. The Austin suburb appears at No. 70 on the list overall, and No. 1 in Texas. It scored particularly well in the access to resources category (No. 26) and business environment category (No. 31).

To determine the best small cities for startups, WalletHub compared the business-friendly nature of more than 1,300 small cities across the country. Among the factors it examined were average growth in number of businesses, labor costs, and investor access.

Houston suburbs didn't manage to crack the top 200, but four were recognized amongst the rest of the best small busissiness towns:

  • Texas City , No. 202
  • Baytown, No. 267
  • Deer Park, No. 362
  • Conroe, No. 369

Washington, Utah, nabbed the top spot nationally, along with four other Utah cities in the top 10.

“Size matters when choosing a city in which to launch a startup. As many veteran entrepreneurs — and failed startups — understand well, bigger is not always better,” WalletHub says. “A city with a smaller population can offer a greater chance of success, depending on an entrepreneur’s type of business and personal preferences.”

Elsewhere in Texas, other highly ranked small cities in include:

  • Farmers Branch (Dallas-Fort Worth), No. 102
  • Pflugerville lands (Austin), No. 150
  • San Marcos (Austin), No. 181
  • West Odessa, No. 193
  • Leander (Austin), No. 250
  • Kyle (Austin), No. 258
  • Greenville (Dallas-Fort Worth), No. 275
  • Cedar Park (Austin), No. 280
  • Waxahachie (Dallas-Fort Worth), No. 306
  • Huntsville, No. 308
  • Hurst (Dallas-Fort Worth), No. 312
  • Socorro (El Paso), No. 339
  • Sherman, No. 368
  • Seguin (San Antonio), No. 375

Baytown, Port Arthur, and Texas City tied for first place in the U.S. in terms of highest average revenue per business.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Three Houston companies will pitch in Rice University's competition for veteran-owned startups. Courtesy of Rice University

3 Houston startups to compete in Rice University's Veterans Business Battle

It's on.

Rice University will soon play host to its 2019 Veterans Business Battle, where 20 veteran-owned companies — three of which are from Houston — will pitch their business models and compete for prize money and investment offers.

On April 12, the 20 semifinalists will pitch to a panel of investors, who will choose the top five. Those finalists will pitch the next ay, April 13, in hopes of taking home some of the awards.

"We are very excited about the great group of companies that are coming to Houston next month," says event co-chairman Asad Akram in a release. "It's our goal to introduce them to a network that can help their businesses grow and succeed."

The Houston-based companies competing are Amor Oral, Welcome Connect and FeedMe Fitness, according to a release from Rice University. Amor Oral specializes in the manufacturing and sale of edible, organic personal lubricants. The company's lubricants are all water-based, and Amor Oral claims to offer the largest selection of flavored personal lubricants in the U.S.

FeedMe Fitness, another Houston competitor, is a subscription service that offers customized workouts and meal plans to its subscribers. Welcome Connect is a real estate platform that connects real estate agents with prospective buyers.

More than $3 million has been invested in veteran-owned businesses since the competition's launch in 2015. All the competitors are ultimately after the same thing: investments that will help them launch or expand. The competitor pool includes newly launched ventures and owner-operated businesses, per the Rice release, and all semifinalists can potentially receive investment offers.

A handful of competitors are from Texas. Those competitors include the Dallas-based companies And I Like It and City Gym, Floresville-based Harvard Telemedicine, Fort Worth-based Harvest Returns, Wimberly-based Power Polymer, Corpus Christ-based Rock N Roe Aquaponics, and Bryan-based Zanbazan.

The remaining competitors from around the U.S. are:

  • Gotta Have It Fan Foams, from Springfield, Virginia
  • Family Proud, from San Diego
  • High Country Air Service, from Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Knifehand Nutrition, from Syracuse, New York
  • Maco, from New York
  • Off Duty Blue, from Syracuse, New York
  • Randian, from Los Angeles
  • Reimbi, from Portland, Oregon
  • Safe Stamp, from Nashville
  • SEE ID, from Newcastle, Washington
According to research done by a Rice University professor, businessmen and women are more likely to help out colleagues who attended the same university. Pexels

Rice University research finds that investors and executives are more likely to help out those from their alma mater

Houston Voices

Friends help each other out, right? Imagine young men or women racing down a New England playing field, effortlessly passing a lacrosse ball on their way to the goal. Now imagine some of those old friends as CEOs of large firms, and others as managers of mutual funds. Do they still have each other's backs?

That was the question Rice Business Professor Alexander W. Butler explored in a recent paper. What he found makes perfect sense given human nature, and raises serious questions about the dynamics of the financial market.

Yes, Butler and his coauthor, Umit G. Gurun of the University of Texas at Dallas, found, CEOs of publicly traded corporations and mutual fund managers from the same schools do appear to help each other out. It may be conscious or unconscious: they do what friends do the world over. But the effect on the market can be profound.

To trace the role of social connections in the world of corporate and finance, Butler and Gurun studied how mutual fund managers vote when shareholders proposed limiting executive pay. They cross-referenced these data with information about the educational background of the firms' executives and of the mutual fund managers who took part in the votes.

When voting fund managers and an executive went to the same schools, Butler found, those halcyon days at A&M or Wharton clearly corresponded to fewer votes to limit executive pay.

Now, this may reflect all kinds of things. Shared school ties could mean fund managers have more relevant information about a firm's CEO and his or her value. The shared culture and vocabulary of a school environment might ease information flow between a CEO and managers. But there is also another possibility: Perhaps the value a mutual fund manager places on a CEO's firm has nothing to do with the company's actual value. The manager may simply support him because he's a school friend.

CEOs weren't the only ones to benefit from old-school ties. Well-connected investors prospered too. When a fund manager shared a school background with a given CEO, Butler found, the fund outperformed funds whose managers weren't part of the network. For investors as well as CEOs, in other words, school ties with decision makers at mutual funds raised the chances of a winning outcome.

So a shared school or social background leads to well-paid CEOs, successful fund managers and happy investors. What's not to celebrate?

Plenty, it turns out.

The better trading outcomes of well-connected mutual fund managers have implications far beyond one happy set of shareholders. The Securities and Exchange Commission protects a level playing field because it's in the public interest for the U.S. financial markets to be liquid.

Consumers buy and sell stocks more easily when they are confident that a product's price is reasonably close to its actual value. When one party seems to know more about a stock – perhaps through friendship with the CEO – other investors may lose confidence that they can assess the value of stocks as accurately. When too many consumers distrust the market, liquidity drops. Fewer people buy and sell.

Think how much it easier it is to buy a used car with public resources such as Carfax, or pre-owned car certifications. In the past, a buyer had to wonder what a car seller knew but wasn't saying – or else try to buy a car from someone she already knew and trusted.

Almost everyone has a friend. Almost everyone has experienced the memories, common lingo, and wordless sense of goodwill that come from sharing a common history. Butler and Gurun's study of corporate and financial markets, however, shows how these natural instincts can disadvantage players outside the alumni circle. Shareholders may have less power to limit CEO pay. And consumers may end up less confident about the value of stocks, shaking trust in the financial markets overall. Surely, that's not what friends are for.

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This article originally appeared on Rice Business Wisdom.

Alexander W. Butler is a professor of finance at Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University.

You might want to think twice before making a change to your company's logo. Pexels

Consider this research before redesigning your company's logo

Houston Voices

When Apple toyed with the idea of a logo change in 2003, thousands of users signed petitions attacking the idea. The company quickly realized that change was not necessarily good — and kept the iconic apple.

For most firms, a logo redesign is a way to refresh the brand, making it more alluring to new customers.

If a company does change its look, industry tradition advises, it should go round. Curvier lines and letters supposedly suggest a soothing, harmonious reality, while angles suggest just the opposite.

But research by Rice Business professor Vikas Mittal and colleagues Michael Walsh of West Virginia University and Karen Winterich of Pennsylvania State University shows that regardless of the angle, companies need to be careful about visual do-overs. In general, tolerance for new logos — angular or rounded — depends on the consumer profile. Diehard fans of a brand may find the break in their visual routine irritating. New customers, meanwhile, may or may not find the updated logo aesthetically pleasing.

To test the public's reactions to logo changes, Mittal and his team conducted three different experiments with 215 people, 62 percent of them female and 38 percent male. First, participants were shown a range of logo designs for two leading bottled waters, Dasani and Aquafina. Then they were shown logos by a professional designer who rounded out the images' lines.

Changing the logo design overall, the researchers found, created a sense of dissonance among the most highly committed consumers, who reacted negatively to the new visual information.

People who viewed themselves as more independent minded were less accepting of the rounded logos. Those who thought of themselves as more interdependent in terms of their relationship to family and friends were more likely to roll with the change.

The researchers studied their hypothesis further by recruiting 272 undergraduate students at a large university. To participants who identified as interdependent, the researchers offered the following ad copy: "Everybody's Favorite! Give your family and friends the water that makes mouths water. Dasani. It's been a family favorite for years."

For participants with an independent self-identity, the researchers presented different wording. "Your Favorite!" this ad read. "Give yourself the water that makes mouths water. Dasani. It's been a favorite for years. Today our classic water has been joined by a variety of flavored waters that are sure to please you."

Committed consumers in both groups didn't care much for the new logo. But when the design was rounded, those who identified as interdependent on family, friends and community were less resistant than those who saw themselves as more independent.

The takeaway for business: If your brand is well known, change that logo at your peril. You're likely to irk your most devoted customers. If you must change it, however, make it rounder, especially if you are a global brand. It'll take the edge off – both for consumers and for your company.

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This article originally ran on Rice Business Wisdom.

Vikas Mittal is the J. Hugh Liedtke Professor of Marketing at Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University.

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Houston organizations launch collaborative center to boost cancer outcomes

new to HOU

Rice University's new Synthesis X Center officially launched last month to bring together experts in cancer care and chemistry.

The center was born out of what started about seven years ago as informal meetings between Rice chemist Han Xiao's research group and others from the Baylor College of Medicine’s Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Baylor College of Medicine. The level of collaboration between the two teams has grown significantly over the years, and monthly meetings now draw about 100 participants from across disciplines, fields and Houston-based organizations, according to a statement from Rice.

Researchers at the new SynthX Center will aim to turn fundamental research into clinical applications and make precision adjustments to drug properties and molecules. It will focus on improving cancer outcomes by looking at an array of factors, including prevention and detection, immunotherapies, the use of artificial intelligence to speed drug discovery and development, and several other topics.

"At Rice, we are strong on the fundamental side of research in organic chemistry, chemical biology, bioengineering and nanomaterials,” Xiao says in the statement. “Starting at the laboratory bench, we can synthesize therapeutic molecules and proteins with atom-level precision, offering immense potential for real-world applications at the bedside ... But the clinicians and fundamental researchers don’t have a lot of time to talk and to exchange ideas, so SynthX wants to serve as the bridge and help make these connections.”

SynthX plans to issue its first merit-based seed grants to teams with representatives from Baylor and Rice this month.

With this recognition from Rice, the teams from Xiao's lab and the TMC will also be able to expand and formalize their programs. They will build upon annual retreats, in which investigators can share unpublished findings, and also plan to host a national conference, the first slated for this fall titled "Synthetic Innovations Towards a Cure for Cancer.”

“I am confident that the SynthX Center will be a great resource for both students and faculty who seek to translate discoveries from fundamental chemical research into medical applications that improve people’s lives,” Thomas Killian, dean of the Wiess School of Natural Sciences, says in the release.

Rice announced that it had invested in four other research centers along with SynthX last month. The other centers include the Center for Coastal Futures and Adaptive Resilience, the Center for Environmental Studies, the Center for Latin American and Latinx Studies and the Rice Center for Nanoscale Imaging Sciences.

Earlier this year, Rice also announced its first-ever recipients of its One Small Step Grant program, funded by its Office of Innovation. The program will provide funding to faculty working on "promising projects with commercial potential," according to the website.

Houston physicist scores $15.5M grant for high-energy nuclear physics research

FUTURE OF PHYSICS

A team of Rice University physicists has been awarded a prestigious grant from the Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Physics for their work in high-energy nuclear physics and research into a new state of matter.

The five-year $15.5 million grant will go towards Rice physics and astronomy professor Wei Li's discoveries focused on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), a large, general-purpose particle physics detector built on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, a European organization for nuclear research in France and Switzerland. The work is "poised to revolutionize our understanding of fundamental physics," according to a statement from Rice.

Li's team will work to develop an ultra-fast silicon timing detector, known as the endcap timing layer (ETL), that will provide upgrades to the CMS detector. The ETl is expected to have a time resolution of 30 picoseconds per particle, which will allow for more precise time-of-flight particle identification.

The Rice team is collaborating with others from MIT, Oak Ridge National Lab, the University of Illinois Chicago and University of Kansas. Photo via Rice.edu

This will also help boost the performance of the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider (HL-LHC), which is scheduled to launch at CERN in 2029, allowing it to operate at about 10 times the luminosity than originally planned. The ETL also has applications for other colliders apart from the LHC, including the DOE’s electron-ion collider at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, New York.

“The ETL will enable breakthrough science in the area of heavy ion collisions, allowing us to delve into the properties of a remarkable new state of matter called the quark-gluon plasma,” Li explained in a statement. “This, in turn, offers invaluable insights into the strong nuclear force that binds particles at the core of matter.”

The ETL is also expected to aid in other areas of physics, including the search for the Higgs particle and understanding the makeup of dark matter.

Li is joined on this work by co-principal investigator Frank Geurts and researchers Nicole Lewis and Mike Matveev from Rice. The team is collaborating with others from MIT, Oak Ridge National Lab, the University of Illinois Chicago and University of Kansas.

Last year, fellow Rice physicist Qimiao Si, a theoretical quantum physicist, earned the prestigious Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship grant. The five-year fellowship, with up to $3 million in funding, will go towards his work to establish an unconventional approach to create and control topological states of matter, which plays an important role in materials research and quantum computing.

Meanwhile, the DOE recently tapped three Houston universities to compete in its annual startup competition focused on "high-potential energy technologies,” including one team from Rice.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.