The Woodlands ranked No. 24 out of 343 U.S. cities. Photo via thewoodlands.com

In a surprising turn of events, it's not Houston proper that's earning recognition for its job market, but The Woodlands. The north Houston suburb boasts the No. 24 best job market in the nation, according to a new report by SmartAsset.

The study examined 343 U.S. cities across six main data points from 2021 and 2022, for which the most recent data is available: A city's unemployment rates; median income to housing payment ratio, commute times, the percentage of remote workers, the percentage of employed residents with health insurance, and income growth between 2019-2022.

The report discovered that The Woodlands has a 4.8 percent unemployment rate, and its residents' median earnings landed at $73,079 annually. The average housing costs in The Woodlands make up 28.7 percent of an individual's yearly income, which can be estimated at about $1,750 per month.

Remote-work flexibility was another major consideration in the study. Working from home means no real commute time, as long as you don't count the time it takes to get out of bed and walk into the home office. Unfortunately for The Woodlands, a majority of workers are commuting to their jobs, and only 24.5 percent of employees work remotely.

For those who do need to drive to-and-from work, a separate SmartAsset study on remote workforces discovered the average commute time in The Woodlands is about 27 minutes long.

Houston fell far behind in the report, landing at No. 272 out of 343 total U.S. cities. The city's unemployment rate is only 5.9 percent, but its residents' median earnings barely tip over $38,000 a year. Only 11.5 percent of Houstonians work from home, and their housing costs account for 39.4 percent of their total income.

Houston ranked outside the top 20 best cities for tech workers earlier in 2024, further highlighting a significant downward shift in the employment atmosphere for the region.

"With costs of living skyrocketing in recent years and the demand for different skill sets changing, job seekers must be resourceful to find opportunities that best suit them," the report said. "This could mean relocating for higher income, an improved work-life balance, growth potential or benefits."

Other Houston-area cities that made it in the top 200 in the report are:

  • No. 99 – Sugar Land
  • No. 113 – Pearland
  • No. 172 – League City
The full report and its methodology can be found on smartasset.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Everything is better in Texas, including the state economy. Photo by via Getty Images

Texas profits from 4th best state economy in the U.S., report finds

report

Despite growing sentiments that the U.S. is on a path towards a recession, Texas is pulling a lot of weight as one of the best state economies in the nation, according to a new annual report from WalletHub.

Texas' strong state economy ranked No. 4, with Washington (No. 1), Utah (No. 2), and Massachusetts (No. 3) claiming the top three spots.

The study analyzed all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 28 metrics to determine the "Best & Worst State Economies" in 2024. Each state was ranked across three major categories: Economic activity, economic health, and innovation potential.

The Lone Star State earned a score of 60.08 out of 100 possible points, nipping at the heels of Massachusetts, which earned 61.52 points. For comparison, Washington claimed its No. 1 title with a score of 71.10.

Here's how Texas performed within the three major categories in the study:

  • No. 2 – Economic activity
  • No. 7 – Economic health
  • No. 24 – Innovation potential

Most notably, Texas tied with Louisiana for the No. 1 most exports per capita nationwide, according to the report's findings. Texas also had the second-highest change in GDP (gross domestic product) from 2022 to 2023.

Texas has the 10th highest amount of "startup activity," which WalletHub calculated as the rate of newly established firms. Texas also scored No. 10 in the country for its annual median household income of $75,647.

Nonfarm payrolls – defined as the number of workers employed in the U.S. (excluding those the farming, nonprofit, active military, and private household sectors) – is another indicator for measuring each state's economy. Texas had the third-highest change in nonfarm payrolls from 2022 to 2023, according to WalletHub, behind Nevada and Florida.

Although the overall state of Texas' economy may be strong, that doesn't guarantee all Texans will reap the benefits from that success. WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe explained there's more to improving state residents' financial success than just relying on the economy.

"Factors like a low unemployment rate and high average income help residents purchase property, pay down debt and save for the future," Happe said. "The best state economies also encourage growth by being friendly to new businesses and investing in new technology that will help the state deal with future challenges and become more efficient."

On the other end of the economic scale, Hawaii and Mississippi flopped with the worst state economies in the U.S. in 2024, ranking No. 50 and No. 51, respectively.

The top 10 states with the best economies are:

  • No. 1 – Washington
  • No. 2 – Utah
  • No. 3 – Massachusetts
  • No. 4 – Texas
  • No. 5 – California
  • No. 6 – Colorado
  • No. 7 – Florida
  • No. 8 – North Carolina
  • No. 9 – District of Columbia
  • No. 10 – Arizona
The full report can be found on wallethub.com

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H-Town jumped 43 spots into No. 97 this year. Photo via Getty Images

Houston jumps significantly on annual list of best places to live in 2024

by the numbers

Things are looking a little brighter for Houston as the city was recently named among the top 100 best places to live in U.S. News and World Report's "Best Places to Live" list for 2024-2025.

Previously, H-Town had shockingly plummeted toward the bottom of the list as No. 140 in the 2023-2024 rankings. But the latest report has placed Houston at No. 97, suggesting substantial improvements over the last year.

U.S. News annually measures 150 top American cities for their livability and ranks them based on four major indexes: quality of life, value, desirability, and job market.

New for the 2024-2025 report, U.S. News updated its methodology to analyze city-based data rather than metropolitan area data. Secondly, the report's annual survey decided to place greater weight on a city's "value and job market" while "weights for desirability and quality of life took a slight dip" on the grading scale.

"Rising concerns about career prospects, housing affordability and increased cost of goods and services are reflected in this year’s rankings," said U.S. News loans expert and reporter Erika Giovanetti in a press release. "While quality of life remains the top priority for many Americans, a city’s value and job market are becoming increasingly important for those looking for a place to live."

There's many factors that draw folks to Houston, among them our city's diversity, the highly esteemed schools, top universities, and much more. Houston is also a great place for retirees looking to settle down without compromising on the big city lifestyle. The city truly has something for everyone.

The good news continues: Houston additionally moved up two spots to take No. 8 on the report's Best Place to Live in Texas list for 2024. The Bayou City ranked No. 10 last year.

Elsewhere in Texas
The recent focus on city-based data was likely a major factor that fueled Houston's improvement in the statewide and national rankings, but it also favorably shifted nine other Texas cities.

Austin – which previously ranked No. 40 in last year's rankings – became the only city to represent the Lone Star State among the top 10 best places to live in 2024. The Texas Capital jumped up 31 spots to claim No. 9 nationally, due to its "high desirability and job market scores," the report said.

Three cities in the Rio Grande Valley also ranked higher than Houston, suggesting that South Texas may be a better place to live than East Texas. The border towns of McAllen (No. 48) and Brownsville (No. 87) climbed into the overall top 100 this year after formerly ranking No. 137 and No. 134 last year. Meanwhile, Corpus Christi moved up from No. 132 last year to No. 77 in 2024.

Naples, Florida won the gold medal as the No. 1 best place to live in the U.S. in 2024. Rounding out the top five are Boise, Idaho (No. 2); Colorado Springs, Colorado (No. 3); Greenville, South Carolina (No. 4); and Charlotte, North Carolina (No. 5).

Here's how other Texas cities faired in 2024's Best Places to Live report:

  • No. 62 – El Paso (up from No. 128 last year)
  • No. 89 – San Antonio (up from No. 103 last year)
  • No. 95 – Dallas (up from No. 113 last year)
  • No. 99 – Beaumont (up from No. 131 last year)
  • No. 107 – Killeen (up from No. 122 last year)
The full report and its methodology can be found on realestate.usnews.com.

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Two new media startups coming to Texas in 2024. Photo via Getty Images

Breaking news: 2 media startups expand to Texas

coming soon

Houston is already a media-rich town, with multiple newspapers, magazines, and online sites. But it's about to get richer in 2024, with two newcomers arriving and setting up shop.

Here's two new media startups coming to Texas in 2024:

Amaré Magazine Texas
A quarterly print and digital magazine covering lifestyle, fashion, reality TV, celebrities, philanthropy, entertainment, events, arts & culture, cuisine, breaking news, and pop culture — phew, that's a lot — is launching an edition in Texas.

Their "about us" page says they began in L.A. in 2016. Their founder/CEO is George Rojas, a fashion/stylist expert, event producer, and according to his bio, former meth addict. The mission: shine a light on artists, entrepreneurs, and businesses via a business model that allows professionals to expand their network, grow their social media, and work with advertisers and investors. Prior issues include "profiles" similar to the Voyage-type sites where the subjects write the profiles themselves.

Helping to launch in Texas is skincare doctor and "Bravo TV personality" James Mercer and editor Lindsay Stevenson.

While short on experience, they're long on enthusiasm. They breezed through Texas in May, stopping at Dallas restaurant Bistro 31, as well as the Highland Park home of D’Andra Simmons and the Houston home of reality-TV star and famed closet-owner Theresa Roemer — the latter of whom will be on the cover of the first issue which they say will debut in August. They claim to also be launching an edition in New York.

Courier Texas
National pro-democracy news network founded in 2019 is opening a bureau in Texas, and advertising for positions — based in Dallas — that include political reporter, operating/managing director, and a statewide social media manager, with a launch slated for summer 2024.

Courier's mission is to build a more informed and engaged America by providing factual, values-driven news, and analysis online. Their reporting is produced primarily for social media and online channels, with an emphasis on video, graphics, and skimmable newsletters.

Their CEO is Tara McGowan, who has worked in journalism and politics, mostly for Democratic candidates, as have a number of their staffers. To avoid spreading misinformation, they eschew the "both sides" approach followed by so many mainstream media sites under the guise of being "balanced."

They currently have outlets based in 10 states: Arizona, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Nevada.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Must be nice to have a seven-figure income. Photo via Getty Images

Houston makes top 10 list of metros with most millionaires

living large

Anew population analysis has unveiled an exclusive view into how the elite live in the U.S., including a surprising discovery that Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land has the No. 9 highest concentration of millionaire households in the country.

The study by online real estate marketplace Point2Homes compared household data among millionaires in the 30 biggest U.S. metropolitan areas, including four Texas metros, between 2017 and 2022.

The report found that the number of U.S. households that earned at least $1 million a year more than quadruped within the five-year period, with the highest concentration of millionaire households located in the New York-Newark-Jersey City area across New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

There are just under 2,900 millionaire homeowners living across the Houston metro, making up 0.11 percent of all households in the area. The report revealed a majority (32.9 percent) of millionaires in Houston are actually Gen Xers, with the second highest share going to baby boomers (28.9 percent).

Most interestingly, the youngest generation, Gen Z, make up 15.4 percent of all millionaire households in Houston, with millennials making up 21.5 percent, according to the report. But the Gen Z percentage is misleading; as the report clarifies, there aren't actually that many Gen Z millionaires walking among us in H-Town.

"Instead, this high share is most likely almost entirely due to the people aged 15 to 24 who are still living with their (millionaire) owner parents," the report explained. "Unfortunately, living in a millionaire owner household does not a millionaire owner make — but it does come with some serious perks."

Physicians make up Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land millionaires' main occupations across all age groups, the study also found.

This is how Houston's millionaires live
The saying goes, "Go big or go home," and Houston's millionaire homeowners are taking that to heart when it comes to their own lavish households.

The report discovered the typical home owned by a millionaire in Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land is a five bedroom, nine total-room house, with an average assessed value of $1,466,682. As for wheels, a Houston-based millionaire is likely to have less than three vehicles (2.8) on average.

By comparison, the average value for a millionaire homeowner's abode in San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, California is $2,816,196, the highest amount out of all 30 U.S. metros in the report.

Big, expensive homes don't come without big costs to maintain them, the report reminds. And when it comes to managing finances for wealthy earners, making more money doesn't necessarily mean they'll be saving that income.

"Rather, it just means bigger homes with bigger mortgages and maintenance expenses; more cars; much costlier schools; and more over-the-top lifestyles, which simply bite bigger chunks out of the family's big budget," the report said. "However, despite the 'risks,' most of us would probably choose to have rich people problems. Or, as the saying goes, crying in a Ferrari might just feel better than crying in a Toyota when all is said and done."

Millionaire lifestyles across Texas
In a comparison of all Texas metro areas, Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land claimed the highest share of millionaire homeowners statewide. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington took the No. 2 spot, while Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown rounded out the top three. San Antonio-New Braunfels took No. 4 in the statewide analysis.

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington was right behind Houston in the national standings, ranking No. 10, with nearly 2,650 millionaire households situated in the Metroplex. DFW's millionaires are mainly chief executives and legislators, or physicians. Gen Xers (44.1 percent) make up the highest share of the metro's millionaires, with baby boomers (24.7 percent) not too far behind.

Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, however, fell to No. 24 in the national ranking with only 749 millionaire households calling the Texas Capital home. Austin's millionaires are mainly chief executives and legislators, or other types of high-level mangers. Gen Xers (34.9 percent) make up the highest share of the metro's millionaires, with millennials (30.8 percent) not too far behind.

San Antonio-New Braunfels ranked at the bottom of the study at No. 29, above Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There were only 414 millionaire households in the metro area between 2017-2022, and a majority of them (38.4 percent) were Gen X physicians.

The top 10 metros with the highest share of millionaires in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – New York-Newark-New Jersey City, New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania
  • No. 2 – Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California
  • No. 3 – San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, California
  • No. 4 – Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Massachusetts-New Hampshire
  • No. 5 – Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Virginia-Marland-West Virginia
  • No. 6 – Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin
  • No. 7 – Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Florida
  • No. 8 – Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington
  • No. 9 – Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas
  • No. 10 – Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas

The full report and its methodology can be found on point2homes.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston is the No. 4 most diverse city in the U.S.

Houston dazzles as most diverse large city in U.S., report says

we're No. 1

Living in a multicultural city comes with many benefits. Diverse communities bring new perspectives, greater versatility, and economic boosts, to name a few. And according to a new study by WalletHub, Houston is among the most diverse places in the nation.

Houston is getting some time in the spotlight in WalletHub's annual ranking of the "Most Diverse Cities in the U.S. (2024)," maintaining its position as the No. 1 most diverse large city in America, and the No. 4 overall most diverse. The report compared 501 U.S. cities across 13 metrics in five categories that encompass "diversity" across socioeconomic, cultural, economic, household, and religious factors.

Space City earned 72.37 out of a total 100 possible points, following behind Gaithersburg, Maryland (No. 1), Silver Spring, Maryland (No. 2), and Germantown, Maryland (No. 3). Arlington, Texas rounded out the top five. Houston is still holding strong as the most diverse large U.S. city after first taking the crown in WalletHub's 2021 report.

The city performed the best in two overall major categories for socioeconomic and cultural diversity, earning a respective rank of No. 27 and No. 31 out of all 501 cities in the study. Houston's religious diversity earned it No. 54, while it fell behind when it came to household and economic diversity, earning No. 112 and No. 156.

More specifically, Houston performed the best in the rankings for its linguistic diversity (No. 25), industry diversity (No. 28), and educational-attainment diversity (No. 29). But the city fell the farthest behind in the rankings for age diversity (No. 310) and worker-class diversity (No. 340).

Here's how Houston performed within the study's remaining categories out of all 501 cities:

  • 45th – Racial and ethnic diversity
  • 119th – Household-type diversity
  • 179th – Household-size diversity
  • 206th – Occupational diversity
  • 226th – Income diversity
  • 246th – Marital-status diversity
  • 249th – Birthplace diversity

"The most diverse cities demonstrate diversity in many dimensions – not just in race and gender but also everything from residents’ languages and birthplaces to their job types and household sizes," said WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe in the report. "These cities blend together a multitude of different perspectives, helping people to better understand the world around them and become more empathetic. This exchange of ideas also tends to increase the economic success of diverse cities."

Besides Houston and Arlington, the only other Texas city to earn a place among the top 10 most diverse cities in the U.S. was Dallas, which ranked No. 8.

Other Texas cities that earned spots in the report include Fort Worth (No. 22), Austin (No. 70), Plano (No. 83), San Antonio (No. 87), Corpus Christi (No. 125), El Paso (No. 253), and Laredo (No. 468).

The full report can be found on wallethub.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Texas organization grants over $40M to cancer-fighting research in Houston and beyond

fresh funding

Two local professors are among the newly announced recipients of funding from the Houston-based Welch Foundation, which finances chemical research projects.

The two professors are:

  • Jacinta Conrad, the Frank M. Tiller Professor in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department at the University of Houston. Conrad will use her grant to investigate glass transition, a temperature change that affects polymers. She describes glass transition as one of the “most intriguing open problems in physical chemistry.”
  • James Shee, assistant professor in the Chemistry Department at Rice University. Shee will put his grant toward advancing theoretical chemistry.

Every year, the foundation provides annual grants totaling at least $100,000 to support chemistry research being carried out by full-time faculty members at colleges, universities, and other educational institutions in Texas.

In all, the Welch Foundation on June 4 announced more than $40.5 million in academic research grants, equipment grants, and fellowships.

Part of the announced funding will go toward the foundation’s new Postdoctoral Fellows Grant Program. The program provides three-year fellowships to recent PhD graduates to support clinical research careers in Texas. A total of $900,000 in postdoctoral fellowships were funded at Rice University, Texas A&M University, and the University of Texas at Austin.

Since 1954, the Welch Foundation has contributed over $1.1 billion for Texas-nurtured advancements in chemistry through research grants, endowed chairs, and other chemistry-related ventures.

“Ongoing basic chemical research is critically important for helping to solve current and future problems,” said Adam Kuspa, President of the Welch Foundation. “We strongly believe the foundation’s continued support of the research grant program, combined with … new programs, will yield even more exciting developments as we work to advance chemistry and improve our lives.”

Rice expert: Why tech companies should sponsor hackathons

houston voices

Companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Apple depend on third-party developers to create applications that improve the user experience on their platforms. However, given the many options available, developers face a daunting task in deciding which platform to focus their efforts on.

“Developers are faced with imperfect information,” says Rice Business assistant professor Tommy Pan Fang. “They don’t have an overview of the entire technology landscape.”

A team of researchers, consisting of Fang, Andy Wu (Harvard University) and David Clough (University of British Columbia), set out to investigate how temporary gatherings like “hackathons” — in-person software development competitions — might influence a developer’s choice of software platform.

Hackathons like Rice University’s annual HackRice draw developers looking to pick up new skills and create applications with teammates. Many of these events are sponsored by software platform companies.

The research team conjectured that hackathon attendees are more likely to adopt a particular platform if any of the following conditions are true:

  • A high number of fellow attendees have already embraced it.
  • A fellow attendee has built an award-winning hackathon project on it.
  • The platform that sponsors the hackathon is already popular.

To test their theories, the researchers followed 1,302 software developers participating in 167 hackathons from January 2014 to May 2017. Twenty-nine different platforms sponsored the hackathons. Fang and his colleagues tracked developers’ platform choices before and after the in-person events.

The researchers found that temporary gatherings — like hackathons, conferences and trade fairs — make a difference.

Developers with greater technical expertise were more likely to use a platform widely embraced by fellow hackathon attendees. And with every 10% increase in the number of hackathon attendees already using a given platform, other attendees were 1.2% more likely to try out that platform themselves the following year.

They also found that platforms benefit from sponsoring temporary gatherings, like hackathons.

Developers who attended a hackathon sponsored by a particular platform were 20.4% more likely to adopt that platform in the following year, compared to developers who either did not attend any hackathon or attended one without a sponsor.

Part of the reason for the findings is that developers at hackathons exert social influence on each other, both during organized hackathon events like competitions and workshops, as well as informal ones including ping pong tournaments or nights playing video games.

“The social interaction and seeing their peers be successful with the tools and what’s fashionable impacts the tools they decide to adopt,” says Fang. “For developers trying to figure out what technology to adopt in a world with imperfect information and uncertainty, having a gathering can be a beacon.”

Interviews with hackathon organizers, sponsors and developers in the U.S. and Canada backed up the researchers’ findings. Interviewees shared how they learned from their interactions with fellow developers during hackathons.

“When I’m walking around, it becomes noticeable what technologies people are using,” said a veteran of 15 hackathons. Another noted that if more people use a certain application programming interface, “it’s lower risk because it will be usable.” They added, “Most people just follow others.”

The study has implications for both developers and software platform companies alike. Results suggest hackathons can be a valuable venue for developers, not only to pick up new skills, but also to help them identify which platforms to use in the first place. For software companies, the lesson is simple: Sponsoring hackathons can be good for business.

Future research could look at how other types of events like conferences, tournaments and world’s fairs might impact how people end up adopting technologies, especially emerging ones, Fang says. For example, a company like OpenAI could use these types of in-person events to garner support and build momentum for its products.

“Companies that may have taken a step back during Covid should reevaluate in-person events to get people excited and regain momentum for their platforms,” Fang says. “The take-home message is, go out there and sponsor these events.”

This article originally ran on Rice Business Wisdom. For more, see Fang, et al. “Platform diffusion at temporary gatherings: Social coordination and ecosystem emergence.” Strategic Management Journal 42.2 (2021): 233-272. https://doi.org/10.1002/smj.3230.

Rice accelerator names innovative second summer cohort

ready to grow

Rice University's Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, or Lilie, has named eight teams to the second cohort of the Lilie Summer Venture Studio.

The teams are focused on a range of innovative concepts, from health care solutions to running shoe design to automating recruiting from the NCAA Transfer Portal.

According to Rice, the 12-week program received a record number of applications, that spanned the campus' degree offerings.

“We are thrilled to see such a high level of interest and excitement from Rice students for a high-growth venture accelerator,” Kyle Judah, executive director of Lilie, said in a statement. “The diversity and creativity in this year's applications were truly inspiring, and we’re excited to support these promising ventures with the resources and mentorship they need to hit escape velocity and create the next generation of pillar companies for Houston, Texas and the world.”

The selected teams will receive $15,000 in non-dilutive funding from the accelerator, along with access to coworking space and personalized mentorship in the Liu Idea Lab.

Here are the teams for the 2024 Lilie Summer Venture Studio:

  • Coflux Purification, a patent-pending in-stream module that breaks down PFAS using a novel absorbent for chemical-free water
  • Docflow, focused on streamlining residency shift scheduling
  • JewelVision, building virtual fitting rooms for jewelry e-commerce retailers using generative AI
  • Levytation, using data science and AI to answer critical questions about sales and customers for coffee shop management
  • OnGuard, a marketplace to book off-duty police officers and security professionals
  • Roster, leverages data on athletes in the NCAA Transfer Portal to automatically send updates on players to coaches
  • Solidec, a technology platform that extracts molecules from water and air, transforms them into pure chemicals and fuels without any carbon emissions
  • Veloci, a running shoe venture that addresses common pains through shoe design

Lilie launched the Summer Venture Studio last year. According to Rice, two out of the six teams selected, Helix Earth Technologies and Tierra Climate, raised venture capital funds after completing the accelerator program.

Helix Earth Technologies also went on to earn the inaugural TEX-E Prize at CERAWeek in 2023.

“The track record of our Summer Venture Studio Accelerator speaks for itself, despite being early in our second year," Taylor Anne Adams, head of venture acceleration programs at the Liu Idea Lab, said in a statement. "This is the power of entrepreneurship programming that is designed by founders, for founders, that happens at the Liu Idea Lab.”


Last year, Lilie also named 11 successful business leaders with ties to Houston to its first Lilie’s Leadership Council. Each agreed to donate time and money to the university’s entrepreneurship programs. Click here to see who made the list.