Know before you go: 2024 H-Town Roundup

Plan your week

Here's what you need to know about HTR this year. Photo courtesy

Next week, Houston Exponential's annual week of innovation and networking is taking place. Here are five things you need to know before you go.

1. New year, new name.

Houston Tech Rodeo, which originated in 2020, has been rebranded to H-Town Roundup, but the week of innovation and entrepreneurship still has the same goal of providing programming and events that connect and educate Houstonians.

On a recent episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast, Natara Branch, CEO of Houston Exponential, says the change is meant to make for a more inclusive experience for entrepreneurs of small businesses, something she's seen a need for since she took on her role last year.

"This year, we've had the better part of a year to think about what can be different and how can we serve the founder," she says.

Branch explains that some members of the Houston community confused the event for being associated with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo or for being only for true tech people. Branch says the wanted to open the door a little wider to entrepreneurs who are innovative without necessarily working in technology.

"That's not what we wanted — to exclude anyone," she says. "H-Town Roundup is going to allow us to be more inclusive."

2. It's completely free to attend.

Dozens of events are taking place around town, and all are free to Houston entrepreneurs, investors, and more. Simply register for anything you're able to attend.

For reference, a full, detailed agenda is available online too.

3. There are two featured events.

Need to make some priorities? This year, there are two featured events for HTR.

  • Tech and Tequila Talk powered by Blue People at 5 to 7:30 pm, on Tuesday, February 27, at the UH Tech Bridge Innovation Center.
  • CodeLaunch Houston at 4 to 9 pm, on Wednesday, February 28, at Bayou Music Center.

4. Introducing: The Founder Lounge.

For attendees with the founder pass, The Founder's Lounge at Esperson Building in downtown is open Monday through Thursday from 10 am to 3 pm next week.

The full agenda of talks planned at the lounge is online.

5. Find the activity zones.

HTR again is rotating venues. Here's where and when you can expect to find HTR activities.

  • Sunday (1 to 5 pm) - Esperson Building
  • Monday (8 am to 12:30 pm) - TMC Innovation
  • Monday (1:30 to 5 pm) - The Cannon Downtown
  • Tuesday (1 to 7:30 pm) - UH Tech Bridge
  • Wednesday (10 am to 1 pm) - Esperson Building
  • Wednesday (4 to 9 pm) - Bayou Music Center
  • Thursday ( 8 am to noon) - HCC Central Campus
  • Thursday (1 to 7 pm) - Greentown Labs
  • Friday (9 am to 3:30 pm) - the Ion
  • Saturday (10 am to 2 pm) - Esperson Building

Spaces, an Amsterdam-based coworking space company that entered the Houston market with a lease in Kirby Grove announced in 2017, has two more Spaces locations planned for end of 2019. Courtesy of Midway

International workspace company announces 2 more Houston coworking spots

Space(s) city

An Amsterdam-based coworking company is doubling down on Houston with the announcement of over 120,000 square feet to deliver before the end of the year.

Spaces, which first entered the Houston market with the 2017 announcement of its Kirby Grove lease, will be opening new locations in CITYCENTRE and GreenStreet, according to a news release. All three properties are owned and operated by Midway Properties.

"Spaces is redefining the way work is done, providing a contemporary, social and creative environment with a real focus on community," says Michael Berretta, vice president of Network Development, for IWG, which owns Spaces, in the release. "Houston is a vibrant city with a global business hub and an entrepreneurial attitude. Spaces gives Houston's talent pool an inspiring place to work and meet with other people who believe in the power of collaboration to drive a business forward."

Spaces has over 3,300 flexible workspace locations across the world. There are three locations open in Texas — the other two being in the Dallas area. In addition to the two expected Midway properties, a third location in Two Post Oak Central is expected to deliver in 2019, the Houston Business Journal reports.

The GreenStreet location in downtown Houston will have 63,000 square feet of workspace in repurposed retail space. Among the features promised are open space, smaller team rooms, private offices, phone booths, and a 3,000-square foot rooftop patio.

The news of the workspace follows closely behind an international accelerator program, MassChallenge, announced its Houston program in GreenStreet.

The CITYCENTRE workspace will take up almost 61,000 square feet of CITYCENTRE One and touts similar features and flexible space. Both locations also boast of existing shopping, dining, and entertainment perks in the centers.

"Spaces fits perfectly in GreenStreet, a mixed-use district that is being redeveloped as the new model of urban lifestyle,"sys Chris Seckinger, vice president and investment manager for Midway, in the release. "And CITYCENTRE gives Spaces an ideal platform to serve businesses, whether they are collaborating globally or locally, in the midst of West Houston's concentration of energy, technology and engineering firms."

Earlier this month, a report found that over the past two and a half years, Houston's coworking space has only grown marginally. With the announcement of Spaces' expansion — as well as The Cannon and The Ion projects — expected to deliver over the next two years, Houston stands to make up for lost times, so to speak.

Station Houston's stakeholders voted in favor of the organization transitioning to a nonprofit. Station Houston/Facebook

Station Houston announces its transition into becoming a nonprofit

Cha-cha-changes

Houston's startup scene just got a little more accessible. Station Houston's stakeholders voted to transition the organization to nonprofit status from the C-corp status it currently holds.

The status change is effective January 1, 2019, for the acceleration hub, which is based in downtown Houston. The news was announced to its members in an email sent on December 13.

"Following in the footsteps of successful hubs such as 1871 in Chicago or Mass Challenge in Boston, we see that non-profit status allows these organizations to stay true to their missions while providing best-in-class services to members," reads the email. "We are excited to announce that this week, all Station stakeholders voted in favor of the conversion to non-profit status."

Station's CEO, Gabriella Rowe, tells InnovationMap that the announcement is part of a larger change for the organization, which will announce its plans for Station 3.0 in January.

"This opens up so many more funding and programing opportunities for us, so that we can charge our entrepreneurs and startups as little as possible and give them all the depth of services and support," Rowe says. "That's really what it comes down to."

Station Houston is among the partners — along with the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship — for the Houston innovation district that plans to open in the rehabilitated Sears building in Midtown. The space plans to open in 2020 and hasn't yet broken ground. Rowe discussed Station 3.0 and the district in an interview with InnovationMap in November.

"We're going to be doing a huge launch of Station 3.0 in January," she said in the interview. "It will really allow us to tell the world not just what we're going to be for the next three months, but what we're going to be over the next three years."

Station Houston recently hosted the Texas Digital Summit with Rice University and the Rice Alliance. The all-day summit consisted of panel discussions, keynote speakers, and a startup pitch of 39 companies. At the conclusion of the day, Rowe and Brad Burke from Rice announced 10 of the most promising startups from the summit. You can read about those companies here.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

$100M Houston VC fund launches to back technical founders

show me the money

A new venture capital fund has launched with an initial $100 million mission of supporting founders with innovative critical infrastructure solutions.

Fathom Fund, which is looking to build out a portfolio of advanced computing, material science, climate resilience, and aerospace startups, announced they've launched with an initial close of over $100 million. The fund is founded by longtime investors Managing Partners Paul Sheng and Eric Bielke.

"We believe recent technological advances have accelerated the pace of scientific discovery, increasing the pool of technology companies that can produce venture-scale returns," Sheng says in a news release.

According to the fund, it hopes to bridge the gap for early stage capital for physical innovations and "moonshot" projects.

“What’s lacking in venture is rigorous technical diligence at the early stages and a playbook to scale these innovations at the pace necessary to lead industries," Bielke adds. "With this launch, we are looking forward to supporting founders with some of the most disruptive and novel ideas.”

The founder duo will bring each of the career expertise to their future portfolio companies. Sheng spent decades at McKinsey & Co and was the firm's head of the Global Energy & Materials practice. Bielke is a former director at Temasek’s Emerging Technologies Fund.

Houston is the 4th best U.S. city for Black professionals, report finds

Black History Month

In acknowledgement of Black History Month 2024, a new report compiled by Black employees at online rental marketplace Apartment List has ranked Houston the No. 4 best U.S. city for Black professionals.

Apartment List reviewed 76 cities across four major categories to determine the rankings: community and representation; economic opportunity; housing opportunity; and business environment.

Houston earned a score of 63.01 out of a total 100 points, making it the second-highest-ranked city in Texas for Black professionals, behind San Antonio (No. 3).

The city earned top-10 rankings in three out of the four main categories:

  • No. 3 – Business environment
  • No. 4 – Community and representation
  • No. 10 – Economic opportunity
  • No. 21 – Housing opportunity

Houston is commended for its strong Black business environment and economy, but there is some room for improvement when it comes to housing. Similarly to Apartment List's 2022 report – which also placed Houston at No. 4 – a little less than half (44 percent) of all Black Houston households are spending over 30 percent of their income on housing, which has increased two percent since 2019.

Houston has a larger Black population than San Antonio, at 19 percent, but its Black population share is overall lower than other cities in the top 10.

"Furthermore, the community is well-represented in some critical occupations: 20 percent of teachers are Black, as are 21 percent of doctors," the report said. "Houston is also home to the HBCU Texas Southern University, helping a job market when the median Black income is several thousand dollars above average."

Houston also has the highest rate of Black-owned businesses in the entire state, at 18 percent.

"From the Mitochondria Gallery to Ten Skyncare and Wisdom’s Vegan Bakery, Houston has it all!" the report said.

Here's how Houston stacked up in other metrics:

  • Black homeownership: 42 percent
  • Black lawyers: 14 percent
  • Black managers: 14 percent

Elsewhere in Texas
Texas cities dominated the overall top 10. San Antonio ranked just above Houston, with Dallas (No. 6) and Austin (No. 7) not too far behind.

San Antonio came in less than 2.5 points ahead of Houston with a total score of 65.44 points. The report praised San Antonio's scores across its economic opportunity (No. 2), housing opportunity (No. 7), and community and representation (No. 10). The city ranked No. 20 for its Black business environment.

But like Houston, San Antonio also fell behind in its Black homeownership rates, according to the study.

"While the Black homeownership rate is higher than average at 44 percent, the homeownership gap (Black homeownership rate - non-Black homeownership rate) quite low at -19 percent," the report's author wrote. "Perhaps this could be explained by San Antonio’s overall homeownership rate, which is also lower than the state’s average. Additionally, the lower homeownership gap could explain the cost burden rate also being lower than average at 41 percent."

The top 10 cities for Black professionals are:

  • No. 1 – Washington, D.C.
  • No. 2 – Atlanta, Georgia
  • No. 3 – San Antonio, Texas
  • No. 4 – Houston, Texas
  • No. 5 – Palm Bay, Florida
  • No. 6 – Dallas, Texas
  • No. 7 – Austin, Texas
  • No. 8 – Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • No. 9 – Lakeland, Florida
  • No. 10 – Charlotte, North Carolina
The full report and its methodology can be found on apartmentlist.com.

------

This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston expert: Can Houston replicate and surpass the success of Silicon Valley?

guest column

Anyone who knows me knows, as a Houston Startup Founder, I often muse about the still developing potential for startups in Houston, especially considering the amount of industry here, subject matter expertise, capital, and size.

For example, Houston is No. 2 in the country for Fortune 500 Companies — with 26 Bayou City companies on the list — behind only NYC, which has 47 ranked corporations, according to Fortune.

Considering layoffs, fund closings, and down rounds, things aren’t all that peachy in San Francisco for the first time in a long time, and despite being a Berkeley native, I’m rooting for Houston now that I’m a transplant.

Let’s start by looking at some stats.

While we’re not No. 1 in all areas, I believe we have the building blocks to be a major player in startups, and in tech (and not just energy and space tech). How? If the best predictor of future success is history, why not use the template of the GOAT of all startup cities: San Francisco and YCombinator. Sorry fellow founders – you’ve heard me talk about this repeatedly.

YCombinator is considered the GOAT of Startup Accelerators/Incubators based on:

  1. The Startup success rate: I’ve heard it’s as high as 75 percent (vs. the national average of 5 to 10 percent) Arc Search says 50 percent of YC Co’s fail within 12 years – not shabby.
  2. Their startup-to-unicorn ratio: 5 to 7 percent of YC startups become unicorns depending on the source — according to an Arc Search search (if you haven’t tried Arc Search do – super cool).
  3. Their network.

YC also parlayed that success into a "YC Startup School" offering:

  1. Free weekly lessons by YC partners — sometimes featuring unicorn alumni
  2. A document and video Library (YC SAFE, etc)
  3. Startup perks for students (AWS cloud credits, etc.)
  4. YC co-founder matching to help founders meet co-founders

Finally, there’s the over $80 billion in returns, according to Arc search, they’ve generated since their 2005 inception with a total of 4,000 companies in their portfolio at over $600 billion in value. So GOAT? Well just for perspective there were a jaw-dropping 18,000 startups in startup school the year I participated – so GOAT indeed.

So how do they do it? Based on anecdotal evidence, their winning formula is said to be the following well-oiled process:

  1. Bring over 282 startups (the number in last cohort) to San Francisco for 90 days to prototype, refine the product, and land on the go-to-market strategy. This includes a pre-seed YC SAFE investment of a phased $500,000 commitment for a fixed min 7 percent of equity, plus more equity at the next round’s valuation, according to YC.
  2. Over 50 percent of the latest cohort were idea stage and heavily AI focused.
  3. Traction day: inter-portfolio traction the company. YC has over 4,000 portfolio companies who can and do sign up for each other’s companies products because “they’re told to."
  4. Get beta testers and test from YC portfolio companies and YC network.
  5. If they see the traction scales to a massively scalable business, they lead the seed round and get this: schedule and attend the VC meetings with the founders.
  6. They create a "fear of missing out" mentality on Sand Hill Road as they casually mention who they’re meeting with next.
  7. They block competitors in the sector by getting the top VC’s to co-invest with then in the seed so competitors are locked out of the A list VC funding market, who then are up against the most well-funded and buzzed about players in the space.

If what I've seen is true, within a six-month period a startup idea is prototyped, tested, pivoted, launched, tractioned, seeded, and juiced for scale with people who can ‘make’ the company all in their corner, if not already on their board.

So how on earth can Houston best this?

  1. We have a massive amount of businesses — around 200,000 — and people — an estimated 7.3 million and growing.
  2. We have capital in search of an identity beyond oil.
  3. Our Fortune 500 companies that are hiring consultants for things that startups here that can do for free, quicker, and for a fraction of the extended cost.
  4. We have a growing base of tech talent for potential machine learning and artificial intelligence talent
  5. A sudden shot at the increasingly laid off big tech engineers.
  6. We have more accelerators and incubators.

What do we need to pull it off?

  1. An organized well-oiled YC-like process
  2. An inter-Houston traction process
  3. An "Adopt a Startup" program where local companies are willing to beta test and iterate with emerging startup products
  4. We have more accelerators but the cohorts are small — average five to 10 per cohort.
  5. Strategic pre-seed funding, possibly with corporate partners (who can make the company by being a client) and who de-risk the investment.
  6. Companies here to use Houston startup’s products first when they’re launched.
  7. A forum to match companies’ projects or labs groups etc., to startups who can solve them.
  8. A process in place to pull all these pieces together in an organized, structured sequence.

There is one thing missing in the list: there has to be an entity or a person who wants to make this happen. Someone who sees all the pieces, and has the desire, energy and clout to make it happen; and we all know this is the hardest part. And so for now, our hopes of besting YC may be up in the air as well.

------

Jo Clark is the founder of Circle.ooo, a Houston-based tech startup that's streamlining events management.