Based on business activity in town, a new study ranks Houston as a top city for Asian Americans. Photo via Getty Images

Known for its diversity, Houston ranks as the third best major metro area in the U.S. for Asian American entrepreneurs, according to a new study.

Personal finance website SmartAsset analyzed data for 52 of the largest metro areas to come up with the ranking. The analysis looked at nine metrics in three categories: prevalence of Asian-owned businesses, success of new businesses, and income and job security.

About 9 percent of the Houston metro area’s residents identify as Asian.

The SmartAsset study puts Houston in fifth place for the number of Asian-owned businesses (nearly 19,900) and in fourth place for the share of Asian-owned businesses (almost 17.9 percent) among all businesses. Furthermore, Houston ranks 14th for the increase (nearly 9.6 percent) in the number of Asian-owned businesses from 2017 to 2019.

Leading the SmartAsset list is the San Francisco metro area, followed by Dallas-Fort Worth. Austin comes in at No. 11 and San Antonio at No. 14.

The largest minority-owned business in the Houston area, as ranked by annual revenue, is Asian-owned private equity firm ZT Corporate.

Founded in 1997 by Chairman and CEO Taseer Badar, who was born in Pakistan, ZT Corporate is valued at more than $1 billion. ZT Corporate generates more than $900 million in annual revenue, according to the company, and employs over 3,000 people.

“As we look ahead, the vision for ZT Corporate is limitless. Our team will continue pushing boundaries and finding the bright spots in the economy that produce consistent financial gains for our investors,” Badar says in a news release marking his company’s 25th anniversary.

ZT Corporate’s flagship businesses are:

  • Altus Community Healthcare, a provider of health care services.
  • ZT Financial Services, a wealth management firm.
  • ZT Motors, which owns and operates auto dealerships. Last year, ZT Motors bought three Ron Carter dealerships in the Houston area.

“ZT Corporate is a vital asset to our citizens as a longtime local employer,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says, “and has positively affected many lives through their health care organizations and philanthropic efforts.”

There are many character traits a startup founder needs to ensure success. You have to be a hard worker with communications skills and charisma and…so much more. Miguel Tovar/University of Houston

3 personality traits every entrepreneur has, according to the University of Houston

Houston Voices

It's no secret that every successful business leader has multiple personality traits.

It seems everyone has a fantasy about starting a business. "I'd open up a record store." "I'd sell my famous meatball sandwiches my family loves so much." "I would totally own a comic book shop."

In fact, according to the University of Phoenix, over 60 percent of 20+ year-olds have strongly considered starting their own business.

I mean, that's a step in the right direction. You have to have desire. We can all agree there. But surely it takes more than that if you're serious about starting, and maintaining, a business, right?

So, here we'll take a look three personality traits just about every startup founder possesses.

The ability to look forward

Vision. Imagine walking everywhere with a cap brim so low over your eyes, that you can only see your feet when you walk. You can't see anything beyond that. You cannot see the cars, mailboxes, pedestrians, trees, or anything that might come your way. That's what it's like if you don't have vision.

Without a vision for the future, for what lies beyond, you will not be prepared for the inevitable obstacles. You won't know when to change direction. When brace yourself for a coming problem and prepare for it. You need to look beyond the present and envision what your company will look like in 10 years. And then persuade others to see that same vision and invest in it.

Communication

Communication. There's a video on YouTube of a dog running down a sidewalk in a small town barking at two police officers. The cops could tell by the dog's movements and tone that he was barking not out of aggression, but because he needed something. The policemen followed the dog and discovered a burning house with children inside. Thankfully, they managed to save the kids as the house burned to cinders.

Despite the obvious interspecies communication barrier, the dog was able to communicate that something was wrong so that this problem could be solved. Far too often, a young startup founder will identify a big problem or a big need and spark a great idea for how to solve it, only to discover they aren't very good at communicating the problem and solution to investors. If you cannot communicate the problem, solution, and why you're the right man or woman for carrying out the solution, you'll have a hard time convincing investors to part with their money.

The best way to improve your communication skills is baptism by fire. Go out and, well, communicate! Do it often and soon you'll learn the nuances and intricacies of effective communication. Hand gestures, head movement, tone and timber, reading the other person, etc.

Persistence 

Persistence. You're going to encounter obstacles. I know, breaking news, right? You'll hit a snag here or there. Someone won't like your idea. An investor will pull out. Something. But because you're serious about making it, you have to just pull your collar up and face the cold winter wind. Keep marching forward. However, there's something I like to call "intelligent persistence."

Let's say someone doesn't like an idea you have. Maybe they don't think it's wise to add a flap to your what-cha-ma-whos-it contraption. Persistence doesn't mean don't listen to them and persist anyway. No. Intelligent persistence is listening to them, making a decision based on the feedback, and persisting with a more intelligent direction in mind. You have to listen to feedback, both the good and the bad. Persistence doesn't mean to ignore the bad. It means listen, get enlightened, and make a more educated decision in moving forward. Don't let the bad stuff drag you down. But don't go forward without learning from your negative feedback either.

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This article originally appeared on the University of Houston's The Big Idea.

Rene Cantu is the writer and editor at UH Division of Research.

Houston came in at No. 5 for best cities — with populations of more than 1 million residents — for startups. Photo by Tim Leviston/Getty Images

Houston named among the best large cities for early-stage startups

Start up here

When it comes to cities with over a million residents, Houston's at the front of the pack, according to a new study. But, there's a catch.

Last month, Commercial Cafe rounded up the 20 top cities for early-stage startups and entrepreneurs, and Houston missed the list. Now, the commercial real estate blog has broken down the data into three top ten lists based on city size, and Houston has claimed the No. 5 spot on the list of cities with 1 million or more residents.

The study took into account education, affordability, startup financial success (calculated from Kickstarter data), millennial population growth, among other aspects. Houston in particular was called out for being the most affordable major metro and for having the third best startup survival rate.

"The city is home to the fourth-largest percentage of millennial residents out of the total population, and saw the fourth-largest growth in number of millennial residents," the report reads. "Houston ranked fifth in group for the share of population holding a bachelor's degree or higher in a tech discipline. The rate at which the number of such residents has increased placed Houston seventh for tech education growth."

Outpacing Houston on the larger cities were Dallas at No. 1, San Diego, California, at No. 2, San Jose, California, at No. 3, and Los Angeles at No. 4. San Antonio also made the list, coming in at No. 7.

Texas cities were sprinkled throughout the two smaller cities list. Austin came in at No. 1 for the cities with 500,000 to 1 million residents, as well as claimed the top spot in the best cities regardless of population. Fort Worth ranked as No. 10 on this mid-sized city list.

On the small cities list for metros with less than 500,000 residents, Arlington came in at No. 6 for its location and startup density. The city also made the top 20 regardless of size, sliding into the No. 19 spot. Dallas, which topped the large cities list, came in at No. 15 on the size agnostic list for top startup cities.

Recently, Texas was named a top city to start a company by personal finance website, WalletHub, based on similar statistics.

"[I]t's clear why Texas would come in at No. 1," Susan Davenport, senior vice president of economic development for the Greater Houston Partnership, says responding to that study. "These are all areas where the Lone Star State consistently excels and why Texas continues to attract both entrepreneurs and existing companies across industry sectors."

Paul Pavlou has been named as the dean of C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston. Courtesy of UH

New UH business school dean plans to bring innovation into play

Featured Innovator

Earlier this year, the University of Houston named a new dean for its C.T. Bauer College of Business. Paul Pavlou officially started his position on July 1, and, even though he has only a few days under his belt at UH, the new dean has a long career in education.

Most recently, Pavlou served as senior associate dean at Temple University within its business program and specializing in data analytics for business. Pavlou also has ties to Houston, as he received his bachelor's from Rice University after receiving a Fulbright Scholarship.

"My life was transformed by higher education," Pavlou says. "So, I feel the need to give back in terms of helping other students — especially of modest means like myself to do well in life and get a good job."

Pavlou has a lot on his plate entering the fall semester. He plans to continue enhancing the college's programs and faculty, while also continue the school's effort to bring in innovation and industry.

The new dean spoke with InnovationMap about what all he sees in Bauer's future.

InnovationMap: How has the first few days on the job been?

Paul Pavlou: So far it's been very exciting. There's so many opportunities for the Bauer College in innovation and technology in new areas that we're considering such health care, analytics, some of the existing areas in energy. So, the goal in my first few days is to talk to as many stakeholders as possible. Try to get to know our existing practices internally, what the opportunities are in the city, and of course, broadly, nationally, internationally. And accordingly, the plan is to see how we can focus on this needs of the industry, how we can create cutting edge programs and prepare the next generation of the workforce, obviously for the city of Houston or the state of Texas nationally and even that globally.

IM: What are some things on your plate that you hope to bring to the college?

PP: In general, one of the areas that I'd like to see us moving into as a college is the digital learning online and how we can do that in a way that it's convenient and flexible for students. Also at the same time, not only maintain the quality of traditional instruction, but also using technology intelligently to provide an even higher quality, more interactive experience for students.

The second thing that I'm very passionate about as well as the notion of experiential learning. I think students should learn from experience and learn by doing. So I would like to see how we can improve this at this college. I'm very happy to report that Bauer has very strong connections to industry, but I would like to make it an even a very strong proposition for the entire college — making sure that, you know, different courses that have an experiential component such as project or working closely with industry.

IM: How is Bauer focusing on the needs the city has for an emerging workforce?

PP: I think increasingly I find and identify more of the city's needs, but I think one of them is the idea of the analytics space and how to use the data. And that's across the board. I talk to people in health care and they say that health care analytics and using data in hospitals is a very important aspect.

More broadly, cutting edge technology is something that is very important not only the city of Houston but beyond. So. we're discussing this idea of artificial intelligence, and how we can play a role in this in a very important emerging area.

One of the things that I would like to see more of is for the University of Houston to work more closely with the business community. We're trying to develop partnerships with the greater Houston partnership and to see what they need as an industry, perhaps for the next generation of workforce.

IM: What role do you see the school playing in the city's innovation ecosystem?

PP: I think we can play a multiple roles. We're an educational organization, so we train the students. We want make sure that through our degrees and offerings have executive programs, and that we satisfy the need for competence and skills needed. And that's why I want us to be on the cutting edge, not only now but in the next five or 10 years.

Second, through our research and through our connections to industry, I want us to be cutting edge in terms of projects and basic research we can actually provide, whether it's analytics, artificial intelligence, or energy. Through our centers and our research, we have world class research faculty in the college. I want us to be out there and to start with the major challenges and help them.

IM: How is the college working with other programs within the university?

PP: One thing I'd like to specify, is that Bauer is obviously a college of business, but I want to take a very broad, multidisciplinary perspective and be very collaborative with the college of medicine, engineering, and nursing. And the idea is to be more open in terms of partnerships with different areas that innovation and new ideas may come into play and provide the business and entrepreneurship components to bring these ideas to market.

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Portions of this interview have been edited.

The Cannon is expecting to open by the end of next month. Courtesy of The Cannon

Photos: The Cannon enters home stretch ahead of opening next month

Cannon Countdown

If all goes according to plan, The Cannon's new space will be up and running by the end of June. The bulk of the construction, which started a little over a year ago, is done, and the team is on the home stretch.

The original plan was to open in March, but construction faced a series of setbacks due to weather.

"Houston's rainy winter pushed back our initial timeline a bit, but we are currently on track for opening late next month and are excited to get our amazing community moved into our brand new home," says Lawson Gow, founder and CEO of The Cannon. "We can't wait to show off our space to Houston's entrepreneurial community through events, programming, new partnerships and more, continuing in our mission to support Houston's startups and small businesses."

Two Houston-based companies are responsible for the 120,000-square-foot, 32-acre coworking and entrepreneurship campus in West Houston — Burton Construction is the general contractor and Abel Design Group is the architect.

The new space is already 80 percent pre-leased. Currently, The Cannon has a 20,000-square-foot space next door to the construction site. While companies working out of this so-called "waiting room" building will be moving over, Gow, who is the son of InnovationMap's CEO, is excited to announce a few new startups excited to call The Cannon home next month.

The goal of The Cannon's project is to fulfill a need Gow says he recognized in Houston.

"The problem that we're addressing — every startup is addressing a problem — is Houston has really struggled to develop vibrant startup communities," Gow tells InnovationMap in a previous interview. "Entrepreneurs and talent will leave to go to Austin and beyond, and so the mission was to create a place and an infrastructure and a density of resources to prevent them from having to do that and keep our entrepreneurs here."

The new space will allow Gow and his team to host pitch events and even live fundraising events, due to a partnership with LetsLaunch.

Progress

Courtesy of The Cannon

The Cannon's construction delays were mostly due to a rainy season in Houston.

Take a video tour of The Cannon here:

The Cannon Flythrough www.youtube.com

A one-stop shop for startup owners is now at your fingertips. Getty Images

Tap into the local ecosystem with Alice’s guide for Houston business owners

Houston Voices

Small business ownership is on the rise, particularly among diverse founders: women, people of color, immigrants, the differently-abled, people identifying as LGBTQ+ and veterans. These groups are starting businesses at historically high rates, and, in fact, women of color are entering entrepreneurship at higher rates than any other demographic. In the near future, entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds will represent the "new majority" of business owners.

While the reason for new business creation varies - be it out of necessity, ingenuity or opportunity - the reality for some small business owners is that their ideas never fully make it off the ground, or their businesses stall in scale due to inequitable access to resources, opportunities and networks required for growth.

Alice is working to change that.

Through thousands of hours of research, underrepresented and underestimated founders told Carolyn Rodz and her team that access to resources and opportunities was their number one barrier to success. It was then that Rodz realized technology could help solve this problem with machine learning that can help entrepreneurs from all backgrounds find the right path and connect to the right resources to start and grow their businesses. In May 2017, Alice became the first AI platform in the world dedicated to helping business owners achieve their goals through personalized and free matchmaking, based on their unique profile, interests and objectives.

"At Alice, we want to make sure every business owner has what they need, and it shouldn't matter where they come from or who they know. It's not enough to even the playing field – we want to create a whole new one," said Rodz, a Latina and three-time entrepreneur. "One of the ways we are doing that is by creating a digital hub of local resources and events, so that all business owners have access to support in their communities, from the startup world to nonprofits, like Baker Ripley and Lift Fund, to investors and lenders."

Alice's Houston Guide for Business Owners is a virtual ecosystem of real-time, real-life connections to local resources, opportunities, organizations, networks, education programs and events designed to support business development and entrepreneurial talent. The guide is kept up-to-date with machine learning algorithms, an in-house curation team and crowdsourced recommendations from the community.

Are you new to the area and looking for a work home? Alice can direct you to over 25 coworking spaces in Space City. Wondering where you can learn to code (or connect with a coder to build that app you've been dreaming about)? Alice can point you to programs like DigitalCrafts Coding Bootcamp and the Flatiron School. Not sure what business license to apply for or how to capitalize on a new sales funnel? The Houston Office of Business Opportunity, Houston SCORE, or the Women's Business Enterprise Alliance may be just what you need.

But just how does Alice do it? Alice's intelligence becomes predictive overtime in order to reduce small business fail rates. By utilizing algorithms that drive founders to relevant resources based on unique personal and company profiles (versus a curated search function), Alice becomes more personalized (and "intelligent") the more the user engages with her.

"We like to think of Alice as the business owner's sidekick. She's there night and day to help entrepreneurs build their companies, solve problems and connect with people, places and knowledge across the digital and real-life ecosystem," added Rodz.

You can access the Guide for Houston Business Owners (and 15 other city guides) on Alice at https://helloalice.com/cities/houston. And if you have a local resource, opportunity or event to recommend, you can submit your suggestion here.

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This is content from our partner, Alice.

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Rice University rises to No. 1 spot in new ranking of best college investments

money moves

By one measure, earning a degree at Rice University is the smartest move in the Lone Star State.

In its eighth annual ranking of colleges and university that give students the best return on their educational investment, personal finance website SmartAsset places Rice at No. 1 in Texas and No. 10 in the U.S. It’s the only Texas school to break into the national top 10.

To determine the best-value colleges and universities in each state, SmartAsset crunched data in these categories: scholarships and grants, starting salary for new graduates, tuition, living costs, and retention rate.

While the tuition ($47,350) and student living costs ($17,800) at Rice are the highest among the top 10 Texas schools on the list, the average amount of scholarships and grants ($43,615), average starting salary ($77,900), and retention rate (97 percent) also are among the highest.

According to Rice, tuition, fees, on-campus room and board, books, and personal expenses for the 2022-23 academic year add up to $74,110. That figure, which excludes financial aid, applies to a full-time, degree-seeking student living on campus.

“Rice University is consistently ranked as a best value in higher education and is one of America’s leading teaching and research universities,” the school’s Office of Financial Aid says. “By attending Rice, you will not only receive a superior education at a reasonable cost, you also will benefit from having a Rice degree long after graduation.”

Three other schools in or near the Houston metro area appear on SmartAsset’s list of the biggest-bang-for-your-buck schools in Texas:

  • Prairie View A&M University, No. 4. The university posted the lowest retention rate (74 percent) among the 10 schools. The remaining figures sit roughly in the middle of the pack.
  • University of Houston, No. 5. The university’s tuition ($8,913) was the lowest in the top 10, as was the average amount of scholarships and grants ($6,544).
  • Texas A&M University-College Station, No. 6. The university’s living costs are the second highest among the top 10 ($17,636), while its average starting salary for new grads lands at No. 3 ($64,400).

Other schools in the state’s top 10 are:

  • University of Texas at Austin, No. 2.
  • University of Texas at Dallas (Richardson), No. 3.
  • Texas Tech University in Lubbock, No. 7.
  • LeTourneau University in Longview, No. 8.
  • University of North Texas in Denton, No. 9.
  • Texas State University in San Marcos, No. 10.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston expert addresses the growing labor shortage within health care

guest column

Long before COVID-19 became a part of our new normal, the concerns around shortages in health care staffing were present.

To put this in real terms, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the latest projection of employment through the end of this decade is an increase of nearly 12 million jobs. A fourth of those — 3.3 million to be exact — are expected to go towards health care and social assistance roles.

Before the pandemic, the concerns centered around managing a growing retired population and a slowing in higher education nurse enrollment. Then amid the growing shortage concerns surrounding the support for aging baby boomers, we were all thrusted into a pandemic.

The stressors on health care professional staffing have doubled down and what the increased shortage has shown us is the need to intervene and change the traditional hiring practices. Speed to place a nurse on assignment doesn’t just ensure productivity — it is a matter of life or death.

Over the past several years, the evolution of technology has drastically changed how health care facilities operate and interact with their employees as well as patients. There was a point in time where the structure in health care staffing was rigid without flexibility or varieties of employment type. Conversations around travel positions, per diem, and permanent are all now commonplace as the recent shortages caused us to normalize the discussion around role type and use of technology to influence speed to hire.

This whole evolution was put to test when April 2020 came, and the initial brunt of the pandemic was in full swing. The entire world was in panic mode. During these quarantine times, we were in a state of a health care emergency with thousands of patients seeking health care. Unfortunately, hospitals could not keep up with this demand with their existing nurse professionals, and became severely overloaded and dangerous. Due to this the United States saw unprecedented labor shortages, impacting a large number of nurses and health care workers as it pertains to both their physical and mental health.

What we are seeing now is a period classified as the “The Great Rethinking,” where nurses and health care workers alike are speaking up for what they believe in and deserve. Salary transparency and flexibility are just the tip of the iceberg for this movement.

SkillGigs is unique in that we are giving the power back to registered nurses and health care professionals, while meeting the demand created by the pandemic. Our team has been fortunate to be a catalyst to direct the change in the future of work, and we look forward to continuing to innovate.

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Bryan Groom is the division president of health care at Houston-based SkillGigs.

Houston energy giant expands implementation of Canadian startup's tech

big, big energy

CruxOCM, a startup with a significant Houston presence that specializes in robotic industrial process automation for energy companies, has secured even more business from energy giant Phillips 66.

The value of the deal wasn’t disclosed.

Houston-based Phillips 66 has agreed to expand it use of CruxOCM’s pipeBOT technology to cover even more pipelines. The pipeBOT technology is designed to improve the safety and efficiency of control room operations for pipelines and reduce control room costs.

CruxOCM and Phillips 66 launched a test of pipeBOT in 2020.

CruxOCM, based in Calgary, Canada, says pipeBOT is engineered to decrease manual controls through intelligent automation. With this technology in place, the fatigue of control room operators declines, because as many as 85 percent fewer manual commands must be entered, according to CruxOCM. Therefore, control room operators can focus on higher-level tasks.

“At CruxOCM, we empower control room operators with modern software that enables the autonomous control rooms of tomorrow, within the safety constraints of today. We look forward to continuing to strengthen our relationship with Phillips 66 for many years to come,” Adam Marsden, chief revenue officer at CruxOCM, says in a news release.

Founded in 2017, Crux OCM (Crux Operations Control Management) established its Houston presence last year. Also in 2021, the startup raised $6 million in venture capital in a “seed extension” funding round. Bullpen Capital led the round, with participation from Angular Ventures, Root Ventures, Golden Ventures, Cendana Capital, and Industry Ventures.

In 2019, Angular Ventures and Root Ventures co-led a $2.6 million funding round.