Austin-based Firmspace opened its Houston location last year. Courtesy of Firmspace

Before the pandemic, Houston coworking demand mirrored that of the rest of the country: shared space was booming, new operators were opening up. Demand was growing in Houston, as it was in other markets.

When the pandemic arrived in Houston last spring, the city was hit with a crisis on two fronts: local public health challenges due to the arrival of COVID-19 were further complicated by a downturn in the price of oil and gas industry — the literal fuel of this city's dominant industry.

But coworking hasn't faded away as office spaces closed or reduced capacity – it's evolved. In fact, the ongoing pandemic has accelerated this changing space and pushed operators to adapt their offerings to meet the market's needs. The result in Houston is the emergence of three major trends that we expect to see persist beyond 2021.

Increased demand for private offices

According to a recent report from JLL, up to 70 percent of all office spaces were primarily or partially open plan in design by the first quarter of 2020. But few of us want to sit in an open plan office with a dozen other masked professionals while fielding Zoom calls, but working from home isn't an option for those who lack the space and privacy they need to effectively work from home.

This combination of pandemic-related stressors has driven more Houstonians to seek out private office space for rent. The basic requirements in the pandemic era look slightly different than what we might have observed a year ago. Professionals want:

  • Private office spaces with doors that close and lock
  • Walls that provide privacy and noise insulation
  • Secure IT infrastructure, chiefly high-speed internet access
  • Enhanced cleaning protocols in common spaces and high-touch areas
  • Closed ventilation loops and as much clean air piped in from the outdoors as possible

And coworking spaces are doing their best to deliver this calm, safe environment where busy professionals can come to do focused work.

More short-term arrangements

The future has never looked more uncertain to professionals and leadership in all sectors. Here at the end of 2020, many companies that have paid nearly nine months of rent on office space that they've been unable to safely use are weighing the benefits of breaking their years-long commercial leases.

Companies are not sure what the structure of their teams will be in three months, nevermind three years, and this is changing how leaders think about their real estate contracts. In this climate, many are turning to coworking spaces that offer six- and 12-month contracts with furnishes and IT infrastructure in place to lighten their financial commitments to physical spaces.

The other trend in short-term leasing that local coworking spaces have embraced is the day office. Given that many of us are planning to work at least part-time from our home offices for the near future, coworking spaces have spotted the opportunity to offer a pay-per-day model to engage professionals that only need a break from the home office one or two days a week.

A private office as a status symbol

The office used to be where we went to get away from home five days a week. For members of traditional coworking spaces in the startup and tech industries, the office often felt like an incubator where spontaneous connections happened.

But in light of the pandemic, private office space has become a refuge where professionals go to feel safe, achieve focused work, and execute sensitive tasks with assurance that they have a level of privacy that can't be achieved at home.

Whether you're looking to speak with clients or prospective employees remotely, private office space and polished meeting rooms have also come to be a status symbol. A video call with chic design elements visible in the background of their office space communicates something powerful – the people in those chairs are invested in the time they spend at work.


Moving into 2021, Houstonians are ready to return to work. Even before the pandemic arrived, commercial real estate was beginning to see that the future of work will be more flexible and more often remote than it was in the past. While we're not through this crisis yet, many professionals are already looking for a new kind of private office arrangement, and local coworking operators are working to deliver the space these Houstonians need.

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Anish Michael is the CEO of Austin-based Firmspace, which has a 32,000-square-foot space in BBVA Compass Plaza in Houston.

From enlightening talks to networking opportunities, here's where you need to be in April. Getty Images

10+ can't-miss Houston business and innovation events for April

Where to be

Happy Q2, everyone. With 2019 already a quarter of the way through, it's a bit overwhelming to prioritize what networking and thought talks to attend. We've rounded up a list of over 10 (and growing) events for you to consider adding to your calendar.

If you know of innovation-focused events for this month or next, email me at natalie@innovationmap.com with the details and subscribe to our daily newsletter that sends fresh stories straight to your inboxes every morning.

April 4 — FIRMSPACE Houston Grand Opening Celebration

A national high-end workspace brand has opened its latest location in Houston. Check out the space and network with potential coworkers.

Details: The event is from 7 to 10 pm on Thursday, April 4, at FIRMSPACE Houston (2200 Post Oak Boulevard). Learn more.

April 4 — Accelerator Info Session and Panel

Join the Social Enterprise Alliance for an info session on BBVA Momentum's accelerator program followed by a panel discussion led by Grace Rodriguez, CEO of Impact Hub Houston.

Details: The event is from 11:30 am to 1 pm on Thursday, April 4, at Station Houston (1301 Fannin, suite 2440). Learn more.

April 4-6 — Rice Business Plan Competition

This weekend, 42 teams will be competing for over $1.5 million in awards at the 19th annual Rice Business Plan Competition. Learn more about the awards and teams here.

Details: The three-day challenge takes place in a few different buildings on Rice University Campus. Learn more.

April 5 — ChIPs Texas' Houston Innovation Ecosystem

Gina Luna of Houston Exponential and Tom Luby of the TMC Innovation Institute will take the stage for a panel moderated by Payal Patel of Station Houston. It's the first ChIPs event in Houston. ChIPs is a nonprofit organization that advances and connects women in technology, law, and policy.

Details: The event is from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm on Friday, April 5, at TMC Innovation Institute (2450 Holcombe Blvd, Suite X). Learn more.

April 10 — MassChallenge Texas' Houston Launch Party

In case you missed it, MassChallenge Texas has a new Houston program and it's officially launching this month. Network with the international program, potential applicants, and other members of the Houston innovation ecosystem.

Details: The event is from 6 to 8 pm on Wednesday, April 10, at Four Seasons Houston (1300 Lamar St.). Learn more.

April 11 — 2019 Future of Leadership Luncheon

The annual event honors leadership and celebrates the important role of philanthropy in the Houston community. Tickets start at $250 for the luncheon that features a conversation between Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, and Laura Arnold, co-chair of Arnold Ventures, on the future of philanthropy.

Details: The event is from noon to 1:30 pm on Thursday, April 11, at the Hilton Americas (1600 Lamar Street). Learn more here.

April 11 — Startup Pains: What I Wish I Knew

This monthly series hosted by the University of Houston lets you learn from someone else's mistakes and successes. This month's speaker is Jason Eriksen, Ph.D.UH associate professor of pharmacy, and founder of Alzeca Biosciences and Teomics LLC.

Details: The event is from 4 to 5 pm on Thursday, April 11, at the UH Technology Bridge (Innovation Center, building 4, floor 2, 5000 Gulf Fwy). Learn more here.Learn more here.

April 11 — B2B Startup Pitch Party

Cannon Ventures is hosting another night of pitches. This event is focused on all things B2B and will feature some B2B startups looking for early stage funding in Houston.

Details: The event is from 6:30 to 9 pm on Thursday, April 11, at The Cannon (1336 Brittmoore Road). Learn more.

April 12 — The Agile Shift Conference

Join industry professionals to network and talk the unification of Agile and DevOps to build and deliver better teams and software.

Details: The event is from 8 am to 5 pm on Friday, April 12, at the Hyatt Regency Houston (1200 Louisiana St.). Learn more.

April 18 — Lemonade Day at Station Houston

Join Station Houston for what is likely going to be the cutest pitch competition you'll ever see. Ten teams made up of future entrepreneurs will pitch their ideas for a lemonade stand.

Details: The event is from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on Thursday, April 18, at Station Houston (1301 Fannin Street, suite 2440). Learn more.

April 18 — Rice Alumni | Entrepreneurs & Innovators, Houston Launch

A Rice University organization has a new name, and they are ready to celebrate it. Meet the new Rice Alumni | Entrepreneurs & Innovators network, or RA|EI, and discuss what you want out of the organization.

Details: The event is from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on Thursday, April 18, at Pitch 25 (2120 Walker Street). Learn more.

April 23 — Houston Female Founder Roundtable: How to Get Ahead in Entrepreneurship with Alice

A panel of entrepreneurial women will share their stories, challenges, successes, and tips.

Details: The event is from 11 am to 1 pm on Tuesday, April 23, at The Cannon (1336 Brittmoore Rd). Learn more.

April 25 — EO Talks Houston

Think TED Talks but from Houston entrepreneurs. The goal is to share success stories and inspire other entrepreneurs in town.

Details: The event is from 7:30 to 10:30 am on Thursday, April 25, at Houston Baptist University, Linda & Archie Dunham Theater (7502 Fondren Road). Learn more.

April 25 — 7th Annual City of Houston Investor Conference

The City of Houston is gathering professionals to talk money for a full day of presentations by local government CFOs and an update on the region's economy.

Details: The event is from 8 am to 5 pm on Thursday, April 25, at Hilton Americas-Houston (1600 Lamar Street). Learn more.

April 25 — Enterprise XR: How AR/VR is Preparing Modern Workers

Immersive technology is shifting the paradigm of corporate training, and you and your company need to learn about it. The event has a keynote speaker and networking before and after.

Details: The event is from 6:30 to 8 pm on Thursday, April 25, at Station Houston (1301 Fannin St., suite 2440). Learn more.

April 26 — Data Science and You: Ethics in Data Science

Visiting professor Lawrence Hunter, director of the Computational Bioscience Program and of the Center for Computational Pharmacology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, talks advances in data science and what you need to know.

Details: The event is from 3 to 5 pm on Friday, April 26, at the University of Houston Student Center (4455 University Drive).Learn more here.

April 26 — SPE Pitch Perfect

Join the Society of Professional Engineers' GCS Innovate! Committee for an event that will help you perfect your business plan.

Details: The event is from 9 am to 2 pm on Friday, April 26, at the Newpark Drilling Fluids (21920 Merchants Way). Learn more here.

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Houston company premieres new platform for gig economy workforce

tech support

As the independent workforce continues to grow, a Houston-based company is aiming to connect these workers with companies that match their specific needs with a new digital platform.

FlexTek, a 14-year old recruiting and staffing company, launched a first gig site tailored to the needs of the individual worker. The platform, Workz360, is built to be able to manage projects, maintain quality control, and manage billing and year-end financial reporting.The company is also working to expanding the platform to provide infrastructure to assist independent workers with education, access to savings programs, tax compliance through vetted third-party CPA firms, and hopes in the future to assist with access to liability and medical insurance.

With a younger workforce and a shifting economy, the “gig economy,” which is another way to describe how people can earn a living as a 1099 worker, offers an alternative option to the corporate grind in a post-pandemic workscape. Chief Marketing Officer Bill Penczak of Workz360 calls this era “Gig 2.0,” and attributes the success of this type of workforce to how during the COVID-19 pandemic people learned how to work, and thrive in non-traditional work environments. The site also boasts the fact it won’t take a bite out of the worker’s pay, which could be an attractive sell for many since other sites can take up to 65 percent of profit.

“In the past few years, with the advent of gig job platforms, the Independent workers have been squeezed by gig work platforms taking a disproportionate amount of the workers’ income,” said FlexTek CEO and founder Stephen Morel in a news release. “As a result, there has been what we refer to as ‘pay padding,’ a phenomenon in which workers are raising their hourly or project rates to compensate for the bite taken by other platforms.

"Workz360 is designed to promote greater transparency, and we believe the net result will be for workers to thrive and companies to save money by using the platform,” he continues.

As the workforce has continued to change over the years, a third of the current U.S. workforce are independent workers according to FlexTek, workers have gained the ability to have more freedom where and how they work. Workz360 aims to cater to this workforce by believing in a simple mantra of treating your workers well.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about this, but we like the Southwest Airlines model,” Penczak tells InnovationMap. “Southwest Airlines treats their people very well, and as a result those employees treat the passengers really well. We believe the same thing holds true. If we can provide resources, and transparency, and not take a bite out of what the gig worker is charging, then we will get the best and the brightest people since they feel like they won’t be taken advantage of. We think there is an opportunity to be a little different and put the people first.”

NASA launches new research projects toward astronauts on ISS

ready to research

For the 26th time, SpaceX has sent up supplies to the International Space Station, facilitating several new research projects that will bring valuable information to the future of space.

On Saturday at 1:20 pm, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched on the Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida — bringing with it more than 7,700 pounds of science experiments, crew supplies, and other cargo. The anticipated docking time is Sunday morning, and the cargo spacecraft will remain aboard the ISS for 45 days, according to a news release from NASA.

Among the supplies delivered to the seven international astronauts residing on the ISS are six research experiments — from health tech to vegetation. Here's a glimpse of the new projects sent up to the scientists in orbit:

Moon Microscope

Image via NASA.gov

Seeing as astronauts are 254 miles away from a hospital on Earth — and astronauts on the moon would be almost 1,000 times further — the need for health technology in space is top of mind for researchers. One new device, the Moon Microscope, has just been sent up to provide in-flight medical diagnosis. The device includes a portable hand-held microscope and a small self-contained blood sample staining tool, which can communicate information to Earth for diagnosis.

"The kit could provide diagnostic capabilities for crew members in space or on the surface of the Moon or Mars," reads a news release. "The hardware also may provide a variety of other capabilities, such as testing water, food, and surfaces for contamination and imaging lunar surface samples."

Fresh produce production

Salads simply aren't on the ISS menu, but fresh technology might be changing that. Researchers have been testing a plant growth unit on station known as Veggie, which has successfully grown a variety of leafy greens, and the latest addition is Veg-05 — focused on growing dwarf tomatoes.

Expanded solar panels

Thanks to SpaceX's 22nd commercial resupply mission in 2021, the ISS installed Roll-Out Solar Arrays. Headed to the ISS is the second of three packages to complete the panels that will increase power for the station by 20 to 30 percent. This technology was first tested in space in 2017 and is a key ingredient in future ISS and lunar development.

Construction innovation

Image via NASA.gov

Due to the difference of gravity — and lack thereof — astronauts have had to rethink constructing structures in space. Through a process called extrusion, liquid resin is used to create shapes and forms that cannot be created on Earth. Photocurable resin, which uses light to harden the material into its final form, is injected into pre-made flexible forms and a camera captures footage of the process, per the news release.

"The capability for using these forms could enable in-space construction of structures such as space stations, solar arrays, and equipment," reads the release. "The experiment is packed inside a Nanoracks Black Box with several other experiments from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab and is sponsored by the ISS National Lab."

Transition goggles

It's a bizarre transition to go from one gravity field to another — and one that can affect spatial orientation, head-eye and hand-eye coordination, balance, and locomotion, and cause some crew members to experience space motion sickness, according to the release.

"The Falcon Goggles hardware captures high-speed video of a subject’s eyes, providing precise data on ocular alignment and balance," reads the release.

On-demand nutrients

Image via NASA.gov

NASA is already thinking about long-term space missions, and vitamins, nutrients, and pharmaceuticals have limited shelf-life. The latest installment in the five-year BioNutrients program is BioNutrients-2 , which tests a system for producing key nutrients from yogurt, a fermented milk product known as kefir, and a yeast-based beverage, per the release.

"The researchers also are working to find efficient ways to use local resources to make bulk products such as plastics, construction binders, and feedstock chemicals. Such technologies are designed to reduce launch costs and increase self-sufficiency, extending the horizons of human exploration," reads the release.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from esports to biomaterials — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Zimri Hinshaw, CEO of BUCHA BIO

Zimri T. Hinshaw, CEO of BUCHA BIO, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss how he's planning to scale his biomaterials startup to reduce plastic waste. Photo courtesy of BUCHA BIO

After raising a seed round of funding, BUCHA BIO is gearing up to move into its new facility. The biomaterials company was founded in New York City in 2020, but CEO Zimri T. Hinshaw shares how he started looking for a new headquarters for the company — one that was more affordable, had a solid talent pool, and offered a better quality of life for employees. He narrowed it down from over 20 cities to two — San Diego and Houston — before ultimately deciding on the Bayou City.

Since officially relocating, Hinshaw says he's fully committed to the city's innovation ecosystem. BUCHA BIO has a presence at the University of Houston, Greentown Labs, and the East End Maker Hub — where the startup is building out a new space to fit the growing team.

"By the end of this month, our laboratories will be up and running, we'll have office space adjacent, as well as chemical storage," Hinshaw says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. Listen to the episode and read more.

Kelly Klein, development director of Easter Seals Greater Houston

A nonprofit organization has rolled out an esports platform and event to raise awareness and funding for those with disabilities. Photo via Easter Seals

For many video games is getaway from reality, but for those with disabilities — thanks to a nonprofit organization —gaming can mean a lot more. On Saturday Dec. 3 — International Day of Persons with Disabilities — from 1 to 9 pm, Easter Seals Greater Houston will be joining forces with ES Gaming for the inaugural Game4Access Streamathon.

Gaming helps enhance cognitive skills, motor skills, improve mental well-being, and can help reduce feelings of social isolation due to the interactive nature of playing with others.

“This is really a unique way for (people) to form a community without having to leave their house, and being part of an inclusive environment,” says Kelly Klein, development director of Easter Seals Greater Houston. ”The adaptive equipment and specialized technology just does so many miraculous things for people with disabilities on so many levels — not just gaming. With gaming, it is an entrance into a whole new world.” Read more.

John Mooz, senior managing director at Hines

Levit Green has announced its latest to-be tenant. Photo courtesy

Levit Green, a 53-acre mixed-use life science district next to the Texas Medical Center and expected to deliver this year, has leased approximately 10,000 square feet of commercial lab and office space to Sino Biological Inc. The Bejing-based company is an international reagent supplier and service provider. Houston-based real estate investor, development, and property manager Hines announced the new lease in partnership with 2ML Real Estate Interests and Harrison Street.

“Levit Green was meticulously designed to provide best-in-class life science space that can accommodate a multitude of uses. Welcoming Sino Biological is a testament to the market need for sophisticated, flexible space that allows diversified firms to perform a variety of research,” says John Mooz, senior managing director at Hines, in a press release. “Sino is an excellent addition to the district’s growing life science ecosystem, and we look forward to supporting their continued growth and success.” Read more.Read more.