The Cannon's new sportstech hub is just one step in putting a national spotlight on Houston as a city for vibrant sports innovation. Graphic courtesy of The Cannon

Silicon Valley emerged as a consumer tech capital, and Atlanta has carved out a niche for fintech — but as sports innovation continues to be driven by startups and new technology, where should the innovators set up shop?

"There isn't really a sports tech town, and we felt there's an opportunity to stick a stake in the ground and claim Houston as the sports tech capital of the world," says Lawson Gow, founder of The Cannon.

The Cannon in collaboration with Braun Enterprises and Gow Media opened Houston's first dedicated space to sports innovation. (Gow Media is the parent company of InnovationMap.) The new two-story space includes 23 offices and a 1,500-square-foot open space in 53 West, a Galleria-area office building recently renovated by Braun. The hub is adjacent to Gow Media's office alongside Gow Broadcasting LLC and the SportsMap Radio Network, which includes local sports station ESPN 97.5 as well as national syndicated content.

The idea for a sports-focused tech hub has been on the minds of The Cannon team since the early days of The Cannon, where sportstech activity started occurring naturally.

"The sportstech startup scene in Houston caught us by surprise at the very early stages of the Cannon," Gow tells InnovationMap. "We were created to transform Houston's innovation community and part of that was thinking about what things we could win at. Sportstech, for a lot of reasons, seemed really logical to us."

The Cannon's new space is in 53 West, a Galleria-area office building recently renovated by Braun Enterprises. Graphic courtesy of The Cannon

Over the years, The Cannon has grown its network of sportstech startups and developed its programming within the industry. Now, these efforts have a home in The Cannon Uptown - Sports + Media.

"Houston has never been able to attract tech entrepreneurs for any reason, and sports tech can be that reason," Gow says. "Having a sports innovation hub in Houston is only one of a dozen grand initiatives that needs to happen."

Some of those other initiatives include growing sports tech density, introducing new sports-focused accelerators, more events, funding — including venture capital and angel investment — and interest from professional teams.

Another recent sportstech opportunity that's come about in Houston is the SportsMap Tech Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: SMAPU) going public as a blank-check company last month at $115 million. The SPAC is run by David Gow, Lawson Gow's father and CEO of Gow Media, and plans to find a sports tech business to acquire, specifically in one of four categories within the industry: fan engagement, health and wellness, esports, or fantasy/gambling.

"With the IPO complete, we now begin the search for a company to acquire in the sports tech industry, which we define as the realm where technology is transforming sports," says David Gow. "We have not been able to talk with target companies yet, but have been doing our homework to develop a list. We also plan to tap into the extensive relationships of our board."

The company is backed by an all-star team making up the board, including Oliver Luck, Reid Ryan, David Graf, and Steve Webster.

Calling all sports tech companies. A Galleria-area sports tech hub is opening this summer. Photo via braunenterprises.com

Exclusive: Houston coworking company to open sports tech-focused hub

go team

It's game time for a Houston-based coworking company that's working on opening a sports innovation hub this summer.

The Cannon is working on opening new hub in 53 West, a Galleria-area office building recently renovated by Braun Enterprises. The project is in partnership with Braun and Gow Media, InnovationMap's parent company, and will be co-located with the media business that runs Gow Broadcasting LLC and the SportsMap Radio Network, which includes local sports station ESPN 97.5 as well as national syndicated content.

The Cannon's founder Lawson Gow tells InnovationMap that Gow Media — founded by Lawson's father, David Gow — and Braun Enterprises were opportunistic partners for the organization.

"We've always been optimistically looking for strategic partners that we can co-locate with or team up with to create a hyper focused, niche community," Lawson Gow says. "We've spent a lot of time thinking about what that can be."

Expected to open midsummer, the new two-story space will have 23 offices and a 1,500-square-foot open space that can be used for events. All existing Cannon members will have access to the space, and potential tenants can expect a similar pricing model to The Cannon's other three Houston-area locations.

Houston makes sense for sports tech, which Gow defines as encompassing four categories of innovation — fan engagement, activity and performance, fantasy and gambling, and esports. Houston has the money, the big four sports teams, a big fan base, and corporate interest, he explains.

"Sports tech is a thing we can win at. There's no global hub for sports tech — so Houston can do that," Gow says. "We've always had that in our heads as a direction we want the city to head down, so it just makes it so opportunistic to create a space for that kind of innovation at work for the city."

53 West has been undergoing renovations recently. Photo via braunenterprises.com

AutomotiveMap is the newest outlet from Gow Media. Courtesy graphic

Announcing AutomotiveMap: The new destination for auto enthusiasts has arrived

Calling all car fans

The automotive industry is now on the map. Gow Media, the large multi-platform media company with leading online destinations CultureMap, SportsMap, and InnovationMap, as well as sports radio properties ESPN 97.5 FM in Houston and SB Nation Radio, has announced the launch of its newest outlet, AutomotiveMap.

The new site will cover industry news from coast to coast, provide auto reviews, showcase innovation, and serve as a thoughtful guide to consumers.

"We are excited to add AutomotiveMap to our portfolio of media platforms," says David Gow, CEO of Gow Media. "We now have four content categories — culture, sports, innovation, and automotive — all under the 'map' brand identity. And we love that each of these categories taps into the passions of our audiences.

"Eileen Falkenberg-Hull will serve as inaugural editor of AutomotiveMap. She brings 10 years of digital publishing experience to her new position and has covered the automotive segment exclusively for five years, with regular bylines in Trucks.com, U.S. News & World Report, and American City Business Journals. She is a co-host of Let's Talk Wheels on SB Nation Radio.

In her new role, Falkenberg-Hull will report to Arden Ward, vice president of editorial for Gow Media statewide. "Eileen is an outstanding addition to our team," says Ward. "Her enthusiasm for the auto industry is unmatched, and, as editor, she blends her extensive knowledge with an approachable voice that connects to our readers."

"I am thrilled to become part of Gow Media," says Falkenberg-Hull. "I have been impressed with the creative energy, professionalism, and commitment to storytelling that the team has. AutomotiveMap will be both informative and highly engaging; it will educate consumers and delight enthusiasts."

AutomotiveMap is the latest addition to Gow Media's ever-growing portfolio. Since acquiring CultureMap in February of 2017, Gow has launched SportsMap; InnovationMap; and GiftingMap, an e-commerce site.

"Our other site launches are going very well — we are experiencing tremendous audience and revenue growth — enabling us to step out again with AutomotiveMap," says David Gow.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

David Gow, right, with Houston Astros president Reid Ryan. Photo by Michele Lee Sparks/Archer Sparks

A CEO's message: From humble beginnings, our company has grown up

All grown up

Last week, the son of a good friend came up to our office. It had been a couple of years since I had seen him, so I still envisioned that he would be an 18-year-old high-school kid. But, when he walked in the room, I did a double-take, as he was now a mature young man. The kid had grown up, and he was standing before me ready to talk business.

In some ways, the story illustrates Gow Media. Sometimes I come across people who will ask me: "How is 1560-The-Game doing?"

We are not that young kid anymore. We have matured from a sports radio venture to a multi-platform media company. And we, too, stand before you ready to talk business.

Here's the story of that grown-up company, with the following highlights:

  • ESPN 97.5 FM: Dominant sports ratings.
  • CultureMap: A large wave of growth.
  • SportsMap: New content and record traffic.
  • InnovationMap: A banner start.
  • SB Nation Radio: Elimination of a competitor.
  • The Team: New faces in leadership roles.

ESPN 97.5 FM

A year ago, we secured the No. 1 sports ratings position. This past quarter, we dominated. In the latest Nielsen book, we have the top four sports shows in the city, and five of the top six. The top four: (No. 1) John and Lance; (No. 2) The Blitz; (No. 3) The Usual Suspects; and (No. 4) The Charlie Pallilo Show. In morning and afternoon drive times, our ratings share was higher than our two competitors combined. And more good news: this quarter the Houston Press announced "The Best Radio Station" in Houston. The winner: ESPN 97.5FM.

CultureMap

Last week, more than 1,000 people in Houston turned out for our Tastemakers event, which sold out for the second year in a row. It is an amazing sight to see hundreds of folks line up early at the door. The turnout embodied the growth of CultureMap, where online traffic is soaring. Our Houston editorial team of Steven Devadanam, Eric Sandler, Ken Hoffman and others is on a roll. For that matter, the same is true of our teams statewide. We are experiencing double-digit growth year-over-year, yielding a very large and loyal following.

SportsMap

Our deep pool of sports experts has led to record traffic levels. One fun feature: We get to try new combinations such as videos featuring Raheel with AJ and Granato; Lance paired with AJ; Faour and Pallilo. Other must-see videos include Charlie Pallilo and Joel Blank (aka "one-take-Jake"). And we continue to get great written contributions from Barry Laminack, Joshua Jordan, Jermaine Every, Cody Stoots, Jerry Bo and, of course, SportsMap editor Fred Faour.

InnovationMap

Due to the collective efforts of many, Houston is experiencing a great wave of innovation. And now the city has a media outlet to tell the stories. Launched late last year, and backed by blue-chip sponsors, InnovationMap is off to a great start.

When we were planning the site, we were continually asked: who would be the editor? We found a good answer: Natalie Harms, whose fingerprints are all over the site. Last week Natalie was honored by AAF Houston, given the "Rising Star" award.

SB Nation Radio

In this business where we provide sports shows and updates for other stations across the country, we have faced a very competitive landscape the past four years. Finally, in January one of our competitors, NBC Sports Radio, withdrew from the market — enabling new growth and increasing our reach. Our SB Nation Radio Network is now heard on 600 radio stations across the country.

The Team

This has been an exciting season of growth for our people also.In the past quarter, we promoted Josh Jordan to assistant editor of SportsMap; Tyler Scott became assistant programming director. And, most notably, we tapped AJ Hoffman to become program director for 97.5 FM.

Most everyone knows Fred and AJ as leading show hosts, but they are proving to be far more. As Editor of SportsMap for the past 18 months, Fred has been a catalyst for our growth and success online. With AJ, we are tapping into his natural programming instincts and leadership. I have enjoyed watching their talents extend beyond the show and into management.

Another double-take

Let's give sage Ken Hoffman the last word. Some may recall that Ken was with us for a short while in the early 1560-The-Game days. Two years ago, he returned to write for CultureMap — so he has some perspective, having seen both our youth and maturity.

The other day, he wandered into my office. Looking at Gow Media, it appears Ken had done a double-take. He declared: "I have something to tell you. You have the best group of people and talent now. You really do. This is different than before. You are a real grown-up company now."

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David Gow is CEO of Gow Media, which owns ESPN 97.5 FM, CultureMap, SportsMap, InnovationMap, and SB Nation Radio. He is also host of The Boss and The Gloss on SB Nation Radio.

This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Early-stage startup accelerator names latest Houston cohort, new local leader

new to Hou

A national startup accelerator has announced its fifth local cohort, which includes five Houston companies participating in the spring 2022 class.

Madison, Wisconsin-based gener8tor has announced today the five participating startups in gBETA Houston. The program will be led by Muriel Foster, the newly named director of gBETA Houston, which originally launched in Houston in 2020 thanks to a grant from from the Downtown Redevelopment Authority.

The program, which is designed to help guide early-stage startups find early customer traction, connect with mentors, and more, is based in the Downtown Launchpad, and is free and does not take equity in the participating companies. The cohort kicked off on April 21 and concludes on June 10.

The new cohort includes:

  • Founded by CEO Steffie Thomson a year ago, Getaway Sticks has designed a shoe that gives women the painless support they need using athletic foam to create a shoe that gives women the painless support they need. Getaway Sticks provides the solutions to women’s #1 wardrobe complaint of high heel pain. Since launch, the company has earned over $35,000 in revenue from over 150 customers.
  • Through a combination of software and hardware technology, LocBox is rethinking the shopping experience for online and local purchases. If you shop, ship, or have food delivered to your house, LocBox will make your life easier. Led by CEO Sterling Sansing, LocBox has previously participated in the Texas A&M MBA Venture Challenge.
  • SpeakHaus is focused on equipping young professionals and entrepreneurs with public speaking skills through its on-demand training platform and group coaching program. Since launching in October 2021, SpeakHaus has facilitated 6 corporate trainings and coached 61 business leaders generating over $49,000 in revenue. The company is led by CEO Christa Clarke.
  • Led by CEO LaGina Harris, The Us Space is creating spaces intentionally for women of color, women-led businesses, and women-centric organizations. Since launching in June 2021, The Us Space has created partnerships with more than a dozen community organizations, sustainable businesses, and organizations creating positive economic impact in the City of Houston.
  • Founded in August 2021, Urban Eatz Delivery is a food delivery service app that caters to the overlooked and underrepresented restaurants, food trucks, and home-based food vendors. Urban Eatz Delivery has earned over $88,000 in revenue, delivered to over 2,000 users, and worked with 36 restaurant and food vendors on the app. The company is led by CEO D’Andre Good.

“The five companies selected for the Spring 2022 cohort tackle unique problems that have propelled them to create a business that solves the issues they once faced," Foster says in a news release. "From public speaking, apparel comfort, and food delivery from underrepresented restaurant owners, these founders have found their niche and are ready to continue to make an enormous impact on the Houston ecosystem."

it's Foster's first cohort at the helm of the program. A Houston native, she has her master’s in public administration from Texas Southern University and a bachelor’s in marketing from Oklahoma State University. Her background includes work in the nonprofit sector and international business consulting in Cape Town, South Africa, and she's worked within programming at organizations such as MassChallenge, BLCK VC, and now gener8tor.

The program is housed at the Downtown Launchpad. The five startups will have access to the space to meet with mentors, attend events, and run their companies.

"Creating (the hub) was a little like a moonshot, but it’s paying off and contributing enormous impact to the city’s economy. The five startups selected for the gBETA Houston Spring cohort will continue that legacy,” says Robert Pieroni, director of economic development at Central Houston Inc., in the release. “As these entrepreneurs chase their dreams and create something epic, they will know Downtown Houston is standing behind them. I am so proud of what Downtown Launchpad is already, and what it will become.”

Muriel Foster, a native Houstonian, is the new director of gBETA Houston. Image via LinkedIn

Vote now for your favorite 2022 Houston science teacher

Rewarding the Spark

Since 2019, alliantgroup and the Houston Independent School District have been partnering for the SPARK Award, a program that rewards outstanding HISD science teachers who are increasing student engagement and achievement through innovative lesson plans that emphasize both the importance and fun aspects of science.

The overall winner receives a $3,500 personal award plus $500 for their classroom, and the other five finalists receive $1,300 each plus another $500 to spend on their classrooms.

Get to know this year's crop of nominees below, then be sure to cast your vote once a day here until May 25.

After working for three years as an accountant, Lynell Dillard taught a weekly finance class where her students became her inspiration to pursue a full-time career in the classroom.

She secured her first teaching position in 2002 and hasn’t looked back. For three years now, she has been teaching science and giving her students hands-on learning opportunities they may not experience outside of the classroom.

Dillard explains that for many of her students, her role as a teacher is to give them as many opportunities to interact with the natural environment as possible. She knows many of her students and their families would not have access to these resources if it were not for the school district.

"We all learn in a different way, so we have to be willing to help that other person if they don’t get what I get, and there’s no criticism in it," Dillard says. "I tell them they are my future. Every single part of your education is important."


"Before I went to foster care, I was not doing well in my education," Ruth Giles says. "My foster mom, Nancy, took the time to figure out how I learned. She figured out I’m good with memorization, flashcards, and practicing. I would not be here without her today."

Sadly, Nancy passed away in January from COVID-19. Now, more than ever, it’s important to Giles that she continue sharing her experiences with her students to keep Nancy’s legacy alive.

Giles says the best part of teaching fifth-grade science is helping her students view the world in a different way, just like Nancy did for her.


Melanie Jenkins has been a fifth grade ESL teacher at Katherine Smith Elementary School for three years, but first got started in substitute teaching. She then went on to fulfill her childhood dream of working in finance, but found it wasn’t all she thought it would be.

"I still had in the back of my mind these kids whose lives I touched and who remembered me and understood what I was trying to teach them," she says.

Now she can't imagine doing anything else. It's challenging that many of her students are learning English for the first time, but she focuses on vocabulary and giving them resources in both English and Spanish is key, along with truly forming relationships with them.

“I try to figure out who likes what and how I can bring that into the classroom,” says Jenkins. “If you are a hands-on learner, we have the opportunities to put our hands on things. If you are a project-based learner, you have the opportunity to do projects. So there’s no one size fits all.”


According to science teacher Mimi Muñoz, STEM education is important but learning to be kind should be first in any classroom environment.

She also works hard to get her fifth-grade students engaged in their lessons and understand why science is important to their everyday lives.

“They get so excited to do hands-on activities, experiments, and projects,” Muñoz explains. “One thing I really want them to understand is that you need learning every day of your life. And learning science, as well as the world around us, is their real life. The things I’m teaching you [in the classroom] are important.”

Muñoz has been teaching for three years and spent her entire career at Seguin Elementary. She says the last two years were very tough on her students because of the pandemic, but despite virtual learning, it has only strengthened the way she connects to her students.


An educator of 17 years, Gerjuan O’Neal is following in her family’s footsteps.

"My maternal grandmother was a second and third grade teacher, and my maternal grandfather was a high school government teacher," she says. "My great-aunt was an elementary teacher and then a homebound teacher. My favorite thing is that I teach kindergarten through fifth grade, so every day is different."

She loves teaching STEM to her students because they can see how it applies to the other subjects they are also learning in school.

"I really like for my students to be creative problem solvers, and I like to show them all the different components of STEM," O’Neal explains. "If we are doing a science technology map, everything fits together. If we do a Lego build, we’re doing estimating with numbers. If we are coding, they get to see where math is involved and where they must be critical thinkers."


Although this is her first year teaching at Bonner Elementary School, Leticia Sifuentes is a veteran of the classroom with 24 years of experience.

Her favorite part about teaching is seeing her students become just as passionate about science as she is.

“I tell my students I’m a science nerd. We watch a movie — where’s the science? We go somewhere — where’s the science? They’re able to bring science to everything they talk about. It’s in reading, it’s in math, it’s just the way we can incorporate science in everyday life.”

Sifuentes was named an honorable mention teacher for alliantgroup’s 2019 SPARK Award, but three years later she says she is a better educator after working through the challenges of a pandemic and virtual learning. She now realizes that as an educator it is not only her responsibility to ensure her students are performing well academically but also emotionally, socially, and mentally.

CAST YOUR VOTE ONCE A DAY HERE before May 25.

Houston ranks as No. 3 city for Asian American entrepreneurs

diverse city

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 Bada, who was born in Pakistan, ZT Corporate is valued at more than $1 billion. ZT Corporate generates more than $600 million in annual revenue 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,” Bada 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.”