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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Climatetech incubator announces C-suite promotion, Houston jobs, and nonprofit transition

greentown updates

The new year has brought some big news from Greentown Labs.

The Somerville, Massachusetts-based climatetech incubator with its second location at Greentown Houston named a new member to its C-suite, is seeking new Houston team members, and has officially finished its transition into a nonprofit.

Juliana Garaizar, who originally joined Greentown as launch director ahead of the Houston opening in 2021, has been promoted from vice president of innovation to chief development and investment officer.

"I'm refocusing on the Greentown Labs level in a development role, which means fundraising for both locations and potentially new ones," Garaizar tells InnovationMap. "My role is not only development, but also investment. That's something I'm very glad to be pursuing with my investment hat. Access to capital is key for all our members, and I'm going to be in charge of refining and upgrading our investment program."

While she will also maintain her role as head of the Houston incubator, Greentown Houston is also hiring a general manager position to oversee day-to-day and internal operations of the hub. Garaizar says this role will take some of the internal-facing responsibilities off of her plate.

"Now that we are more than 80 members, we need more internal coordination," she explains. "Considering that the goal for Greentown is to grow to more locations, there's going to be more coordination and, I'd say, more autonomy for the Houston campus."

The promotion follows a recent announcement that Emily Reichert, who served as CEO for the company for a decade, has stepped back to become CEO emeritus. Greentown is searching for its next leader and CFO Kevin Taylor is currently serving as interim CEO. Garaizar says the transition is representative of Greentown's future as it grows to more locations and a larger organization.

"Emily's transition was planned — but, of course, in stealth mode," Garaizar says, adding that Reichert is on the committee that's finding the new CEO. "She thinks scaling is a different animal from putting (Greentown) together, which she did really beautifully."

Garaizar says her new role will include overseeing Greentown's new nonprofit status. She tells InnovationMap that the organization originally was founded as a nonprofit, but converted to a for-profit in order to receive a loan at its first location. Now, with the mission focus Greentown has and the opportunities for grants and funding, it was time to convert back to a nonprofit, Garaizar says.

"When we started fundraising for Houston, everyone was asking why we weren't a nonprofit. That opened the discussion again," she says. "The past year we have been going through that process and we can finally say it has been completed.

"I think it's going to open the door to a lot more collaboration and potential grants," she adds.

Greentown is continuing to grow its team ahead of planned expansion. The organization hasn't yet announced its next location — Garaizar says the primary focus is filling the CEO position first. In Houston, the hub is also looking for an events manager to ensure the incubator is providing key programming for its members, as well as the Houston innovation community as a whole.

Photos: Houston coworking company expands with new location

open for biz

Calling all coworkers north of Houston — there's a new spot in town to set up shop.

The Cannon, a coworking company with locations in Houston and Galveston, has expanded north of Houston for the first time. A new Cannon workspace opened at The Park at Fish Creek retail center (618 Fish Creek Thoroughfare) in Montgomery last month. On February 1 at 4 pm, the new community is holding an open house to tour the space.

“The Cannon is a Houston innovation institution, and we meet demand where innovators and entrepreneurs live—in this case, Montgomery County,” says Jon Lambert, CEO of The Cannon, in a news release. “The goal is to grow The Cannon community – and entrepreneurship overall – regionally, via the Fish Creek brick-and mortar space, and to also expand utilization of our digital community platform, Cannon Connect.”

With 8,100 square feet of space, the facility has 19 private offices, three conference rooms, and several gathering and working areas. Memberships — from assigned desks and private space to day passes — are now available. All Fish Creek members receive access to Cannon Connect, a global, digital community platform that provides resources, networking and building blocks for business growth.

Photo courtesy of The Cannon

This Houston entrepreneur is enabling fashion upcycling for more sustainable style

houston innovators podcast episode 170

When shopping online one day, Hannah Le saw a need for a platform that allowed transactions between upcycling fashion designers and shoppers looking for unique, sustainable pieces.

Le created RE.STATEMENT, an online shopping marketplace for upcycled clothing. Before RE.STATEMENT, designers were limited to Etsy, which is focused on handmade pieces, or Poshmark and Depop, which are dedicated to thrift finds. Upcycle fashion designers didn't have their own, unique platform to sell on — and, likewise, shoppers were scattered across sites too.

"These marketplaces are really good for what they do," Le says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast, "but, whenever I think of someone looking for something unique and sustainable, it's hard for me to imagine finding that on these marketplaces."

The platform soft launched in December with 25 upcycling designers and over 1,200 buyers that had been on the company's waitlist for almost nine months. Now that the site is live, Le hopes to give both buyers and sellers quick access to transactions.

"Most designers give up if they haven't sold an item within three months," Le explains. "That's something RE.STATEMENT has dedicated its business model to — making sure that items sell faster and at a higher value than any other marketplace."

Le says that she started with buyers to see what exactly they were looking for, then she searched and found the designers looking to sell their pieces, and the current platform is dynamic and flexible to the needs of users within her community.

"Even today, it changes every single day depending on how users are interacting with the website and what sellers are saying that they need — really communicating with buyers and sellers is how the marketplace is evolving," she says.

RE.STATEMENT's ability to quickly evolve has been due to its early stage, Le explains on the show. She's not yet taken on institutional funding or hired anyone else other than tech support. She says this allows her to quickly make changes or try out new things for users.

"For me, there are still so many things I want to prove to myself before I bring others involved," she says. "To start, it's coming up with new opportunities for buyers to interact with the website so that we can keep learning from them."

Le has already proven some success to herself. Last year, she took home one of three prizes offered at the city's Liftoff Houston competition. The contest, which gives Houston entrepreneurs pitch practice and mentorship, awarded RE.STATEMENT $10,000 for winning in the product category.

"I wanted to see how far I could go," Le says of the competition where she got to introduce her business to Mayor Sylvester Turner and a whole new audience of people. "I had pitched before, but this was the first time that I was onstage and I just felt like I belonged there."

Le shares more about her vision for RE.STATEMENT and the integral role Houston plays in her success on the show.