PopUp founders Rob Dobson, Scott Blair, Megan Silianoff, and Barry Goldware. Courtesy photo

If you're a mall or shopping center, the last thing you want is an empty storefront. If you're a small retailer or entrepreneur, the last thing you want is to be unable to get your product into the hands of customers. Houston-based tech start-up PopUp Shops has a solution: Its Match.com-esque system connects those retailers with property managers who are looking to lease space for the short term.

Launched in the Bayou City last year, the platform made its nationwide debut following an appearance at the International Council of Shopping Centers national conference in Las Vegas in May.

"It's exciting," says Megan Silianoff, a partner in PopUp Shops, of the coast-to-coast expansion. "It's proof our concept — and our hypothesis about it — works."

Silianoff says that retail shopping as we know it is dying. Across the country, malls and shopping centers have spaces sitting empty. Meanwhile, consumers purchase things online and have them delivered to their doors. That's why PopUp Shops' matchmaking concept works so well, she feels.

"Some rent is better than no rent," she reasons, for landlords. "We're a solution to get retailers into brick-and-mortar spaces, even if it is for the short term. It helps the retailer build awareness and excitement about their brand, and it creates foot traffic for the shopping center. It's win-win."

PopUp Shops' website lists spaces available for rent and retailers can peruse the listings and lease space. Silianoff says the system is also a great way for a retailer to test out a market before deciding to have a permanent presence there. She's quick to point out that pop-up stores aren't necessarily new. During the holidays in the 1980s and 1990s, it wasn't uncommon to see temporary stores selling Christmas décor or calendars in malls all over the U.S.

"My business partner Barry Goldware of Sun and Ski Sports likes to say the Romans probably had pop-up shops," she jokes. "But what is new is the platform we're using to connect landlords and retailers."

And, while landlords and sellers connect to find business solutions that are mutually beneficial, Silianoff says that customers wishing to find out what's happening and who's in town will soon be able to go to the website and check out the calendar, which lists which stores are popping up where.

While the nationwide launch is still in its early days, Silianoff says she hopes someday to see it like Craigslist. "You know how when you go there, there's a drop-down of all the cities in the country? That's what I'm envisioning for us. I really want us to revolutionize the shopping experience."

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

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Houston biopharma company launches equity crowdfunding campaign

money moves

A clinical-stage company headquartered in Houston has opened an online funding campaign.

FibroBiologics, which is developing fibroblast cell-based therapeutics for chronic diseases, launched a campaign with equity crowdfunding platform StartEngine. The platform lets anyone — regardless of their net worth or income level — to invest in securities issued by startups.

The funding, according to a press release, will be used to support ongoing operations of Fibrobiologics and advance its clinical programs in multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc disease, wound care, extension of life, and cancer.

"We're excited to partner with StartEngine on this campaign. StartEngine has over 600,000 investors as part of their community and has raised over half a billion dollars for its clients," says FibroBiologics' Founder and CEO Pete O'Heeron, in the release.

"This is an exciting time at FibroBiologics as we continue progressing our clinical pipeline and developing innovative therapies to treat chronic diseases," he continues. "This new funding will fuel our growth in the lab and bring us one step closer to commercialization."

The campaign, launched this week, already has over 100 investors, at the time of publication, and has raised nearly $2 million, according to the page. The minimum investment is set at around $500, and the company's indicated valuation is $252.57 million.

In 2021, FibroBiologics announced its intention of going public. Last year, O'Heeron told InnovationMap on the Houston Innovators Podcast of the company's growth plans as well as the specifics of the technology.

Only two types of cells — stem cells and fibroblasts — can be used in cell therapy for a regenerative treatment, which is when specialists take healthy cells from a patient and inject them into a part of the body that needs it the most. As O'Heeron explains in the podcast, fibroblasts can do it more effectively and cheaper than stem cells.

"(Fibroblasts) can essentially do everything a stem cell can do, only they can do it better," says O'Heeron. "We've done tests in the lab and we've seen them outperform stem cells by a low of 50 percent to a high of about 220 percent on different disease paths."


Texas ranks as a top state for female entrepreneurs

women in business

Texas dropped three spots in Merchant Maverick’s annual ranking of the top 10 states for women-led startups.

The Lone Star State landed at No. 5 thanks in part to its robust venture capital environment for women entrepreneurs. Last year, Texas ranked second, up from its No. 6 showing in 2021.

Merchant Maverick, a product comparison site for small businesses, says Texas “boasts the strongest venture capital scene” for women entrepreneurs outside California and the Northeast. The state ranked fourth in that category, with $6.5 billion invested in the past five years.

Other factors favoring Texas include:

  • Women solely lead 22 percent of all employees working for a business in Texas (No. 4).
  • Texas lacks a state income tax (tied for No. 1).

However, Texas didn’t fare well in terms of the unemployment rate (No. 36) and the rate of business ownership by women (No. 29). Other Texas data includes:

  • Average income for women business owners, $52,059 (No. 19).
  • Early startup survival rate, 81.9 percent (No. 18).

Appearing ahead of Texas in the 2023 ranking are No. 1 Colorado, No. 2 Washington, No. 3 California, and No. 4 Arizona.

Another recent ranking, this one from NorthOne, an online bank catering to small businesses, puts Texas at No. 7 among the 10 best states for women entrepreneurs.

NorthOne says Texas provides “a ton of opportunities” for woman entrepreneurs. For instance, it notches one of the highest numbers of women-owned businesses in the country at 1.4 million, 2.1 percent of which have at least 500 employees.

In this study, Texas is preceded by Colorado at No. 1, Nevada at No. 2, Virginia at No. 3, Maryland at No. 4, Florida at No. 5, and New Mexico at No. 6. The rankings are based on eight metrics, including the percentage of woman-owned businesses and the percentage of women-owned businesses with at least 500 employees.