Where are all those new Newstonians coming from? Texas. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

A new study shows Texas' major metros are some of the hottest places to move to in the U.S. — and Houston tops them all.

Real estate site CommercialCafe recently looked at "metro-to-metro" migration to see which areas are "winning" in terms of new residents, and a trio of Lone Star cities appears in the top five.

With an average net gain of 32,821 residents, Houston ranks third overall. Dallas-Fort Worth, with an average net gain of 30,639, follows at fourth. And Austin, with an average net gain of 26,733 people, is fifth. (The migration data was based on U.S. Census yearly average estimates for 2013-2017.)

"Among the three Texas metros on our list, Houston saw the largest population increase through metro-to-metro migration," says the report.

So where are these new residents coming from? Elsewhere in Texas. Houston gained the most new residents from DFW (16,306), followed by Austin (9,304) and San Antonio (7,443).

Those are also the most popular locations for Houston residents to move to. On average, more than 15,000 Houston residents relocated to DFW, followed closely by Austin (14,082) and San Antonio (8,692).

Houston's growth "is visible in Space City's many business districts, which added almost 18 million square feet of office space between 2013 and 2017, according to Yardi Matrix data," says the report. "This amount surpasses that of any other metro in the top 10. The Houston housing market is also on the upswing. The number of housing units here increased by an average of 2.1 percent — or 52,841 units — each year."

Outside of Texas, the report shows that folks are flocking to Phoenix (No. 1) and California's Inland Empire (No. 2).

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Houston has affordablility going for its startups. Photo by Zview/Getty Images

Houston named among the most affordable cities for startups

Start up at a low cost

Houston has been long known for its great quality of life and low cost of living, and a new study found that when it comes to startup companies specifically, the greater Houston area has a lot to offer.

Clever, a real estate tool and blog, identified Houston as the sixth best metro in the United States for affordability for startups. The study looked into startup density, investment, the education level of the local population, and the cost of living, and more within the top 50 most populated cities in the U.S.

The resulting ranking had all four of Texas' major metros in the top 10. Austin ranked No. 1 overall, Dallas-Fort Worth ranked at No. 3 (after Atlanta), and San Antonio-New Braunfels came in at No. 8. The study ranked each city based on its density of startups, its growth, investment in business, and its cost of living.

At No. 6 for growth, Houston ranked the highest out of its Texas counterparts, but San Antonio and Houston share the ranking of No. 6 for investment.

"Considering Houston's metro is tied with San Antonio's for the highest average investment in small business, and the proximity to great food, the Gulf of Mexico coast, and attractions like Minute Maid Park and the NASA Space Center, we would definitely suggest considering starting a business here," reads the report.

The Houston area touts a startup density of over 25 percent, which earns it 12th place in that particular category. The report finds that Houston has 6.89 million residents across 8,265.8 square miles and 6.54 percent of Houstonians work at a startup, while 2.8 percent are self employed.

When it comes to GDP and education, Houston has a lot of bragging rights. The Houston area's GDP is reported to be $490 billion, which is the 7th highest in the country, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.Meanwhile, almost a quarter of the region's population has a bachelor's degree or higher.

Last month, InnovationMap reported that Inc. 5000 named Houston among its hottest startup cities, citing the three-year revenue growth of Houston's companies that made it on to the Inc. 5000 list. Just before that ranking, Business Facilities magazine named Houston the fourth best startup ecosystem in the U.S., as well as the fourth best city for economic growth potential. Similarly, Commercial Cafe recently named Houston a top large city for early stage startups.

Traveling by bus has never been more comfortable with Vonlane's high-end amenities. Courtesy of Vonlane

Growing Texas luxury bus line expands Houston-to-San Antonio service

Riding in style

A growing luxury bus line that's set the standard for upscale road tripping across the Lone Star State has just expanded its services.

Since launching in 2015, Dallas-based Vonlane has been lauded for its first-class seats and high-end amenities, from on-board attendants and complimentary refreshments to free Wi-Fi, noise-cancelling headphones, and in-route entertainment options at each seat.

The custom-configured coaches feature just 22 first-class seats as opposed to the 56 seats of a similarly sized charter bus, allowing each passenger far more space than one would find on a commercial airplane — not to mention that tickets are competitively priced — with one-way tickets ranging around the $100 mark.

The Texas-based service has operated lines with stops in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio for years. Now, beginning September 9, Vonlane will begin operating its luxury travel line between Houston and San Antonio via new terminals. Travelers can catch the first-class bus at the Hyatt Regency Houston Galleria (2626 Sage Rd.) and arrive at the Marriott Rivercenter in San Antonio (101 Bowie St.) roughly three hours later.

With buses departing four times a day on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, as well as twice on Tuesday, once on Saturday, and twice on Sunday, the service is ideal for both business and leisure travelers looking for a well-appointed transportation option without the cost or hassle of an airline.

Every seat on a Vonlane bus offers first-class luxury. Courtesy of Vonlane

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ElecTrip uses eco-friendly Teslas to shuttle business people to and fro across the state. Courtesy of Electrip

Texas startup using Tesla cars for more efficient and eco-friendly travel

Rethinking roadtrips

A Texas startup shuffling business men and women across the state in style has created an elevated road trip experience for its customers.

Founded in 2018 and based in Austin, ElecTrip aims to add luxury and convenience to regional commutes between major Texas cities by providing transportation in Teslas equipped with WiFi, complimentary snacks, and professional drivers.

Mandeep Patel, a University of Texas at Austin student, had the idea for the company just about a year ago while completing an internship. Patel had the company up and running just a few months later.

Patel serves as founder and CEO, along with his classmate and co-founder, Eliott Lee, who is COO. Lee tells InnovationMap that he and Patel had gotten tired of the stress of airport travel, the restrictive schedule of buses, and the soul-draining fatigue of driving. ElecTrip's no-compromise solution is cost effective, comfortable, and carbon neutral.

"One thing we really pride ourselves on is being sustainable, energy-efficient, and having no emissions," Lee says.

ElecTrip offers door-to-door service for their customers, who can customize pickup and drop-off locations in any major Texas city. The company has eight routes between Houston, Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, but customers can book a custom route within a 300-mile radius of those cities. Prices range from $249.99 to $429.99, but customers can opt to share rides to cut down on cost, with cars seating three to five riders.

"We emphasize on B2B, geared more towards businesses," says Lee, explaining that customers can customize their trip with food and beverage requests.

The company offers three different Tesla models: Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X, and Tesla Model 3, each offering a specific number of passenger seats, luggage capacity, and mileage range.

"The main reason why we chose Tesla is because of the supercharger network," says Lee in referring to Tesla's 1,422 Supercharger Stations throughout the United States.

Clients don't have to worry about the charging process, Lee says. The company plans the trips around these charging stations, which are free to any Tesla user.

ElecTrip is less than a year old and has already coordinated hundreds of rides, according to the website. While starting the company while still juggling classes — Lee expects to graduate from UT in 2020, while Patel is graduating this year — Lee says being a student-run startup has its perks.

"We find a lot of funding in startup competitions that only students have access to," said Lee.

Additional initial funding for the company came out of Patel's savings account, Lee says. ElecTrip owns one Tesla and rents out additional vehicles to cover the demand of rides. Lee explains that renting vehicles instead of owning them would cut back on the company's real estate while providing additional income for Tesla owners that aren't using their cars.

Patel and Lee are the only two full-time employees at ElecTrip, as all drivers work on a contract-basis. Lee tells InnovationMap that in the future, ElecTrip will focus on business partnerships.

"A lot of these other services are geared towards consumers," says Lee. "We hope to be geared toward mainly towards businesses in the long run."

ElecTrip is gearing up for growing its partnerships with local small businesses in Austin and Houston to provide food and drink products for rides.

"It is something we're looking at targeting in the next one or two months," says Lee.

Mandeep Patel (left) and Eliott Lee are the co-founders of ElecTrip, a travel company that uses Teslas across Texas.Courtesy of ElecTrip

Virgin Trains may be speeding into Texas. Photo courtesy of Virgin Trains

Transportation company steers talk of high-speed trains between Houston, Austin, and San Antonio

ALL ABOARD?

You've likely heard of the proposed high-speed "bullet" train that would connect Houston and Dallas, as well as the proposed transportation-in-a-tube concept that would link Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and Laredo.

Now, another possible alternative to planes, Amtrak trains, and automobiles has chugged into the picture.

Virgin Trains USA, a transportation startup that plans to trade its shares on the Nasdaq stock exchange, is exploring two high-speed routes in Texas — one tying together Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, and the other between Houston and Dallas. All four of those cities are plagued by ever-increasing traffic tie-ups.

There's no word yet on when these routes might take shape. At this point, they're merely ideas, and ahead of the company going public, officials at Virgin Trains are staying mum.

In all, Virgin Trains has outlined seven potential routes in the U.S. beyond what it already has on the drawing board.

"Our goal is to build railroad systems in North America that connect major metropolitan areas with significant traffic and congestion," the company says in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Virgin Trains aims to tie together heavily populated cities separated by 200- to 300-mile distances that are "too long to drive, too short to fly." It wants to run the trains along existing transportation corridors — rail, highway or a combination of the two — "to cost-effectively build our systems, as opposed to developing entirely new corridors at potentially significantly higher costs."

If the Virgin name sounds familiar, it should. British billionaire Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group is a minority investor in Virgin Trains, which already operates a South Florida route between Miami and West Palm Beach. West Palm Beach-to-Orlando and Orlando-to-Tampa routes also are in the works in Florida, in addition to a Los Angeles-to-Las Vegas route. Virgin's other transportation investments include airlines and space travel.

Jim Mathews, president and CEO of the Rail Passengers Association, says he's on board with the Branson-backed Virgin Trains venture — not as an "anti-Amtrak" move but as an advancement in U.S. passenger rail travel.

"Speaking from the experience of someone who spent almost his entire career watching Sir Richard innovate, invest, and take risks, I firmly believe this could be a real shot in the arm for passenger rail in the United States," Mathews writes on the association's website. "Like all entrepreneurs, Sir Richard isn't afraid to fail, and he has made a few bad bets in the past. But he's also made some very good ones, and has transformed not just travel but philosophies wherever he has gone."

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This story originally ran on CultureMap.

According to a report, robotics could substitute for 46.3 percent of tasks usually completed by workers in Houston. Photo by vm/Getty Images

Study finds that almost half of Houston's workforce tasks could be done by robots

digital dangers

While fears of robots taking the jobs of American workers has been perforating throughout the United States, a news study found just how much of the workforce's responsibilities could be automized.

Almost half of Houston's workplace tasks are susceptible to automation, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program. Of 100 metros analyzed, Houston ranks 31st among the country's 100 biggest metros, with 46.3 percent of work tasks susceptible to automation.

Authors of the study are quick to point out that this doesn't mean human workers will be entirely replaced by robots. Rather, they say, it means at least some of the humans' tasks could be automated.

"While this report concludes that the future may not be as dystopian as the most dire voices claim, plenty of people and places will be affected by automation, and much will need to be done to mitigate the coming disruptions," the authors write.

Across the country, jobs that could encounter the most interference from automation include food preparation worker, payroll clerk, and commuter network support specialist, according to the report.

"Machines substitute for tasks, not jobs. A job is a collection of tasks," the report says. "Some of those tasks are best done by humans, others by machines. Even under the most aggressive scenarios of technological advancement, it is unlikely that machines will be able to substitute for all tasks in any one occupation."

Elsewhere in Texas:

  • Dallas ranks 29th among the country's 100 biggest metros, with 46.5 percent of work tasks susceptible to automation.
  • San Antonio ranks 41st among the country's 100 biggest metros, with 46 percent of work tasks susceptible to automation.
  • Austin ranks 78th among the country's 100 biggest metros, with 44.3 percent of work tasks susceptible to automation.

According to CityLab, the Brookings report shows places where energy jobs are prevalent, such as Houston, will get through the automation period "relatively unscathed," as will college towns and state capitals like Austin. Authors of the report maintain that automation complements human labor.

"Generally, whatever workplace activity isn't taken over by automation is complemented by it — making each remaining human task more valuable. This makes labor more valuable, and the increased productivity generally … translates into higher wages," the report says.

The report indicates that among the 100 largest U.S. metros, Toledo, Ohio, confronts the most potential automation in the workplace (49 percent share of job tasks), while Washington, D.C., faces the least potential automation (39.8 percent share of job tasks).

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This story originally ran on CultureMap.

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Local arts organizations innovate new ways to get to patrons in Houston and beyond

tech culture

With the city of Houston — and much of the rest of the state — issuing stay-at-home mandates, cultural events and institutions have closed their doors. But, thanks to a little innovation, many are now providing online options.

Arts groups all across Texas are using technology to stream concerts, opera, dance, and even museum tours for free during the coronavirus quarantine, and we're adding more here as they come in.

The Alley Theatre
Patrons can watch a taped performance of the recently canceled 1984. Current ticket holders will be sent a password protected link, and those who would like to still watch are welcome to purchase tickets to gain access to the link.

ROCO
The Houston-based music ensemble has its entire archive of audio and video recordings available online, including a number of its more than 100 world-premiere commissions (and several of which were also included in the Grammy-winning debut album Visions Take Flight).

Ars Lyrica Houston

The early music ensemble has created two new series: Musical Moments and Concerts & Conversations. All of their content will be aired on their social media platforms as well as newsletters and YouTube. They will be posting new content on Mondays and Fridays at 10 am.

Fusebox Festival
The Austin festival originally scheduled for April 15-19 will now go digital; keep an eye on the Facebook page for updates about how to watch and listen.

Black Fret
Celebrate the Austin music scene in a safe and responsible way through a livestream of Austin Love & Lightstream, a local response to the cancelation of SXSW. Closed to the public and taking place on a sterilized outdoor sound stage at Scholz Garten, Austin bands and personalities will be livestreamed six hours a day starting at 4 pm each day, beginning March 17. Viewers can access the Facebook Live stream from the Black Fret website.

Dallas Theater Center

A video was taken of the final dress rehearsal for American Mariachi, a new work by José Cruz Gonzalez about a young woman who forms the first all-female mariachi band in the 1970s, despite disapproving relatives and going against social norms. Patrons are encouraged to pay-what-you-can — starting at $15 — to receive a link and a password to access the recording within 24 hours. Purchasers will have up to two weeks to watch the video. Dallas Theater Center is allowed to sell the video up to the original close date of April 5, 2020; after that, it will be deleted. The number of videos for sale is the same as the number of seats available throughout the run, so patrons are encouraged to buy their "tickets" soon.

Avant Chamber Ballet
Watch the 360-degree world premiere video of 19th Amendment recorded on February 15, 2020, at Moody Performance Hall, spotlighting choreographer Katie Puder and composer Quinn Mason.

American Baroque Opera Company
Enjoy the full-length production of La Serva Padrona by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi.

Dallas Museum of Art
Browse more than 25,000 works of art from all cultures and time periods.

Thin Line Fest and Dallas VideoFest
The Denton-based multidisciplinary festival will be streaming its selection of documentaries online March 25-29, while Dallas VideoFest will host its Alternative Fiction festival April 3-5. Featuring a curated collection of over 50 documentary features and shorts, Thin Line Fest's film division will stream all screenings and Q&A sessions online. Attendees will be able to login at www.thinline.us and then choose which "theater" to stream live. The fest will still hold its Photography & Film Award Ceremony, which will be live-streamed on March 29.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap. Click here for latest update to the story.

If you have a virtual concert or artwork that can be enjoyed from home during this time, email lindseyw@culturemap.com and we'll add you to the ever-growing list.

Texas startup provides COVID-19 home-testing kits at no cost to medical professionals

now testing

The on-again, off-again launch of a coronavirus test from Austin startup Everlywell is on again — sort of.

On March 23, Everlywell was supposed to start shipping 30,000 test kits to U.S. consumers. But before a single test was sent, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) blocked the distribution of at-home, self-administered tests from Everlywell and other companies.

Now, the Austin-based company is making the tests available primarily to hospitals and other healthcare providers in the U.S. to meet a "desperate need" for front-line medical professionals to be tested.

"In this evolving health crisis, our highest priority is to ensure that the people at highest risk get the accurate testing and care they need," Michelle Davey, CEO of Wheel Health, says in a March 23 release.

Everlywell says that effective March 23, its test is available only to hospitals and healthcare providers that offer it at no cost to their front-line workers, along with high-risk patients who exhibit coronavirus symptoms.

The company, which produces a variety of at-home lab tests, says its shift from testing of consumers to testing of healthcare workers and high-risk patients is "critically important" to help prevent the spread of what's known as the novel coronavirus. The virus causes the highly contagious and potentially deadly COVID-19 respiratory illness.

It's been a confusing few days since Everlywell announced it was making at-home tests for consumers. On March 20, the FDA said it hadn't authorized at-home, self-administered coronavirus tests from Everlywell or any other company. Three days later, on March 23, Dr. Deborah Birx, coronavirus coordinator for the White House, announced the federal government was clearing the way for self-swabbing coronavirus tests such as those made by Everlywell.

In a series of tweets March 23, Everlywell said it's working with the FDA on "a path forward" for at-home coronavirus tests of consumers.

"The FDA sees the public health value in expanding the availability of COVID-19 testing through safe and accurate tests that may include home collection," the federal agency says, "and we are actively working with test developers in this space."

Everlywell unveiled a $1 million program design to spur labs to speed up development of an at-home coronavirus diagnostic test. Many labs answered the call, allowing Everlywell to set up a coronavirus testing and diagnosis system in a matter of days. For consumers, each test will cost $135. Some providers of health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts will cover these tests.

Eventually, Everlywell wants to ship 250,000 tests per week.

At the same time, another Austin startup, Wheel Health, and Houston-based Microdrop have unveiled a partnership that will provide at-home coronavirus testing administered by licensed healthcare professionals, rather than consumers themselves, and supported by telemedicine technology. The federally approved product is geared toward people at high risk of the coronavirus or people with limited access to testing. For now, it's available only in Texas.

The test from Wheel, a telehealth provider, and Microdrop, a producer of at-home health tests, also costs $135. At the outset, the companies will roll out 5,000 test kits in Texas. After that, they plan to sell 10,000 test kits per week. Nationwide, the companies hope to offer 100,000 test kits per week by the end of April.

"Providing accurate medical guidance to people who are concerned about, or may have been exposed to, COVID-19 will determine the way this pandemic plays out in our country — and collaboration is essential to mobilizing toward this common goal rapidly and efficiently," says Dr. Rafid Fadul, chief medical officer of Wheel.

5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week

WHAT'S TRENDING

Editor's note: The Houston innovation ecosystem is joining together — virtually — to provide health and resources to those affected by coronavirus — from fashion entrepreneurs designing face masks to 3D printers making personal protective equipment. Both non-COVID-19 news, like Houston's fastest-growing companies and three female innovators to know, and virus-related articles, like a coronavirus tracking tool and resources for startups, trended this week.

3 female Houston innovators to know this week

This week's innovators to know are Allie Danziger, Sylvia Kampshoff, and Brittany Barreto. Courtesy photos

This one's for the ladies. InnovationMap's weekly roundup of innovators to know features three female founders — one is offering her advice on crisis communications, one is innovating the at-home workout, and one is planning on making Houston a city for femtech. Continue reading.

Houston startups turn to digital pitches during coronavirus shutdown

Three Houston-based startups logged on to pitch digitally this week since SXSW was canceled. Getty Images

When SXSW canceled a couple weeks ago, event organizers were sent into a frantic scramble of how to salvage some aspect of their plans while also balancing lost deposits, canceled travel, and so much more.

Three pitch events associated with SXSW and featuring Houston startups went on in a digital capacity, and the social distancing has only just began. Michele Price who leads Startup Grind Houston says the Google-backed organization with locations everywhere is aware of the need for digital networking options. Continue reading.

Houston startup creates COVID-19 tracking tool

A Houston startup has created a web tool for tracking the coronavirus. Pexels

AHouston tech startup has created a web application to give the residents of Harris County all the local information on COVID-19 in the palm of their hand.

Predictive Solutions uses a map tool to indicate the county's nearby testing locations as well as cases that have been self reported in the area through the tool. While not trying to be comprehensive, the website is trying to track trends with the disease. Continue reading.

These are the 5 fastest-growing companies in Houston, according to a recent report

Inc. magazine has identified the fastest-growing companies in Houston. Nick Bee/Pexels

Bellaire-based startup Instafuel is pumping up its revenue in a big way.

Among the 250 fastest-growing companies in Texas identified by Inc. magazine, Instafuel tops the group of businesses based in the Houston metro area and ranks fifth statewide. Houston-based companies make up 68 of the state's fast-growing companies — eight Houston companies make up the top 25 list. Continue reading.

4 resources for Houston startups and small businesses during COVID-19 shutdown

Small businesses and startups are likely to hurt — and hurt bad — from COVID-19's affect on the economy. Here are some resources to get support. Photo by Hero Images

It's a trying time for the world, and Houston small businesses and startups have been put in a difficult spot. From having to work remotely or being forced to close or scale back operations due to mandates from the government, entrepreneurs are having to figure out their new normals.

However, organizations have leapt at the chance to help their fellow Houstonians, and a number of resources have appeared to provide aid to startups, from advice and resources to grants. Continue reading.