WeWork Labs and NextSeed have teamed up to help Houston's food entrepreneurs. Photo courtesy of WeWork

Two Houston programs that exist to help grow and develop food and hospitality startups have teamed up to combine their resources and programming.

WeWork Labs, a global acceleration program with a location in downtown Houston, and NextSeed, a Houston-based online investment platform, have announced a partnership set to begin in December. Together, the two entities will build a support system for Houston-based food entrepreneurs to provide workshops, programming, events, and more.

"Houston food entrepreneurs are keen to solve the big problems the food industry is facing today," says Carlos Estrada, head of WeWork Labs in Houston, in a news release. "Houston is among the leading cities for startup innovation and we see our partnership with NextSeed as an exciting first-of-its-kind initiative that will prove to support even more food entrepreneurs in the area, arming them with the network and tools they need to get their concepts off the ground and transform into leading businesses."

WeWork brings in its international food labs programming, and NextSeed will be able to provide access to capital through its platform. In March, the company launched NextSeed Space — a pop-up retail and kitchen space for startups to test their food and operations.

"Since inception, NextSeed has been focused on developing a world-class technology platform to democratize finance and strengthen local communities," says NextSeed CEO, Youngro Lee, in a news release. "By partnering with WeWork Labs, we are excited to be able to expand the level of support we can provide to our clients and member businesses through services like coaching, mentoring and dedicated workspace to help them ultimately reach their goals."

The first joint event hosted will be a reception and panel on December 12 from 6 to 8:30 pm at WeWork's Jones Building location in downtown. For event details, click here.

WeWork will have a fourth Houston location. Photo courtesy of WeWork

WeWork doubles down on downtown with its 4th Houston coworking space announced

Coworkers unite

WeWork has decided to open yet another coworking location in Houston — this time, the new office is just down the street from an existing location.

The New York City-based coworking company has opened three locations across Houston — one in downtown's The Jones Building, one in the Galleria Office Tower I, and one in Hughes Landing in The Woodlands, which was recently announced in May.

The new location will occupy 56,000 square feet of the 25th and 26th floors of 609 Main, Houston-based Hines' 48-story trophy tower that joined the Houston skyline in early 2017. The building now has tenants to the tune of United Airlines, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Orrick, and Hogan Lovells, to name a few.

"The modern office is evolving and providing a coworking component is essential to a building's long-term viability," says Philip Croker, Hines senior managing director, in a release. "Adding a tenant of WeWork's caliber further reinforces the strength of 609 Main and will deliver an outstanding amenity for the building and its future occupants."

In addition to the usual WeWork perks — like 24/7 building access, coffee, community events, and business resources — members will also have access to a 7,000-square-foot high-performance fitness center in the building and the lobby coffee shop.

Michael Anderson and Damon Thames with Colvill Office Properties represented Hines in the transaction and Mark O'Donnell with Savills Commercial Real Estate negotiated on behalf of WeWork.

"Houston is a thriving business hub and innovative city," says Nathan Lenahan, general manager of WeWork, in a release. "We are excited to expand our footprint with a second location downtown and continue to strengthen the WeWork network with the opening of 609 Main Street."

In May, WeWork announced that it would be opening 1,000 desks in its new Woodlands location, but the company also disclosed that 775 desks will be added to the Galleria location in 2019 too. In the same release, an additional 1,000 desks were noted to be in the works, pending new leases. This figure could have been referring to the then-unannounced downtown location.

"In 2018, WeWork grew its footprint in a very big way in Houston. Now, in 2019, we're growing even more, but in a way that's as much about desks as it is impact," says Roniel Bencosme, WeWork Houston's community director, in the news release. "In this next year, WeWork will build a constellation of opportunity through new spaces spread across Houston, and opening in the Woodlands is key to that effort."

Regionally, WeWork has a presence in five cities in Texas — Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and Plano — but will launch in its sixth Texas city, San Antonio, in early 2020.

Last month, WeWork announced that Houston's Jones Building location would be one of three WeWork locations selected for a 3D printing pilot program. Additionally, earlier this year the company announced its early-stage incubator program, WeWork Labs, also in the Jones Building location.

WeWork's newest Houston-area location is headed to The Woodlands. Courtesy of WeWork

WeWork announces its Houston-area third location in The Woodlands as the company expands locally

Coworking growth

In 2018, WeWork more than doubled its presence in Houston in terms of desks available. The company went from one location in the Galleria area with 1,100 desks to adding a second location in downtown with 1,500 desks. In 2019, WeWork is expected to again double the number of coworking desks the company will have by the end of the year — most new desk space will come from WeWork's new location in The Woodlands.

"In 2018, WeWork grew its footprint in a very big way in Houston. Now, in 2019, we're growing even more, but in a way that's as much about desks as it is impact," says Roniel Bencosme, WeWork Houston's community director, in a news release. "In this next year, WeWork will build a constellation of opportunity through new spaces spread across Houston, and opening in the Woodlands is key to that effort."

WeWork will have 1,000 desks at the new northwest location (1725 Hughes Landing) across two floors and 52,000 square feet of space, according to the release. WeWork Galleria will add 775 desks in the fourth quarter of 2019, and 1,000 more desks will be added by end of the year pending new leases, the release says. Regionally, WeWork has a presence in five cities in Texas — Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and Plano — but will launch in its sixth Texas city, San Antonio, in early 2020.

In 2019, WeWork will also be growing its social impact programs on a national level in addition to its footprint. Recently, WeWork formed a partnership with the Female Founders Alliance, the Tent Partnership for Refugees, to hire 1,500 refugees at WeWork over the next five years. The company's veterans hiring initiative will also be hiring 1,500 veterans over the next five years.

Houstonians can also expect to see new WeWork Labs, WeWork's accelerator concept, around town, as well as the Veterans in Residence third cohort. WeWork's Flatiron School, which is in its downtown Houston location, will see new cohorts and boasts of a 98 percent job rate placement rate. The school alsy awarded $200,000 in scholarship dollars last year.

"Impact for WeWork is about enabling opportunity. We unlock access to thriving workspaces for companies of all sizes that would otherwise be out of reach," Bencosme says in the release. "We help cities like Houston attract top companies and reduce friction for them to put down roots. We're creating synergies and connectivity across the metro region at a level and scale that's never been done before. That's impact.

WeWork recently released its Global Impact Report for 2019, and the research tracked specifics about its Houston membership. Here were some key findings of the study locally:

  • The majority of Houston WeWork members (83 percent) are in the innovation economy, compared to 12% in the region as a whole.
  • When it comes to sustainable commuting, 42 percent of WeWork members walk, bike, or use public transit to go to work.
  • The Houston WeWork economy contributes over $1 billion to the city's GDP — either directly ($480 million) or indirectly ($530 million)
  • WeWork's small and medium-sized member companies in Houston have an average job growth rate of 32 percent (compared to 1 percent for all companies in Houston).
  • In Houston, 58 percent of WeWork members say the organization has helped their company accelerate its growth.
  • While 44 percent of senior roles at U.S. WeWork member companies are held by women, Houston's percentage of female-led companies at WeWork locally is slightly lower at 36 percent.
  • Of WeWork members that are entrepreneurs in Houston, 26 percent are first-time entrepreneurs, and 1 in 20 of the city's first-time entrepreneurs are WeWork members.

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Innovative Texas-based ride-share rolls into Houston with new cars and delivery service

Alto is a go

Houstonians who are interested in an alternative to Uber — and don't mind giving a Dallas-based company a shot — can now look for a new ride. Alto, the ride-share and delivery company based in Big D, has announced its expansion plans to Houston. The company is now offering pre-scheduled rides; Houston residents will be able to book on-demand rides starting October 1, according to a press release.

As CultureMap previously reported, Alto touts itself as a safer, more consistent approach to hailing a ride. Founded in 2018, Alto brands itself as "the first employee-based, on-demand ride-share company." Employees receive salaries and benefits, each company-owned car is branded with the Alto logo (so riders can be sure they're stepping into the right vehicle), and cloud-based cameras capture both interior and exterior videos of the ride.

The company offers ride memberships and also shops, purchases, and delivers from local brands directly to consumers with same-day delivery available.

For safety during the pandemic, all Alto drivers wear masks and gloves during every trip and each Alto vehicle is fitted with a HEPA cabin air filter which removes 99.9 percent of airborne particles, the company claims. Car interiors are also treated with PermaSafe, an EPA-registered hospital-grade sanitizing mist that is said to kill pathogens like COVID-19.

"Alto is thrilled to announce our expansion plans to Houston and offer the same clean, safe ride-share experience that's revolutionizing the industry to this new market," said Will Coleman, founder and CEO of Alto. "We're confident Houston residents will find Alto to be unlike any other ride-share experiences they've had to date, and find comfort in Alto's leading safety and health precautions, as well as elevated rider experience."

Locals who are interested in more information and getting on the Houston launch waitlist can the official site. The Alto app is available for download on the App Store and Google Play.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

3 crisis management tips for Houston business leaders

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The great pandemic of 2020 has brought to the surface the issue of crisis management. Especially with nationwide business shut downs in the last eight months, many companies are on a rocky road of uncertainty. Entrepreneurs are unsure of what the future holds after seeing revenues slow or halt in some cases. Layoffs, RIFs, budget cuts, departmental downsizing; all inevitable.

Way too many startup founders aren't equipped or experienced when it comes to crisis management. "In order to keep your startup going, you have to know how to identify a crisis before it spreads like a cancer and how to make big changes and big decisions fast and often," says Gael O'Brien, the ethics coach for Entrepreneur.com.

"Any time in which the world stops functioning in a way we're used to, a deviation from the norm, that might be the biggest early sign of a crisis about to rear its head," she continued.

Admitting you have a problem

O'Brien stresses that a leader should create an easy process whereby one can identify a crisis in its infancy. The key here, she says, is to make sure to recognize a crisis before it starts to consume your company. You'll have to learn how to contain the crisis by leading the charge in rapid decision making. Many entrepreneurs simply refuse to admit there's a problem at hand. Many times, admitting there's a crisis means admitting one was wrong. It also means they may have been wrong for years.

These entrepreneurs that refuse admitting there's a crisis often do so with common refrains like "I didn't want to scare anyone" or "if I admit I was wrong this whole time I'll lose respect."

"Great leaders aren't afraid to put their company first, even if it means a blow to the ego. These leaders are not afraid to inform everyone that might be affected know there is a crisis," O'Brien explained.

"They contain the problem and prevent it from becoming unmanageable. Good leaders don't opt for a temporary Band-Aid-like fix either. They aim for a permanent solution."

Casting for a crisis management team

There are two common mistakes startup leaders make when it comes to crisis management. The first is that they can miscast a crisis management team. Meaning, they put the wrong people in decision-making roles. You want people on your crisis management team who are not going to feel they will be blamed for a crisis or for controversial decisions.

When one is afraid of being blamed for something, they are more likely to obstruct and lie so that the team's focus is diverted. "These are people that will omit objective and relevant information if it means saving their own reputation or job. You want people that put the team first," said O'Brien.

Communication during a crisis

The second common mistake startup leaders make during a crisis is that they tend to under-communicate. It becomes habitual to keep things close to the chest. To become secretive during a crisis. Managers might feel that the less people know, the less chance there is of panic. However, doing this opens your company up to wild speculation among employees. Assumptions. And these assumptions are never good.

"You have to be forthright. It's not just that people have a right to know what's going on in their own company. It's also that if you leave yourself up to speculation, people will grow frustrated and worse, scared. Scared people make crises worse," said O'Brien.

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This article originally appeared on the University of Houston's The Big Idea. Rene Cantu, the author of this piece, is the writer and editor at UH Division of Research.

Cleantech incubator announces location in Houston, names newest partners

Greentown's moving in

After announcing its plans to expand to Houston in June, Boston-based Greentown Labs has selected its site for its cleantech startup and tech incubator.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Greater Houston Partnership announced that Greentown Houston will be opening in the Innovation District, being developed by Rice Management Co. and home to The Ion. The site is located at 4200 San Jacinto St., which was Houston's last remaining Fiesta grocery story before it closed in July.

The facility is expected to open this coming spring and will feature 40,000 square feet of prototyping lab, office, and community space that can house about 50 startups, totaling 200 to 300 employees.

"We are thrilled to announce the selection of Greentown Labs' inaugural location in partnership with RMC, the City of Houston, the Partnership, and leading global energy and climate impact-focused companies," says Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs, in a press release. "In order to meet the urgent challenge of climate change, we must engage the talent and assets of major ecosystems around the country. We look forward to catalyzing the Houston ecosystem's support for climatetech startups as we work together toward a sustainable future for all."

Emily Reichert is the CEO of Greentown Labs. Photo courtesy of Greentown Labs

Greentown Labs launched in 2011 as community of climatetech and cleantech innovators bringing together startups, corporates, investors, policymakers, and more to focus on scaling climate solutions. Greentown Labs' first location is 100,000 square feet and located just outside of Boston in Somerville, Massachusetts. Currently, it's home to more than 100 startups and has supported more than 280 startups since the incubator's founding. According to the release, these startups have created more than 6,500 jobs and raised over $850 million in funding

"We are so pleased that Greentown Houston will locate in the heart of the Innovation District, where they will seamlessly integrate into the region's robust energy innovation ecosystem of major corporate energy R&D centers, corporate venture arms, VC-backed energy startups, and other startup development organizations supporting energy technology," says Susan Davenport, chief economic development officer at the Greater Houston Partnership, in the release. "Houston truly is the hub of the global energy industry, and Greentown Houston will ensure we continue to attract the next generation of energy leaders who will create and scale innovations that will change the world."

Greentown Houston, which previously announced several founding partners in June, has just named new partners, including: RMC, Microsoft, Saint-Gobain, and Direct Energy. According to the release, Greentown Houston is also looking for Grand Opening Partners. Naturgy and and FCC Environmental Services (FCC) are the first to join on as a grand opening partners, and startups and prospective partners can reach out for more information via this form.

Reichert previously told InnovationMap that it was looking for an existing industrial-type building that could be retrofitted to meet the needs of industrial startups that need lab space. She also said that this approach is very similar to how they opened their first location.

Rice Management Company is developing the Innovation District in the center of Houston. Screenshot via ionhouston.com

The new location will be in the 16-acre Innovation District that's being developed by RMC, which will be anchored by The Ion, a 270,000-square-foot hub that is being renovated from the former Sears building.

"What we love about Greentown Labs as much as its commitment to helping Houston become a leader in energy transition and climate change action is its proven track record of job creation through the support of local visionaries and entrepreneurs," says Ryan LeVasseur, managing director of Direct Real Estate at RMC, in the release. "Greentown Houston, like The Ion, is a great catalyst for growing the Innovation District and expanding economic opportunities for all Houstonians. We're thrilled Greentown Labs selected Houston for its first expansion and are honored it will be such a big part of the Innovation District moving forward."

Acquiring the new Greentown location is a big win for the mayor, who released the city's Climate Action Plan earlier this year. The plan lays out a goal to make Houston carbon neutral by 2050.

"We are proud to welcome Greentown Labs to Houston, and we are excited about the new possibilities this expansion will bring to our City's growing innovation ecosystem," says Turner in the release. "Organizations and partners like Greentown Labs will play a vital role in helping our City meet the goals outlined in the Climate Action Plan and will put us on the right track for becoming a leader in the global energy transition. The City of Houston looks forward to witnessing the innovation, growth, and prosperity Greentown Labs will bring to the Energy Capital of the World."

Greentown Labs will host a celebratory networking event on September 24 at 4 p.m. Registration for the EnergyBar is open here.