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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2 COVID-19-focused research projects happening in Houston

research roundup

While it might seem like the COVID-19 pandemic has settled down for the time being, there's plenty of innovative research ongoing to create solutions for affordable vaccines and tech-enabled protection against the spread of the virus.

Some of that research is happening right here in Houston. Here are two innovative projects in the works at local institutions.

UH researcher designs app to monitor best times to shop

A UH professor is putting safe shopping at your fingertips. Photo via UH.edu

When is the best time to run an errand in the pandemic era we currently reside? There might be an app for that. Albert Cheng, professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston, is working on a real-time COVID-19 infection risk assessment and mitigation system. He presented his plans at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers conference HPC for Urgent Decision Making and will publish the work in IEEE Xplore.

Cheng's work analyzes up-to-date data from multiple open sources to see when is the best time to avoid crowds and accomplish activities outside the home.

"Preliminary work has been performed to determine the usability of a number of COVID-19 data websites and other websites such as grocery stores and restaurants' popular times and traffic," Cheng says in a UH release. "Other data, such as vaccination rates and cultural factors (for example, the percentage of people willing to wear facial coverings or masks in an area), are also used to determine the best grocery store to shop in within a time frame."

To use the app, a user would input their intended destinations and the farthest distance willing to go, as well as the time frame of the trip. The risk assessment and mitigation system, or RT-CIRAM, then "provides as output the target location and the time interval to reach there that would reduce the chance of infections," said Cheng.

There's a lot to it, says Cheng, and the process is highly reliant on technology.

"We are leveraging urgent high-performance cloud computing, coupled with time-critical scheduling and routing techniques, along with our expertise in real-time embedded systems and cyber-physical systems, machine learning, medical devices, real-time knowledge/rule-based decision systems, formal verification, functional reactive systems, virtualization and intrusion detection," says Cheng.

2 Houston hospitals team up with immunotherapy company for new vaccine for Africa

The new vaccine will hopefully help mitigate spread of the disease in Sub-Saharan Africa. Photo via bcm.edu

Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital have teamed up with ImmunityBio Inc. — a clinical-stage immunotherapy company — under a licensing agreement to develop a safe, effective and affordable COVID-19 vaccine.

BCM has licensed out a recombinant protein COVID-19 vaccine candidate that was developed at the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development to ImmunityBio. According to the release, the company engaged in license negotiations with the BCM Ventures team, about the vaccine that could address the current pandemic needs in South Africa.

"We hope that our COVID-19 vaccine for global health might become an important step towards advancing vaccine development capacity in South Africa, and ultimately for all of Sub-Saharan Africa," says Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor and co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.

ImmunityBio, which was founded in 2014 by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, is working on innovative immunotherapies that address serious unmet needs in infectious diseases, according to a news release from BCM.

"There is a great need for second-generation vaccines, which are accessible, durable and offer broad protection against the emerging variants," says Soon-Shiong. "ImmunityBio has executed on a heterologous ("mix-and-match") strategy to develop a universal COVID-19 vaccine. To accomplish this, we have embarked upon large-scale good manufacturing practices and development of DNA (adenovirus), RNA (self-amplifying mRNA) and subunit protein (yeast) vaccine platforms. This comprehensive approach will leverage our expertise in these platforms for both infectious disease and cancer therapies."

Elon Musk taps into Texas workforce for out-of-this-world bartender gig

DRINKING ON THE JOB

Can you mix a mean margarita? Are you capable of slinging a superb Aperol spritz? If so, Elon Musk wants you to become a "spaceport mixologist."

Musk's SpaceX, which builds and launches rockets, is hiring a "passionate, experienced" mixologist for its "spaceport" near Brownsville. The ideal candidate possesses at least two years of "superior" mixology experience at resorts, bars, and full-service restaurants, including the ability to pair drinks with themed menus.

Among other duties, the mixologist will prepare drinks, including handcrafted cocktails, and will ensure "consistency and compliance with the restaurant's recipes, portioning, and waste control guidelines."

The new mixologist will concoct alcoholic beverages for SpaceX's launch facility in Boca Chica, a Texas Gulf Coast community about 20 miles east of Brownsville. The job posting indicates the mixologist will work on the culinary team serving the SpaceX workforce.

According to Austin-based job website Indeed, the average mixologist in the U.S. earns $13.53 an hour. The SpaceX job posting doesn't list a salary, but you've got to imagine Musk — by far the richest person in Texas — would fork over more than $13.53 an hour for a spaceport mixologist.

By the way, in case you're not a master mixologist, SpaceX also is looking for a sous chef in Boca Chica. The sous chef will be tasked with cooking up menus that emphasize seasonal items and "creative" options. The chef's duties will include sourcing high-quality ingredients "with a focus on local, sustainable, and organic items."

Musk, who spends much of his time in Austin, is developing what the Bloomberg news service describes as an "empire" in Texas. Aside from the SpaceX facility, Musk-led Tesla is building a vehicle manufacturing plant just east of Austin and is moving its headquarters here. If that weren't enough, the Musk-founded Boring Co., which specializes in developing underground tunnels, lists 20 job openings in Austin on its website. In addition, SpaceX tests rocket engines at a site in McGregor, about 17 miles southwest of Waco.

"Texas has had its share of characters over the years, and many have been larger-than-life, wealthy risk-takers who came from elsewhere," Waco economist Ray Perryman tells Bloomberg. "There's still a wildcatting mentality here, and there's still a mystique about Texas that Elon Musk fits well."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.