Houston Voices

Tap into the local ecosystem with Alice’s guide for Houston business owners

A one-stop shop for startup owners is now at your fingertips. Getty Images

Small business ownership is on the rise, particularly among diverse founders: women, people of color, immigrants, the differently-abled, people identifying as LGBTQ+ and veterans. These groups are starting businesses at historically high rates, and, in fact, women of color are entering entrepreneurship at higher rates than any other demographic. In the near future, entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds will represent the "new majority" of business owners.

While the reason for new business creation varies - be it out of necessity, ingenuity or opportunity - the reality for some small business owners is that their ideas never fully make it off the ground, or their businesses stall in scale due to inequitable access to resources, opportunities and networks required for growth.

Alice is working to change that.

Through thousands of hours of research, underrepresented and underestimated founders told Carolyn Rodz and her team that access to resources and opportunities was their number one barrier to success. It was then that Rodz realized technology could help solve this problem with machine learning that can help entrepreneurs from all backgrounds find the right path and connect to the right resources to start and grow their businesses. In May 2017, Alice became the first AI platform in the world dedicated to helping business owners achieve their goals through personalized and free matchmaking, based on their unique profile, interests and objectives.

"At Alice, we want to make sure every business owner has what they need, and it shouldn't matter where they come from or who they know. It's not enough to even the playing field – we want to create a whole new one," said Rodz, a Latina and three-time entrepreneur. "One of the ways we are doing that is by creating a digital hub of local resources and events, so that all business owners have access to support in their communities, from the startup world to nonprofits, like Baker Ripley and Lift Fund, to investors and lenders."

Alice's Houston Guide for Business Owners is a virtual ecosystem of real-time, real-life connections to local resources, opportunities, organizations, networks, education programs and events designed to support business development and entrepreneurial talent. The guide is kept up-to-date with machine learning algorithms, an in-house curation team and crowdsourced recommendations from the community.

Are you new to the area and looking for a work home? Alice can direct you to over 25 coworking spaces in Space City. Wondering where you can learn to code (or connect with a coder to build that app you've been dreaming about)? Alice can point you to programs like DigitalCrafts Coding Bootcamp and the Flatiron School. Not sure what business license to apply for or how to capitalize on a new sales funnel? The Houston Office of Business Opportunity, Houston SCORE, or the Women's Business Enterprise Alliance may be just what you need.

But just how does Alice do it? Alice's intelligence becomes predictive overtime in order to reduce small business fail rates. By utilizing algorithms that drive founders to relevant resources based on unique personal and company profiles (versus a curated search function), Alice becomes more personalized (and "intelligent") the more the user engages with her.

"We like to think of Alice as the business owner's sidekick. She's there night and day to help entrepreneurs build their companies, solve problems and connect with people, places and knowledge across the digital and real-life ecosystem," added Rodz.

You can access the Guide for Houston Business Owners (and 15 other city guides) on Alice at https://helloalice.com/cities/houston. And if you have a local resource, opportunity or event to recommend, you can submit your suggestion here.

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This is content from our partner, Alice.

Houston came in at No. 5 for best cities — with populations of more than 1 million residents — for startups. Photo by Tim Leviston/Getty Images

When it comes to cities with over a million residents, Houston's at the front of the pack, according to a new study. But, there's a catch.

Last month, Commercial Cafe rounded up the 20 top cities for early-stage startups and entrepreneurs, and Houston missed the list. Now, the commercial real estate blog has broken down the data into three top ten lists based on city size, and Houston has claimed the No. 5 spot on the list of cities with 1 million or more residents.

The study took into account education, affordability, startup financial success (calculated from Kickstarter data), millennial population growth, among other aspects. Houston in particular was called out for being the most affordable major metro and for having the third best startup survival rate.

"The city is home to the fourth-largest percentage of millennial residents out of the total population, and saw the fourth-largest growth in number of millennial residents," the report reads. "Houston ranked fifth in group for the share of population holding a bachelor's degree or higher in a tech discipline. The rate at which the number of such residents has increased placed Houston seventh for tech education growth."

Outpacing Houston on the larger cities were Dallas at No. 1, San Diego, California, at No. 2, San Jose, California, at No. 3, and Los Angeles at No. 4. San Antonio also made the list, coming in at No. 7.

Texas cities were sprinkled throughout the two smaller cities list. Austin came in at No. 1 for the cities with 500,000 to 1 million residents, as well as claimed the top spot in the best cities regardless of population. Fort Worth ranked as No. 10 on this mid-sized city list.

On the small cities list for metros with less than 500,000 residents, Arlington came in at No. 6 for its location and startup density. The city also made the top 20 regardless of size, sliding into the No. 19 spot. Dallas, which topped the large cities list, came in at No. 15 on the size agnostic list for top startup cities.

Recently, Texas was named a top city to start a company by personal finance website, WalletHub, based on similar statistics.

"[I]t's clear why Texas would come in at No. 1," Susan Davenport, senior vice president of economic development for the Greater Houston Partnership, says responding to that study. "These are all areas where the Lone Star State consistently excels and why Texas continues to attract both entrepreneurs and existing companies across industry sectors."