Guest Column

Texas needs to stay innovative, says this nonprofit leader

In order to stay competitive, Texas needs to stay innovative. Photo by gguy44/Getty Images

It's no accident that Texas has one of the strongest economies in the world. Generations of leaders have built and sustained a business climate that welcomes investment and innovation without allowing burdensome regulations and high taxes to get in the way.

Because Texas welcomes job creation and offers families a great quality of life, our population is projected to grow rapidly in the coming years. Experts say the Texas population will increase by 10 million people by the state we celebrate the Texas bicentennial in 2036. There is no doubt that this is a place where people want to live and businesses want to create jobs.

But we cannot assume that our past record of success is destined to repeat itself. When it comes to creating an economy that offers opportunity for our fellow Texans, we have a lot of advantages. But it is up to all of us to make the most of those advantages and also identify ways that we can do better.

That's why I founded an organization called Texas 2036. We are here to support the long-term strategies and investments that will help Texas remain an economic juggernaut for decades to come — a place where great ideas thrive and the brightest minds want to work.

Texas 2036 is intentionally and unapologetically nonpartisan. While we will engage closely with elected leaders, our work is far different from the short-term urgency of politics. We aren't just thinking about the headlines of the day or the whims of the electorate. We believe what Texas needs is someone taking the longer view and focusing on the demands we know are coming down the road, no matter who is holding public office.

This long-term focus requires actionable, credible data. The Texas 2036 team has spent significant time over the last couple of years building the data sets that will help Texas leaders and the people they represent make the best decisions for our future. This data will provide a foundation upon which we can build consensus around solutions that will support continued growth.

For example, there is no better magnet for job creation than a well-educated workforce with diverse skills. Yet there is plenty of work to do to ensure Texas has the robust workforce needed to attract high-quality jobs. Soon, more than 77 percent of jobs will require a college degree or certificate, but only 28 percent of Texas 8th graders complete a postsecondary degree or certificate within six years of high school graduation. We cannot continue our economic success without significant improvements in educational performance and attainment. But if we make those improvements — and I have no doubt that we can — then we will not only sustain our prosperity, but allow more Texans to partake in it.

Our mission is ambitious, but so are Texans. That's why we want as many people as possible engaging with Texas 2036. I hope you will become part of this conversation by texting JOINTX to 52886 and visiting our website. Over the course of the next year, we will be developing and releasing strategies and recommendations for how Texas can meet the demands of the future, and we need as many Texans as possible engaged in this critical effort.

Texas is a place of big dreams and endless possibilities. We have a storied past and a proud present. It's up to all of us to make sure the future is even better.

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Tom Luce is the founder of Texas 2036, an organization focused on bringing attention to issues that are going to affect the Lone Star State in the long term.

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Building Houston

 
 

Raising funds anytime soon? Take these tips from a venture capital insider into consideration. Photo via Getty Images

I have had the incredible opportunity to work with New Stack Ventures as a venture fellow, and after sourcing investment opportunities, shadowing calls with founders, and even leading a couple calls of my own, I have learned a few lessons that might resonate with startup founders who are raising capital.

Responsive founders make a difference

The first and likely most important lesson I have learned during my tenure as a fellow is this: responsive founders truly make a difference in whether or not they raise capital.

I have sent several emails and LinkedIn messages to really intriguing companies, in hopes of connecting for a call and inquiring about their raise. And, I look back and see that many of those outreach messages were left unread. I have also engaged in calls with really intriguing companies where the founder never follows up, and the idea of moving forward with next steps dissipates.

On the flipside of the forgetful founder, I have also witnessed extremely attentive founders: founders who send follow-up messages when they don't receive an immediate response, respond to their emails within the hour, and go above and beyond by sending pitch decks and executive summaries (even when unasked). This type of founder persona excites me with their enthusiasm and eagerness to make a deal. Their responsiveness with the investment process sheds light to how they likely run their businesses.

At the end of the day, many founders can say that they are hustlers and go-getters, but I believe the founders that show me through their actions in the investment process.

Great founders are great storytellers

When I do connect with founders in introductory calls (after the back-and-forth, hopefully responsive email exchange), the thing I look forward to most is hearing their stories. I want to know your story. I want to know what you were doing before your startup (and how that helped prepare you), how you thought of your idea, how you validated your assumptions, how you grew your business, and… everything in between (but all in less than five minutes of time).

Great founders are great storytellers. The great storytellers I have come across invite me into their companies' journeys, and leave me actually caring about their success.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the founder who gives short responses and shows no real connection to their work (giving off the vibe that this is just another startup for them) leaves me unattached to them and their business.

Venture capitalists are more accessible than you might think

Perhaps, I gave this point away when I said that I was sending several emails and LinkedIn messages to founders (which sounds a little desperate), but VCs are way more accessible than you may think. Before working with New Stack Ventures, I had this perception that VCs were extremely hard to reach, exceptionally busy, and a little bit scary. And while one of the two latter characteristics still remains true, I can say with certainty that VCs are not hard to reach.

I can't speak for everyone in venture capital, but I do know that the VCs I work with will respond to founders who message them. Putting yourself out there, as a founder, can lead to advice (which bodes well for your business), a new connection in the industry (which bodes well for your network), and even an investment (which bodes well for the future of your startup). In the end, VCs are spending hundreds of hours, searching for a tractable startup that will change the game, and your startup could be the very gem they are looking for.

So, be bold, be responsive, and tell your story to any and every VC who will listen. I'm all ears.

Note: I was inspired to write this piece by by The Full Ratchet's tips for fundraising entrepreneurs, I thought I would share.

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Christa Westheimer is a Rice University student and the managing director at Rice Ventures. She is a current venture fellow at Chicago-based New Stack Ventures.

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