HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 85
Houston innovation leader assumes permanent role at the helm of The Ion ahead of opening
For over a year now, Jan E. Odegard has been leading The Ion as interim executive director, but as of last month, he got to drop the "interim." But for Odegard, very little aside from an update to his LinkedIn profile has changed.
"To me, it wasn't about me or the position — it was about the team and the work we were doing," Odegard says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "I'm as passionate about it now as I was before."
The Ion, a 270,000-square-foot coworking and innovation hub owned and managed by Rice Management Co., is slated to open later this summer and be a convening building for startups, corporations, academic partners, investors, and more.
The project, which broke ground in July of 2019, took a bit of a winding path in one part because of COVID-19 but also because of the challenge of rehabilitating a former department store. The building originally premiered in 1939 as a Sears.
"The decision that we made to not tear it down — that to me speaks power," Odegard says. "It probably would have been cheaper and faster to tear it down and build new, but this actually meant something to Houstonians. I think that nod to history really does speak power."
Odegard says the building represented a feat when it opened — now Houstonians will experience something similar in The Ion as they walk through and witness the evolution of the building as well as the innovation activity the structure will be home to.
"We have been speaking for the last two years, 'let's build on Houston's DNA,'" he says, "well, we've built this building on the DNA. We are truly trying to amplify the connectivity to the history but serving it for the next 40 to 50 years."
Leasing is open for both the traditional office spaces and coworking space. Chevron and Microsoft have both announced their leased space last year. The Ion tapped Savills for leasing as well as Common Desk for coworking, and leasing information is available online.
As far as programing goes, in-person accelerators and events will start rolling out activity in a responsible way factoring in pandemic protocol. But for Odegard, who is already working out of the building with a small team, he says he can't wait for that activity and collisions to begin. It's really about the people for hi,.
"If you go back to our vision of accelerating innovation and connecting communities, that really speaks to me," Odegard says. "We are really about creating that next wave of tech and innovation in our backyard, and then connecting those communities — which I think is maybe the most overlooked DNA here in Houston. That's the people we have — an incredible diversity."
Odegard shares more about The Ion and his career focused on advancing technology on the episode. Listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.