lone star startups

Report: Texas ranks as the best state to start a business

How's startup life in Texas? Well, it's the best in the nation, according to a new ranking. Photo via Getty Images

If you're a Texan looking to launch a startup, you appear to be in the right place.

Personal finance website WalletHub puts Texas at No. 1 in its new ranking of the best and worst states for starting a business. Across the 50 states, WalletHub compared 28 key indicators of startup success to come up with the list.

In the general bucket for "business environment," Texas ranked second. It dropped to 12th in the "access to resources" category and 32nd in the "business costs" category. Digging deeper, Texas appears at No. 4 for the average length of the workweek, No. 5 for the highest total spending on incentives as a percentage of GDP, and No. 6 for average growth in number of small businesses. However, Texas scored a below-average 29th-place ranking for labor costs.

"Choosing the right state for a business is … crucial to its success," WalletHub explains. "A state that provides the ideal conditions for business creation — access to cash, skilled workers, and affordable office space, for instance — can help new ventures not only take off but also thrive."

The WalletHub accolade follows a handful of other recent plaudits for Texas' business-friendly environment.

In March, Site Selection magazine awarded its Governor's Cup to Texas. The Governor's Cup honors the top states for job creation and capital investment.

"Despite the challenges faced from the COVID-19 pandemic, we've seen what Texas can achieve when we foster an environment that empowers people to succeed," Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement about the Governor's Cup win. "The Texas model continues to inspire entrepreneurs and innovators and attract job creators from across the country, and I look forward to spurring more job growth and opportunity for all Texans in every corner of our great state."

A month later, Chief Executive magazine crowned Texas the best state for business for the 17th consecutive year.

But Texas ranked fourth in CNBC's recent rundown of the top states for business in 2021. "A fourth-place finish would be good for most states, but not Texas. This year's finish ties for the worst-ever for the four-time Top State, which last won in 2018," CNBC says.

CNBC says Texas finished fourth based on the strength of its workforce and economy.

"But Texas was hurt this year by policies that run counter to the study's increased focus on inclusiveness," adds CNBC, pointing out that Abbott is pressing ahead with these policies during the current special session of the Texas Legislature.

Abbott's agenda for the special session includes legislation that critics view as watering down voting rights, attacking public school education about racism, and punishing transgender competitors in school sports. Supporters say these measures would preserve election integrity, strip critical race theory from public education in Texas, and protect females participating in school sports whose gender identity aligns with their birth gender.

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Building Houston

 
 

Kelly Avant, investment associate at Houston-based Mercury Fund, shares how and why she made her way into the venture capital arena. Photo courtesy of Mercury

Kelly Avant didn't exactly pave a linear career path for herself. After majoring in gender studies, volunteering in the Peace Corps, and even attending law school — she identified a way to make a bigger impact: venture capital.

"VC is an awesome way to shape the future in a more positive way because you literally get to wire money to the most innovative thinkers, who are building solutions to the world’s problems," Avant tells InnovationMap.

Avant joined the Mercury Fund team last year as an MBA associate before joining full time as investment associate. Now, after completing her MBA from Rice University this month, Avant tells InnovationMap why she's excited about this new career in investment in a Q&A.

InnovationMap: From law school and the peace corps, what drew you to start a career in the VC world?

Kelly Avant: I graduated from Rice University with an MBA, starting scouting for an investment firm in my first year, and by the summer after my first year I was essentially working full-time interning with Mercury. But, I like to tell people about my undergraduate degree in gender studies and rhetoric from a little ski college in Colorado. If you meet someone else in venture capital with a degree in gender studies, please connect us, but I think I might be the only one. I’ll spare you what I used to think — and say — about business students, but I have really come full circle.

I always thought I would work in a nonprofit space, but after serving in Cambodia with the Peace Corps, working for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and briefly attending Emory Law School with the intention of becoming a civil rights lawyer.I found that time and time again the root of the problem was a lack of resources. The world’s problems were not going to be solved with my idealism alone.

The problem with operating as a nonprofit in a capitalism is you basically always pandering to the interests of the donors. The NFL was a key sponsor of The National Domestic Violence Hotline. The United States has a complicated, to put it lightly, relationship with Cambodia and Vietnam. It became pretty clear that the donor/nonprofit relationship was oftentimes putting the wrong party in the driver’s seat. I was, and still am, very interested in alternative financing for nonprofits. I became convinced that the most exciting businesses were building solutions to the world’s problems while also turning a profit, which allows them to survive to have a sustainable positive impact.

VC is an awesome way to shape the future in a more positive way because you literally get to wire money to the most innovative thinkers, who are building solutions to the world’s problems.

IM: What are some companies you’re excited about?

KA: There are a couple super interesting founders I’ve met directly engaging with . To name a few: CiviTech, DonateStock, and Polco.

I’m very proud to work on mercury investments like Houston’s own, Topl, which has built an extremely lightweight and energy efficient Blockchain that enables tracking of ethical supply chains from the initial interaction.
I’m also excited about mercury’s investment in Zirtue, which enables relationship based peer to peer lending to solve the massive problem of predatory payday loans.

We have so many awesome founders in our portfolio. The best part about working in VC is meeting passionate innovators every day. I get excited to go to work everyday and help them to build better solutions.

IM: Why are you so passionate about bringing diversity and inclusion into Mercury?

KA: I love working with exciting, highly capable, super smart people. That category includes so many people who have been historically excluded. As an investment team member at Mercury, I do have a voice, and I have an obligation to use that voice to speak highly of the best people in rooms of influence.

IM: With your new role, what are you most focused on?

KA: In my new role, I am identifying and researching high potential investments. We’re building out a Mercury educational series to lift the veil of VC. We want to facilitate a series that gives all founders the basic skills to pass VC due diligence and have the opportunity to build the next innovative companies. My goal is ultimately to produce the best returns possible for our investors, and we can’t accomplish that goal unless we’re building out resources to meet the best founders and help them grow.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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