Houston innovators podcast Episode 236

New VC firm aims to be the bridge between promising startups and Houston's innovation ecosystem

Zach Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that South Loop Ventures plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston has a lot of the right ingredients for commercialization and scaling up companies, so when Zach Ellis moved to town to stand up a venture capital firm that made investments in diverse founders, he decided to go about it in an innovative way.

South Loop Ventures, which Ellis launched two years ago, invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups across health care, climatetech, aerospace, sports, and fintech. While the first handful of investments, which have already been made, are into Houston-based companies, Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that the firm plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale.

"Any investor wants to feel like they are looking at the best possible investment opportunities in which to deploy capital," Ellis says on the show. "So that's reason No. 1 to cast your net as widely as possible.

"At the same time, you want to give any investment that you make greatest chances of success," he continues. "The biggest factor of success outside of the team and the capital you give them, is the customers that they can call upon. In bringing targeted companies to Houston or connecting them with Houston, you introduce the opportunity for them to achieve rapid scale and work with world-class partners very efficiently."

With his background that spans from the United States Military to academia and corporate venture, Ellis has had seats on nearly every side of the innovation table. But he says he was called to invest in founders of color after the murder of George Floyd. He says he also realized how much money was being left on the table by overlooking these innovators.

As one of the most diverse cities and the fourth largest city in the country, Houston is the place for Ellis's mission.

"The mission of South Loop is to become the preeminent source of venture capital dollars for underrepresented, diverse teams nationally to serve as a beacon for the best underrepresented talent and to enable them to be successful through leveraging the unique resources and talent of Houston," Ellis says. "A big part of our mission is also to help catalyze Houston as an ecosystem for tech entrepreneurship."

South Loop has six portfolio companies, including Houston-based Milkify, a breast milk freeze-drying service that went on to pitch and receive an investment on Shark Tank. Ellis says the firm expects to announce a handful of new investments over the next year or so. On the show, he explains more on what types of investment opportunities he's looking for and how founders can get in touch.

"The innovation is in the insight," he says. "We look to activate this community because we strongly believe in the power of founder insight."

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