Published Oct 05, 2020 by Maggie Martin
Marcelo Cordini is co-founder of December Labs, a full-service design and development company with headquarters in Montevideo, Uruguay and an office here in Houston. Since it launched in 2014, December Labs has been helping innovative startups, growth-stage, and Fortune 500 companies (from Google to Accenture) build advanced tech products that scale. The company has a footprint in health, finance, energy, and entertainment.
Cordini shared how December Labs has grown in Houston and plans to expand its footprint in Texas.
Your HQ is in Uruguay. What prompted you to open an office in Houston?
While some might have chosen Silicon Valley for their U.S. HQ, Houston has been kind of a hidden gem for us. The city came on my radar for personal reasons—my wife's job drove us here—but I soon realized the many things Houston has to offer. Our company has been able to grow within the local community and ecosystem. I found entrepreneurs with great ideas, experts in their business area, and deals already closed, but they all struggled to find the right tech partner. I think we came to Houston at the right time to fill that gap.
I love the truly unique environment in one of the most diverse cities in the country, famous for healthcare, energy, and aerospace. We have been lucky to partner with some of the fastest-growing local startups such as SaaS IT Automation Management provider Liongard, navigation-app Wellsite and apartment-services marketplace Spruce.
How would you describe Houston's startup ecosystem?
I'd consider Houston's startup scene to be unique, growing and diverse. Shortly after settling down in Houston, I started participating in the mentorship program of Station Houston (now part of Capital Factory) and have witnessed how the startup scene is thriving and getting more diverse each day. You might expect many companies are tapping into the health or energy sector, but I've seen everything from real estate to retail, and from finance to fitness. It inspires me to help up-and-coming entrepreneurs in their early days. I've extended my coaching activities to WeWork Labs.
How has the community changed since you came to Houston 3 years ago?
Just a few weeks after I moved to Houston, Hurricane Harvey hit. Despite the disastrous implications, it was somehow inspirational to see how the community stayed strong. I observed a level of solidarity of people helping each other get out of this crisis. I immediately understood what so many had told me about Houston having this unique spirit.
I have seen the same level of generosity in the startup world in the last three years, and that's essential to create a winning startup ecosystem. You will always find someone willing to help you. Accelerators and incubators have launched multiple Houston programs, many of them supported by the city government, big corporations, and top-tier universities. Startups have succeeded and raised more capital than ever before.
I'm proud to say we have been part of that change helping so many local companies get to where they're at today.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
The first thing we changed was to go 100% remote and send our people home. We made supporting our team a priority, from technical needs and office supplies to surprise care packages and a strong HR strategy. Today, we have shifted towards a hybrid solution, offering those of our 70+ engineers and designers who have expressed the need for a safe office environment under the highest possible hygiene standards, while the rest of the team is continuing to work from home.
Secondly, we offered up our developers who are experienced in the healthcare field free of charge to startups or non-profits working to combat COVID-19. For example, one of the projects we supported was Canastas UY, a humanitarian initiative to provide food to families in need.
Finally, we do feel fortunate to belong to one of the industries that has been able to continue almost business as usual. While like everyone else we've had ups and downs, we work with many companies that have become even more relevant during these uncertain times, which has helped us maintain a degree of stability and growth that we don't take for granted.
What are your future plans for December Labs in Houston?
Now more than ever, I believe we have the potential to continue strengthening the local startup and technology scene by building amazing products in Houston. Technology is at the forefront of B2B and B2C interaction, and we're excited to see how entrepreneurs and innovative companies continue to thrive in the unique environment here. For December Labs, we have concrete plans to grow our offices, hire talent, and consolidate our local footprint.
We also want to continue expanding throughout Texas, where we're already working with innovative startups such as the clinical recovery platform ViviHealth in Austin. One of the things I'm enthusiastic about is to explore partnering with more traditional businesses and corporations who need to innovate, grow the technical offering, or scale their team.
Learn more about Houston's innovation ecosystem. Take a look at this recent analysis of what tech specialties are most primed to succeed here in Houston. And listen to this episode of the Bayou Business Download podcast to learn more about Houston's tech sector.