Published Mar 17, 2022 by Ernesto Becerra
The Greater Houston Partnership hosted Houston House at SXSW, a two-day activation program led by innovation leaders and startup founders, from March 13-14. With over 630 attendees over the two days of programming, Houston House delivered a diverse set of panels discussing venture capital funding, equitable energy transition, commercial aerospace and more! If you didn’t get a chance to attend our panels, here’s a glimpse of the conversations surrounding the advancements happening in Houston.
Houston House’s kickoff on March 13 offered a space for startups and technology to converge. The big question for startup founders is often “where do I begin?” The answer is funding. The panel discussed how founders can overcome challenges when it comes to securing funding.
“For founders, you have to pack your bags and get out there, like SXSW. Walk around the street, go to free shows, or stand at the hotel lobby. The opportunity is out there to meet people to whatever your objective might be.”
—Felix Chevalier, Co-Founder of Urban Capital Network
“I am a solo founder and I remember I met with multiple technical co-founders, but I was told because ‘you’re a black woman you’ll never be able to raise the money.’”
—Denise Hamilton, Work Futurist and CEO of WatchHerWork
Despite setbacks, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed startup businesses back on track. “After the pandemic, you eliminate the geographical boundaries. I can be in Miami, in Silicon Valley, but I choose Houston for its unlimited resources and talent.”
—Jesse Martinez, Investment Partner, Resolved Ventures & Venture Partner, Vamos Ventures
The booming technology market has expanded to new horizons, including collegiate esports and the advancement in wearable technology. The panel discussed the growth in collegiate esports investments by Houston-based universities like University of St. Thomas and University of Houston.
Historically, strong young gamers with elite teams have skipped college and gone directly to pro. “In the next 3-5 years, schools will dive into esports to attract those top-tier students and match the full rides football players are given.”
—Lori Burgess, COO, Beasley Esports
“Houston is a great home for entrepreneurial innovation. We have an opportunity to create a VC sports tech company that will follow up with all stages to capture and engage a sports tech capital hub.”
—David Gow, CEO, Gow Media
With Houston Spaceport’s expansion and improvements, Houston will be the first major metropolitan area in the U.S. to create an environment available to private companies wishing to use a spaceport. The mission is to create a focal point for aerospace innovation with a collection of aerospace companies that will lead the U.S. to transition from government-driven to commercial-driven space programs.
“When I think about the Houston Spaceport and think about the summer of 2015 when we got our license, fast-forward a couple years and now we’re building the largest space station--I can just begin to imagine what Houston will bring to the table in the next 5 years.”
-–Dr. Douglas Terrier, Associate Director for Vision and Strategy at NASA’s Johnson Space Center
As home to the largest medical city in the world, Houston is at the forefront of advancing life sciences. Innovation drives collaborations with medicine and cutting-edge technology leveraging resources of enterprises to develop life-saving solutions.
From microbiome engineering to antibiotic resistance, Kevin Coker, President and CEO at Proxima Clinical Research, Inc., commented that, “synthetic biology is going to make a huge difference and cost will decrease in the upcoming years as medical device technology continues to advance. 3D Systems is looking to manufacture the first human organ in East Downtown Houston, so how much more exciting can it get than that?”
The MD Anderson Cancer Center’s panel discussed next-generation cell engineering for tumor infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) programs. Housing the largest comprehensive cancer center in the U.S., based in Houston, MD Anderson has extensive expertise in developing and manufacturing innovative cell therapies, including groundbreaking work with TILs and setting the proper foundation for biotechnological advancements.
“It is my belief that TILs are poised for a significant impact in the field of cancer therapy, and engineering improved TILs is a vital part of advancing this modality.”
—Jason Bock, VP, Biologics Development, MD Anderson Cancer Center
Venture capital experts launched day two of Houston House. Climate change and energy 2.0 have become top priorities for companies with a focus on the hydrogen space. Experts on the panel examined how private and corporate investors continuously seek opportunities in clean technology.
“Houston has great resources, including talent, infrastructure, and money, which is what puts Houston at the forefront of the energy transition.”
–Grace Chan, Investment Associate at bp Ventures
The panel explored the collaboration needed for success in the energy transition and voiced consensus that the foundation of corporations with the agility of startups is critical.
"It’s true that it’s going to take everybody, this is the ultimate group project.”
—Dawn James, Director of Global Industry Strategy - Energy & Sustainability at Microsoft
“Particularly in Houston, corporations have the experience, talent, expertise, connections, and facilities that are going to be important to commercialize the technologies of the future.”
—Dale Winger, Managing Director, Halliburton Labs
With the ongoing emergence of energy transition companies in Houston, startups are tackling climate change head on. Comprised of the founders of some of the most promising tech startups, the panel discussed their input in accelerating the global energy transition.
“In Houston, we’ve launched The Ion, Halliburton Labs, Greentown Labs, a pretty broad range of incubators creating an ecosystem of innovation just in the last two years that allow for this green energy transition.”
—Jane Stricker, Executive Director at HETI
“If you’re a climatetech VC and you’re not looking at Houston, Texas, then you’re about to miss out because things are happening in Houston.”
—Trevor Best, CEO of Syzygy Plasmonics
“If I want Houston to become a bio-manufacturing hub, which I think it could be, the city has done a great amount in showing the vision and the will giving a new generation for companies to grow.”
—Moji Karimi, CEO, CemvitaFactory
The panel discussion allowed for an open dialogue on the disparity of the economic and human health outcomes related to climate change.
“Climate change has disproportionately affected low-to-moderate income communities the most, so how do we address the inequities? To remain the nation’s leader in energy, Texas must lean into its abundant renewable energy resources and lead the development and manufacturing of technologies that reduce and eliminate the climate and health pollution emitted by fossil fuels in commerce, industry, and vehicles.”
—John Hall, President and CEO, HARC | Houston Advanced Research Center
“In some of our recent data, what we’ve seen is people will, basically, self-meter energy consumption in Texas in July, August, September, and we do have evidence of heat exacerbated health effects caused by energy insecurity, so not being able to find cooling stations and things like that. There are important health implications associated with energy use, so we need to think about it holistically.”
—Dana Harmon, Executive Advisor, Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute
The entire Houston House at SXSW program will be available on demand soon.