Entrepreneurial Landscape in Houston

By Kimberly Exford

The entrepreneurial landscape in Houston is absolutely booming. According to the University of Houston website, as of 2013 more than 3,500 of its alumni own or run a business, and 63 percent of all alumni live and work in the city of Houston. The university works very hard to foster and reward the entrepreneurial drive of its students and offers a variety of opportunities to those who wish to take advantage of them. Maybe the most important tool that the students have is access to the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the C. T. Bauer College of Business, ranked #2 on The Princeton Review’s 2013 list of leading undergraduate entrepreneurship programs in the U.S. Entrepreneur magazine.

Within this college, they offer the following:

  • Cougar Pitch – A way for students that already have ideas to pitch them to a panel of business experts who will tell them if the idea is a good one or not. Top winners earn cash and prizes, including free work space, and mentoring sessions with the Wolff Center’s associate director.
  • 3 Day StartupPprogram- this program challenges students to start a technology company in just three days. The program recruits 40 students from all backgrounds and provides them with a work space and food for the entire weekend. Then they invite top-notch entrepreneurs and investors to then judge the prototypes at the end.
  • RED Labs – This program takes teams of students with good ideas and provides them a space on campus and connects them to relevant mentors and resources to help them grow companies that will help solve a need in the community.
  • U of H also offers an Entrepreneurship for Engineers class as well as an Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurism series for engineering faculty and staff.

Rice University also has the Rice Alliance, which has assisted in the launch of more than 250 startups since its inception only 14 years ago. They offer an annual business plan competition that helps to get new businesses started.

Outside of the university, the city offers a few tools for its residents. The Houston Entrepreneur’s Forum was organized in 1985 and meets the last Tuesday of every month. It provides opportunities to network with others but also to hear successful entrepreneurs share their experiences.

Houston has a huge oil and gas industry, and thus, it didn’t suffer as much as many other cities during the recent recession. With its longstanding history as an energy hub, it is not surprising that a good deal of its startup activity is focused on energy services and clean energy. The wealth created by this industry has bubbled over to others, including education, the arts and healthcare. In addition, The Texas Medical Center is the largest medical center in the world, and is a hub for research and healthcare ventures.

As far as funding is concerned, Houston has a few options: The Mercury Fund, focusing solely on seed and early stage ventures, and the Houston Angel Network (the largest in the state) providing options for members and sponsors.

With Houston’s cultural diversity, relatively low cost-of-living, and favorable tax environment, it is a prime spot for people to settle when they are considering a startup.

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