Lodgeur Guide to Houston’s Startup Ecosystem
The Houston Innovation District
Houston’s startup ecosystem is primed for liftoff. With accelerators, incubators, funding sources and flexible workspaces launching across the city, entrepreneurs have all the resources they need to get their ventures off the ground. Anchoring this growth is the Ion Innovation District in the Midtown neighborhood, a hub of innovation centering around the renovated historic Sears building.
Just five blocks from the Ion and directly on the light rail, Lodgeur offers furnished living spaces tailor-made for entrepreneurs chasing their dreams in Houston. As the largest provider of flexible housing in Midtown, Lodgeur gives residents easy access to the district’s networking events, programs, investors and more.
This guide will cover the launchpads fuelling Houston’s startup growth across every stage, from ideation to scaling. Whether you’re looking to secure funding, make industry connections or find flexible workspaces, we’ll map out the ecosystem so you can hit the ground running. Houston has enormous potential, and this blog post will ensure you make the most of it.
Heart of it All: The Ion and Greentown Labs
The Ion is the center of gravity for startups in Houston. This former 1939 Sears department store building has been reimagined through a joint venture between Rice University and the City of Houston, transforming the historic Midtown property into a colossal 250,000 square foot collision hub for innovation. Backed by academic and corporate titans like Rice University, Microsoft and Chevron, the Ion building offers everything entrepreneurs need to spark and scale ideas: accelerators, coworking spaces, labs and much more.
On Earth Day 2021, Greentown Labs opened its massive Houston incubator focused on climatetech startups. At over 40,000 square feet, it’s the largest climatetech incubator in North America, providing lab space, prototyping tools, office space, a maker space, and community events. A wet lab is currently under development. With partners like the Ion, Chevron, Shell and more, Greentown Houston fosters the next generation of climatechangers.
Houston-Based Accelerators & General Ecosystem Support
Houston’s startup ecosystem has several accelerator programs centered around a few key themes:
Biotech and Health Tech
- BioHouston: Empowers early-stage biotech and life sciences companies with funding, mentorship, and industry connections. Perfect for those developing innovative solutions in the healthcare and biotechnology space.(http://biohouston.org)
- TMC Innovation Institute: Connects healthcare startups with industry experts, investors, and clinical trial resources. TMC Innovation has put 200+ companies through its health tech accelerator. (https://www.tmc.edu/innovation/)
- Greentown Labs: Accelerates cleantech startups with lab space, mentorship, and access to investors and industry partners. Greentown has Houston and Boston campuses.(https://greentownlabs.com/houston/)
- Capital Factory: Invests in and supports early-stage startups across various industries, providing funding, mentorship, and access to a global network. A comprehensive accelerator for ventures with high-growth potential. (Lodgeur is a Capital Factory portfolio company!) (https://www.capitalfactory.com/accelerator/)
- Houston Exponential: A non-profit dedicated to accelerating Houston’s startup ecosystem through events, resources, and connections. (https://www.houstonexponential.org/)
- Rice Alliance: The Rice Alliance has supported 20 years to commercialize tech, educate new entrepreneurs and launch tech companies. (https://alliance.rice.edu)
- University of Houston Technology Bridge: Connects UH researchers and tech entrepreneurs with established corporations and potential partners to facilitate commercialization. (https://uh.edu/uh-energy-innovation/uh-innovation/technology-bridge/)
- Born Global Ventures: Backs resilient immigrant entrepreneurs leading tech startups. Provides financial and intellectual capital, human capital, and social capital through a combination of the Born Global Fund, Born Global Studio, and Born Global Community. (https://bornglobal.vc/)
- Bunker Labs: Supports veteran-led startups through intensive bootcamps, courses, mentorship, and access to a nationwide network. Ideal for veterans with entrepreneurial ambitions looking to make a difference.(https://bunkerlabs.org)
- DivInc: Specifically designed to support promising startups led by women and underrepresented founders. Offers funding, mentorship, and a supportive community to help these ventures thrive.(https://www.divinc.org)
Midtown Coworking Spaces
The Ion District has a handful of co-working spaces focused on startups:
- Common Desk (in the Ion building)
- Greentown Labs
- Sesh Coworking
Funding Your Journey
According to VC Neal Dikeman’s column in Innovation Map, you are about as likely to meet a Fortune 500 CEO or a mayor in the greater Houston region as you are to meet a VC. Here is the current list of angel and venture capital resources in Houston:
While VC firms play a crucial role in Houston’s startup scene, the journey doesn’t begin and end there. Two other vital pillars in the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem deserve recognition: the Houston Angel Network (HAN) and the Houston Women in VC (HWVC).
- Houston Angel Network: HAN boasts a network of over 400 seasoned investors with expertise across various industries. They offer early-stage startups access to valuable capital, mentorship, and connections, often paving the way for subsequent VC rounds.
- Houston Women in VC: HWVC is a powerful network dedicated to empowering women in the VC space, a traditionally male-dominated field. They provide mentorship, educational programs, and networking opportunities to help women navigate the VC landscape and secure funding for their ventures.
- Fitz Gate Ventures: The Fitz Gate co-founders are attorneys, founders and adjunct professors with very close ties to Princeton. They have a deep bench of subject matter experts to tap for mentoring founders. (https://www.fitzgate.com/)
- Knightsgate Ventures: They invest in growth-stage tech companies across a wide variety of sectors, but only invest in companies that are creating both social and financial value. (https://www.knightsgateventures.com/portfolio)
- Mercury Fund: These seasoned investors back high-potential tech startups across various industries,particularly those with strong Texas ties. Expect hands-on mentorship and strategic guidance to help your young flames flourish. (https://mercuryfund.com/)
- Artemis: Focused on female-founded and female-led businesses. (https://www.theartemisfund.com)
- Curate Capital: Curate invests at the earliest stages in female founded startups, with an emphasis on B2C companies. (https://www.curate.capital/)
- Energy Transition Ventures: Leading the charge in sustainable solutions, ETV invests in distributed energy, electrification, mobility, resource efficiency and enabling technologies. (https://energytransitionventures.com/)
- Montrose Lane (formerly Cottonwood): This experienced player focuses on making energy safe, affordable and eco-friendly.(https://www.montroselane.com/)
- New Climate Ventures: Focused on carbon reduction and avoidance technology companies. (https://www.newclimateventures.com/)
- Texas Medical Center Venture Fund: Nestled within the heart of healthcare innovation, this $50M fund fuels early-stage life sciences and healthcare ventures. Funded by the TMC Corporation. (https://tmcventurefund.com/)
Major Startup Events in Houston
Ongoing Meetups in the Ion District
Staying connected and inspired is crucial for any founder, and Houston offers a vibrant calendar of recurring events just for you! Here are some highlights:
For Female Founders
- Sesh Coworking in Midtown: Every month, this welcoming meetup connects and empowers female founders through shared experiences, inspiration, and valuable networking. Grab a coffee, share your challenges, and learn from fellow female leaders. (https://seshcoworking.com/)
- Cup of Joey: Kickstart your Friday mornings with coffee and insightful conversations at the Ion. This casual meetup gathers founders and ecosystem players for networking, Q&A sessions, and lighthearted discussions on relevant topics. (8:30-10:30 AM, Fridays, Ion District) (https://www.linkedin.com/company/cup-of-joey/)
- Product Meetup with Wade Pinder: Dive deep into the world of product development at this regular meetup hosted by renowned product expert Wade Pinder. Expect actionable insights, industry trends, and interactive discussions to refine your product strategy and build better experiences. (Location and schedule vary, check Ion events calendar)
More Resources for Houston’s Founders
Every successful journey needs the right starting point, and Houston offers an abundance of resources to equip your entrepreneurial adventure. Here are some key players to fuel your Houston dream:
Your Actual Launchpad
- Lodgeur: Forget cookie-cutter apartments, IKEA furniture and lease commitments. Lodgeur offers flex living, short term rentals and extended stays just 5 blocks from the Ion and Greentown Labs. Lodgeur is a portco of Capital Factory and Sputnik ATX. (https://www.lodgeur.com/blog/ion-district)
- Fuel that Hustle: Check out our blog post of the best places to eat and drink in Midtown, including restaurants, bars, coffee shops and patios.
Stay in the Know:
- InnovationMap: Stay ahead of the curve with this dynamic online publication dedicated to Houston’s thriving tech and innovation scene. Get your daily dose of insightful articles, news updates, event listings, and interviews with key players, keeping your finger on the pulse of the ecosystem. (https://innovationmap.com/)
Talent Acquisition Made Easy:
- HTXTalent: Building a dream team? HTXTalent connects Houston’s tech scene with top talent across various disciplines. Utilize their vast network and targeted search tools to find the perfect fit for your startup, building a team ready to propel your venture forward. (https://www.htxtalent.com/)
Houston’s skyline isn’t just about fossil fuels and hospitals – it’s a constellation of innovation, with several companies reaching unicorn status. If other founders can build unicorns in Houston, you can, too.
Sustainable Alchemy: Solugen crafts green magic, turning corn syrup into eco-friendly chemicals. (https://solugen.com)
Reaching for the Stars: Axiom Space is building a future in orbit, with their own commercial space station for research and weightlessness-powered manufacturing. (https://www.axiomspace.com)
Tech Savvy Solutions: Recode Solutions offers B2B IT solutions for the AI era. (https://www.recodesolutions.com)
Selling it All: Cart provides end-to-end e-commerce solutions to more than 6,000 brands. (https://cart.com)
Did we miss anyone?
Drop us a line at marketing @lodgeur.com if we’ve missed anyone or anywhere.