Midtown home to new tech center

Houston Chronice, By MARJORIE EVANS
Nonprofit acts as `incubator'' to new businesses

An organization dedicated to nurturing new Houston-based technology companies is open for business in Midtown, offering clients a variety of services critical to their success.

The
Houston Technology Center at 410 Pierce held its grand opening celebration Aug. 28, hosted by Halliburton. The nonprofit group was founded in 1999 and was originally located at Two Allen Center.

"The city came to us and said they had a grant to apply towards the remodeling of a building in Midtown for use as a nonprofit business incubator," said Paul Frison,
Houston Tech Center''s president and CEO. "We knew when we formed that we''d eventually need our own building and this was a perfect opportunity for us to expand."

The $1.1 million federal grant from the Economic Development Administration was paired with $750,000 in matching funds from the Midtown Redevelopment Authority and the city of
Houston''s Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone No. 2.

The center will lease the building from the Midtown Redevelopment Authority for 20 years.

The 26,000-square-foot facility provides office space for companies that sign on with the center to obtain its mentoring services. The so-called "incubator" space of approximately 12,000 square feet can accommodate as many as 17 companies, Frison said. Another 6,000 square feet houses information technology training, including a 200-seat meeting room and computer lab with 50 workstations. The center also hosts mentoring breakfasts, seminars, brown bag luncheons with guest speakers and business counseling for clients offered by top-notch industry professionals.

Twelve companies have already signed up to reserve office space, Frison said.

"We don''t require all of our client companies to be in our building but we encourage them if they can," he said.

"We''re a business accelerator," Frison said. "We help companies that have already determined their business plan and have identified their market and products or services and want to grow. We work with companies that have emerging technologies in the areas of energy, life sciences such as medical or biotechnological, information technologies like hardware or software, and NASA-related activities," he said. Client companies should have "disruptive" technologies, those that create a solution that, by orders of magnitude, improves an existing solution.

Houston Technology Center helps emerging companies in a variety of ways, Frison said. "We can assist with refining their business plans to get more attention from the audience they''re targeting. We provide high-level planning and consulting on a variety of issues. We can help them obtain patents to protect intellectual property, and we can introduce them to existing companies or individuals that might be willing to partner with them or provide investment income," he said.

Today''s venture capitalists are interested in companies that have the potential to earn $50 million to $100 million in revenue, Frison said.

"That''s the playing field we''ve been told they''ll work with," he said.
Houston Technology Center targets client companies that fit that profile, Frison said.

The center serves as the gateway to the Houston Angel Network, an organization of more than 100 individuals who have previous investment experience, a tangible net worth in excess of $1 million and who are seeking to make early stage "seed" investments in Houston''s emerging technology companies.

"Since we began in ''99, we have tangibly helped about 60 companies raise collectively more than $400 million in venture capital and create more than 800 jobs in the greater
Houston area," Frison said.

"Our directors work closely with us and share their resources to help us analyze companies to determine whether they have prospects for future growth and can gain venture capital," he said. "We have a database of about 8,000 people and about 2,000 of those are involved on a regular basis."

For more on the
Houston Technology Center, call 713-658-1750 or visit www.houstontech.org .
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