Making Houston a Hub for Innovation, GHP Launches Innovation Strategy Office

Houston Technology Center CEO Lori Vetters joined Gina Luna, chair of the Greater Houston Partnership’s Houston Innovation Roundtable and Ed Egan, director of the McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy for a  Houston Matters live broadcast from the Greater Houston Partnership. The panel discussed what Houston can do to better spur innovation here. How can Houston’s business climate improve to better spur new businesses and ideas?

Speaking on Houston Matters, Gina Luna, who chairs the roundtable, said they’re trying to improve Houston’s startup culture, “and we are launching the (Innovation) strategy office with the GHP to drive this 10-point strategy forward.”

As members of the innovation task force assembled by the GHP, HTCs Lori Vetters (CEO) and Maryanne Maldonado (COO) have been working on the plan developed by 50 Houston founders, business leaders, policy markers, venture capitalists and researchers, which includes the creation of innovation districts, a marketing campaign and an initiative to attract more venture capital.  According to an Accenture report, Houston is strong in corporate innovation but ranks far behind other cities when it comes to the number of startups and venture capital.

The statement also outlined a plan for a fund of funds. The fund would operate as a typical fund of funds that provides cash to another fund rather than individual investments. The goal for that fund would be to help entice other venture capital to the city, something many tech and civic leaders have said is a major problem for Houston startups. The GHP’s fund would eventually follow models laid out in Cincinnati or Michigan that helped raise awareness of budding startup ecosystems. A specific size for Houston’s fund has not been determined, and money for the fund has not begun to be raised, Gina Luna, chair of the GHP’s innovation roundtable, told the Houston Business Journal.

“(The goal is to) attract venture capital attention to our city,” Luna said. “We want those funds to be demand-driven funds. These aren’t philanthropic dollars we’re asking for. We’re going to be raising funds from companies that are looking to invest or expect a return.”

This is the latest in a series of steps the GHP and the city of Houston have taken to try and push startups and innovation into higher prominence within the business community.