Mayor Sylvester Turner laid out plans for leveraging local assets to build innovation district
Houston, TX – In celebration of Startup Day Across America, a nationwide effort to connect elected officials with startup communities, Station Houston hosted the inaugural Startup Day Houston breakfast. The program featured remarks from Mayor Sylvester Turner, Station Houston CEO John Reale, and a startup ecosystem panel moderated by Blair Garrou, Managing Director of Mercury Fund.
COLLABORATION IS KEY
Mayor Turner shared his vision for Houston with a packed room of entrepreneurs, community leaders, and stakeholders — an audience that he noted reflected Houston’s position as “the most diverse city in the country.” Referencing his recent economic development mission to Israel, he described how Houston has the resources to compete on a global stage, but that collaboration is critical to the city unlocking its full potential.
“Talent, technology and diversity are all here, and then overlay that with the energy capital of the world, the largest medical center in the world, the Johnson Space Center, the Port of Houston…what other city in the United States – and, quite frankly, in the world – has the assets that the City of Houston has?” Mayor Turner asked the audience. “When I got on the plane coming back [from Israel], I said to myself, ‘We have all of these assets, but what’s missing?’ And I think one thing that’s missing is that we have not played in an integrated fashion. Too many silos — everybody’s doing great stuff, but not enough collaboration and integration.”
INNOVATION AS AN ECONOMIC DRIVER
Station Houston Cofounder and CEO, John Reale, kicked off the program by describing the positive economic impact of a startup and innovation ecosystem.
“We believe that an innovation district isn’t a nice to have – it’s a must have. When we look at Houston and we look back at the evolution of Fortune 500 companies, a key theme of ‘innovate or die’ emerges. And where does innovation come from? It starts with the people who think big and who think differently enough to be free to go out and create. This is why we see having a thriving startup economy as absolutely necessary.”
STARTUP ECOSYSTEM PANEL
The panelists each brought their own unique perspectives to the discussion:
- Dave Wilson, Chief Innovation Officer of Bechtel Corporation, spoke to his experiences building corporate to startup innovation bridges.
- Joe Alapat, Founder and CEO of Liongard, provided perspective on the impact being surrounded by other founders has had on the progress of his startup.
- Youngro Lee, CEO of NextSeed, discussed the need to forge stronger ties between entrepreneurs, the creative class, and capital.
- Denise Hamilton, CEO and Founder of WatchHerWork.com, described how an entrepreneurial community of inclusiveness is a unique competitive advantage that we must work to maintain and foster.
- Angela Shah, Texas Editor of Xconomy, outlined her role in communicating startup success broadly, so that others recognize Houston as a center of innovation.
THE TIME IS NOW
Long-time startup advocate Blair Garrou ended the program with why now is the time for startups in Houston.
“One of the best parts of the Mayor’s speech was when he said, ‘We are ready to play.’ Why are we ready to play now? We’ve had the launch of TMCx and Station Houston and these activities are supplementing everything being done by the Rice Alliance, HTC and other groups. The Greater Houston Partnership is hearing many other corporations, such as Bechtel, saying we need to become more innovative. We’ve got the city bringing the entire city together to take this to the next level. We’ve never had all of these heads of state in the same room trying to drive this process forward.”