HOUSTON— (Oct. 14, 2019) — Rice Management Company (RMC) has formed an operating organization for The Ion and named Gabriella “Gaby” Rowe as executive director.
Rowe, previously the CEO of Station Houston (“Station”), will oversee programming and operations of The Ion, the renovated former Sears building that will become the centerpiece of the innovation district RMC is developing in Houston’s Midtown.
“To ensure that The Ion is a catalyst for the continued growth of the innovation ecosystem, we’ve been collaborating with Gaby and her team as well as civic leaders, Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harris County commissioners and Midtown Houston,” said Allison Thacker, president and chief investment officer of the RMC, which manages Rice University’s endowment. “We know that under Gaby’s leadership The Ion will become an innovation hub for not only all Houstonians, but for anybody looking to thrive and collaborate in an entrepreneur-first, tech-forward environment.”
As a program component of The Ion, Station Houston will be supported by Rowe and the Ion team, but it will not be the exclusive provider of startup support services in the building. The Ion plans to house a wide range of incubators and accelerators to serve the broader needs of the innovation ecosystem. Station plans to focus on its roots, meeting the needs of startup entrepreneurs and continuing to grow its membership as it concentrates on providing enhanced services to startups, Rowe said. Stewart Cory, recently named chief of staff at Station, will oversee Station’s day-to-day operations until a new program leader has been hired.
The Ion plans to develop robust and inclusive programming to support the needs of all of Houston’s startup development organizations, Thacker said. An advisory committee of innovation, entrepreneur and community leaders will be formed to guide The Ion’s programming and activation, which will include workforce development, job training, digital skills training, funding and networking opportunities, and resources for entrepreneurs at all stages of development and commercialization.
"The Ion, with Rice University’s stewardship, represents the best of our vision for the future of Houston - one where a kid like me from Acres Homes grows up with access to the opportunities that innovation and technology represent,” said Mayor Turner. “I couldn't be happier that Gaby will be leading the Ion towards that vision and believe that she has the energy to help make this project a reality that will transform our communities.”
RMC began the process of renovating the Sears building into the Ion this summer and expects to complete the project in the first quarter of 2021. The building is the first phase in the RMC’s plans for the broader 16-acre South Main Innovation District. The Ion has already partnered with organizations like the Houston Independent School District, the University of Houston, Houston Methodist, Pumps & Pipes and TXRX, Labs to deliver programming by the first quarter of 2020.
“It is a tremendous honor to be given such an incredible opportunity to serve Houston,” Rowe said. “I look forward to building partnerships and collaborations that will enable The Ion to engage and connect the innovation and startup community with Houston corporations and academic partners, to use the technology we’re building right here in Houston to showcase our homegrown talent, and to create platforms for local entrepreneurs to take their offerings to new heights.”
The Ion’s programs will ensure that Houston’s innovation ecosystem is accessible to all Houstonians, especially The Ion’s neighbors in Midtown and the Third Ward. One example is The Ion’s recent partnership with the Collaborative for Children to develop an alliance leveraging technology to solve data collection and quality challenges at the earliest stages of the talent pipeline.
“We have been very pleased with the progress made in the Ion and the incredible interest it has generated not only in Houston but in potential participants around the country. Gaby Rowe has played an important role in building the partnerships and connections among academic institutions, corporations and investors in support of The Ion’s development,” said Rice President David Leebron. “It was clear that Gaby would be a successful leader of The Ion and foster the project’s inclusive, entrepreneurial community and programming.”
An experienced business leader and innovation strategist, Rowe joined Station in August 2018. In her first 10 months, Rowe led Station’s reorganization from a for-profit to a nonprofit, partnered with Microsoft and Intel to create The Ion Smart Cities Accelerator and helped put Houston on the map with a number of technology companies, like Bill.com, that are bringing jobs to Houston. Rowe and the Station team have been working closely with RMC to plan The Ion’s inaugural tenants and programming for the space and to ensure a seamless transition for current Station members. Much of the Ion’s initial programming is being supported out of Station’s current location at 1301 Fannin St. until The Ion is complete.
“As Midtown continues to grow, we're constantly exploring ways to make our community more liveable, walkable and engaging for residents and visitors alike,” said Matt Thibodeaux, Executive Director of Midtown Houston. “We are excited about the various ways in which The Ion will encourage creativity and originality right here in the center of the city."
“Collaboration is key to accelerating the growth of Houston’s technology economy. The Ion will play an important role, serving the entire ecosystem as a place where those collaborations occur. Houston’s incubators and accelerators, universities, corporations and venture capitalists will have a hub to leverage the innovation taking place all across the Houston region,” said Harvin Moore, President, Houston Exponential.
About The Ion
The Ion (4201 Main Street) will anchor the 16-acre South Main Innovation District and is destined to become the epicenter for Houston’s innovation ecosystem as an inclusive, dynamic, vibrant and highly dense hub focusing on quality collaborations between entrepreneurs, incubators, accelerators, corporations and the academic community when it opens in early 2021. The 300,000-square-foot building will accommodate multiple uses, including shared workspace, prototyping and maker resources, event space, classrooms, food and beverage offerings as well as indoor/outdoor communal areas with shared amenities. For more information, please visit https://ionhouston.com.