Despite being the largest city in the state with a high concentration of high-net-worth individuals, venture capital investment in Houston have historically lagged behind Dallas and Austin. The Houston Investor Catalyst Series - launched by ecosystem leaders at the TMC Innovation Institute and Station Houston - is an initiative aimed at reversing this trend by educating Houston’s existing investor network, connecting them with local technology startups, and to serve as a starting point for potential investors.
“In the three years since the inception of our TMCx startup accelerator program, we’ve seen three successful exits, and we don’t see that slowing down. Based on the quality of companies that emerge locally, and those that we actively recruit from countries all over the world, we’re expecting one to two exits per year. There are high-quality investment opportunities right here in Houston,” said Erik Halverson, Director of the TMC Innovation Institute. Halverson also serves on the investment committee of the recently launched $25-million TMC Venture Fund.
In addition to institutional investment groups like the TMC Venture Fund, the program also highlighted opportunities with investment syndicates - where multiple parties pool resources to make one larger investment - like Station Houston Ventures, Houston Angel Network, GOOSE Society and the Rice Alliance for Technology & Entrepreneurship.
“There’s a multiplier effect in bringing people together to invest through syndicates. It’s great for founders and equally for investors. Catalyzing these groups is core to the ecosystem and ultimately a way to make money. At the end of the day, profitability is the key to sustainability,” said John (JR) Reale, Co-founder and CEO of Station Houston. JR is also the General Partner for Station Houston Ventures, which has closed five early-stage technology investments totaling $1.6 million.
Joe Alapat, Co-founder and CEO of Liongard, an enterprise automation software startup, shared his insights and experiences on raising capital almost exclusively from Houston-based investors. Liongard closed its seed round this past May, and Station Houston Ventures was its largest investor.
“During this process, I had several people tell me that they had never been approached to consider investing in a technology startup before. Therefore, a lot of time wasn’t spent on pitching the business, but on educating people on terms and terminology for the investment. There are a lot of individual investors who want to invest and see higher returns than more traditional investments vehicles, but have no idea these types opportunities exist,” Alapat explained during the fireside chat portion of the breakfast.
Pitches from startup founders Mark Walton, CEO of Gorilla Safety, and Werner Voster, CEO of Vitls, closed out the program. Gorilla Safety, a fleet management software platform that enables trucking operations to comply with government regulations and Vitls, a wearable device that monitors and reports on a handful of patient vital signs seamlessly, are both currently raising capital for their seed rounds.
The next installment of the Houston Investor Catalyst Series is scheduled for October 5. If you’re an accredited investor interested in learning more about investment opportunities in the startup and technology space, submit your information below to request details.