Startup community news from Houston, Texas, USA

Houston Startup District 2.0

Houston Startup District 2.0

There’s an interesting conversation that just started on Facebook by Hesam Panahi about creating a Startup District in Houston. It was prompted by an Austin-American Statesman article about Mass Relevance, lead by CEO Sam Decker, a Capital Factory mentor, moving his startup to Downtown Austin.

Here’s what we have so far:

Hesam Panahi about an hour ago near Houston ·

Will Houston ever get to this? Hopefully. : Austin startup Mass Relevance moving downtown as prepares for a new wave of growth

Mass Relevance, a fast-growing social media marketing startup, has leased 12,000 square feet at 800 Brazos St. The space is more than double the size of the company’s current offices at Braker Lane and North MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1). The company is planning a November move-in date.
Shion Deysarkar We need to have a stronger “development and design community” first
Marc Nathan I agree with Shion Deysarkar – we need more people who care more about clustering their startups in one area. Having a cluster of like-minded startup people including developers, designers and ‘biz dev’ types would be great as long as the implicit agreement held that those companies could poach talent freely from each other. To get the equivalent of Houston’s Sam Decker moving a large startup to a single area, we’d have to identify a place to go and the like-minded entrepreneurs to follow. In Houston, that means collecting and attracting established startups with 50-200 staff members like AlertLogic, FuelQuest, CPanel, CyrusOne, Universal Weather, Merrick Systems, RigNet, SnapStream, Schipul, MicroSeismic and Idera. This would be hard to do since Energy Corridor businesses have different needs than Medical Center startups. Back in 2007-2008, Kurt Stoll floated the idea of a ‘Startup District’ that started at the Houston Technology Center and ended at Caroline Collective – with CoffeeGroundz in between. We all know that Houston is much more spread out than just about any other city and for this reason and more than a little bit of politics – a Startup District would be very difficult to sustain. The key to this is reaching out to building owners and tenant reps to plant the seed for this kind of thing – maybe a homegrown startup like TheSquareFoot could help lead the charge.

Do you think that this is important, and if so, what we can do to make this happen? Personally, I do and I think that Greenway Plaza / Rice Village area have the best shot at being central enough to most Houstonians to make this work.



  • Totally agree. May be cliche, but great minds do think alike. I was discussing this very topic just the other day. But the resounding question is where? Startups are different than established companies whether vc backed or not. If you are a startup you are probably on a shoestring budget and the areas referenced may not be quite suitable based on their budget. If we are talking about innovative, young companies that have money to spare that ‘s a different story. I’d support it either way…we just need to get iRent2u’s sales up 😉

  • I love the idea of having a Houston Startup-District, I just don’t think Rice Village and Greenway Plaza is the region to do it. Those neighborhoods are already congested and the costs to lease or purchase commercial space is extremely high.

    I made a public Google map of the startup venues/co-working spaces I’m most familiar with: (feel free to suggest additional locations to add to the map)

    If you look at the map, you’ll see we really already have this start-up district forming: Caroline Collective, C2Creative, START Houston, Co-Inside, and Houston Technology Center are all in a region just outside of downtown Houston.

    From my perspective, our biggest issue really falls around the lack of public transportation for those who live in the Woodlands, Katy, Tomball, Clear Lake, etc.

    I’d like to see a better thought out commuter plan from Metro that provides public transportation options to get from the suburbs (Clear Lake, Woodlands, Katy, Sugarland, etc) to downtown and to the area co-working offices. The new green link bus might be able to adjust the route as one possible suggestion.

    Another benefit of having the district just outside of/around downtown is that the co-working spaces can reach out to business travelers coming in who may need a place to work and meet with clients.

  • While an interesting idea, I don’t believe a startup district is a requirement. Today’s companies are becoming less and less dependent on geographically centralized services and employee bases. I also see Mass Relevance as an example of a high growth startup with aspirations to provide a work environment which helps to retain talent. I don’t believe their interests in the downtown area were based upon being part of a startup cluster, but rather an area which is attractive to employees, and has financial incentives built in.

  • Love this convo and can’t wait to have it in person. I believe that geographic proximity is important, because it allows for serendipity and naturally building relationships over time. Whether looking for new hires, investors or co-founders, it’s always better to have a ‘line’ than a ‘point’. I think proximity facilitates this.

  • Marc, interesting note and thanks for the mention.

    The spread out nature of the city hasn’t hamstrung the development of other clusters such as the Energy Corridor and the Medical Center as you mentioned. And while startups catering to either of those groups surely have some differing needs, they also have many similarities that all startups go through and being around an ecosystem that provides that is invaluable. The coworking spaces in Houston mentioned above are a nice start but the startup scene in Houston still doesnt have an analog like what they are trying to create in Austin or what is already seen in places like Silicon Alley in NYC.

    I agree that as more startups in Houston become more than just startups it would be great to see them cluster more….and we would of course love to help!

  • Very timely topic. Thank you Sarah for mentioning CoInside as a part of the “start-up district”. We are committed to supporting independents and small companies that not only want to start up, but those who are established and striving to grow. As to the issue of making these “start-up district” areas accessible to the outlying neighborhoods via public transportation, maybe the approach should be two-fold. Metro should provide a better solution on the supply-side. But it’s probably equally effective to work on the demand-side. Perhaps if freelancers, independents and those planning startups knew that all the action was taking place in the “start-up district” and they strived to be in house, then they might seek to have a more convenient way to get there rather than slogging I-10, 45 and other freeways. Just a thought.


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