Workshops Illustrate Growth of Houston Startup Scene

7/31/13Follow @angelashah

The Dog Days of August are soon upon us, but the startup scene in Houston is not showing any sign of slowing down.

The Saturday afternoon traffic was brisk across Morningside Drive. And it wasn’t just the patrons of the bars and restaurants in the Rice Village, a shopping center tucked in between the Texas Medical Center and Rice University. Both Platform Houston, a co-working space for life science and medical startups, and Brightwork CoResearch, also a co-working space but with a Biosafety Level-2 lab, were hosting separate workshops geared to boost budding entrepreneurs. Significantly, each event was standing-room-only.

“We didn’t have this kind of activity in Houston just a few years go,” says Billy Cohn, the famed Houston heart surgeon and medtech innovator.

We’ll hear more about my interview with Cohn and his latest invention in a story next week, but this particular observation of his is apt, and one that is being echoed loudly and repeatedly by others in Houston’s startup ecosystem. While Houston has long been known as the home to Big Energy and one of the world’s largest medical centers, its entrepreneurs in those sectors are only recently proving to be an economic force on their own, and are filling up the calendar with hackathons, workshops, and meetups.

Women ranging in age from 10 to well past middle-age crammed into Brightwork’s as of yet un-renovated space for an introductory course in programming using Ruby on Rails, an open-source web-application framework. This was the first Houston workshop for Rails Girls, a program started by a Finnish woman keen on bringing more women into software development.

About 60 people pecked away on their laptops as 10 coaches—mostly male, I saw—taught programming basics and explained its jargon, pointed out the difference between Java and Javascript, and encouraged them to sign up for monthly meetings of the Houston Ruby Brigade. Grace Rodriguez, co-founder of Houston’s C2 Creative co-working space, urged the audience to raise their arms in a victory sign as she invoked the tao of Sheryl Sandberg.

“Speak up; encourage other women to speak up,” she says. “Female developers are so hot right now. Take advantage of it.”

Jacob Shiach, who founded Brightwork last month, says

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Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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  • pdna95

    Houston’s got a bright future

  • Angeles Calderon

    Wow clanography sounds interesting!