Workshops Illustrate Growth of Houston Startup Scene
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he was motivated to bring Rails Girls to Houston after noticing female participation in the tech scene around him dwindled once he left St. Thomas University and entered the working world. The 20-something Shiach says he’s been to meetings where the men literally cluster among themselves to the point of excluding any woman in the room.
“In my computer science classes at St. Thomas, there were 10 girls for every two guys but when I started going to executive meetings, it was 20 guys and Amanda,” he says, referring to his Brightwork colleague, Amanda Shih, who led Saturday’s seminar. “This idea that women aren’t interested or capable in programming is ridiculous.”
Platform Houston brought in Brian Meece, founder of New York-based crowdfunding site Rockethub, to coach local startups on how to create an effective crowdfunding pitch. The fledgling companies’ products ranged from apps to jump start job searches using social connections to a company selling techniques and tools to better care for preemies.
One attendee, Roxanne Pirooz, says the workshop helped frame how crowdfunding could help both raise money and serve as customer validation for startup ideas. Her project is called Clanography—think a more archival Facebook, where photos are not down-sized and security is tighter, but with the community-grouping ability you find in Google circles.
The projects are still raw, as Pirooz would readily admit. Simrit Parmar, Platform’s founder, says they are re-editing pitch videos this week to make them more presentable. Once the entrepreneurs polish their presentations, they can upload them to a dedicated web page on Rockethub’s site in a partnership between Platform and the crowdfunding company.
“You’re seeing a shift away from New York and Silicon Alley, and Silicon Valley,” says Meece, an artist and ukulele player who founded Rockethub in 2009. “Houston is emblematic of the rise of the middle market.”