Houston Startup Hopes to Create Tech Cluster, Rebuild Neighborhood

10/4/13Follow @angelashah

When Gaurav Khandelwal opened the doors to Start Houston last year, its neighbors included a carpet outlet warehouse, food-distribution companies, and an industrial tool supplier.

The gritty environs of warehouses and out-of-service railroad tracks in the optimistically named “EaDo” neighborhood—presumably hipper than “East of Downtown”—are not the sort you usually associate with a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity.

But Khandelwal sees promise among the hulking buildings. Last month, he purchased another one on Delano Street, a gutted art deco structure that he says will be the headquarters of his mobile IT startup, ChaiOne, by next spring.

“I want to put Houston on the map for technology startups,” Khandelwal says. “I want to drive some energy into the community.”

ChaiOne will spend about $3 million buying and refurbishing the building, an effort that Khandelwal and city officials believe will be not only the keystone for Houston’s newest startup ecosystem, but a jump-start to the development of a long-neglected city neighborhood.

“This is right in line with what we need to see happening in the district,” says Anton Sinkewich, executive director of the East Downtown Management District, which supervises redevelopment in this part of Houston.

ChaiOne would be … Next Page »

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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  • Rae

    While
    I’m happy to see new development in EaDo, this article is a bit
    misleading. Sure, parts of the area contain ugly buildings and some
    areas aren’t at their highest and best use, but it’s not a wasteland!
    There are half-million dollar town homes just down the Street from
    Start! And surrounding this new facility location there are dozens of $250,000 brand new town homes. During the day, the area is hopping with industry. As a
    resident, I love how quiet the area is at night and on weekends; it
    really feels like a neighborhood and there are always people walking
    their dogs, running and riding bikes. This new business will help
    contribute to the betterment of the area, and it’s appreciated, but they
    aren’t “saving” us like the article implies. There are many other
    companies and home builders who are contributing quite significantly as
    well.

    • http://www.xconomy.com/texas Angela Shah

      Hi Rae. Thanks for reading. I don’t think this article conveys that we think the area is a wasteland. I mention the townhomes and bars and restaurants that are there now, that are currently helping to change things. Certainly, this is an area in transition. While there is nothing wrong with the industrial type businesses that are located there, there is opportunity for the area to adopt higher and better uses for the land, something that would bring in more tax revenue to the area and contribute to a virtuous cycle of growth. ChaiOne’s efforts there symbolize that, and that is the purpose of the story.

    • http://google.com/profiles/gordonrvaughan grvaughan

      As a native Houstonian who’s been out in Sugar Land for decades, I’m having a hard time keeping up with the many positive changes happening downtown. I understand where the article’s coming from, it certainly speaks to the (mis?)perception many of us still have about east downtown, at least since the decline of the original Chinatown.

      There’s a good deal of skepticism in many oldtimers’ minds since earlier efforts to revitalize the area fell flat. Failure of the GRBCC to stimulate growth and the Mercado debacle are two examples.

      But things are different now, and I commend Gaurav Khandelwal for having the vision to try to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem. There’s not many places in sprawling Houston where you have relatively cheap space plus close access to universities, major businesses and so on, but maybe he’s found the spot.

      If we can just get the tree started, I’m sure in Houston’s dynamic economy, it will take off from there.