Houston Startup Hopes to Create Tech Cluster, Rebuild Neighborhood
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the first professional services company to be located in EaDo. And the startup’s purchase of this particular building is a grace note that ties the present with Houston’s entrepreneurial past: The edifice was built in 1934 to be the first headquarters of the Schlumberger Well Surveying Corporation, which has become a global, multibillion-dollar energy services company.
“This was an opportunity not to just tear down and build something new, but to restore a piece of Houston’s history as an oil and gas mecca,” Khandelwal says.
Back before it was called “EaDo,” this area was Texas’ largest Chinatown, a nucleus of Asian immigrants who began coming to the city following the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943. But when US 59 separated EaDo from downtown Houston, along with a general development climate that favored suburban expansion, the Chinese moved out to the southwest part of the city.
In 1999, the Texas Legislature established special taxing districts to boost economic development in neglected neighborhoods. In the years sincthe trappings of a community have begun to sprout: small clusters of townhomes and loft apartments, an art gallery, and the beginning of a new bike trail. The stadium for Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamos opened here last year, and a crop of eateries and bars have followed to cater to fans and residents.
“I love to work out of here,” Khandelwal says. “Where else can we find the space for ChaiOne’s future growth?”
Each month, Start’s demo days attract a standing-room-only crowd of eager techies pumping kegs from local St. Arnold’s brewery as startups from across the state speed through their pitches. Start is a catalyst to help fledgling entrepreneurs take flight, Khandelal says. Why shouldn’t this ethos trickle out to the neighborhood?
“This is how we keep talent in Houston,” he says. “This could create a critical mass.”
But, since this is Houston, ChaiOne’s beachhead is just one in a sprawling metropolis that’s home to more than 5 million people.
Across Interstate 45, in what’s known as Midtown, another cluster has formed, … Next Page »