TechStreet, a Houston-Style SXSW, to Showcase City’s Startups

11/18/13Follow @angelashah

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an opportunity to change that image. This allows talent from other parts of the country to look at Houston in a different way.”

Organizers say today’s Houston is much different from the one Blue Lance’s Evans had to leave 14 years ago. In the last few years alone, a half-dozen accelerators, co-working spaces, and incubators have cropped up—each seeking to boost entrepreneurs and their ideas. (On Thursday, the two-year old energy tech accelerator, Surge, will host a house warming for its new and larger headquarters.)

Both Rice University and the University of Houston have ramped up educational programs geared to tie entrepreneurial-minded students to real-world mentors. And while the venture capital market is not as active as those in Silicon Valley or Boston, financiers are actively investing in promising leads.

“Houston TechStreet is a market that can better showcase what is happening to a grander audience,” says Chris Valentine, an event promoter for the conference who has worked in Austin with South By Southwest for the last six years. “There is so much happening … Houston is not taking advantage of that,” he added. “This is an opportunity to bring together the community.”

Certainly, Houston’s size—it is the nation’s fourth largest city and sprawls over 627 square miles—and the fragmented and diffuse efforts of its entrepreneurial scene can make it difficult to achieve a critical mass that commands attention. “Many people feel like these [existing] venues are not open or collaborative enough,” Evans says. “We want to put that to bed and make it clear that this is a platform where anyone in the Houston community can come and showcase their innovation.”

Khandelwal, who founded Chai One in 2008, was educated in India and lived in New York, but now makes Houston his home. “Houston has a good story but an old reputation,” he says.

His company recently purchased the old headquarters of Schlumberger in a faded industrial neighborhood east of downtown Houston that he and others hope to revitalize. He and his business partner, Apurva Sanghavi, plan to renovate the now shuttered Art Deco building and make it Chai One’s headquarters. The pair already runs Start Houston, a co-working space down the street in the same neighborhood.

His motivations and boostership of Houston are not entirely philanthropic. “Chai One, selfishly, needs talent,” he says. “Hopefully we can draw those people to Houston.”

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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