A Sign of Success? Startup Co-Working Space Start Houston Closes

Houston—Five years ago this month, Gaurav Khandelwal and Apurva Sanghavi opened the doors of Start Houston, a co-working space in the shadow of Houston’s downtown that hosted a monthly demo day for tech startups.

“There was a tremendous need,” Khandelwal says. “The meetups we were attending were at restaurants, bars, or in people’s homes all over the place. It was hard for the community to find a place to meet.”

Start, housed in a former garage in a still industrial portion of a gentrifying neighborhood, became that space. Last-Wednesday-of-the-month demo days attracted standing room only crowds, giving even the earliest of startup entrepreneurs access to investor feedback. One of the more notable pitches I heard in 2013 came from Joseph Kopser, hawking his transportation app Ridescout—which he sold a year later to Daimler AG, maker of the Mercedes-Benz.

As of Monday, Khandelwal told me, Start has closed its doors. As Houston’s tech ecosystem has grown and matured in the last few years, more places have cropped up for startups, mentors, and investors to congregate. From the medical cluster of the TMC Innovation Institute, JLabs @ TMC, and the AT&T Connected Health Foundry to Station Houston’s emphasis on tech startups, Start no longer had a purpose, he says.

“In some ways, that’s natural; it’s what you want to happen,” he says. “If we were still doing this, I would have said we’d failed.”

Khandelwal, who runs mobile app company ChaiOne, says he and Sanghavi (a real estate investor) are taking the summer off and then will decide how to engage with the broader startup community.

“We see our mission and goals shifting to take a more strategic role in terms of building the tech ecosystem,” he says.

And the two men are still investing in companies through the Start Innovation Network that it founded with Presidio Venture Capital in 2014.

Even as Start has closed, Khandelwal says one piece of the effort remains: the demo days begin anew Wednesday evening, this time at Station.

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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