Celebrating Houston’s Startup Ecosystem

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The Bayou Startup Showcase, held Thursday at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, peered into the present and future of entrepreneurship in the nation’s fourth largest city.

The showcase is a collaboration between OwlSpark and Red Labs, the accelerator programs at Rice and the University of Houston, respectively. Teams from each school — made up of undergraduates, graduate students, alumni, even faculty members — pitched startup ideas to the Houston community after three months of rigorous business development.

The day was more than a showcase though; it was a celebration of Houston’s entrepreneurial community. So much so that the Mayor Annise Parker proclaimed August 14, 2014 as Houston Entrepreneurship Day.

“It wasn’t about allegiances,” said Travis Arnold, co-founder of Thermal Nomad, one of the teams from Red Labs. “It wasn’t about our individual universities, even. Above all, it was, ‘We believe in collaboration to foster the startup culture and grow the entrepreneurial community.’ And it was amazing.”

The startups covered a range of disciplines. HospiTable, for example, aims to create a more patient-friendly bedside experience by redesigning the hospital bedside table. Corners!, by Nexus Software, is a new “few-to-few” group photo-sharing social media app. OneJump is a platform that connects underserved high school students to educational enrichment opportunities.

Provost George McLendon of Rice University and Dean Latha Ramchand of the University of Houston Bauer School of Business addressed the crowd. Councilman Ed Gonzalez received a burst of applause when he announced the Mayoral proclamation. The hashtag #bss14 even started trending in Houston. Viewers all the way from Norway caught the live stream of the event.

The showcase was “instrumental in helping us find connections to Houstonians who are interested in helping us make our vision a reality,” said Karthik Soora, a co-founder of One Jump. This was a sentiment echoed by many.

The effort that went into the showcase was apparent. Next year, plan on the Bayou Startup Showcase being even bigger and better. After all, who knows what can happen when an owl and a cougar get together?

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