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.

AbandonedBack 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 »

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3 responses to “Houston Startup Hopes to Create Tech Cluster, Rebuild Neighborhood”

  1. Rae says:

    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.

    • 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.

    • grvaughan says:

      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.