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

For Kim Evans, boosting the Houston startup scene is personal.

In 1999, she left BMC Software to found her own startup, Covasoft, but venture capitalists told her she would have to relocate to Austin before they would invest. “My VCs felt Houston was a poor choice for a tech startup because of the lack of talent and supporting services and infrastructure,” Evans says.

She moved, and Covasoft ended up raising $21 million in funding. Three years later, the startup was shut down and its assets purchased by Tonic Software, also in Austin. The company was short-lived, but the indictment against Houston stuck with her.

“I don’t think anyone, whether it’s Houston or any community, should have to leave,” says Evans, who is now president of Blue Lance, a business consultancy in Houston. “We can be with entrepreneurs locally and support their growth from ideation to launch.”

That goal has led to an effort called “TechStreet Houston,” a sort of South By Southwest geared to the Bayou City—and a conference that aims to highlight innovation in medicine and energy, as well as technology.

The daylong conference is on Wednesday, Nov. 20, and includes panels on personalized medicine and independent science research, innovating within large corporations, and what organizers call “practical” innovations in nanotechnology, such as a University of Houston professor who has developed what he calls a better way to waterproof surfaces.

A Houston version of Hatch Pitch, which began in Austin at South By Southwest, will also be held at TechStreet. Over the course of the afternoon, a dozen startups will present before successful entrepreneurs and investors.

Gaurav Khandelwal, a mobile IT entrepreneur in Houston, is part of the planning committee with Evans, and shares a similar story. When he first started his startup, Chai One, he was repeatedly told that he should move to Austin or San Francisco—that a tech startup had no place in Houston, a place more known for the Texas Medical Center, considered the world’s largest health care center, and for being a global node of the energy industry. “What’s missing is a spark, a spark that can bring all of this together,” he says. “TechStreet is … Next Page »

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