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Texas Startup Communities Expanding, Accelerating Into a Whole

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Greenville, SC-based coding school The Ironyard graduated its first set of Houston students who pitched Web-based projects such as an invoice-and-billing management tool for hourly employees and an e-retail site for exotic jewelry. The next Google? Likely not, but a solid step in building a foundation that nurtures entrepreneurial efforts, say Sanghavi and others.

Up the road north of Houston in College Station, TX, a new accelerator called Seed Sumo made its debut last week. Bryan Bulte and his three co-founders are from Austin and thought about setting up their accelerator in the Texas capital. But they saw a market gap in College Station, which is also home to Texas A&M University. “There’s just really nothing here,” he says. “There’s a great university here; we’re in a brand-new building. It made sense to leverage that and to leverage our network here.”

Out-of-state accelerators see the opportunity in Texas as well. The biggest and most well-known of this group is Boulder, CO-based Techstars. Its Austin hub, which was established last year, recently hosted startups for a second annual pitch day. Among the startup ideas that made their debut: software for making tax filing easier, a beer-brewing robot, and a discount broker for freight shipping.

Along with private-sector endeavors, state universities have stepped up efforts to engage with startup communities at large. The University of Houston’s RedLabs and OwlSpark at Rice University held a joint demo day this year and also shared mentoring sessions for the student entrepreneurs. And on Wednesday, the Austin Technology Incubator at the University of Texas will live-stream the demo day for its Student Entrepreneur Acceleration and Launch program.

All in all, Garrou says, the Texas activity is following what’s happening nationally, especially when it comes to sector-focused accelerators, like Surge, an energy IT accelerator founded three years ago by Xconomist Kirk Coburn. Since then, Texas has seen the formation of a number of so-called niche from Incubation Station, which is focused on consumer-products startups, to Health Wildcatters in Dallas.

What’s more, the Texas Medical Center is in the planning stages of setting up what’s likely to be a medtech accelerator as part of its innovation center.

“This is a continuation of the work that people have already done before we started,” says Franklin of Houston Health Ventures. “These groups were attacking different pieces and components of it. We’re getting to the point where all those pieces and parts are starting to add up.”

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