Start Houston, Presidio Unveil New Network to Fund Local Tech Startups

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there like that out there that we can’t get to in a demo day?” Khandelwal asks.

James Tao, Presidio’s founder, says he’s seen Start Houston grow since the beginning. “We invested in one of Start’s first tenants two and a half years ago, a Vietnamese iced coffee brand, Caphin,” he says. “The demo days were just picking up. It was sparse, empty. We’ve seen the growth from there and we knew that Start was building something special.”

Tao says he, like Khandelwal and Sanghavi, wants to help boost Houston’s tech startup community. “We’re very similar in our thinking,” he says.

After stints in New York with financial institutions like Barclays, Tao decided to move back home to Houston where he started his wealth management firm in 2009. (That firm started Presidio as a venture arm three years later.)

In the last year, he has invested in two startup-related projects, including a three-way partnership with a fund to boost technologies at the University of Houston and a new accelerator focused on healthcare-related startups.

The Start Investment Network funding is open essentially to any Houston tech startup, though Khandelwal says they will likely support companies in or near sectors in their wheelhouses—mobile for Khandelwal, real estate for Sanghavi. “We’re likely not to support the next Tindr, but instead a mobile company doing the next billing solution,” Khandelwal says. “We’re not venture capitalists. But we’re good at understanding from an operational standpoint. We’re risk-takers and can judge the management team.”

The men will act as the first vet for any startup that comes through. Then, the deal would be opened up to the full Start Investment Network, which contains about 100 members, who would access them through MicroVentures, a crowdfunding platform. Start announced its partnership with the Austin, TX-based company in August.

Start Houston and Presidio are also working on fitting out Start’s new headquarters. Last year, Khandelwal announced that his firm, mobile apps company ChaiOne, would be buying and restoring a gutted Art Deco building, which was built in 1934 to be the first headquarters of the Schlumberger Well Surveying Corporation.

The building, which is scheduled to be ready for occupancy in February, will be home to both ChaiOne and Start Houston. Tao says Presidio is contributing about $150,000 to fitting out the co-working space’s new digs.

The men say these efforts not only boost the Houston startup community but also keeps much-needed engineering and programming talent in Houston. “We don’t have to wait to be 60 years old and have something worth a billion dollars before we can give back,” Khandelwal says. “We want to attract tech talent to Houston now.”

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