Houston 2035: Innovative Cities Make Diversity A Growth Engine

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will begin to flex its muscles as well, namely through what he expects will be an IPO from Alert Logic. The Houston cloud security company was founded a decade ago and Mercury was one of its first investors.

A public offering will create a cluster of future IT CEOs and founders, Garrou said. Other entrepreneurs will create software and hardware to innovate within the legal, insurance, and restaurant industries.

In addition to high-level discussions on economic and urban development, Houston 2035 featured individuals who are innovating throughout the world. Take, for instance, Rebecca Richards-Kortum, a Rice University professor whose work has led to the development of a much cheaper “bubble CPAP” machine that is saving premature babies in sub-Saharan Africa.

She said that such development, which aids the world’s poorest, is also helpful closer to home. “Seven percent of the poorest 10 percent are from the United States,” she added.

Bonnie Dunbar, who leads the University of Houston’s STEM Center and Science Engineering Fair Houston, spoke about her journey growing up on a farm in rural Washington state to a highly coveted perch as a NASA astronaut. “Today, fewer than five percent of undergraduates are engineers,” she said. “We have an inspiration problem.”

Making Houston an innovation destination takes more than researchers and scientists, said Atul Varadhachary, managing partner at Fannin Innovation Studio. “All components of the ecosystem must participate in the framing of this discussion.”

Simrit Parmar, an MD Anderson oncologist and a founder of Platform Houston, pointed to efforts such as the MEST conference, a gathering of specialists in medicine, energy, space, and technology. Parmar founded the conference in 2013.

Those efforts are key, said Henk Mooiweer, with Shell Gamechanger. “We need to force serendipity, force dot-connection,” he said. “We need more stories on challenges. They’re better than success stories. That’s how you build motivation.”

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