Station Houston Hires Ex-Thiel Executive, Marks Growth Milestones

Houston—Like the startups it was founded to help, Station Houston has hit a few milestones that executives say point to the growth of the technology startup hub.

For one, Station has brought on Jessica Whitman Hart, a former executive at PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel’s investment firm Thiel Capital, as a keystone to formally hire and set up its executive team since launching nearly six months ago. And the co-working space’s owners have invested about $200,000 into Station Houston and are looking to raise an additional $200,000 in the next few weeks.

“We’re really focused on operational efficiency and process, and solidifying the way we run the business was key for us to fulfill the mission and how we’re going to build out the startup density in Houston,” says John Reale, Station’s managing director.

Hart’s previous experience at Thiel, as well as in startup ecosystems in New York and San Francisco, gives Station a needed perspective as it develops programming to boost young tech startups outside of the medical and energy sectors in the city, he added.

In March, the co-working space—which is located in the former home of Surge Ventures in midtown Houston—began with about 25 member companies. The idea was to blend the physical hub created by co-working spaces with the programming that accompanies typical accelerator programs. At the time, co-founder Emily Keeton told me that Houston lacked such an effort for young technology startups to have access to the sort of “knowledge transfer” that occurs when there is density of young companies working with and talking to each other.

(While Keeton recently announced she is now co-head of mergers and acquisitions at IAC, the New York media company, she will retain her board position at Station.)

Today, Reale says about 50 startups are members, straining the co-working space’s capacity and prompting a search for new digs. In the last six months, member companies have raised $16 million, he says.

So far, Station has attracted a cluster of edtech and cybersecurity companies as well as startups in solar technologies and cleantech operations. Reale says their own recent and ongoing experience researching and launching Station helps them connect to member companies that are going through the same processes. “We’ve been able to learn and acquire a lot of best practices, which we can then share with our members,” he says.

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