‘We Can’t Lose Them’: Supporting Houston’s Tech Ecosystem Post-Harvey

Houston—Like many living in the Houston area, Blair Garrou and his fellow partners at venture firm Mercury Fund were receiving a deluge of calls and texts asking how they could help people coping with the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey.

The result is an effort announced late Wednesday called “Entrepreneurs for Houston,” a group put together by Garrou; John Reale, Station Houston CEO; Jeff Reichman, founder of Sketch City; Carolyn Rodz, founder of the Circular Board; and Erik Halvorsen, director of the Texas Medical Center’s Innovation Institute.

“We want to channel funds that are coming in from outside of Houston into one place,” Garrou says. “We chose the mayor’s relief fund where we believe most of [that funding] will go directly to the people who need it most. The mayor has been the de facto leader of this whole tech and innovation renaissance and we wanted to be supportive of his efforts.”

(On Tuesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the creation of the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.)

Garrou says the group has already received contributions from national entrepreneurial organizations such as the Kauffman Fund, the National Venture Capital Association, and “dozens of VC firms.”

In the longer term, Garrou says the group wants to work on ways to help keep Houston’s innovation ecosystem in Houston. While some entrepreneurs and investors may relocate to other communities in the short term, he says “people stay because they have a job.”

“We’ve got to keep these entrepreneurs and innovators in Houston,” Garrou says. “This will be the activity that launches a new seed fund in town, to put money towards promising entrepreneurs.”

To Garrou, such an effort is less about any financial opportunity and more about doing what it takes to keep Houston’s innovation community in Houston. “We can’t lose them,” he says.

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