Harvey Roundup: JLabs, Silicon Labs, Co-Working Refuges, & More

[Updated: 9/1/17 1:59 pm. See below.Houston—The waters are starting to recede from Tropical Storm Harvey, but the work to get Houston and southeast Texas back up to speed is only starting.

To help with that, technology communities across Texas are offering aid in the form of free co-working space, discounted rides, a corps of volunteers, and more. Here is a roundup of some of those activities:

—Civic tech group Sketch City continued to bring together software programmers and web designers in Houston and around the country putting their skills to use. The group, using the Slack channel #harvey, have created interactive maps and websites to connect people trapped in their homes with rescue boats and the displaced with available places at shelters. The group has also compiled an omnibus list of resources including information about area hospitals, airports, grocery stores. Amina Qutub, founder of Houston health IT startup DiBS, is helping with a project to take a survey of the region’s relief needs.

—[New item added.] The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation announced Friday it is launching the Rebuild Texas Fund, pledging to raise $100 million. The foundation is led by Dell Computer founder Michael Dell and his wife, who together pledged $36 million. The foundation said it will match $1 for every $2 in donations for the first $36 million raised by the end of Labor Day weekend. Dell, who founded his company in his dorm room at the University of Texas Austin, grew up in the Houston neighborhood of Meyerland, which was one of the harder hit areas by Tropical Storm Harvey.

—On Wednesday, a group of Houston tech leaders announced “Entrepreneurs for Houston,” an effort to help direct donations from innovation ecosystems around the country. Blair Garrou, founder and managing partner at venture firm Mercury Fund, says that the National Venture Capital Association, the Kauffman Foundation, and “dozens of VC firms” have already made donations.

CompUDopt, a Houston organization that takes laptops and other computer equipment being phased out by corporations and gives them to under-privileged children, has set up a computer lab at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. The building is being used as a shelter and housing 10,000 people—twice what the Red Cross had planned for. “This was a great opportunity for us to come out and provide kids a chance to be kids and give parents a break,” CompUDopt’s executive director Megan Steckly wrote to me in an e-mail. “When we set up the kid zone we realized that parents were also needing just a moment of normalcy—a chance to check e-mail, Facebook, and make sure their other family and friends were safe, too, while of course sharing their own stories with those worried about them.”

—Johnson & Johnson Innovation announced that its Houston outpost, JLabs @ TMC will be donating the proceeds of all of its events through the end of the year for Hurricane Harvey victims.

Austin Inno reports that Tyson Tuttle, the CEO of Silicon Labs, has pledged $50,000 to kick off the Austin High Tech Challenge to benefit the Red Cross. “We are expecting many more impacted people to seek refuge in Austin,” he wrote in his post. “From startups to major corporations, we need to come together and contribute.”

—A number of Austin startups have announced free or reduced prices to help people going to donate blood (Fasten) or those who are sending food and coffee to evacuees, rescue workers, and volunteers (Favor). RideAustin says it will match any “round up” donations made through its service in September to Harvey relief efforts.

Care Convene, a Michigan-based telemedicine company, says it is offering free online doctor’s visits for those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The three-year-old startup has developed technology that enables patients to have short virtual appointments with virtual doctors via on-demand and HIPAA-compliant chat and video.

—Several co-working spaces in Austin and Dallas  say they will offer displaced entrepreneurs free co-working space. These groups include the Austin Coworking Alliance, which is made up of 45 co-working spaces, WeWork’s locations in Dallas and Austin, Capital Factory, Galvanize, and the Dallas Entrepreneur Center. (The Austin Business Journal has a full list of the co-working spaces here.)


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