Rebuilding Houston: Tech Tools Connect a City to Shelter, Food, & More

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affairs director and diversity advocate.

In fact, he says the startup has already been in talks about developing the next version of FEMA housing—picture the trailers seen in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005—with the federal agency for the last year. “We are designing a very specific unit for them at a lower price point that is not as high-tech and gadget-y as our usual units,” Martinez says. “This recovery effort is going to be years in the making. We plan on being a part of rebuilding throughout the process.”

While all this is going on, Blair Garrou, managing partner of Houston venture firm Mercury Fund, says he’s fielding requests from investors, founders, and others in the innovation community, who want to support their Houston counterparts. “They have either already given to a relief effort or they can’t give to relief efforts but they can give to entrepreneurial efforts,” he says.

So, on Monday, a group called Entrepreneurs for Houston launched a campaign to raise a $10 million fund. That money will be directed to both fund projects like Sketch City’s as well as potentially provide fellowships to individual entrepreneurs taking time away from their startups to help. Created in response to the disaster, the group was founded by Garrou, as well as 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.

“People who have been volunteering, they have to go back to their day jobs,” Garrou says. “And the work isn’t done—we have months of recovery left.”

As Houston digs in for the long haul of rebuilding, Sketch City’s Reichman says he would steer volunteers to one more website: These hours, considered “donated resources’ by FEMA, are eligible for federal funds that would go to the city of Houston for rebuilding projects.

“I would like to thank Sketch City, Station Houston, and all the civic technologists who generously and quickly joined our effort to spread accurate information during the storm,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a press release Tuesday about the website. “As we work through the weeks and months ahead, we look forward to continuing to benefit from their creativity and partnership.”

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