Houston—Six months ago, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, flooding much of the city and forcing the sudden evacuation of tens of thousands from their homes. To help with recovery and relief, the city’s tech community came together to create websites and apps to help rescue people and connect them to relief efforts. Tech groups also set up funds to sustain those efforts. Let’s catch up with where they are now.
—As Harvey stalled and ultimately dumped nearly 52 inches of water onto the greater Houston area, Mercury Fund’s Blair Garrou told me he and other tech leaders were concerned that the disruption would adversely affect startup founders and other members of the city’s burgeoning tech scene. That concern gave rise to a new organization, “Entrepreneurs for Houston,” (E4H) which Garrou founded along with Station Houston CEO JR Reale; Erik Halvorsen, director of the Texas Medical Center’s Innovation Institute; Sketch City founder Jeff Reichman; and Carolyn Rodz, founder and CEO of Alice. The idea was to create a fund that would be used to deploy technology to help civic and social groups meet needs after the storm.
The group launched with the goal of raising $10 million, but Elena White, who was hired in November to be E4H’s executive director, says the organization decided to focus first on defining its mission before spending the $12,000 it has raised so far.
White says the group has not spent time on further fundraising, but instead has been interacting with social services and civic groups trying to understand their technology needs. “I’m focused on understanding the system’s challenges, and then let’s raise the money to fix those challenges,” White says.
(She also points out that E4H spent much of its efforts in the storm’s aftermath calling attention to the broader Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund set up by city and county leaders, which raised more than $112 million, according to media reports.)
White says she hopes to develop a strategy—and, perhaps, have some pilot projects in place by April to provide sustainable help to the fund’s target organizations.
—The E4H effort eventually marked the beginning of what would become an umbrella civic organization called Houston Exponential, which also launched a fund-of-funds that organizers hope will bring additional venture capital to Houston entrepreneurs, and elevate the city to join the ranks of the nation’s top … Next Page »