Houston Tech’s Relief Efforts For Harvey Morph Into Ongoing Support

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innovation hubs. The HX Venture Fund is looking to raise as much as $50 million from corporate investors with the idea of seeding that money into venture firms that would seek to invest in Houston startups.

Guillermo Borda, the fund’s manager, says he expects to be able to announce a new investor in the fund by early fall. Additionally, Exponential Houston absorbed the Houston Technology Center, the city’s first organization devoted to startup development.

—As the storm stalled over Houston, the co-working space Station Houston became the staging area for a group of the city’s technologists who developed websites and apps to assist emergency management authorities in rescuing the stranded and connecting those people to available shelter and other resources as efficiently as possible. Two of the websites—Report Your Hours and My Harvey Needs —are still live and being used to aid Harvey victims. Denise Hamilton, founder and CEO of WatchHerWork in Houston, founded My Harvey Needs. She says the website has been transferred to Bread of Life, a Houston non-profit. “They’re still in the day-to-day of that business—serving meals and doing coat and clothing drives,” Hamilton says. “They are walking the neighborhoods and assessing needs, so that is a good place for My Harvey Needs to be.”

As the immediate urgency of needs from the storm has passed, the ties between the tech community and government agencies continue to get stronger, says Sketch City’s Reichman, who led many of the civic tech projects during the storm.

“We know that we’re going to have another disaster,” he says. “Now there is this tech community that can rise up and do stuff to help.”

—Edtech startup Civitas Learning, along with other higher education institutions, banded together to support crowdfunding and other efforts to help college students with emergency needs in order to help them weather the disruptions caused by the storm and stay in school. In October, the fund started with $50,000, but ended up raising nearly $1 million, says Mark Milliron, Civitas’ co-founder. About 90 percent of that funding has been donated to needy students at 35 institutions, he added.

“The whole idea was get it out as quickly as possible,” he says, adding that Civitas is trying to raise an internal challenge match to reach the $1 million tally. “It was about not letting bureaucracy get in the way.”

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