For decades, Silicon Valley has held a monopoly on the tech startup industry. Some of the most successful companies of recent decades have come out of the Valley, and more startups spring from the area than anywhere else in the world. However, launching a startup in the Valley has always had severe limitations, especially for Black and brown founders.
The most obvious limitation is the prohibitive cost of living in Silicon Valley. With an average house price near $1 million and the average rent inching closer and closer to $3000, merely surviving has been a significant stress factor for most young entrepreneurs in the city. Silicon Valley’s enduring legacy of racial and gender discrimination has made everyday life particularly uncomfortable for many non-male, non-white startup founders.
Over the past few years, the tech industry in cities like Seattle, Austin, and, more recently, Atlanta, have exploded. Yet, the industry seems to have overlooked one city with enormous potential: Houston, TX.
Houston has long been the domain of the oil and gas and aerospace industries. Exxon Mobil has a massive campus in Spring, a town on the northern side of the city. Johnson Space Center is a mere 45-minute drive south of the city. Not to mention, 22 Fortune 500 companies have headquarters in Houston. For budding entrepreneurs, Houston could be an ideal location to plant and launch a business.
Cost of Living
According to Smart Asset, the median house price in Houston, TX, is $237,900, while the average studio apartment rents for $735. Texas also has no state income tax, although sales and property taxes are higher than the national average, at 8.25 percent and 2.12 percent, respectively. A single ride on Houston’s public transit system costs only $1.25, while a day pass costs $3.
The tech industry can tap into the incredible talent pools that Houston’s high-quality universities and Fortune 500 companies supply. The HBCU Texas Southern University and the prestigious Rice University are both in Houston. Additionally, several prominent coding boot camps have campuses in Houston — namely, Flatiron School, General Assembly, and Digital Crafts. Sites like HTX Talent offer great insights to the tech jobs available in the city and can be a source of tech talent for your own startup.
Wallet Hub recently named Houston America’s “Most Diverse City,” ahead of even New York City and Los Angeles. Houston’s blossoming tech scene is full of ambitious young Black entrepreneurs looking to make a difference in their community. Operations like Station Houston and Novel Coworking are great places to connect with other minority founders and industry resources. The City of Houston is also building The Ion, a 270,000-square foot tech hub in the planned South Main Innovation District that is set to open in 2021.
Great For Minority Business Owners
Over the past few years, Houston has been recognized several times as an excellent place for minority-owned businesses. In early 2019, Lending Tree ranked Houston #11 in a list of cities in which minority businesses are most successful. Their report indicated that 46.7 percent of minority-owned businesses have revenues of $500k or more, and 56.2 percent of minority-owned businesses have been in operation for more than six years.
As a recent transplant to the city, I’ve been enjoying exploring all that Houston has to offer. On top of everything else, it was 75 degrees here on Christmas Day. I wore a sundress to Christmas dinner. What more can you ask for?