The thinking & the opportunity
Houston’s innovation initiatives have been tremendously impactful over the past 6 years… we just recently were ranked a top 5 emerging ecosystem globally. It was energy well-spent because we needed to develop a foundational layer of startups, talent, capital, and activity… but now it’s time to focus on a few key areas.
Economic development is a zero-sum game, and a disproportionate impact can be achieved from being a global destination in one sector rather than 11th best in many. We need to identify which tech industries we can ‘win’ at and become a center of gravity for the talent, capital, and innovations in those few (example: Pittsburgh leveraged their legacy steel industry ‘assets’ to evolve itself from sleepy blue-collar town to a leader in AI Robotics innovation)
As we think about what those few areas of focus should be, there are some that we can realistically rule out: we will probably never become a global destination for consumer software like Silicon Valley or a FinTech capitol of the world like New York or London… but, there has yet to emerge a true global leader in sports tech… there is no current sports innovation capitol of the world.
Houston is a town that is fanatical about its sports. We have the major professional sports teams here, and we have a huge corporate presence of industries that are naturally overlapping and tangential to sports tech/human performance innovation (space, medical, harsh environment industries, etc)
We can become a global hub for sports tech and innovation
Notably, the sports tech revolution is upon us! Activity and investment into this sector is exploding. The timing is perfect for a dedicated effort to evolve Houston into an international hotbed of sports innovation activity.
10-point plan of transformation
There are 10 major efforts and/or assets that need to be organized and developed in order for Houston to emerge as the global hub for sports tech and innovation. These activities are in various stages of development – some have already been developed, some not at all. And ultimately, more will be needed beyond this set of activities, but this will provide the proper foundation on which we can build:
- We need to declare it. Loudly. Over and over. All the time. This reputation is out there for the taking and we can, in many ways, start to simply speak it into existence. But as a city, we need to be in fierce alignment and with one collective voice. This cannot be a community movement led by a noisy few…it must be an economic policy, a government initiative, a civic priority. We need the City of Houston to take a leadership role in realizing this opportunity.
- We need a large-scale, coordinated initiative to run ongoing sports innovation meetups, events, programs, and other activities to promote the collision and collaboration of members of the sports innovation ecosystem
- We need a network of different physical collaboration spaces (creative workspaces, labs, maker facilities, performance institutes, etc) that serve as epicenters of sports innovation activity – as hubs where teams, corporations, academic institutions, entrepreneurs, and innovators can co-locate and interact.
- We need to create and/or bring sports-focused accelerator programs to Houston to help incubate local sports tech startups.
- We need to create and/or bring a variety of sports-focused investment groups/funds to Houston to help scale local sports tech startups.
- We need the participation and support of the local sports organizations, executives, owners, and athletes.
- We need the participation and support of local academic institutions, corporations, startup development organizations, and other sports/innovation businesses.
- We need a dedicated and ongoing effort to relocate sports tech company HQs to Houston and to expand sports tech companies into Houston.
- We need a dedicated and ongoing effort to develop/attract as many large sports events to Houston as possible.
- We need local media outlets to constantly showcase and celebrate our stories of sports innovation activity.