What it Takes to Make Your City “Next” in Innovation

Paul O'Brien
4 min readSep 30, 2023

So, the guy who chose and loves Austin has some thoughts about the potential of Houston. I had a chance to sit with Chris Howard during their interview series when in Austin, for Forging the Future through Softeq, where we talked about how culture and distinction draws entrepreneurship, tech, and capital. How Houston is on the cusp of changing everything about startups in Texas.


Austin’s Austin and Houston is Houston. The distinctions are attractive and appealing to people these days.

Why did we (MediaTech Ventures) expand so passionately into Houston? We work with burgeoning startup communities to help develop them into much bigger innovative cities and help move venture capital into the entrepreneur’s pockets. When I moved to Austin, it wasn’t the hotspot that it is today — I had no reason to move to Austin other than that I loved it. And now that we’ve developed Austin rather substantially, MediaTech Ventures is looking to the future. We’re looking for the fact that in every state, different cities, play different substantial roles in innovation.

I think Houston is the next hotspot as far as Texas is concerned, probably arguably the next hotspot as far as the country is concerned. If, if we simply appreciate the fact that Houston and San Antonio and Austin are all within a couple of hours with each other, this is the region to be in.

What we do is considered venture development. We do a lot of work with economic development offices, with a city, and with interested investors or companies in sectors that align with our focus, to mature that side of the ecosystem.

As a part of that, we drop in an incubator; a program that’s incredibly rigorous by design. Pre-seed. We’re in the teaching business rather than the accelerator business. So, we work with founders to teach them how to develop a startup from idea to incorporation in about 13 weeks.

Why should Cities focus on Media first?

It’s that industry in particular that helps everything else thrive. They’re the informers, they’re the communicators, they’re the branding folks who help ensure everything else has audience.

To do that, we don’t have a selection process. We don’t choose who has a right to learn how startups are more likely to succeed; that’s our important distinction in my use of the word incubator versus accelerator — we’re not picking favorites or selling the idea that some startups are successful thanks to us; we’re teaching everyone so that they have a greater impact, more potential, and if not now, in the future, they change the ecosystem in which they work. If you want to mentor or invest in that sector, we’re here; but we’re probably more discerning than most. If you mentor but don’t directly, immediately, and meaningfully help founders, don’t call. If you’re an investor in name but not putting capital to work, we’re not taking the time to promote you, you have a responsibility to move capital (if you’re saying you do so).

I think that’s the catalyst that fuels the economy. And that’s what gives the entrepreneurs the experience and the connections and perspective to not make mistakes so that they’re far more likely to be successful and have an impact.

In many Startup Development Organizations, you start to dilute the experience because everybody’s working on different things. Our thesis is that specialization matters. Everyone is in the media business in some way so you know that that the network, the mentors, and the investors KNOW and have an interest in what you’re doing.

Media? That’s everything from music to advertising to news. We take it all. but there is a shared affinity in that — if you’re in the advertising business, the MusicTech needs to understand how that works. If you’re in the news business. They’re trying to figure out how to take advantage of things like video games and social media.

At the end of most startup programs, they have demo days, like a studio or accelerator. We don’t We don’t demo in the sense of, “Let’s get you in front of a lot of VCs” because what we focus on is ensuring the founders and community LEARN and KNOW best how this works so that they effectively impact others.

I think Houston could use a lot more in the media space. And yet, one of the reasons that Houston is attracting so much in, in tech and in Texas, is cultural.

That’s what made Austin pop. Culture because entrepreneurs look for completely different experiences from jobs and companies; the arts, where film, where music, where video games are celebrated. Entrepreneurs seek those because it’s evidence that you’re a city that takes risk on CREATORS.

You’re a town that likes risks, likes creativity, likes people who innovate and do new things. Houston’s got a huge music scene as an example of that. That’s what’s drawing a lot of people to Houston — the culture there. That’s incredibly appealing and incredibly attractive.

Believe it or not, we’re actually looking at whether or not Houston is a better hub for music, and tech, and I say that because I live in Austin, which is the live music capital of the world. But Houston might be a better hub for music tech than Austin because there’s so much more of it in Houston, just given the sheer size of the city.

We lean in on that culture, fuel the entrepreneurship, and that fuels innovation.


Anyway. Tune in, I hope our thoughts are provocative. Subscribe to their podcast here: https://www.softeq.com/forging-the-future-podcast

And if you like what you hear in our approach to your community, touch base. We’re here: https://mediatech.ventures/

Originally published at https://seobrien.com on September 30, 2023.



Paul O'Brien

CEO of MediaTech Ventures, CMO to #VC, #Startup Advisor. I get you funded. Father, marketer, author, #Austin. @seobrien & @AccelerateTexas. https://seobrien.com