Since 1999, the Houston Technology Center in Midtown has helped Houstonians start businesses. The nonprofit organization’s president Walter Ullrich explains the basic requirements for those wanting to take advantage of HTC’s services.
“They gotta have a great idea, you bet, and it has to be in one of the areas of Houston’s strengths. Energy; life-science; information technology; nanotechnology; and aerospace.”
If you think about it, those are exactly the kinds of skill sets found at NASA and the aerospace industry in around the Johnson Space Center.
Tim Budzik is the managing director of the organization’s JSC campus.
“The benefit of what we’re doing in here is, we have access to utilizing the facilities at JSC. We have access to the scientists and the technologies as well as the knowledge reservoir that this represents to help solve some of the difficult problems that are out there.”
So how does it work? Clients come to HTC with their idea and at least a business plan. Some of the organization’s 250 volunteers then help them fill in some of the details of the plan.
“We’ll work with them to get the entity formed, kind of start working with them on a business strategy. Where do you want to be in five years? Do you want this to be big or large. We don’t really assess the technology as to whether or not there’s a value, but we leave them to convince us that there’s a market to that technology.”
Then, when they decide the client is ready and his or her company will drive a lot of business and create jobs in the community, the client is asked to present the idea in front of a committee of experts in the corresponding field.
Stevan Gilmore is a physician at the space center. Together with a partner, he wants to develop a system to transfer licenses and certifications doctors accumulate over the course of their careers electronically.
“A lot of the licenses you have have an expiration date on them, so you have to retake them and then many places, including the state medical board, require that you do a certain numbers of hours of training on an annual or every two-year basis, so you have to go out and get all that stuff as well and keep that organized so that you can show people that you’re compliant with all the requirements.”
Gilmore is part of HTC’s incubation program. For him, the next step will be to move into the acceleration program where the organization will help him with the execution of his business model.
Although the Houston Technology Center also targets former NASA workers who are interested in starting their own businesses, Gilmore is lucky enough to still have his secure job at JSC.
That also means he has to work on his business in his free time.