Finding a tribe in Houston's entrepreneurial community

I stumbled into the Red Labs coworking space at UH last night and since I have no one on my team, by definition, none of them can be UH students, therefore I wasn't supposed to be there, HOWEVER, they were very nice and I appreciated the pizza and support.

Tq131123f2b1I was interested because they are a member of the Founder2be network. During my last entrepreneurial venture, I knew I needed partners, but I was lazy. THIS time, I'm going to make sure that I'm not working in isolation. Partners and customers are key.

I attended with Karen Aptekar, (@K_A_Productions) who's an MBA student at University of St. Thomas. Tq131123kaAbove is Karen's hand as she pitches her new documentary, which is planned to include a game launch. She was successful in getting access to future partners.

The coworking space for RED Labs at Melcher Hall is very nice. Red Labs drew together an impressive range of students from STEM areas. If they can leverage the Founder2be network, I think they can raise the visibility of UH students in the startup community nationwide.

Why I joined the CXPA and how you can benefit

Most marketing activities are about targeting and capturing customers. But as a target, I don't want to be captured, I want to be captivated. Unlike other marketing networks, at the CXPA you can share and promote great experiences. You can give credit to a front-line worker who brightened your day. You can study campaigns that engendered deep and lasting loyalty. You enjoy being a customer as well as trying to acquire them.

Houston, meet the Customer Experience Professionals Association. Cxpa_avatar_02_bigger

Join us for a global celebration of companies and people that are creating great experiences for customers... CX Day, Tuesday evening, October 1, 2013. We are meeting at the Tasting Room, 1101-18 Uptown Park Blvd, in the Galleria area. The event runs from 5:30 to 8:30 pm, and you are welcome to arrive late.
Please RSVP.

Learn about the Awards, the online support and the CXPA at CXDay.org.

In Houston, we'll have networking, introductions, discussions, and brief presentations by two local customer experience experts:

William Clayton
VP of Customer Care Operations
Reliant Energy

Angela Schmeidel Randall
President and Founder
Normal Modes

As Vice President of Customer Care Operations, Bill Clayton is responsible for leading Reliant’s customer care and service operations for mass market customers. In this role, he oversees the company's call center and mid-office operations. Clayton also serves as the company's energy expert in matters related to energy efficiency. With nearly two decades of experience, he has in-depth knowledge of the utility and retail electric industries. Clayton has managed a number of specialized consumer programs for Reliant and has held various roles within residential load management, field operations, retail marketing, program development and retail operations. He graduated summa cum laude from Abilene Christian University with a BA in Political Science.

Angela Randall's Houston-based firm, Normal Modes, specializes in user experience design and usability testing. Angela has more than 15 years of experience in user interface design, user experience development and usability testing with complex, data-driven websites and applications. She began her career with AIM Management Group, then worked with Continental Airlines to redesign and upgrade the airline’s customer-facing systems, including the first voice-automated flight-booking engine. All systems remain widely used today. Angela is a member of the Usability Professionals’ Association. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of St. Thomas, and a master’s degree from Rice University.

Dim-witted Behavior

Dim-witted behavior is the obverse of the DIY 'do-it-yourself' culture. Think of it as the "do-it-myself' stubborn denial of opportunities to collaborate. I see it in myself all the time, and I watch it unfold across Houston. Mz130904tb

Houston is a great place to start something. The culture is open to people with new ideas. No one expects you to ask permission. People take a friendly interest in each others' projects. No one will put you down for promoting your ideas and asking for support.

Now, being someone important in Houston, to some extent, means being able to point to something tangible that you put together. The most important people have built big companies. Or big non-profit institutions. Or started movements that created landmarks. This pressure to build your own glory can lead to territorial behavior or to isolation.

These days I check myself frequently for dim-witted behavior. I encourage you to do the same.

Alliance magazine: Networks, money and meaning, 2012-Dec-1 by Harald Katzmair and Chet Tchozewski

How many projects fail because people do not cooperate due to status rivalry, a do-it-alone mentality or mistrust? How many projects get stuck because of lack of openness and innovation? How many resources are wasted because projects never reach critical mass?

Houston 'swaggers' into 'torrential rains and steamy heat'

Let's keep those stereotypes flowing. Tq130827cwThis article, although annoying does contain a few nuggets of insight.

Reuters: In bustling Houston, it's a case of 'Build, baby, build!', 2013-Aug-26 by Anna Driver and Ilaina Jonas

Brian Stoffers, president of CBRE Capital Markets, said spec building in Houston in many ways makes it an outlier. 

"The dynamics of the Houston market are so robust right now that it's the exception to the economic rule around the rest of the country," he said.

Of the buildings under construction, 29 will be rentals that will not be owner-occupied. Of those, 13 broke ground without signed leases but six of those have since found tenants.

Vacancy rates in the most expensive, modern office buildings in Houston are tumbling. Second-quarter vacancy slid to 6.9 percent from 12 percent in the same period two years ago, according to CBRE. The broader office vacancy rate is 14.2 percent versus a national average of 17 percent.


While access to shale deposits has diminished worries about supplies, much of the new demand for crude oil in recent years has been led by developing nations such as China and India.

Big slowdowns in those developing economies could hit the price of crude and cool enthusiasm for building in Houston.

"If China and India have hit a plateau, then I think we have to ask where are the drivers for oil demand in the future," said the University of Houston's Robert Gilmer.

Loyalty is more than marketing

Loyalty marketing has become big business, but loyalty remains a basic human behavior. You can't design a good loyalty program for your customers unless you know how to act with loyalty. Tq130711fd

FrogDog: The Benefits of Loyalty, 2013-Jun-20, by Leslie Farnsworth

Sticking with one person or company will get you

  • better results,
  • extra consideration for needs and modifications and specializations,
  • perks and freebies, and
  • top-notch customer service.

Seeing Houston as a work of art (in progress)

Creative Capital and the Warhol Foundation have gotten together to support writers who support contemporary art. Tq130603wpThey provide grants to accomplished writers such as Harbeer Sandhu, who says,

The city of Houston, while offering artists much needed support in the form of work space, free time, gallery space, and even financial backing, lacks the supportive yet critical engagement necessary to fully realize its potential to be a rich arts community. Aiming to provide a local forum for art criticism connected to world literature and international concerns, Harbeer Sandhu will develop a Houston-based art blog featuring weekly posts focusing on the visual art of Houston and Texas in a global context.

And the result is Texphrastic, from About by Harbeer Sandhu... 

I aim to write long-form criticism and independent ekphrastic responses of literary quality–I aim for depth, not breadth, and certainly not currency–and I hope these essays will remain pertinent and interesting long after the artists they discuss have moved on to new projects. So make some popcorn, pull up a chair, kick off your shoes, sit back, get comfortable, leave some thoughtful comments… and tell two friends to tell two friends.

'Ekphrastic' expression is where one form, such as writing, seeks to evoke another form, such as painting, or place-making, in this case. 

All of which would just be posturing if it didn't result is some 'damned fine writing,' which it has. (My dad would be impressed.) The question is, will it lead to Houston being a better place to make art?