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Startup accelerator Station Houston looks to support Indian tech ventures

Startup accelerator Station Houston looks to support Indian tech ventures
Gabriella Rowe, CEO, Station Houston

Houston, Texas-based startup accelerator Station Houston is looking to support Indian tech startups in sectors such as energy, transportation and aerospace, its chief executive said.

“We are looking at working with Indian tech-based startups in all ways, including collaborating with some of the startups we are hosting,” Gabriella Rowe told TechCircle in an interview.

According to Rowe, collaboration activities could include Indian startups working with Station Houston-hosted startups to solve problems or using each other’s technology to make better products.

Rowe, who was visiting India as part of a mayoral delegation from Texas to boost trade ties, said she was in the country to lay down the ground work for the entire process and that the trip was the first of many to come.

The CEO said she was speaking to industry bodies such as the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commece and Industry and the Internet and Mobile Association of India to understand more about tech startups in the country and innovation in emerging technologies.

“I was deeply impressed with the state of artificial intelligence report that Nasscom shared with us and we are now more than eager to explore the kind of work startups in India are doing,” she said.

Another part of Rowe’s strategy is using Indian companies which already have a presence in Houston to spur innovation.

“We will be meeting [representatives of] Tata and Reliance in Mumbai to discuss opportunities and probably they will be the first carrier of Indian statrtups to Houston,” she said.

Tata Consultancy Services, India’s biggest software services exporter, already has a presence in Houston while billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd has shale gas operations in Texas.

Rowe said Station Houston is looking for B2B tech startups which can solve larger problems for enterprises.

Citing an example, she said the accelerator is mentoring an Australian startup that has designed technology to help solve propeller repairing in ships. Another example she gave was that of a startup which has developed an artificial intelligence-driven bot or drone that can clean pipes for an oil refinery.

When asked about Station Houston’s interest in investing in Indian startups, Rowe said the accelerator was serious about investment if it chooses a startup for mentorship but she didn’t commit to an India-specific fund.

Rowe said Station Houston works with the venture capital arms of Exxon Mobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Chevron, Bechtel and Silicon Valley Bank and that the number of its VC associations is on the rise.

Supporting Indian startups is not the only reason behind Rowe’s visit to India. Rowe said she was also looking at Indian enterprises that Houston-based startups could work with.

“A lot of US-based startups want to solve [problems] for Indian enterprises and work for them,” she said. However, since these startups don’t know the right people to connect with, Rowe said she was building a bridge for them.

Station Houston, which started operations in March 2016 and has supported 180 startups across the world, aims to make Houston a tech and innovation hub. But it is different from other accelerators. For instance, unlike others, it doesn’t run batch-wise accelerator programmes for startups. And it mentors all types of startups.

“We don’t have a time limit. We help our startups till they get acquired by big companies or have a long list of clientele needed to support themselves. We also help them with talent,” Rowe said.

Also, Station Houston is a not-for-profit organisation and doesn’t charge a so-called success fee. “We are supported by government grants. We are also paid by corporate houses to develop technology solutions,” Rowe said.

“But if you are looking at a metric to determine how effective we are, our startups have raised at least $130 million in seed capital till date,” she said.

She cited the example of Arundo Analytics, a startup that has graduated from Station Houston. Arundo provides software to enable enterprise-scale machine learning and advanced analytics applications for industrial companies. The software-as-a-service provider raised $25 million in Series A funding in January. It has raised $32.5 million till date.

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