Enventure is a not-for-profit organization that provides programs and lectures, networking and an accelerator for people seeking to launch a technology startup. It’s a free and open community of like-minded physicians, young entrepreneurs, students and alumni.
Brittany: Hi, my name is Dr. Brittany Barreto, CEO and Co-Founder of Pheramor. And this is HXTV, the show that champions Houston’s entrepreneurs and innovators, brought to you by PKF Texas, advisors and CPAs supporting Houston’s innovators for the last 15 years. Today, my guest is Emily Reiser.
Emily: Hi Brittany, thanks for having me today.
Brittany: I’m so glad that you’re here. She is Deputy Director of Enventure. Enventure is a grass roots organization that puts on free programming for people interested in starting their own startups, correct?
Emily: That’s right.
Brittany: That’s actually how Pheramor got its first roots. We pitched Pheramor at one of your accelerator programs. I can remember you giving me edits on our first ever pitch deck, so we go back a little bit.
Emily: Way back, yes.
Brittany: How involved are you with Enventure, and when did that start, and what does your position look like now?
Emily: My story is that I came up through Enventure just like everyone else can now. I first stumbled upon the programming through Jack Gill’s class, and wanted to know more. I found Enventure’s programming, which was lecture based, and then went to buy ventures myself in 2015. I went through the accelerator program looking to find other students that wanted to start a company and to see if it was right for me. I ended up falling in love with the process and they recruited me through Enventure to run the next cohort. That’s how I got involved with the leadership team. Like everything in entrepreneurship, I really stumbled into it before I realized I was sucked in. Now I’m a part of the leadership team with Enventure. I help to coordinate all of our programming, but it’s led by students themselves.
Brittany: How long ago was it founded?
Emily: It was founded in 2012 by a group of students who also took Jack Gill’s life science entrepreneurship class, hosted at Rice, but it’s free and open for everyone. They were like, ‘Well, what do we do now? This is great but what’s next?’ Back in 2012 there was nothing next; no Station yet, no TMCx.
Brittany: No Houston Exponential.
Emily: No Houston Exponential yet, exactly. And so, they formed their own group to continue that tradition of bringing in inspirational speakers and getting together for networking with like-minded physicians, young entrepreneurs, students who wanted to know more and to get involved in the space.
Brittany: And it’s non-profit and run by students?
Emily: Exactly. We’re a non-profit, grassroots organization. Every single one of our programming is led and managed by students. We also have some young alumni who help support an advisement level, but every single one of our programs is directed by students.
Brittany: Let’s just clarify for the audience, what is a student in your eyes? What kind of students are we talking about? High school students, college students, who are we talking about really?
Emily: Mainly we are involved with PhD students. That’s probably 75% of our program is with PhD students, however, we’ve had high school students all the way through medical residents. It could be MBA students, PhD students, public health students, really anyone who is seeking a degree program is eligible to be involved in all of our programming. And if you’re not a student, you can actually still come to a lot of our programming. We’re free and open and after hours for everyone to get involved on the side.
Brittany: Perfect. What are all the programs that you offer, and can you tell me just a brief summary of each one and why would someone go to each one of those programs?
Emily: We understand that most of the people that are engaging with us have a full time thing. We want to be as available to people as possible. Our programming runs from one-off networking, one-time lecture series, all the way through more educational lecture series that are repeated. Those are all nights and weekends, free and open for everyone. For the students that really know what they want to do and know that they want to get more involved and are willing to spend a little bit more time, we have our experiential learning programs. That would be ENRICH, which is a fellowship program where we pair student teams with local startups and help those startups get to their next milestone in some way. It could be a market analysis or some customer discovery, something like that. Our other program, of course, is Bioventures, which we already alluded to; that’s for students who say, ‘Ok, I have an idea, I really want to be part of something new, and I want to do it myself.’ That’s definitely our most time intensive but also our most rewarding program for the people who participate.
Brittany: It sounds like ENRICH is not only beneficial for students but is beneficial for local startups who are looking for ambitious, young, smart people to join their team, even in a temporary sense.
Emily: Yeah, it’s a great way for startups to get a lot of really smart, fresh eyes looking at what they’re doing and to see if they can be challenged or expanding something they didn’t expect. Especially with a lot of PhD students; we’re really good at researching and looking into stuff, and so we can really go deep into finding out what to do next.
Brittany: If someone’s interested in joining Enventure, what are the first steps in doing that?
Emily: The best way to get involved is to go to our website and check out our programming, but for sure, signing up for our newsletter. You can do that right on the website, just type in the email and you’ll get all the updates about what’s going on and how to get involved next. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we respond right away to any requests that people have to be an advisor or to find out what our next program is, and so we love engaging with our community. We have about 1,500 members on our listserv, so it’s a great place to be if you’re looking for this kind of a community.
Brittany: Yeah, definitely. What kind of alumni network do you have?
Emily: Most of our alumni engage with us through our ENRICH and our Bioventures program, and so they’ll be working directly with each other in supporting the ecosystem but also with the up and coming talent. That’s definitely the most rewarding way for our alumni to engage with us. We’ve also recently started a young professionals program, because we have been so focused on students in the past, but we really continue to support people like you who have come through our programming and see what ways our collective networks can support what you’re doing next. That’s a new initiative for us as well.
Brittany: Speaking of that, what are some notable alumni, if you will, of Enventure program?
Emily: Of course, Pheramor is one of our favorite companies that has come out of our accelerator program. We’re very excited to be tracking your success and supporting you in whatever way we can going forward. Another one of our companies that came through our accelerator program is Luminostics. They went through our accelerator in 2014 and ended up going to Silicon Valley after Y Combinator, and so they’ve stayed out there and raised money out there and so we’re really excited about them as well.
Brittany: In total, how much money has been raised by companies that have been mentored by Enventure?
Emily: We’ve directly founded six companies who have raised almost $5 million dollars, collectively, but that does not include the companies that people founded outside of our accelerator program. If you consider companies like IntuiTap, or DNAtrix, those numbers get pretty big, pretty quickly.
Brittany: Do a lot of these companies stay in Houston? It sounds like they’re founded in Houston because of your programs, but do they stay?
Emily: At first, in 2014 and 2015 we saw most of our companies leaving Houston. The infrastructure just wasn’t here. Since 2017, when Pheramor came through, and also last year, our companies are staying in Houston now. That’s super exciting because now we have things like TMCx and all the other resources here at Station, at Cannon; more angel groups, more opportunities for people to have advice and resources to grow and build their companies here, so that’s something that we’re super excited to see.
Brittany: I heard you on a panel once get asked why is Houston going to be the third coast? You were like, ‘Can we please stop saying third coast? Can’t we just be our own coast? Why do we have to be third?’ Why do you think Houston is our own coast?
Emily: I absolutely hate third coast because why are we trying to be third at anything? That’s something that I really hate hearing. The reason I think Houston is going to be the next place that everyone wants to be is because we have everything here to support that. We have great cost of living, great people, great environment, great support coming from things like HX but also the existing resources, industries. We have really hard to penetrate industries here. Healthcare and oil and gas are slow moving and they’re very difficult to disrupt, which means they’re going to be the last things to be disrupted and it’s going to take the longest for that to happen. It’s just going to take us a little bit longer to get there but we’re already seeing it start to happen, we’re already seeing more initiatives and more people start to break down those barriers, start to be more successful, and that’s only going to continue to promote that. No one else can recreate the industries and the ecosystem that we already have here and so that’s why I think Houston is the great place to be for entrepreneurship right now.
Brittany: I couldn’t agree more, really. I keep going to conferences and thinking, dang, this is the perfect time to be a startup in Houston. Last question: what is the future of Enventure?
Emily: Enventure has been really focused on students and particularly life sciences. That’s always going to be our core focus, and we are going to maintain that going forward, but we are really looking to support more non-students and general people looking to make a career change, and also expand to other high-tech areas. We see a lot of PhD students coming from math or engineering who are looking to get the kind of resources that Enventure has but apply it to oil and gas or a different industry. We’d like to be able to give that foundational support to more people but engage with more of the other industries in Houston and leverage the connections that we have in our innovation ecosystem to make more opportunities for the people that engage with us.
Brittany: That sounds really exciting. Emily, thank you so much for being on the show. It’s been a pleasure.
Emily: Thanks, Brittany, always.
Brittany: This has been my interview with Emily Reiser, Deputy Director of Enventure. My name is Brittany Barreto, and this is HXTV. Houston, keep innovating.
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