[00:00] Transitioning from Exxon & Viant to Rice Alliance
[09:54] Managing Director & the role of innovating Houston
[18:03] Changing investment landscapes & the longevity of Rice Alliance
[29:19] Developing new tech in oil, gas, & clean energy processes
[37:07] Making Houston the energy transition capital of the world
[42:54] Understanding the Four Tendencies & having dinner with MLK, Jr.
Tell us about the Rice Alliance and the work you do there as Managing Director.
After being a judge at the first Rice Business Plan Competition in the early 2000s, Brad was brought on as Managing Director for the Rice Alliance for Technology & Entrepreneurship. The mission of the Rice Alliance as a part of Rice University has always been to support entrepreneurs starting tech companies. Originally, these were Rice University affiliated entrepreneurs, such as faculty and students, but this has since expanded to include founders and entrepreneurs throughout the state of Texas to further their impact.
“The way Rice was going to have the impact was to help support technology entrepreneurs and make Houston a leading center of technology entrepreneurship. That's been the guiding light from the very beginning. I would say that vision really hasn't changed over the years.”
How has the landscape of Houston changed during the 2 decades you’ve been at Rice?
In Brad’s opinion, the landscape for startups and entrepreneurs has continued to get better in Houston, especially in terms of investors and accelerators. Additionally, the city of Houston itself seems more willing to embrace and develop an ecosystem of support organizations for these new businesses and technology. The opening of the Ion (funded by Rice University) and the plans in place for the innovation district tells Brad that things will continue to change for the better and he’s excited to see what’s next.
“The nice thing about this is Rice isn't gonna go anywhere. Rice has been around 110 years or so, and it'll be around forever. It's committed to making not just the Ion itself, but the whole Houston innovation district successful.”
Is there any critical piece that you feel still needs development to better support Houston entrepreneurs and startups?
So much has changed in the landscape of Houston, but Brad still believes that there is another opportunity ahead that needs to be taken full advantage of: the energy transition. With our huge oil and gas industry in place, Houston is thought of as an energy capital of the world. However, Brad thinks that we have all the makings to be the energy transition capital of the world as well. He believes that the same infrastructure in place in Houston making oil and gas thrive needs to be repurposed for the new energy tech in development now.
“Our vision is that Houston is thought of as the energy transition capital of the world. There's no other place in the US that has the components that are needed to be the energy transition leader. We have the research, the investment funding around energy, the corporations that are committed to this energy transition.”
Is there a key learning from your experience at Rice that you wish you’d known earlier?
Until Brad joined Rice Alliance and began his work with startups, he didn’t fully understand the tough life startup founders lead. There is a lot to learn about investors, mentors, pitches, tech, and so much more, and Brad admits he didn’t realize how much there was until he saw for himself. Fortunately, he’s been encouraged to incorporate the empathy he feels for new founders with Rice Alliance and is happy to see successful entrepreneurs doing the same.
“I don't think I fully understood how tough the startup life is, until I had a little taste of that. I have a lot of empathy for the founders who go down that journey. I think it's made me think about: How can we help entrepreneurs along that path?”