[00:00] Podcast begins - Launching and Scaling Softeq Venture Studio with Texas Entrepreneur, Chris Howard
[00:47] Transitioning from entrepreneurship to angel investing
[05:50] Starting the Softeq Venture Studio & working with 64 companies in 18 months
[08:57] Learning the difference between a traditional venture fund & a venture studio
[10:30] Impacting the Houston startup ecosystem & fueling the investment flywheel
[14:00] Forging the future as an individual investor & as part of the Softeq team
How did you go from being an entrepreneur to a startup investor?
After having a partial exit at Softeq, Chris felt the urge to invest money in other opportunities and became interested in angel investing. Being experienced in starting a business in Houston, Chris remembered the struggle of a lack of mentorship in the ecosystem, combined with a lack of dependable funding sources. Entrepreneurs began coming to Softeq for help, and Chris answered them with investments of his own— but his desire to make an impact didn’t stop there.
“What I saw need of was, well, where do you get funding for one thing, and then two, where's the mentorship coming from? And then, it was about leveraging a services business that I've built. So, we had a lot of startups coming to Softeq with great ideas, but no funding.”
How did the Softeq Venture Studio officially start and how has it impacted Houston?
The beginning of Softeq Venture Studio was a 5-startup cohort only funded by Chris. The response was even better than they were hoping— successful, sustainable, and something other startups were interested in. From there, the Venture Studio has had 5 cohorts and worked with more than 64 startups, providing investment opportunities, mentorship, and technical expertise. The last 18 months have been a whirlwind of success, and Chris looks forward to continuing to build a better Houston ecosystem with the Softeq team.
“Once we saw that we could attract startups into our model, that they would actually give us equity for what we're trying to do, and that we could pull off a program, we thought, the next step is raising a venture fund and use not just my money, but other people's money, and help investors invest in the startups and de-risk the investments.”
How is Chris Howard helping to forge the future?
For a long time, Softeq was one of the best kept secrets in the Houston ecosystem. Houston in general, Chris explains, hasn’t always told its own stories about the startups, businesses, and entrepreneurs that make this city so successful. Chris hopes that by using Forging the Future as a platform, more people will be aware of the resources available like Softeq Venture Studio, where startups can get funding, mentorship, and engineering services all in one place.
“I’m also just trying to help educate people through the podcast. For example, who are the players in Houston? What are they working on? How do we connect the dots in order to help build this startup ecosystem?”