Places for ideas in Houston

Evan has told before of how productive he is at the HUB Halifax. And ever since I've been involved in The HUB South Shore, a co-working space in my small town, I've been keenly interested in communal and collaborative workspaces. I think they're a powerful model for independent scientists and entrepreneurs, perhaps even inside large companies too. 

Because of this, and because most hotels are such boring venues (there are always exceptions), we decided to host the hackathon this weekend at a co-working space, START Houston (right). A converted urban loft residence (well, a loft on the ground floor), it's got downtown character with an artistic edge. Evan and I gatecrashed a startup pitch coaching session while we were there — we heard 3-minute pitches from 4 Houston startups, including eOilBoom, an interesting crowdfunding platform for oil and gas concerns, and Philantro, a curated social layer for non-profits and philanthropists.

We need this level of ideation, business-model testing, and experimental entrepreneurship in subsurface science. How do we make this happen?

Co-working? Co-reseach!

Two weeks ago, I tweeted something about the hackathon, and Jacob at Brightwork Co-Research tweeted back at me:

Just another one of the wonderful serendipities of social media. That one connection is worth a lot to me, and is characteristic of the generous community of scientists on Twitter.

While in town, we thought we'd drop in and see what Brightwork is about... and I've rarely been more excited. Jacob Shiach (left) showed us the embryonic space neighbouring Rice University, complete with a rapid prototyping space (think of hardware hacking soldering, 3D printers, and so on), and a wet lab for full-on biotechnical research. In under a year, Jacob plans to fill the space with researchers in bio, physics, math, technology, and any other scientific discipline that needs a lab outside of academia or industry. What can independent researchers do when they have all the tools of big research? What would you do with your own lab?

These places exist

To complete our tour, we headed over to Platform — a more conventional co-working space around the corner from Brightwork. The familiar buzz and productive vibe of co-working hits you immediately: here a livestream of TEDxHouston City2.0, there a new startup hashing out customer segments for their product. Imagine an office full of smart, energetic, friendly people who don't actually have to work together, no meetings, and no sign above the sink saying "Your mother doesn't work here!". Yeah, those places exist.