Last week, at the Houston Angel Summit organized by the Houston Angel Network (HAN), I had the pleasure of moderating a fireside chat with Tom Ball, managing director of Next Coast Ventures, and Venu Shamapant, founding partner of LiveOak Venture Partners. These Austin-based, early-stage venture funds were on a whirlwind “Immersion Day” tour of Houston’s innovation ecosystem to highlight their partnership and LP investment from the HX Venture Fund (HXVF). After morning meetings with corporate leaders at the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP), Venu and Tom joined me at Rice University’s Lilie Lab to talk about their funds’ investment strategies and goals for future engagement in Houston.
Our audience was evenly distributed between angel investors and entrepreneurs, so Tom and Venu shared their perspectives on how angels could better prepare their companies for Series A raises. The main topic was unsubstantiated valuations – a common pain point that Series A investors encounter throughout the U.S. Venu and Tom also discussed how they work collaboratively with angels, in actual investments and deal sourcing. While neither denied the benefits of ‘warm intros’ (even investors need them!), Venu did say one of the best deals in his portfolio came from a cold email with a clever title that enticed his team to read and respond. Quite a few people took note of that piece of advice.
We ended the conversation with their market outlooks, specifically what they envisioned for Houston and how they planned to leverage their relationships with HXVF to connect with local startups, mentors and corporate partners. Both Tom and Venu were enthusiastic about the opportunities they’re already discovering in the city. Mercury Fund is equally excited about VCs such as Next Coast and Live Oak directing their focus and capital on Houston and the entrepreneurial talent found here. As Houston further expands its VC investor network, we will continue to drive more startup investments in the city and elevate Houston’s tech innovation community.