Startup Garage recently hosted Hamish Clark for his talk ‘Houston we have lift off’. It’d be easy to assume that he had come to talk NASA, however, Hamish joined us to talk about a different type of Texan launch pad, that being the exciting opportunities that are available for New Zealand startups to break into the United States market through the Noel Group’s Houston Launch Pad (HLP).

Hamish currently splits his time between Wellington and Houston. As the Managing Director of Hutt based environmentally-friendly waterjet innovators Nuevo Technology and Senior Vice President of the Houston based private equity firm the Noel Group – he’s a very busy man. Hamish is a serial technology entrepreneur with a venture portfolio within both NZ and the US, a strong advocate for NZ enterprise and disruptive innovation and a very friendly guy.

hl2   hl1

Hamish’s impressive fact dump left a lot of us ready to jump on the next flight and relocate.

So why Houston and the Noel Group’s Houston Launch Pad?

Starting with the city itself, it’s named in the Forbes 500 as the third best city in America to do business. There are more than 145 languages spoken and 23% of its residents are between the ages of 5 – 19. Houston has the highest total acreage of any US city and 300 miles of interconnected bikeways. 92 countries have consular offices and it’s the 30th largest economy in the world. Home to more than 5,000 energy related firms, Houston is considered by many as the Energy Capital of the world. It’s also home to the largest medical center in the world the Texas Medical Center and they have a bullseye around innovation coming out of NZ’s Med Tech sector. Air NZ are now flying direct making it the perfect location to do business.

Once you get there the cost of living is incredibly low, a nice condo will be around $350NZD per week, gas around 50c a litre, and best of all half a dozen craft beers for around $12NZD. Texans are a lot like Kiwi’s very similar in their low key nature and trusting attitudes. “Texas” comes from the Hasini Indian word “tejas” meaning “friends”.

Within what sounds like a near perfect city you have the Noel Group’s, Houston Launch Pad. Located on the 20th floor of an iconic building and just 10 mins from the airport, the Launch Pad has impressive facilities including a Hilton hotel, fully-serviced conference center, a dozen restaurants, a fitness center and a huge balcony for Friday afternoon drinks. The HLP is an initiative designed to assist businesses to quickly establish themselves in the Houston market, as a gateway to Texas and the entire US. A key benefit the Launch Pad offers is the ability to establish quickly in familiar company and gain market access and visibility via existing relationships built over many years. The Launch Pad makes the move super easy by offering services such as; office space, facilities & ICT infrastructure, business development & marketing, private equity investment, accounting, insurance & legal and even travel, housing & relocation.

While the Noel group are very focused on NZ Inc and always will be, companies from Australia are now approaching them too, and of course from the US – it’s not exclusive. Noel Group’s existing portfolio is made up of 5 technology centered companies from NZ and 2 from the US with interest from 30+ NZ companies already, business is quickly expanding. Hamish says, NZ is a great place to live and build products but the market is VERY small. Our future is exporting ‘bits’ – they’re weightless, scale infinitely and can be repurposed quickly to be sold many times.

The main criteria to be accepted onto the Launch Pad is that Noel Group can actually help your company scale. Hamish explained the most important 3 stages to qualify for acceptance;

  1. Drink a bit of beer together and find out if you actually like each other, you’re going to live together for a while and you’re not always going to like it.
  2. Figure out if you’re going to generate something of value together, create something disruptive, innovate and quite kiwi – together.
  3. Most importantly, can the Noel Group add value to that?

The roadmap of the HLP is that companies come in from various networks, if they pass the 3 stage test, they then choose their path; services, service and equity portion, equity preferred, or full equity until their exit opportunity.

Noel Group’s aim is to base Hamish in Houston. Keeping his skilled eyes over there growing businesses at all times. They’ve been planning the move for a while and it’s happening quite soon.

So how do you proceed from here if you’re interested? You simply get in touch via the HLP website and start to have some conversations. If things are looking compatible, then get on a plane and get to know some Texan hospitality.

h3        h5   hl3

“There’s a vastness here and I believe that the people who are born here breathe that vastness into their soul. They dream big dreams and think big thoughts, because there is nothing to hem them in .” – Conrad Hilton

Hear about 1st Assembly’s next Startup Garage event here.