The University of Houston-Victoria is hoping a new economic development initiative coming to Victoria will encourage graduates to pursue entrepreneurship in Victoria instead of taking their talents to larger cities.
Startup guru Nick Smoot, CEO of Innovation Collective, has been meeting with community leaders in Victoria to discuss the possibility of partnering with the city. Smoot’s organization originated in his hometown of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and has since partnered with nearly a dozen cities nationwide, working to foster innovation and entrepreneurship around an economic “niche” such as robotics or elder care.
Victoria’s potential niche is yet to be announced.
At Tuesday’s partnership meeting, Ken Colwell, dean of UHV’s School of Business Administration, said the initiative could bring in resources that would make it more enticing for business-minded students to pursue their ideas in Victoria. Through mentorship and training programs and corporate partnerships, Innovation Collective could provide resources for entrepreneurs that are currently only available in the region’s larger cities.
“We would like to see them not flee to Austin and Houston the moment they graduate,” Colwell said.
UHV is willing to take point on fundraising efforts to support Innovation Collective in an effort to contribute to Victoria’s economic development, Colwell said.
Smoot previously told the Advocate his startup uses metrics including jobs created, patents filed, amount of venture capital invested and buildings revitalized to gauge its success.
Innovation Collective is considering opening up a co-working space at the former Victoria Bank & Trust building, 120 S. Main St., which could serve as a hub for members of the business community to share ideas.
Bill Blanchard, president of the Victoria Sales Tax Development Corporation, told the audience at Tuesday’s meeting that Innovation Collective could help fulfill several of the corporation’s long-term goals, including an entrepreneurship program, an internship academy, a small business micro-loan program and start-up incentives.
“It’s a small ask for a potentially large benefit,” he said.