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Post-Harvey, Houston’s Civic Tech Spirit Flourishes

Local entrepreneurs have focused their attention on relief and recovery efforts.

(TNS) -- Hurricane Harvey may have highlighted a potential new tech hub for Houston: civic entrepreneurs.

They created apps and bots to help with relief and recovery efforts, such as connecting volunteers with those who needed help.

Blair Garrou, managing director of Houston-based venture capital firm Mercury Fund, said those entrepreneurial efforts have allowed Houston to view itself as a civic tech hub. More resources may be needed for a civic tech accelerator or incubator, and that's a perfect opportunity for the newly formed Houston Exponential.

Houston Exponential is a new nonprofit that merges the Houston Technology Center with the Greater Houston Partnership's technology innovation roundtable and the Mayor's Technology & Innovation Task Force. The new organization will act as a central organization, or convener, to connect Houston's capital, academics, business accelerators, startups and corporations.

Garrou said it could pull resources from venture capitalists, the city and corporations to help expand that opportunity for civic entrepreneurs.

"The growth of our innovation economy doesn't get held up either through non action, not having enough capital resources or red tape," he said.

Mayor Sylvester Turner also highlighted the role technology played in recovering from Hurricane Harvey. He said it helped raise funds for relief efforts, and it provided information on debris removal -- where the trucks were, how soon they could get there and how much debris could be picked up.

Beyond Harvey relief, he said, technology makes governments more transparent and improves communication with the general public.

"The expectations are quite high," he told the Chronicle on Monday. "There are endless opportunities ... We are talking about things that we might not, right now, be able to imagine, but we're trying to create an ecosystem that would generate ideas and opportunities."

©2017 the Houston Chronicle Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.