Meet the Team: Shiroy Aspandiar, Co-Founder & Board Chair

As we shared in our campaign launch post, we are excited to introduce you to the people behind Impact Hub Houston. First, meet Shiroy Aspandiar (https://www.linkedin.com/in/shiroy-aspandiar-b6a38443/), Co-Founder and Chair of our Board of Directors, as he shares how his entrepreneurial journey led him to play a key role in launching Impact Hub Houston:

I was one of the many people who bought into the myth of the unconquerable entrepreneur. The pioneer who was prolifically confident, obsessive, charismatic, and unyieldingly optimistic. For a time, I, too, felt unconquerable and rode a wave of euphoria for months as I plunged full-time into co-founding One Jump, an online platform that connects underserved students to enrichment opportunities with the goal of combatting the opportunity gap.

And then something changed. My savings were gone. Debt began to pile up. Traction slowed. Technical challenges increased in frequency. The rejections and defeats along the startup journey began to feel less like rain and more like hail. Seeking advice about what I was experiencing, I called a mentor and after a long pause he shared: “I think I know what you’re feeling. You’re in the pit.”

Almost all entrepreneurs tumble into the pit at some point. What can often make or break their venture is their ability to pull themselves out of it. But how do you do that? I wasn’t sure, so I looked for help. I sought out other founders and mentors. I looked for a community, but struggled to find one … especially as a social entrepreneur.

We’re different. While we’re mission-oriented, we are quickly labeled as “charities,” and that label is either limiting or incorrect. Traditional business models can also be at odds with our theory of impact. I found this to be true with One Jump as I communicated with our mentors, advisors, and prospective investors. Our team was often pushed to work with affluent schools more directly, but we believed this would only further extend the achievement gap. During launch, our team struggled to find examples of successful hybrids and benefit corporations and how to structure them. Structuring as a non-profit, for-profit, hybrid or a benefit corporation matters significantly, but there’s a lack of quality coaching on choosing which structure would work best for your startup. And lastly, there’s a growing need to educate up the ladder – to reach potential funders, investors, foundations, and family offices about the rise of for-profit social enterprises, their expected returns, company performance, unique tax code implications, and so much more.

Frustrated and seeking community support, I presented my startup at a Sketch City Hackathon. Through that experience, I met Natasha Azizi, who had worked for Unreasonable Institute, an organization that supported social entrepreneurs internationally. She shared that she was planning to bring an organization called Impact Hub to Houston. I learned that Impact Hub was a collection of locally rooted, globally connected “hubs” dedicated to supporting social impact and social entrepreneurship in cities around the world. Think the United Nations if it were made up of hubs that support changemakers and problem solvers. Hubs were the places you’d go to connect with movers and shakers working individually and collaboratively to make the city and the world a better place. I immediately wanted to be a part of that community. That’s what I was looking for.

Over time, my engagement with Impact Hub Houston increased and I became a co-founder. I found it empowering to be able to shape an organization that I and many of my peers urgently needed. With programs that included coffee colliders, community townhalls, founders workshops, meetups, Open Project Nights, Fuck Up Nights (Yes, it’s a thing! Look it up!), and so much more, we are working to build an inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem.

We help make Houston more equitable by supporting changemakers and social entrepreneurs so that they feel less isolated and can focus on delivering greater impact through t

heir work. We’ll help problem solvers stop falling into pits…but if they do fall, they’ll find a vibrant community of individuals, mentors, and other stakeholders helping them get back on their feet.

Guided by our refined vision and mission, and our amazing leader in Grace Rodriguez, we are excited to write the next chapter of Impact Hub Houston! Join us in building a movement, and engage in the rewarding-yet-challenging work of achieving our vision: To make Houston a role model for how the world solves its most pressing issues.

3…2…1…IMPACT!

Houston: The day is here. We are officially launching Impact Hub Houston as a nonprofit organization to inspire, connect and empower the Greater Houston area’s changemakers, social entrepreneurs and impact supporters; and make Houston a role model for how the world solves its most pressing issues!

We have a few exciting announcements to share, but first, we want to let you know…over the past few months, our Launch Team has dived deep into discussion around who we are, who we aim to serve, how we want to create and amplify impact, and what we want to implement and offer to do so. Those conversations led us to be more intentional about the language we use, because language shapes how we think — and how we think shapes what we do.

Acknowledging that, we refined our Vision and Mission to more accurately represent the change we wish to be in the world:

  • Our Vision: To make Houston a role model for how the world solves its most pressing issues.
    We have heard time and again how other cities are building strong innovation ecosystems, from Chicago to Cincinnati to Detroit. Guess what: Houston is, too! We will shine a spotlight on our own city and elevate the people, businesses, and organizations who have been pioneering progress under the radar. While we champion an inclusive impact-driven innovation ecosystem, we will partner with more organizations across the region to collaboratively transform Greater Houston into a model that the rest of the world aspires to learn from and become.
  • Our Mission: To inspire, connect, and empower changemakers, social entrepreneurs, and impact supporters with mentorship, sponsorship, meaningful content, thought-provoking talks, hands-on learning opportunities, and vibrant community conversations. To create inclusive and equitable environments where people plug in and actively advocate for each other. To deepen and strengthen relationships among stakeholders to build an innovation ecosystem where people collaborate across organizations, cultures, identities, geography, and generations.
    As a member of the Impact Hub global network, we support people who are developing solutions aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through our collective experience, we’ve found that the kind of support that changemakers and entrepreneurs need most take the forms of guidance, connections, funding, and advocacy. We’ve shaped our mission to directly address those needs while making sure that we hold ourselves accountable to meet people where they are and foster stronger understanding, engagement, and support across the diverse communities of Houston.

Through that lens, we are pleased to announce the following programs and collaborations we’re working on to deliver on our Vision and Mission:

#321IMPACT: We are launching our crowdfunding campaign March 21 to help us secure a long-term home to grow the Impact Hub Houston community, increase our capacity for entrepreneur-centered events and services, and hire full-time staff to effectively implement impactful membership and mentorship programs.

We have launched the Impact Hub Houston Community Calendar — a one-stop place to find events relevant to the Houston startup community.

We will soon announce our first pop-up location, which will allow us to incubate Impact Hub Houston while maintaining flexibility to test programming in other locations and neighborhoods.

We are bringing an established accelerator program to Houston to help early-stage entrepreneurs who represent Houston’s diversity to access startup education and statewide mentors.

We are creating a curated, personalized, and *tracked* mentorship program to ensure we are helping entrepreneurs effectively learn and grow, while holding ourselves accountable for results.

We are developing an Impact Academy program to help social enterprises effectively engage with corporate social innovation groups.

We are working with The Cannon leadership to deliver impact-focused programming at their locations across Houston!

We are coordinating The Houston Innovation Summit 2019!

We are organizing TEDxHouston 2019, and preparing for TEDxHouston’s Tenth Anniversary in 2020!

… In the days and weeks ahead, we will introduce you to the Impact Hub Houston Launch Team, share more details on these programs and events, and unveil so much more that we have in store.

Want to be a part of it? We invite you to subscribe, volunteer, mentor, and — most important of all — DONATE! With your help, we can achieve even greater impact for Houston!

Many thanks to Goodspero for generously recording and editing the video (https://goodspero.com); and to Andrew Karnavas of YAWP Records for generously editing the audio (https://yawprecords.com)!

Coalition of Partners Announces the Titan Generator: a Dynamic Startup Micro-Accelerator Powered by National Social Movements to Support Entrepreneurs of Color

 Social impact firm Generation Titans collaborates with Google, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Envolve Entrepreneurship, Common Impact, and the Soze Agency to generate resources for enterprise solutions

– Event on March 9, 2019 coinciding with the SXSW Interactive Festival  

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Generation Titans, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Google, Envolve Entrepreneurship, and the Soze Agency are proud to launch the inaugural Titan Generator at Google Austin on March 9, 2019. This day-long event will serve as a collaborative immersive program for start-up businesses led by entrepreneurs of color. Social movement organizations—March for Our Lives, Color Of Change, United We Dream, and the International Indigenous Youth Council—will participate as advisers. The initiative seeks to align support for 50+ new businesses to generate business solutions.

Currently, high-potential entrepreneurs, particularly those from under-represented communities, must navigate a maze of obstacles in search of resources. In response, the Titan Generator is convening business and social movement leaders to facilitate pledges of support – from start-up finance and pro bono benefits to hands-on mentorship and story amplification.

“We want to work together within the social impact ecosystem to provide pro-bono assistance and deal flow for entrepreneurs of color. We’re working to pull together a diverse mix of investors and service providers who are seeking to scale social impact at pace. We see the Titan Generator event as a dynamic business accelerator,” stated Jessica Lynch, one of the three founding partners of Generation Titans.

 

Against the backdrop of the SXSW Interactive Festival, the Titan Generator will take place just a few blocks away from the Austin Convention Center at Google’s downtown office. “Google is excited to welcome the Titan Generator to our Austin office. The work they do to support local entrepreneurs across industries and backgrounds is phenomenal and speaks to our goal of creating access and opportunities for everyone,” said Lauren Lambert, Head of External Affairs – Google Austin.

 

Robert Kennedy called young people ‘the world’s hope’, and we are thrilled to bring together leading young activists, entrepreneurs, and students who embody that message. These young leaders inspire us all to carry on my father’s legacy of advocating for a more just and peaceful world,” said Kerry Kennedy, President – Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.

 

Nestor Ruiz, Digital Organizer at United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led network in the country added: “Immigrants, including those who are undocumented, are resilient and resourceful entrepreneurs. We’ve built lives here, started businesses and we continue to find the means to thrive despite the political environment. We are pumped to be part of Titan Generator, working with organizations that share our vision for all immigrant people.”

 

David Hogg of March for Our Lives stated: “We strongly believe that multiple resources and partners need to be involved in stopping gun violence in America. We can’t wait to brainstorm solutions and work on real plans of action.”

 

Envolve Entrepreneurship, which provides multiple resources and facilitates an award program for start-up businesses, has pledged dedicated mentors post-event for up to four new ventures led by entrepreneurs of color.

 

Christopher R. Upperman, CEO of Envolve, mentioned: “Our culture promotes a spirit of collaboration, and we are enthusiastic to join efforts in tackling gaps in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. The Titan Generator experience is exactly the type of innovative approach our diverse communities and founders of color need. Together, we aim to agitate the status quo in the hope that it will accelerate opportunities, and as a result of this partnership, Envolve pledges mentorship and more to come!”

 

Common Impact, a national nonprofit that connects corporate volunteers to impactful nonprofits through skills-based volunteerism, will support the Titan Generator by providing social entrepreneurs with tools and resources to engage pro bono support for their efforts. Danielle Holly, CEO of Common Impact, explained: “We are thrilled to apply our nearly 20 years of experience building capacity for the social sector to support these social entrepreneurs as they tackle some of the most pressing issues our society faces. Our work has long supported nonprofits in making progress on important social and equity issues for our communities and we are excited to apply our expertise in leading skilled volunteer programs to amplify the diverse perspectives and scale the impact that these social entrepreneurs are poised to make.”

The Titan Generator curated experience will include:

  • A creative art / tech activation designed by the Soze Agency that explores the rich history of social movements and entrepreneurship in communities of color
  • A Dream Studio, or facilitated, hackathon-style session, with activists, entrepreneurs, funders, and influencers breaking down challenges and forging new pathways for collaboration
  • Fist Bump Moments” of real-time pledges that connect resources and build relationships post-event

“The Titan Generator is pairing activists and entrepreneurs to build a better future,” said Joshua DuBois, CEO – Gauge, a partner of the event. “We created Gauge to ensure that the voices of diverse communities are heard when decisions are being made that impact them. We look forward to participating and providing next-gen market research services for the event.”

Generation Titans worked with several key partners nationally, such as DivInc, to source nearly 200 entrepreneurs of color as potential participants. “DivInc is proud and excited to be partners with Generation Titans in Austin. We share the same mission of creating meaningful access to essential resources and opportunities for underrepresented entrepreneurs. We are all hands-on-deck to achieve the mission and the Titan Generator is a key effort toward that mission!” said Preston L. James II, Co-Founder & CEO – DivInc.

The Titan Generator aims to be a catalyst for a broader coalition of support and action. Generation Titans is still seeking additional funding, amplification, and pro bono support from partners who are working to deliver resources more equitably to diverse entrepreneurs.

Want to help? You can:
  1. Amplify: If you’d like to use your platform to signal boost underrepresented voices, engage influencers, and amplify stories of founders of color with great solutions, then sign up to provide amplification.
  2. Support Pro-Bono: If you’d like to roll up your sleeves and provide strategic and skills-based supports (e.g., planning, HR, IT, marketing, financial approaches, etc.) to founders of color, then sign up to provide pro bono support.
  3. Fund: If you’d like to provide direct funding support (any level) for individual and / or collaborative solutions, then sign up to provide funding support.
We just ask that you fulfill your pledge within two months of the Titan Generator.
To participate, go to http://j.mp/2EipHHy.

For more information about the Titan Generator and how to get involved as a resource provider during the event, please email info@generationtitans.com.

The event will benefit from the support of numerous partners, including Impact Hub Austin, Impact Hub Houston, the Austin Justice Coalition, Gauge, In My Shoes, DivInc, Blnded Media, Roanhorse Consulting, Camelback Ventures, Valor Up, and University of Texas at Austin – Inclusive Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Titan Generator SponsorsTitan Generator SponsorsTitan Generator Partners

About Generation Titans

Generation Titans is a social impact firm with a race and equity lens. Its mission and client work focuses on developing authentic community engagement strategies, boosting inclusive investments in support of social entrepreneurship, and mobilizing human capital as a force for change. For more information on Generation Titans and the Titan Generator, please visit www.generationtitans.com

About Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights:

Led by human rights activist and lawyer Kerry Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights has advocated for a more just and peaceful world since 1968. We work alongside local activists to ensure lasting positive change in governments and corporations. Whether in the United States or abroad, our programs have pursued justice through strategic litigation on key human rights issues, educated millions of children in human rights advocacy and fostered a social good approach to business and investment. For more information on Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, please visit www.rfkhumanrights.org.

About Envolve Entrepreneurship:

Envolve Entrepreneurship (Envolve) is a 501(c)(3) organization that strives for a global society where all business owners can prosper and grow. Envolve focuses on helping diverse individuals and underserved communities access funding and support services to pursue their business dreams. With offices in the USA and Greece, Envolve is committed to cultivating the global entrepreneurial ecosystem through education, resources and awards. Envolve was founded by the Libra Group, and for more on its efforts to spur entrepreneurship, please visit www.envolveglobal.org

About the Soze Agency

The Soze Agency is a worker-owned cooperative, made up of entrepreneurs, activists, storytellers, artists and strategists. Guided by three core values: compassion, authenticity and equity, they create immersive pop-up experiences, expansive social movements, strategies for the future and high-profile, large-scale public events. For more information on the Soze Agency, please visit www.wearesoze.com.

About Common Impact

Common Impact is a national nonprofit that works to build a society in which individuals and businesses invest their unique talents towards a shared purpose: strengthening the local communities in which we live and work. Founded in 2000, Common Impact has partnered with Fortune 500 companies and hundreds of the country’s leading nonprofit organizations to create this transformational change through skills-based volunteering. Learn more about Common Impact’s servicesimpact, and clients at www.commonimpact.org.

The Titan Generator event will take place on Saturday March 9 at Google Austin (PRNewsfoto/Generation Titans)