lawson gow, headshot
Lawson Gow, founder of The Cannon, traded his venture capital career to bring entrepreneurial resources to his hometown city of Houston. — Lawson Gow

Lawson Gow has advocated for entrepreneurs throughout his entire career. He graduated from Rice University in 2013 and joined KPMG Capital as an investment analyst. Gow helped this global venture capital group identify promising startup investments, and, through his work, he came to understand the resources and support a fledgling company needs to thrive.

He soon realized that startups in his home city of Houston didn't have the same resources compared to more developed entrepreneurial communities. In 2017, he left his VC career and founded The Cannon, a multi-location innovation hub for Houston's growing entrepreneurial community. Here, entrepreneurs will find a full-fledged coworking campus with a variety of resources, programs and networking opportunities to help them reach their full potential.

CO— recently spoke with Gow about how he developed The Cannon and what he's learned about entrepreneurship along the way.

CO—: You founded The Cannon because you believed Houston startups were lacking the resources they needed to succeed. How did you notice this gap, and how did you determine that a coworking campus was the right solution?

L.G.: My work right out of college took me all over the world and allowed me to see what really developed entrepreneurial communities looked like. I love Houston and wanted to see that kind of development here in my city.

Houston has historically been a big industry town and there was and still is a need for an intentional construction of resources and infrastructure for startups to thrive here. The Cannon Campus is just the beginning. We are a huge city and need many different hubs. We’ve opened an additional one and will be opening a third location in a few months!

You have to be the conductor leading the orchestra.

Lawson Gow, founder of The Cannon

CO—: How have you been able to leverage your background in venture capital in starting/running The Cannon?

L.G.: There is an art and a science to building innovation hubs. I got the chance to see these through my job in venture capital and to apply those things in Houston. It also afforded me the opportunity to learn how to raise early stage capital for startups, something that The Cannon really wants to play an active role in for our members.

CO—: What was the biggest challenge you encountered during the early days of your business, and how did you overcome it?

L.G.: Elon Musk says that starting a company is like eating glass and staring into the abyss of death – and, to some extent, that’s true! But there is nothing else I’d rather be doing. For me, the most important thing has been getting good people onto the team. The rest seems to take care of itself.

CO—: What is the most important lesson about starting or running a business that you wish you had known when you started?

L.G.: You can’t do everything yourself, and, as an entrepreneur, it’s your baby and it’s hard to let go. But, ultimately, you can’t play every instrument; you have to be the conductor leading the orchestra.

CO—: What are your future growth plans for The Cannon?

L.G.: We want to do two things: increase the density of resources and programs in our locations in Houston, and increase the number of locations throughout Houston and beyond.

CO—: Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

L.G.: I would recommend to everyone that they de-risk their venture as much as possible prior to taking the plunge. Build up your network of mentors and investors, and understand the space and economic environment of your product or service, and potential partners and customers.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published March 01, 2019