Lawson Gow’s love and passion for Houston is the driving force behind his entire career. A life-long Houstonian and Rice University graduate, Gow began his career as an analyst for KPMG Capital. During his tenure at KPMG, Gow was exposed to vibrant startup communities across the country, ultimately inspiring him to help transform Houston into a global hub of innovation. In 2017, he founded The Cannon, a 20,000 square-foot workspace for Houston entrepreneurs, housing over 75 companies. Lawson did not stop there, in early 2018 he launched Cannon Ventures, a local network of individuals who invest in and help grow early-stage, Houston-based startups.
Are you from Houston originally?
I was born and raised in Houston and I'll never leave! I grew up inside the 610 loop and went to Rice University.
Who has inspired you most in your life and why?
My dad, for much more than his razor-sharp entrepreneurial mind. He is an amazing role model to the five Gow kids, writing our playbook on how to be a world-class father, husband, friend, leader and philanthropist.
How do you like to get your day started? Any consistent rituals?
Oh boy…well, I am so incredibly passionate about our mission at The Cannon. Therefore, I have increasingly set much of my day on auto pilot: I eat the same breakfast, I wear the same clothes. I don't drive - I Uber or Lyft everywhere to free up more time to get work done. I love my job and our team; I believe so firmly in what we are creating that I want to free up as much time and energy as I can to further our mission. My nights are a little more chaotic because I am a terrible insomniac. I fiddle around into the wee hours of the night working, reading, taking long walks, etc., but when the morning comes, it's all systems go. I love Houston and I'm excited to be a part of its development.
How do you approach leadership? Would you rather be liked or respected?
Liked. If people like you, they are likely to respect you. It's much more difficult the other way around.
In YEAR you created Sillybox. Talk about what it does and where you got the idea.
SillyBox was the first to apply the subscription box business model to charitable giving. It just seemed like an easy way to democratize charitable giving and give everyone a mechanism by which to give in a meaningful way. By enabling people to subscribe to a $15 or $30 per month subscription that funded the delivery of a box of books, toys, and school supplies to children in foster care in Houston. [It is] the most fulfilling work I've ever done.
Was it a hard decision to leave the investment firm you worked at to start The Cannon. Tell us more about your leap into the startup scene.
No. I worked for a global venture capital firm where I got to see vibrant startup nationwide. I became increasingly eager to see this same entrepreneurial infrastructure in Houston, my own backyard, and felt compelled to leave what I was doing to apply what I'd seen to our city. I think that what we are doing is going to have a transformative impact on Houston's innovation economy.
How has working in Houston set you up for success?
Houston is for everyone. It's an open-armed, encouraging, uplifting city in which people are more willing to help than anywhere else in the world. We at The Cannon have been so overwhelmed with all the kind words and support we've received over the past year, and we know that's largely the Houston community culture at work.
What are your Houston top three? Where would we find you in your free time?
The Cannon, Path of Tea, and The Rodeo.
Anything else you want to share?
I believe Houston is growing to a place it didn't know it could go, and I am so excited to be a part of it! As a city, we have so many things going right for us and I have such a deep love for Houston…it helps crystallize the mission of The Cannon, it helps us feel motivated to keep working hard to build up our city into a global startup and innovation hub.
Follow Lawson on Twitter @LawsonGow10
The 2018 HYPE Impact Awards will be held Nov. 8. Click here for information and tickets.