"The water is coming in, I have to go...." I heard that twice over the phone last week, once from my Dad and once from my best friend. It is a helpless feeling not to be able to help the people you love when you know they're in distress. Not knowing if they are safe, if their homes are gone, or if someone is going to support them in your absence.
Hurricane Harvey is now categorized as the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history by AccuWeather, with a bill that could reach $190 billion, or a full 1 percent of U.S. economic output. But for me it's personal. Although I now live in the Bay Area, I am from Friendswood, Texas, one of the communities hardest hit by Harvey. My family and friends are now in demolition mode, teaming up and going house to house with sledge hammers, destroying once beloved rooms that have become unrecognizable, and repositories for toxic mold, bacteria and, yes, even fish.
For the business owners of Friendswood, the worry extends beyond their own homes and families to their employees. Virtually every entrepreneur in and around Houston has to wrestle with the stark possibility that while the region rebuilds, they may not be able to keep everyone on their payroll employed.
As Entrepreneur in Residence as Dell and a member of the Inc. Board of Advisors, I know how agonizing that prospect is for business owners. But unlike the way I felt at the storm's height, I am no longer helpless and neither are you. The entire Houston entrepreneurial ecosystem--incubators like Bunker Labs, Alice and The Circular Board, as well as co-working spaces like Station Houston and VCs like Mercury Fund--is pulling together to help businesses keep their doors open. I'm working with several of them. Pick one and join in.
If you're looking to contribute cash, I recommend the Rebuild Texas Fund led by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Both Michael and Susan grew up in Houston and have personally committed $36 million to the fund, en route to a goal of raising $100 million to help Texas recover and rebuild. I donated and invite you to do the same.
For all the people of the Houston area, what we need to send now is love and support. For the cruel storm that (temporarily) laid low their homes and businesses, I have an altogether different message: Don't mess with Texas.