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Where Serendipity Meets Innovation

Bringing people together to discuss their purpose, share their ideas and understand their Why is the vision behind A Cup of Joey at Houston's innovation district, The Ion.

Joey Sanchez is the Senior Director of Ecosystems for Houston's innovation hub, The Ion, a 266,000 ft. structure at the intersection of Houston's Midtown, Montrose, Third Ward and Museum District.

The Ion

The Ion is Houston's latest hub for all things start-up, innovation and progress. Its genesis came about because of failure: Failure for our great oil & gas city to lure Amazon into considering Houston for its second Headquarter (the winning bid went to Arlington, VA). This rejection made our local leaders think hard and long about why Amazon overlooked Houston and what can be done to avoid a repeat incident. And thus, in 2017, the idea of The Ion was born, when Houston business leaders and Rice Management Company (steward of the land and lead investor) came together to discuss the idea of an innovation hub that would attract start-ups, the technology sector, diverse corporations and seed investors.

Construction broke ground in 2019 and, the first of the seven planned buildings, opened in August 2021. More buildings will break ground as soon as the ten-storey parking lot is complete early 2023. Ultimately, the Ion will be a walkeable, mixed-use12-city block district.

Photo courtesy of The Ion

The building used to be the old Sears department store, built in 1934, and home to Houston's first escalator and air conditioned store. Theirs was a pioneering business and their company catalogue was a great innovation of its time: the modern-day equivalent of Amazon had it been digitized. This site was ideal for Ion- Both are icons and disruptors of the status quo.

Photo courtesy of

Inside the vast Ion, you will find C-Suite office space, shared co-working space, retail, restaurants, prototyping lab, maker resource, classrooms and event space. It is a space that brings diverse communities together: start-up investors, academic communities, corporate innovators and the neighborhood at large, with the intention to generate ideas that turn into the next big company. It also provides legal and corporate assistance for start ups looking to scale their idea into a valuable and viable business.

The Ion is the 23rd member of the Global Network of Innovation Districts, joining cities like Dublin, Milan, Melbourne and Amsterdam.

This is exciting for Houston, a city that has always been at the forefront of cutting-edge innovation: medical, aerospace, petrochemical, our port. It is a place where ideas are enabled, amplified and deliver impact.


A Cup of Joey

I met Joey on a private group tour of The Ion. His enthusiasm and passion for this project is infectious. As he was guiding our group from one space to another, he mentioned his weekly Coffee with Joey. He explained that this is a Friday morning meet-up at the Ion, an opportunity for divergent minds to meet, connect, share ideas over a cup of coffee, and maybe encounter a partner for a new project. He also explained that the Y in Joey is your purpose, your why.

I was intrigued. The following week, I motivated two friends to join me for Coffee with Joey. When we arrived we were overwhelmed by the buzz and energy in the space coming from over 150 people enthusiastically exchanging conversation and ideas. The atmosphere was energizing. My friends and I found ourselves talking about our own visions and ideas. Our minds felt free to wander and imagine, in this space of creative permissiveness. Most people in the room were strangers to one another but you wouldn't know that from the sound byte.

Photo: Hadia Mawlawi- Joey explaining the value of knowing your Why/ your Purpose

I didn't want to miss the opportunity to ask Joey a few questions to share here with my reader.

Can you please explain to my readers the impetus behind Coffee with Joey?

A cup of Joey is a weekly coffee happy hour for innovative ideas but it’s grown to be much more than that in the last 80 weeks that we’ve had it. Each week we meet new people who are exploring new things in our great city from downtown to the woodlands to Sugarland to Space Center, Houston. One thing that we’ve noticed across all cup of Joey is the idea that purpose is the key to a successful future and finding your purpose and sharing it with others is the key to a successful conversation in order to change the future for good. I believe that everyone has a purpose in life.

What are you hoping to achieve with this initiative and is it intertwined with any larger aspirations of the Ion?

The goal of Cup of Joey is to honestly connect one to one each week. We are looking to impact one life who is looking for the purpose and looking for a connection to enhance their purpose to change the future for good. The Ion is a great place to hold Cup of Joey because the building is built on purpose and for good and utilizing tech is an efficient tool to expedite the process of sharing your purpose in life and changing the world for good. Now we do plan on bringing Joey not only across the world but into your home.

Can you share a success story that resulted from people meeting at this event?

Success stories at cuppa Joey include a student with one connection on LinkedIn who is exploring what their purpose in life should be to be a start-up founder who is trying to get their company off the ground but needs that first customer and first investor, and is able to have thoughtful impactful conversations because they start with their purpose in their business and in their life. My favorite story today had to be a gentleman who sweeps the floors of the tattoo parlor across the street from the ion and has found cup of Joey to be one of the greatest moment of each week.

Anything else you would like my readers to know?

Cup of Joey started because of Covid and the need to connect authentically with the community around us and so it started back in April 2021 and has gone on every week since. But it started way before that when my brother and best friend moved from Houston to Boston for Tech. It seemed absurd that they had to do that and that they couldn't stay in Houston to find the resources to thrive. And even before that it started because my dad came to America from Cuba for freedom, and your purpose is your freedom. America allows you to have freedom and it’s up to us to find it and harness it so we can live our most purposeful life.


If you are looking to energize your ideas, to explore your Why or to simply experience a very unique meet-up where innovation and support collide, A Cup of Joey will remind you why Houston continues to be a Can-Do city, able to re-invent itself and attract the kind of people who can propel it to being a viable innovative hub.



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