The Perfect Storm Coming to Dallas
By Michael Walsh – Founder Cariloop, HealthSparx, Health 2.0 Dallas
You ever been in one of those situations where you know you’re supposed to do something but have no idea why? You trust your gut, so you go for it, but you spend days, months, maybe even years reflecting on the significance of that one decision and what it meant for you. It could have been a big career change decision, maybe someone you decided to break up with, or that really awesome stock pick you made that paid off big time. The opportunity presents itself, and whether you say it out loud right away or not, you just know deep down that it feels right.
Of course you’ve been there – we all have. Most logical people (and probably even the illogical peeps too) go through some sort of internal analysis when weighing any decision. Usually, we arrive at that decision, convince ourselves that this is the best possible decision we can make, and hope for some sort of desired outcome. As both an entrepreneur and personal trainer, I make literally hundreds of decisions every day. Each one goes through that analysis I talked about – I’ll try to think about as many financial, legal, team, personal, environmental, political, spiritual, social, and consequential factors as possible. Now that I look at it, after listing all that out, I probably overthink it! Oh well. The thing of it is, none of the decisions I’ve made recently – whether it be in terms of my business or clients – could stand up to the one I made in Fall of 2011 when faced with leaving my hometown of Chicago to move to Dallas, Texas.
I have to laugh at myself really, the supportive people in my life probably thought I was nuts for even considering it. I had recently bought a condo in the beautiful Wicker Park neighborhood just northwest of downtown, I had an awesome job and was well established with a mid-size consulting firm I had worked with since graduating college, and my entire immediate family lived right nearby. Most of those logical folks consider these factors and conclude it’s probably best to stay put right?
Somehow, someway, my internal logic generator thingy allowed this potentially life changing decision to actually go through the process. The story of how that happened dates back to 2009 and 2010 when a good friend of mine in Minnesota approached me with an opportunity to launch a health technology startup with him (what is now Cariloop). I loved consulting, but entrepreneurship was in my Walsh blood! This was something I had always wanted to be part of. The plan was to build the product in the Midwest and remain in our respective geographical areas as we got launched. When I left my full-time job in spring of 2011, the road ahead looked certain and steady. For anyone who has ever been involved in a startup company and getting one launched, I am quite certain you know better (just as I do now).
I’ll spare you the gory details of various travels and events that transpired in the summer of 2011, but just know that we learned some tough lessons that forced us to take a good look at how we were taking our product to market. We came to the conclusion that we needed a larger geographical area to carry out the type of business development plan we had in mind. After weeks of cold calling, webinars, and interviews, an opportunity came up to present our concept to a Texas statewide trade association representing a decent chunk of potential customers. As it turned out, we loved them, they loved us, so the decision was made – Texas was the place. Everything is bigger in Texas anyway, right? Now, even though we were launching an internet-based product, we couldn’t fathom the idea of trying to establish ourselves within the community without physically being there all the time.
So, there I was, a 26 year old guy with just about everything in the world going in one direction and I was actually considering turning it all upside down and changing course based on some faulty logic and a lifelong aspiration. Why? Over a year went by in Dallas and I seriously searched everywhere for the answer. I mean, at the surface, the simple answer was to be involved with Cariloop and try to address a serious B2C need in healthcare, but that could have happened anywhere. Why was I brought to Dallas specifically? What was I missing? As it turns out, the answer was staring me in the face the whole time.
I’ve always believed I was supposed to be part of something big at a young age. That might sound crazy, and even blatantly arrogant, but if you ask me, the world would be a better place if we all believed what I believe. Anyways, as we were going through the process of getting Cariloop launched, I had a great opportunity to meet folks from all over Texas and learn more and more about this new environment I was now a part of, especially here in Dallas. As I came to learn, Texas is arguably the best state in America to do business. Texas boasts very low costs of living, zero state income tax rates, top tier universities, 50+ Fortune 500 headquarters, three of the largest ten cities in the US, and absolutely amazing weather. But the real kicker, and it’s still a bit shocking to even re-read this statistic to myself knowing that Mark Cuban is right down the street, is that Dallas ranks 19th on the list (according to bizjournals.com) for cities to start or operate a small business. Huh?!
True story. While flocks of entrepreneurs, startups, and investors have ransacked Silicon Valley, Boston, Chicago, New York City, and Austin (just 225 miles south of where I’m sitting at this moment), Dallas has sort of sputtered along under the radar. This tidbit was the answer to that question I had been asking all of 2012, and when it finally dawned on me, I went all Bradley Cooper on NZT-48 from the movie Limitless. Clarity was mine. You might be wondering – what in the hell is this guy talking about? Dallas is statistically an underrated and underachieving place to start a company. Big deal, why so excited? If you really are a pure entrepreneur in spirit, you’ll see what I see. You’ll see that Dallas, just like other underrated Texas cities, has all the ingredients for a long-lasting, highly contagious startup company outbreak that is just waiting to manifest itself. Ask anyone here, they’ll tell you.
Ask Trey Bowles, the chair for Startup Texas, probably the largest Startup America chapter in the country. Ask Stewart Youngblood from Tech Wildcatters, one of the top ten best startup accelerators in the country. Ask Eric Vanderschaaf, Editor of LaunchDFW. Ask Kevin Vela, the head of the Dallas Angel Network. Ask Jennifer Conley, the Director of the AT&T/Alcatel-Lucent backed Gravity Center. I’m not just dropping names to drop names, I am serious – go ask these people, because I did. They’ll all tell you a powerful, innovation-fueled storm is coming, and Dallas is a community on the cusp of joining the entrepreneurial ranks of those cities I mentioned earlier. I’ve always believed I was supposed to be part of something big at a young age. Now, I don’t just believe, I know. This is exactly where I’m supposed to be, and I know exactly what I’m supposed to do.
While Cariloop gets set to launch here in March of 2013, I’ve put together a chapter of Health 2.0 to bring together the Dallas health and technology community. I’m also prepping to launch my own show called HealthSparx that brings amazing stories of innovation and entrepreneurship, both local and national, to our listener base to inform every one of the cool stuff coming out of the health technology universe and inspire those thinking of starting a company to take a shot at it. I know now that I’m not just here to launch a startup, I’m here to support this movement and help others join it any way I can.
For those of you considering a path down Entrepreneurship Avenue, I urge you to check out Dallas as a launch pad to get that venture started. For those already here in Dallas wanting to get a business going, the startup community is anxious to meet you! Join us soon, the storm is in the horizon and approaching fast!
-Find Michael on LinkedIn–