A Collegiate Entrepreneur’s Take on the Dallas Startup Scene

The following is a guest post by Kenneth Johnson. Kenneth lives in Frisco, is a freshman in college, and is working on his fourth company. If you’re interested in writing a guest post for LAUNCH DFW please contact us.

My Perspective on the Dallas Scene

Growing up in Dallas during my teenage years gave me the opportunity to meet some of the most influential and supportive people within the city. In the beginning I was prepared to go about my ventures with only the infinite knowledge that Google has to offer, but quickly learned how hard it is to climb the entrepreneurial ladder without first mastering certain skillsets.

Those skills can’t be learned by simply reading “how to” books and trying to replicate the outcome. Practical knowledge, I feel, is key to constantly solving problems that present themselves on a day to day basis. Think about it, once you have overcome a certain issue, the next time that issue arises (and there will be a next time) you should be able to handle it with less paranoia and discomfort than you did the first time around. No one is born knowing everything, and a person can only endure so much error when attempting the trial and error method.

How do you maximize your success and minimize your failures? Ideally it would be a lot easier for person to succeed if there were a community full people that have “been there and done that”. This ecosystem actually works, and for the lack of better examples I have to use Silicon Valley. Over the years we have seen entrepreneurs flock to the “promise land” in hopes of finding success. Some do and a lot fail, but the ecosystem that the Valley has in place gives entrepreneurs the CHANCE at success by having the proper tools within.

The great part is that these tools are not exclusive to Silicon Valley. Dallas has these very tools; they just need to be more visible to the city’s residents. The word I would use to describe Dallas’ tech scene is “over-due.”

Many successful companies were founded in Dallas and why we were not able to build on this base beats me, but I am happy to see a rapidly growing community of entrepreneurs. The recent surge of tech meetups proves that the interest is here and its participants are ready to band together as a community. At least for me the scene feels like going to elementary school for the first time, so many unfamiliar faces, inside of unfamiliar places coupled with the anxiety of having to make friends before lunch time (or in this case before the event is over).

The ecosystem for success is in place, all that is left to do is attract the masses. It is definitely easier said than done, but I believe Dallas will quickly become the largest technological community in the country – rivaling Silicon Valley – not replicating it.


Kenneth is a freshman at the University of North Texas. He’s on his fourth startup, and understands that the future of business begins with a community mentors, and genuine leadership. Kenneth started his first company at the age of fourteen, licensing his music for commercial and indie projects. While managing his music publishing company and attending high school, Kenneth teamed up with a friend to create the PopCultureFiend clothing brand. Recently, the duo decided it was time to take the next step and turn the brand into a sustainable company.

  • Show Comments

  • texrat

    I’d like to be as optimistic about Dallas’ tech prospects, but I’m concerned. Sure we have a passionate bunch of folks with the right skills, interests and desires but we still seem to be missing that passion in a broader sense. For instance, when I tried rallying local universities to try to land a multimillion dollar advanced 3D printing R&D center contract from DARPA, there was no interest. Instead we just let a city on the east coast have it. THAT general apathy and low motivation has GOT to change.

    Oh, and we’ve lost some high tech business opportunities to more expensive areas, including Silicon Valley, and that’s GOT to be solved.

  • bradleyjoyce

    What were the challenges on the 3D printer thing? Getting to the right people? The right people not being interested? We have lots of connections around but had no idea there was any such opportunity.

  • texrat

    This was presented over a year ago (I found it on twitter).

    The challenges were getting the necessary people on board. UTD said they were too busy. UTA (Robotics Institute no less) said they *might* be interested but didn’t respond to further inquiries. All other local universities ignored communications… some deleting the email without reading (yup, I check these things). A university or similar nonprofit was required as key stakeholder.

    I roped in many of the usual entrepreneurs and related leaders, too– I thought I had included you as well Bradley (my major failure if not). Even pinged Cuban on twitter since I have no email for him. Etc etc etc. No apparent interest… which stunned and saddened me. This was a huge opportunity we let slip away.

    But I am not a pessimistic person. Every time I come across such an opportunity I will do my personal best to engage every relevant individual and organization I can. But, I’m just one guy…

    Bottom line, we need more people like this young man in DFW. Many more. And we need to keep hammering on connecting us all (thank you SO much for LaunchDFW). Too many opportunities landing elsewhere…

    Randall Arnold
    Tribal Method, Tarrant Makers

  • bradleyjoyce

    Keep us posted on anything else you come across and we’ll do our best to help!

  • Dee

    Honestly. I just don’t see it in dallas. And there are a few reasons. 1 is capital. The other is weirdness and the lack.of it. The thing about dallas is that there is no history in dallas. Not much culture and most are not from dallas. When I hear people say that silicon valley can be reproduced in other cities I just laugh because they haven’t studied the history of the valley. The initial wave of startups came and received capital from government contracts to provide war tech. After that you had several folks with 1. wealth and 2. Vast tech knowledge. They invested in other companies and now you have ipo’s. Original investors are now richer and investing more. Newly rich are investing and now investors are flocking to the valley to fund and fund and fund. You now have ipo, ipo, ipo and ipo x20. And the wealth and investment cycle continue. No one startup in dallas has had a major exit let alone a ipo. So there is no food of investors. No flood of investment. Cycle continues. Austin has the single best thing going for it. A reputation for weird. Startups and young CEOs are weird. They gravitate to weird people and weird places. Dallas is not weird nor unique. So the environment is not prime for people bucking the 9-5 trend.

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