Why Startups are Responsible for DFW

Recently Sam Altman posted a great article on his blog about Silicon Valley: Why Silicon Valley Works.

This isn’t an argument against the article – Silicon Valley DOES work. As he points out, Silicon Valley makes it possible for startups — whose natural inclination is to die — to, in fact, “cheat death.”

“Silicon Valley works because there is such a high density of people working on startups and they are inclined to help each other,” he states.

And that’s the statement, incidentally, that provoked this response you’re reading.

I believe in North Texas startups. I’m sure you do, too, or you wouldn’t be on the site. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I didn’t think our community was JUST as generous, JUST as creative, JUST as balls-to-the-wall dedicated as Silicon Valley (or Austin, or NYC, or wherever).

While Silicon Valley startups are willing to help each other out, I’d wager that our community is just as, if not more, willing. And by “community” I mean the WHOLE metroplex, as spread out and varying and divided as we sometimes think we are.

And because of that willingness to help each other, there’s all of this potential here — a ton of goodwill, limitless skill, and a strange inclination to get dirty when necessary.

The DFW Surge

There’s a potential here in North Texas, and we’re seeing a surge of activity: the growth of programs like VentureSpur and the Tech and Health Wildcatters classes, NEW accelerator programs, the movement towards downtown (in Dallas, Denton, and Fort Worth), the explosion of coworking space, and a hallmark event RIGHT HERE in Dallas for investors from around the globe, among other things.

Frankly, it’s hard to keep up, y’all. No complaints, though.

The Investor Buzz

“Most people [realize] that the world of startups benefits tremendously from network effects,” states Altman, “…I think you need two other things: an area where many ambitious people care most about startups and technology, and a focus on long-term compensation.”

There is a common sentiment that buzzes through this area — local investors aren’t interested in tech. They’re used to putting money into real estate or oil, and tech is just too risky.

While that’s not false, I think it’s time for us to just start looking forward. See that direction we’re headed? It looks different, and the landscape is changing. And we’re responsible for changing the conversation around that.

No doubt, DFW tech companies ARE getting funded by investors from outside of Texas, and that’s just fine. Perhaps something like a $4M Series A funding will grab the attention from more local folks.

But my point is that we’re moving forward, and there’s a reason Dallas is the #1 city to start a business: we know how to get deals done, and eventually everyone will catch up with that idea.

There are, in fact, some amazing local investors backing our startups. Exposing those stories and ensuring that companies are connected with the resources they need will help to further that momentum.

In It for the Long Haul

But it will take continued support and passion — and patience. It’s up to our community, as individuals, to welcome everyone into the conversation. Share your ideas, share your failures, reveal your frustrations – it’s scary, but we’ve got your back.

But like Altman points out — this is a long-term haul:

“[I]n Silicon Valley more people talk about equity than salaries…focus on making a lot of money in the long term at the expense of short-term opportunities is essential to building companies that have a huge impact – they take a long time.

That long-term vision takes trust, and we’ll have time to build that as we go along. I realize that’s somewhat of an intangible goal — building trust. But if we keep at it — if we keep supporting each other, building amazing programs, and stay connected, we will solidify this strong foundation even further.

Even More Economic Growth Predicted

Just last week, DMN reported that economist Ray Perryman is forecasting even more growth in DFW “over the next five years thanks largely to the energy boom and big corporate relocations.”

That’s JUST in DFW, mind you. He’s predicting our metroplex to grow 50 percent faster than the U.S. economy over the next 20 years.

So we’re definitely not Silicon Valley — and I don’t think any of us want to be. What’s great is that we get to shape what our DFW-flavored future will look like.


Recently Mitchell Schnurman wrote about the Dallas community, and pointed out how recent college grads aren’t interested in moving to the area.

“Dallas doesn’t have the cool factor of Austin, Denver, Portland, Seattle and even Los Angeles. Part of that stems from outdated perceptions, and part of it’s real,” writes Schnurman, despite the progress and developments being made in the city (think the expansion of the DART system or Klyde Warren Park).

Again, it’s up to us — to the startup community, the entrepreneurs and individuals who care about what happens in their city — to shift that conversation.

We can either buy into the perception that DFW is a “corporate bastion, more conservative than forward-leaning,” or we can share our stories and prove that our community is moving forward and connecting and building a foundation to keep startups flourishing.

Eventually everyone else will catch on.

So hang on, y’all. This is going to be FUN.

  • Rachel is a freelance writer and works at Soap Hope in downtown Dallas. She hates the term "disrupt," tweets about startups, and appreciates a well-crafted hashtag.

  • Show Comments

  • mrcity

    I have to admit, the title “Why Startups Are Responsible For DFW” lured me in. Was this from the standpoint of “they’re why DFW is as it is now”, or “they’re the stewards of DFW’s future”? Being a daytime denizen in arguably the grandest of all the buildings on the “Las Vegas Strip” of corporate headquarters we have here (i.e. Legacy Dr between 121 & Preston in Plano), I argue that any of these large companies have played a big part in why we’re here today too, as they and many thousands of their employees have certainly paid their share of property, franchise, and sales taxes which have been reinvested in our community for years (unless they’ve worked out special arrangements with our politicians). The burgeoning startup scene we have here will help guarantee us a bright future; as some businesses & industries shrink and others grow, someone will always be filling our commercial & industrial real estate. However, corporate relocations (especially for larger companies) should perhaps be credited to our shrewd politicians moreso than any particular business activities, infrastructure, craft beer scene, etc. that’s already going on or being talked about here: http://www.bankrate.com/financing/taxes/lower-taxes-for-toyota-in-texas/ And politicians have the responsibility to foster this favorable business climate in order to ensure the success of DFW too. (Granted, usually I think of “startups” as small, very young companies like those presenting at Dallas New Tech — not like my wife’s company that has between 100-200 employees and makes about $100MM annual revenue but is somehow still considered a startup. 😛 A larger startup like that probably does make an appreciable contribution to the tax base.)

    But then I realized this article is more about why DFW startups are responsible for all other DFW startups. It’s as if we’ve created our own nuclear fission reactor. Startups helping other startups, that which we all gain from networking & going to events around town, resources & partnerships with these larger companies, plus money lent from family, angels, and an ever-widening base of VCs: these are all like high-energy “particles” of goodwill used to split wide apart the big task of launching a new company. And the more energy we get here in our reactor, the easier it’ll be for the startup community to flourish.

    Secondly, having grown up here & all, there was a time when I longed to leave DFW to head to somewhere “cooler” — Chicago, in fact, with its amazing historic architecture, bustling downtown, and prominent jazz music scene (not to mention cooler temperatures indeed). And I did just that by getting my bachelors & masters at Northwestern, when suddenly reality hit: it doesn’t matter how “hip” and “trendy” a town is when everybody is so depressed because the economy is in the toilet and hardly anyone can find a job. Even listening to the radio there was making me sad and longing for home. Plus, plenty of spectacular things happened down here while I was gone, making DFW way cooler to come back to. And remember, while there’s still a lot we can do about these outdated perceptions, DFW being regarded as “uncool” by a few people is quite an upgrade from where we were 50 years ago… http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-dallas-overcame-its-city-of-hate-image/

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