Recognizing the Needs of a Strong Startup Community

I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel to kick off the Oaktopia event in Denton, Texas. The path to the seat on the panel is as crazy as you’d imagine—from the 45 minute drive to get there, to the seven years I spent in the Boulder/Denver startup ecosystem that led to the invitation to the panel in the first place.

The topic was the growing tech scene in Denton, and the inevitable opportunities and potential obstacles looming on the horizon. The downtown area is an old town square with the expected city building at the center. Like many DFW cities, the cost of living there compared to the other tech heavy cities is more than enviable. The college presence is heavy, and contributes quite nicely to the overall desirability as a startup community. Young ideas, vibrant downtown, inexpensive living, great coffee, and a train south to Dallas. There’s a lot to like.

As great as the potential of Denton is, it las lots of room to gro—and in fact has very different needs than that of the downtown Dallas ecosystem. From available talent to the number of companies started and grown there, we want to make sure the needs of every part of the whole are being recognized. TechMill is working on visibility, as is the city of Denton, especially with the help of Kevin Roden, a Denton City Council member and strong advocate of the Denton tech community.

Denton isn’t alone with these needs. When our communities grow, so too do the needs of its members. Two founder startups looking for connections and mentors have different needs than that of CEOs with a boards of directors and investors. CTOs of funded companies are focused on product more than ever, and are beginning to scale (hopefully).

Add to this the growing number of accelerators in the area and the not so comfortable acknowledgement that only a few of the teams will take the original idea and make something of it. Making something amazing out of any idea is hard and unlikely, but when you do, you need to surround yourself with a different level of advisors. That is, after all, the sell of the accelerator.

Even though the new DFW startup ecosystem has been full throttle for just a couple of years, the needs are evolving quickly. We’re in need of new events and new meetups to handle the growing number of companies that are experiencing growing pains.

We have several established opportunities for founders to meet and greet. From the nine Open Coffee Clubs, to 1 Million Cups in Dallas and Fort Worth, to Startup Grind and Co-Founder’s Lab, there isn’t a shortage of things for founders to do across the DFW area. These are all events that most of us are aware of and have probably attended. We are going to keep pushing these things forward of course. The need is still strong.

For those with advanced needs…let the community know exactly what you want to see more of in our community. Think less about new entrepreneurs and more about the CEO sitting at a desk having just raised $1.5MM, with a brand new board of directors, and a small team to grow and nurture. What do you need?

  • Michael Sitarzewski is the Publisher of Launch DFW, co-founder and CEO of Epic Playground, Inc., makers of inboundgeo. He is a veteran entrepreneur (and a TechStars Cloud alum) with a specific focus on Web-based software and services. Sitarzewski has been a part of the internet startup culture since 1994 and has had two exits along the way. After a seven years in the Boulder, Colorado startup community, Michael returned to Dallas, Texas, in 2013 where he’s focused on growing and increasing the visibility of the burgeoning Dallas startup community. He is the EIR at The DEC, a mentor in the RevTech accelerator, and leads several events in the Dallas area. Sitarzewski considers helping people understand and leverage technology his life's work.

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