Where Are They Now? The Original Dallas Startup Community

Newcomers to the Dallas Startup Community will find a bevy of resources to start and grow businesses. At last count, there were 22 coworking spaces, 7 accelerators, and 11 coffee shops downtown alone (that aren’t Starbucks). Yes, coffee is a necessary element.

But it hasn’t always been this way. Ten years ago, STARTech was the leader of the pack, and much of the rest of the VC community could be found on the fabled “16th Floor” at Galleria Tower in North Dallas. From the STARTech website:

STARTech traditionally provided management in the areas of entrepreneurial ecosystems, investment funding for seed stage businesses, and office facilities for small-footprint, technology-based companies.

Outside of these formal relationships, the concept of community was just becoming a reality outside of the valley. Working together happened regularly, but not in the traditional sense. Spaces, and who were there at the same time became more important than location.

In late January, 2006, a pivotal event in the burgeoning Dallas startup scene occurred that still has echoes 10 years later. Dallas held its first BarCamp, a loosely organized, free “unconference” that would eventually expand globally. The connections made there would bloom a thousand ideas across both the Dallas startup and user experience communities. One of those ideas that would eventually come to life was CoHabitat.

Strong communities, at the core, are created by people that share common goals, needs, and have the willingness to step in and support their peers. With those as guidelines, CoHabitat, Dallas’ first coworking space (founded in 2008), would unwittingly become the seed for much of today’s tech scene. CoHabitat was known for hosting some pretty amazing crawfish boils with one as recently as as April, 2015.

Here’s a quick look at some of the early pioneers of the Dallas Startup Community—the people that were members of Cohabitat, and what they’re up to now:

Blake Burris: VP & Chief Hacktivist at Vinli, The Connected Car Platform. Raised $9m earlier this year, organized events like Barcamp, iPhoneDevCamp, and was the first recipient of Facebook’s fbFund in 2008.

Jennifer Conley: VP of Communications at Vinli Inc. With Blake at Vinli, but was previously the co-founder of The Dallas Entrepreneur Center, Director at the Alcatel-Lucent Gravity Center, co-founder of ILiveInDallas.com, and helped organize OpenCamp in 2010.

Gabriella Draney Zielke: Co-founder and Executive Director at Tech Wildcatters. She founded GlobeStart, EMERGE, and spent time at HP Growth Partners. Gabriella currently serves on the Advisory Board of UNT’s School of Arts and Sciences, the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Innovation Council, the Advisory Committee for Southwest Venture Forum and the Board of Dallas Workforce Solutions.

Andres Fabris: Founder and CEO of Traxo. A native of Argentina, Fabris has been in the travel industry for 18 years and has held leadership positions at local companies Travelocity and Sabre. He’s raised more than $4.5 million for Traxo.

Dave CoppsFounder and CEO, Brainspace Corp. Pegged as the next “Billion Dollar Baby,” Brainspace plays in the artificial intelligence space. They recently raised a $5 million bridge round to further the mission of “creating meaningful connections between people and knowledge”. Little known fact, the company has a band (instruments and all), and played at Ignite DFW.

Michael PrattCEO/Co-Founder at Panamplify. Today he’s heads down building the dream at Panamplify after just having raised $1.1 million with mostly Dallas money. He’s also the founder of Extra Sauce and Digital Dallas (home of the dd:IMPACT, and dd:EDU series), Michael finds himself involved in and understands coalescing community.

Christopher St. JohnCTO at Panamplify. Previously at Extra Sauce, building the technology that powers Panamplify.

Daniel MarksPresident at Car Dorx, Partner at Car Crue, Principal at Marks Investments LLC.

Bradley JoyceFounder, Skyrise. Also the founder of Launch DFW, Velocis, and Socialyzer (a Tech Wildcatters alum). Bradley just graduated from MOTIVE, a new accelerator focused on the built environment.

Alex MuseCo-Founder & Chief Product Officer, CultureMap. Co-founder of ShopSavvy (sold to Purch), Former CEO/Product at Architel, and VentureSpur (now REVTECH Accelerator) alum with ViewMarket.

Scott HarperFounder, CEO at Dialexa. Scott serves on the Mayor’s Connect Council for Developing a Digital Strategy for the City of Dallas, is a founding organizer of Digital Dallas, and Dallas Idea Week. He’s also an organizer for the Dallas Facebook Developer’s Garage. Dialexa clients include Vinli, ParkHub, Amazon, and Lockheed Martin.

Ross BatesCTO at Mobestream Media.

Jeff CorkranVP Experience Strategy at Human Design. A co-organizer of Dallas Startup Week 2015, BarCamp Dallas, Democamp, RefreshDallas, and CocoaDevHouse to name a few. Today Jeff splits his time between Dallas and Boulder.

Daniel MillerCTO at Modern Message LLC. Founder of Minecraft U, and formerly at Extra Sauce with Michael and Christopher.

Adam “Jax” LotiaCo-Founder  and CTO at Reactor Holdings. Jax is everywhere, but notably was Innovation Coach/Sr. Product Development Manager at AT&T Foundry in Plano, Texas. He’s worked with Dallas’ Glass Media, and is an advisor to several local startups. He’s an active hardware and software hacker with a keen interest in IoT.

Note: Special thanks to Jeff Corkran for adding details. Photo courtesy of Mason Pelt Media.

Michael Sitarzewski

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.