The times…they are a changin’.
Trey Bowles announced today that he would be ending his day-to-day leadership duties at The DEC, a nonprofit he co-founded five years ago, and transitioning to a new role as executive chairman of the DEC board of directors.
If you’ve played even the tiniest role in the DFW startup community, there’s a pretty good chance that Trey, his team and one the many countless programs and/or events produced by the DEC has impacted you in some way. And I say that from the perspective of a Dallas resident and someone who’s been active in the business community for the last decade.
When it initially opened its doors, The DEC wanted to accomplish two main goals:
- Help aggregate existing entrepreneurs that needed to be networked and connected in Dallas.
- Help teach aspiring entrepreneurs how to effectively start, build and grow their businesses with success.
Not only was the DEC successful in achieving these goals, but the org also boosted DFW’s entrepreneurial profile and status around the country.
Trey shared more of the DEC’s wins over the years as well as his thoughts on his departure via his blog today.
I also got an opportunity to pick his brain a bit more on the transition and what we could expect to see from him next…
Are you running for office? (Kidding…kinda lol)
NOT AT ALL.
Why leave now?
After five years of working to build and grow this ecosystem with many great partners, I feel like I have accomplished some of the key things I set out to do. We wanted to create an organization that was dedicated to helping entrepreneurs across DFW effectively start, build, and grow their business. It was also important to work together with other entrepreneurial support organizations, incubators, accelerators, academic institutions and other stakeholders to build a collaborative ecosystem where we are all working together to create the most robust ecosystem possible for entrepreneurs in North Texas.
I also believe that it is important to help organizations grow and expand under new and different leadership. There are certain strengths that each leader brings to the table that are needed in order for an organization grow. I am excited to see what the next leader at the DEC take on the challenge of increasing effectiveness, growing and molding our mission and vision so that we can help even more entrepreneurs across DFW be successful.
What’s next for you? Will you still actively play a role with startups (locally/nationally)?
First priority to me is making sure we have a complete transition to the new leadership at the DEC. Next, I am going to continue to entertain opportunities as they come my way. I have been so focused and committed to the different non-profits that I have been building over the last five years, that I have passed on some great opportunities and I am anxious to explore what might be next. I can tell you it will be a focus on the for-profit space though.
In your time directly leading the DEC, what has been the biggest surprise? The biggest lesson learned? And your greatest accomplishment?
Seeing the groups in this ecosystem come together and work to promote and build an entire ecosystem that promoted and highlighted entrepreneurs and startups. I think when we got started, the community was very fragmented and soloed. Over the past five years, I have witnessed organizations and institutions partner, collaborate and work together to build something that is good for everyone. People have realized that entrepreneurship is not a zero sum game and that collaboration is far more beneficial than competition; working together then becomes a rising tide that raises all ships.
The importance of direct personal relationships and communication. Some of the things that have been distracting or negative about our community is the use social media to air grievances as opposed to picking up the phone and calling someone or sitting down and talking about differences or miscommunications over a beer. I think a lesson we can all learn from this is to come out from behind the “protected” veil of social media and focus on the most important key to building business – relationships. By being intentional, communicating and managing expectations in partnerships and relationships, we can become even more impactful and a little less dramatic moving forward.
I think the greatest accomplishment is similar to my biggest surprise. We started off with a vision to help create a collaborative ecosystem that was growing and focused first on the entrepreneur. I feel like The DEC has played an important role in living out that example through things like our role in running Dallas Startup Week and our biggest event of the year, The State of Entrepreneurship. When we focus on the entrepreneur as the center of our ecosystem and we pull in new stakeholders to help pour into those entrepreneurs, that is when we see the different key elements and people come together. We have seen leaders from stakeholder groups such as corporations, academic institutions, incubators, accelerators, media outlets, municipalities, mentors, chambers of commerce, etc., come together to increase the overall impact and success of the entrepreneurs in our North Texas region.
What are you looking for in the new Executive Director?
There are many different skill sets that we are looking for in an Executive Director. He or she should have an entrepreneurial background; as an entrepreneur themselves or having worked for an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs have the ability to empathize with the plight of other entrepreneurs. They have the ability to feel what other entrepreneurs feel and in turn, can help provide relevant and compelling content and value to help make those entrepreneurs succeed. I would also love to have someone with non-profit experience to ensure an understanding of the role that fundraising plays in the long term sustainability of the organization. I want to find a leader who cares about the professional and personal growth of our staff.
Finally, someone who feels comfortable serving as a leading voice of entrepreneurship in this region is critical. This person will need to be comfortable interacting with public officials (locally, statewide and nationally) and will need to be able to interact with donors/sponsors, and the heads of foundations. The DEC’s new ED will help us improve the organization in the areas where I was not as strong; they will have the ability to be a strong leader that moves the organization and ultimately the ecosystem forward.
Anything else we need to share with our readers?
We are going to be moving our headquarters to our new Capital Factory/DEC location on June 1st. We will still have a presence in the West End and we will have more information on that initiative later, but our main hub will be at The Centrum. The mission of the DEC has always been to help entrepreneurs, start, build and grow their businesses and five years ago in downtown Dallas that meant we needed to offer coworking. It was new at the time and there were very few alternatives in the ecosystem.
Now, there are more than 62 different coworking spaces in Dallas and an overwhelmingly saturated market of spaces for entrepreneurs to choose to work. As such, we believe it is no longer necessary for us to provide coworking in the West End, but rather, we focus on the other things that we do for entrepreneurs such as education, mentorship, training, mentorship, access to capital and promotion. We will continue to offer coworking at the Addison TreeHouse, the RedBird Entrepreneur Center and in any additional location that we launch in the future where there are not sufficient coworking alternatives.
However, once there are enough spaces in those geographic locations we will cease doing coworking there as well. This is an exciting time for entrepreneurship in North Texas and I think we are scratching the surface on all that will come from this entrepreneurial ecosystem. I for one, will be excited to be here to see it continue to grow.
Stay connected with Trey here.