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THE RESILIENCE ISSUE 2021 EDITION D A L L A S I N N O VAT E S . C O M

From entrepreneurs to inventors, meet the people rocketing us to tomorrow.

COMING OF AGE: TECH IN DFW

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21 50 INNOVATING. DALLAS!

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“Resources like the UT Dallas Seed Fund and the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars have been essential to FOREWORD SURVIVR’s success. I can’t imagine a more positive, supportive place for a student-led startup.”

THE KICKSTARTER

52

MONEY

Brian Hoang | BS ‘19 Disruption Founder & CEO, SURVIVR

5 Breeds Innovation In a year far from ordinary, North Texans prove the best plans are born from the trenches.

6 Fueling the Future The new North Texas Center for Mobility Technologies is powering industry innovation with expertise from local research universities. 7 The ‘Human Element’ Work Shield is creating more effective harassment reporting in today’s workplace—home.

52 Female Funders Meet 12 women shaking up the future of startup investment in Dallas-Fort Worth.

“The technology transfer team at UT Dallas is a key partner in 58 Female Founders commercializing my lab’s research. Their intellectual property Talk Funding For these four successful agreements are innovative, creating unique incentives for women entrepreneurs, finding the money industry partnerships with faculty-inventors, like me.” wasn’t easy—but they did it.

14 Emerging Tech Trends 10 Electrifying the Future As our next normal plays An all-electric vehicle Dr. Shalini Prasad | Department Head of Bioengineering 60 Riding the Funding Wave out, here are the emerging ridesharing platform in Dallas Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science COVID brought in-person technologies that will reshape is driving cleaner air through meetings and pitches to a how we live and work. green solutions. screeching halt this year, but that didn’t stop deals from getting 11 Learning Leaders done. FEATURE These DFW educational

leaders are ways to our largest startup to date, “Whether it’s sourcing thefinding CEO for 16 Tech Comes of Age bridge the instructional divide 8 Unconventional from the Master’sheightened program in entrepreneurship, or providing in DFW by COVID. Circumstances The Dallas region is office and lab space in its Venture Development Center, the Local entrepreneurs who have No. 2 in tech job openings not only survived, but thrived, range of support we’ve received has beenonoutstanding.” CompTIA’s Tech Town during COVID share their take IDEAS Index—surpassing even San on resilience. Dr. Ted Price BS ‘97| Eugene McDermott Professor Francisco. 13 Destination Next

School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences

9 Worlds Protect Dallas is headed to Mars— Co-founder, CerSci Therapeutics & Doloromics 20 Industrial Impact Dallas startup Worlds has sort of. A Dallas-based Digital logistics and supply developed a rapid one-breath manufacturer of high-power chain hubs are big business. COVID test that’s proof of the radio frequency solutions could power in asking, ‘What if?’ see its products in space.

62 Six to Watch Early-stage fundings in DFW last year. 64 Exit Strategies From IPOs to M&As, 2020 saw plenty of action in DFW. Taysha Gene Therapies went from stealth to IPO in about five months. Here are other notable deals.

PEOPLE “The diversity of academic offerings and experiential learning, including our heavy focus on social entrepreneurship, offer 21 Future 50 students an opportunity be resilient, well-prepared leaders Meet theto standout who are in the workforce ofNorth the Texans future.” innovating—for our new normal Professor and the next. Dr. Toyah Miller | Associate

Naveen Jindal School of Management

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THOUGHT LEADERS

41 Special With 200 active patents, more than 680 PhD-level staff and Advertising faculty researchers, and the 13th and 15th Section ranked Bachelor’s and Master’s entrepreneurship degree programs in the nation, UT Dallas serves as a Musings on innovation from Cover Design: powerful engine of economic impact for the North Texas region. Learn more at innovation.utdallas.edu. the region’s paradigm-shifting Michael Samples. companies and organizations.

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Say Yes to Dallas, where living means thriving. PUBLISHED BY D MAGA ZINE PARTNERS

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Quincy Preston quincy.preston@dmagazine.com CREATIVE DIRECTOR Michael Samples SENIOR EDITOR Alex Edwards PROJECT EDITOR Sandra Engelland RESEARCH & CONTENT STRATEGIST Lauren Hawkins CONTRIBUTING WRITER Jasmin Brand INTERNS Chantal Canales Riley Farrell Sophia Gonzalez AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR Amanda Hammer AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR Sarah Nelson South BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER Steve Reeves steve.reeves@dmagazine.com

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Dallas Innovates is published by D Magazine Partners, 750 N. St. Paul St., Ste. 2100, Dallas, TX 75201; www.dallasinnovates.com, 214.523.0300. ©2021 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or reprinted without written permission. Neither the Dallas Regional Chamber nor D Magazine Partners is a sponsor of, or committed to, the views expressed in these articles. The publisher is not responsible for unsolicited contributions.

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FOREWORD

THE RESILIENCE ISSUE

The collective strength of the innovation ecosystem and intellectual capital in Dallas-Fort Worth is a force to be reckoned with. 2020 WAS A YEAR LIKE NO OTHER. DALLAS-FORT WORTH FACED A GLOBAL

pandemic, a recession, and social unrest that challenged our community to its core. Yet, we’re still here—heads held high, guiding the way out, asking others to follow. We’re a resilient, creative, and innovative community of disruptors and game changers. We build what’s new and next, seizing on the opportunity to shape a better future for everyone. Through it all, we’re seeing a startup boom. Census Bureau data show new Quincy business creation in 2020 at one of the highest levels ever seen. Whether born Preston of necessity from being laid-off or from an idea in response to the COVID econPublisher and Editorial Director omy, entrepreneurs are flourishing in the face of adversity. History shows some of the country’s biggest companies emerging out of the Dallas Innovates depths of recession. A 2009 Kaufman Foundation study found that over half of the companies on that year’s Fortune 500 list launched during a recession or bear market. Don’t be surprised to see a few Dallas-Fort Worth companies that are being built today (including a few featured in this magazine) go on to be the household names of tomorrow. They’ll join our vibrant community of corporate innovators who are leading the way in emerging technologies. Companies are building their centers of excellence in Dallas-Fort Worth with artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain, and IoT. The region has emerged this Duane year as a hub for cybersecurity and fintech, as well as autonomous vehicles and Dankesreiter Senior Vice President, innovations in mobility. The world also has taken notice of our biotech comResearch and Innovation munity. That sector’s importance to society at large—and the region in particDallas Regional Chamber ular—has been amplified in the pandemic. CBRE recently named Dallas-Fort Worth No. 6 on their list of emerging biotech areas in the U.S. Dallas-Fort Worth’s innovation ecosystem provides support for companies that are already here, and we see others flocking to the region for our strong business environment and great quality of life. We also have some of the brightest and most talented individuals around. This year, the Dallas Regional Chamber put a stake in the ground and said Dallas-Fort Worth is the intellectual capital of Texas. The collective strength of our many universities combined is formidable. We have more Carnegie-designated top-tier research universities than any other Texas metro, and we’re the No. 1 region in Texas for higher education enrollment and degree completion. Most importantly, when those students graduate, they stay and go to work for our local companies. Innovation can be a force for good that makes us stronger. Our community has passionate leaders who dedicate their time, talent, and treasure to make the world a better place. New social impact companies have been built nearly overnight to help those who have been most affected by the crisis. Networks of innovators have organized to tackle the crisis head on. We’ve seen our brightest minds build new technologies that help us work better and become safer. The pandemic has brought out the best in us. Dallas Innovates is built to tell those stories—our stories. It dives deep into who we are. We’re a community with unmatched resilience, energy, and potential. We invite you to read our fourth annual print edition, go to dallasinnovates.com and sign up for our daily newsletter, and learn how Dallas Innovates Every Day.

Duane Dankesreiter

Quincy Preston D A L L A S I N N O V AT E S . C O M

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THE

KICKSTARTER T H E N E W A N D T H E N E X T I N DA L L A S - F O RT W O RT H .

North Texas Center for Mobility Technologies

P. 6

eCarra CEO Rock Robinson

P.10

Frank Howard, Co-Founder and CEO of GeneIQ

P.10

THESE ARE NOT NORMAL TIMES.

Education innovators

P.11

Mark Cuban Foundation’s AI Bootcamp

P.11

United States Mask

P.9

THAT CALLS FOR RESILIENCE.

THESE STANDOUTS HAVE IT IN SPADES. Worlds Protect

Jared Pope and Travis Foster of Work Shield

P.11

P.11

AccessMyResearch Founder Mehmet Günal

P. 11

DISRUPTION BREEDS INNOVATION. NORTH TEXANS ARE A TESTAMENT TO THAT.

In a year far from ordinary, we’ve witnessed pivots, launches, developments, and big ideas. Our universe of Dallas-Fort Worth trailblazers meet the moment and build the future. Great plans are born from the trenches when we’re challenged to be bold, rethink, and do everything in our power to survive—and thrive. 2 D A L L A S I N N O V AT E S . C O M

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T H E K I C K S TA R T E R

S AV I N G J O B S

Bell, which is developing an electric vertical take-off vehicle designed for urban air mobility, is one of many DFW companies working toward next-gen transportation.

MULTIPLIER EFFECT “The health of a bank is directly tied to the health of its customers,” says Craig Scheef. The CEO of Dallas-based Texas Security Bank (TSB) knew it was critical to get ahead of the curve when it came to the Paycheck Protection Plan. Scheef’s team reengineered the bank’s processes to help customers with “lifeline loans” and held virtual meetings with hundreds of area business owners this year. The bank was then inundated with PPP applications, funding 944 of them for a total of more than $245 million. The CEO says those loans may have saved 2,450 jobs, assuming each $100,000 in lending might save one job. 46 percent of the loans went to companies that were previously not clients. It’s part of the mission to serve: Scheef co-founded the independent bank in 2008, originally inspired by working with entrepreneurs and owner-managed businesses. People don’t understand the “sacrifice and hard work it takes to survive—never mind being successful,” he says. —Quincy Preston

M O B I L I T Y M AT T E R S

Fueling the Future The new North Texas Center for Mobility Technologies powers industry innovation with expertise from North Texas research universities and $2.5 million in seed funding.

F

“MOST PEOPLE HAVE NO IDEA THE RISK BUSINESS BUILDERS TAKE.” 6

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NCTCOG, which will be awarded to projects that (among other things) address mobility challenges, contribute to economic development and jobs, provide mobility models that will help address regional environmental concerns, provide mobility solutions for underserved communities, and demonstrate technology leadership. The center’s R&D network is made up of mobility companies, cities, and public agencies. Universities are participating, too—the University of North Texas, the University of Texas at Arlington, the University of Texas at Dallas, and Southern Methodist University—upon signing an agreement to cooperatively provide the expertise and talent the region needs to continue improving mobility. “Today’s challenges are best addressed through strategic partnerships,” said TRA Executive Director Victor Fishman. By bringing together leaders in higher education, industry, and transportation, Fishman sees the relationships cultivated through the venture as leading to partnerships that help the region take today’s ideas and turn them into tomorrow’s mobility solutions. NTCMT is expected to start accepting projects in early 2021. —Dave Moore

RENDERING: BELL

rom autonomous vehicles and delivery drones to vertical takeoff aircrafts and high-speed trains, North Texas roads (and skies) have long been a testing ground for next-gen transportation tech. Now the creators of a new mobility center aim to solidify the region as a hub to attract the full range of mobility-focused industries that will fuel projects tackling transportation dilemmas across the region—and the world. Spearheaded by the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) and led by the Texas Research Alliance (TRA), the North Texas Center for Mobility Technologies (NTCMT) will address mobility challenges faced by industry, municipalities, public agencies, and nonprofits. The new center wants to attract collaborative research projects with third-party industry sponsors, and, in the process, make North Texas the ideal region for mobility deployment. Boosting collaboration for this initiaCRAIG SCHEEF Texas Security Bank tive is $2.5 million in seed funding from


T H E K I C K S TA R T E R

W H AT ’ S N E X T

P H OTO O F W O R K S H I E L D : R E B E C A P O S A D A S - N A VA ; OT H E R S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O M PA N I E S

NORTH TEXAS BIO BOOM Biotechnology is alive—and growing—in DFW. Placing sixth on a list of the top ten emerging life science clusters in the U.S., our region is a destination for the sector. Biotech companies cluster when choosing where to build facilities, invest, and create jobs, even if costs are higher, the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Mike Rosa says. We already have stellar success in the space— UT Southwestern Medical Center, for starters, has a funding level of $470 million annually. Now industry leader BioLabs, a national network of coworking spaces for the most promising early-stage life science companies, is bringing its first central U.S. location to Dallas, where it will provide lab space and wrap-around services to incubate and accelerate biotech. BioLabs landed at Pegasus Park, a future-focused redevelopment unveiled this year by Lyda Hill Philanthropies and J. Small Investments that will enable life science and healthcare discoveries and boost nonprofit resiliency. BioLabs Founder and President Johannes Fruehauf says the Dallas expansion “will foster cross-creativity and collaboration with the region’s premier life science and healthcare innovators in North Texas.” —Alex Edwards

HEALTHCARE HERO Hubert Zajicek, creator of North Texas’ Health Hacking Crisis Network, mobilized the community to develop vital solutions.

Protecting the ‘Human Element’

TECH TRENDS

THE DIGITAL JOURNEY

Work Shield adapts to the new workplace—home.

W

Each year, Deloitte analyzes how enterprises are accelerating digital change and identifies the trends expected to transform business over the next 18 to 24 months. In a year “rattled by a global pandemic, we’ve seen organizations embrace technology like never before,” according to Deloitte’s Rob FitzGerald. COVID-19 forced us to become “more adaptable and responsive than we previously thought possible, driving uncomfortable but necessary growth,” says the Dallas-based Technology, Media and Telecommunications partner. Deloitte’s 12th annual report says the key forces of change are: continuous strategy engineering, core technology modernization, supply chain advancements, industrialized AI, machine data-focused transformation, zero trust for cybersecurity, digital workplace enhancements, equity tech tools, and personalized virtual interactions. The trends suggest an acceleration of digital transformation makes operations nimbler and more efficient, but also “allow resilient response to fluctuations in demand and customer expectation.” Fitzgerald says. —AE

ork Shield was born out of a realization that the traditional process for addressing workplace harassment and discrimination was broken. It wasn’t working for employees or employers. The Dallas-based startup creates technology for reporting, investigating, and resolving harassment and discrimination in the workplace. With more people working from home than ever before, it was important to CEO Jared Pope that Work Shield make sure the human voice was still present. In a world that seems to remove the human element from nearly alltransactions, the startup stayed true to its “ethos of protecting employees’ voices by ensuring they remain truly heard and listened to,” Pope says. While the year didn’t go as planned, he called it “a blessing in disguise” for the company. With COVID necessitating new solutions, Work Shield was able to create more effective reporting for its clients and increase its client/employer base by more than 250 percent. Soon, Work Shield will be moving its headquarters to a new Dallas location and raising its Series B funding round. Pope and his team are looking ahead with one vision: “creating safer workplace cultures centered around diversity, inclusion, and equity for all.” —Lauren Hawkins

Work Shield: Jared Pope, CEO, left, and Travis Foster, Chief Legal Officer.

“It’s a rapid reaction force for times of crisis, assembled of people who are able and willing to help tackle any issues that may come up as a result of a national health crisis,” Zajicek says of the Health Hacking Crisis Network (HHCN) he created in 2020. Moving quickly

from idea to execution early in the pandemic, he wanted to connect like-minded people to facilitate innovation and create an exchange of know-how. As a result, HHCN helped fill a vital need in the pandemic: PPE. The network’s innovators created cloth masks, face shields, and

even snorkel masks to be converted into personal protective equipment. Some 30,000 cloth masks have been delivered so far. Zajicek, recently honored for positively affecting the quality of life by raising life science research awareness and impacting innovation

by Bio North Texas, also has continued to support entrepreneurs through Health Wildcatters. The Dallas seed-stage healthcare fund and accelerator has invested in over 70 healthcare startups, which have attracted over $100 million in capital. —LH

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T H E K I C K S TA R T E R

‘Our company thrives in unconventional circumstances.’ So says Rex Kurzius, founder of Asset Panda, one of the many entrepreneurs in the region who have transformed their businesses last year. Here’s a take from a few who have not only survived, but have thrived. Because resilience is fundamental to success, the inspiration is timeless.

MERRILEE KICK

CLINT LEE

DAVE DUTCH

REX KURZIUS

SRI SRUJAN MANDAVA

THOMAS WHITE

CEO and Founder BuzzBallz/ Southern Champion

CEO and Co-Founder OneDay

CEO OrderMyGear

Founder Asset Panda

Chief Product Officer EPSoft

CEO Phynd

Kick’s company, known for its globeshaped cans, had a busy year, making 18,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to donate to front line workers when COVID-19 hit, adding a bottling production line, receiving a brewing permit, creating private labels for HEB and 7-Eleven, and selling over 1.7 million cases of product.

With senior living communities shutting their doors to visitors, Lee’s video storytelling platform for residents and families has exploded in growth since March, going from 2,000 communities to nearly 5,000, launching a video platform for the funeral industry, and adding 12 new employees.

On staff with school-age children:

“Stories of resilience are being shared between family members, giving those who hear it extra words of inspiration when they need it most.”

“We developed The Nest, an in-house hub for virtual classroom assistance and learning for the children of first-shift employees. To provide order and quality guidance, we’ve hired a TEA-certified teacher and teacher’s aide.” On making work enjoyable (even in a pandemic):

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On preventing burnout:

“With many workers struggling to adapt to long-term remote work environments and experiencing work from home burnout, we implemented a unique solution, called ‘New Digs’ to keep our team refreshed. This program pays the expenses each month for four employees and their families to work from an Airbnb or vacation rental in the location of their choosing.”

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Kurzius and his Frisco startup aim to use their customizable software platform for world domination —when it comes to asset tracking. In the past year, they’ve restructured their product road map and added a sleek new user interface. On 2020:

On pivoting:

“OMG’s big secret is that, while riding out the challenges of 2020, we’re made essential pivots to allow significant investment for 2021. The markets we serve continue to make the needed shift to online stores and e-commerce. We’ve positioned ourselves to tackle industry challenges in effective ways to help our clients grow.” On culture:

“We continue to prioritize our company culture—our OMG Magic—by listening to our Team, implementing change based on feedback, and continuing to evolve as individuals and an organization.”

“The unexpected challenges brought by the pandemic triggered systemic internal growth and mobilized our already dynamic company into a new level of innovation. We demonstrated this year that, like our product, our company thrives in unconventional circumstances.” On going remote:

“The decision we made to go remote with a flexible schedule has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the lives of our employees. In addition to having a stable work/life balance, some of our employees have even moved to other states/countries without the added stresses of finding new employment.”

EPSoft is a Farmers Branch company specializing in robotic process automation that eliminates menial work. It’s had a good year, earning the No. 664 spot on the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private companies list. Mandava says his team is in “continuous improvement mode” to solve more business problems by applying AI to process automation. On “Virtual PPE”

“Our company developed a workplace wellness and risk management solution that leverages the EPSoft Intelligent Automation Platform. The new SaaS platform, Virtual PPE… uses Bluetooth for proximity alerts to notify users if they’re too close to others, helping everyone better adhere to social distancing guidelines. It also features contact tracing, which uses geo-fencing to alert users if they’ve been in contact with a confirmed case and gives clear instructions for what to do next.”

White and his Dallasbased company strive to reimagine and redesign health care by giving providers a single platform for all things digital. This year, they’ve added several big health systems to Phynd, including New York-Presbyterian and Cedars Sinai. On becoming the “Amazon of healthcare”:

“We transform the raw assets of a healthcare system– people, places, and services—in combination with scheduling inventory, and deliver a powerful, simple tool for consumers to purchase healthcare. Amazon.com [is the analog for the] experience that health systems are striving to deliver. Amazon’s software platform takes product SKUs, inventory, and location availability from warehouses and distribution centers, indexing that information into a consumer-friendly search and ordering process. Phynd does that with a health system’s care delivery assets.”

P H OTO S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O M PA N I E S

“We have a cook on staff who makes lunch every day … a masseuse on staff for free massages, a bar on site for cocktail hour, and events with masks.”

On the power of stories:

Dutch took over the Dallas-based provider of e-commerce software for team gear and sporting goods distributors two years ago and helped OMG in 2020 add markets for promotional product distributors and apparel decorators, like screen printing and embroidery.


T H E K I C K S TA R T E R

C OV I D B R E A K T H RO U G H

WORLDS PROTECT

P H OTO O F D A V I D C O P P S : M I C H A E L S A M P L E S ; OT H E R S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O M PA N I E S

The development of a rapid one-breath COVID test proves the power of asking ‘What if?’ This year, Dave Copps and his business partner Chris Rhode had their “9/11 moment”—when you remember where you were when it happened. As COVID-19 cases started creeping across the country, Copps and Rhode were developing a sensor that could detect chemical leaks. Their startup, Dallasbased Worlds, creates AI-powered models to give organizations a new way to view the physical world. That’s when the realization hit, Copps asked: “What if it could actually detect COVID, the way a cancersniffing dog detects cancer?” Copps and Rhode began working closely with Texas A&M’s SecureAmerica Institute on a device, iterating the lab prototype to produce something that’s manufacturingready. Now set to roll out for public use is Worlds Protect, a ‘sophisticated breathalyzer’ that uses artificial intelligence and a UNT-developed high-tech

sensor to detect whether people require COVID testing. It works like this: A person walks up to a touchless, barrel-like device and blows through a straw into a copper inlet. Sensors use advanced mass spectrometry to identify (in under a minute) volatile organic compounds in breath that are found only in people with COVID-19. Pending FDA emergency-use authorization, Copps and Rhode envision the COVID-detecting kiosks outside office buildings, factories, schools, and military bases as a PCR alternative. “Our goal is nothing less than to create the fastest, most accurate, and least expensive test for COVID-19 available today,” Copps says. “Once we get screen device authorization, the floodgates open.” Ultimately, the creators envision the device being a one-breath screener for other diseases, future pandemic pathogens, and even cancers. —AE

MASK MAKERS United States Mask launched to make personal protective equipment in America, for Americans. When local entrepreneurs John Bielamowicz and David Baillargeon saw a dwindling PPE supply forcing front line workers to reuse N95 respirators and face coverings earlier this year they decided to do something about it. The result? An Addison-based manufacturing company that makes N95-certified masks in Fort Worth. The masks use materials sourced from the U.S., supporting the startup’s mission to provide working Americans with dependable, assured protection. — AE

FASTER CARE, BIGGER PROFITS

Dave Copps, Co-Founder and CEO Worlds

“WE’VE MOVED INTO AN ERA WHERE HAVING SMART TECHNOLOGY IS REQUIRED, AND HAVING INTUITIVE, DELIGHTFUL TECHNOLOGY IS EXPECTED.” Cratebind’s John Harlan says a strong UI/UX “is the way forward.” It’s a way to set a product apart in a saturated market. “As consumers, we’ve transitioned out of the era where tech felt elusive and magical purely based on function alone,” he says.

Katie Jarvis wants to solve the “bed blockage in healthcare. “ The extra time that a patient spends in the hospital searching for a place to go is time that a patient waits in the ER for that same hospital bed, she says. Jarvis, a doctor who faced brain surgery during college, knows what it’s like to be a patient. Her SaaS solution matches resources to patients, efficiently connecting hospitals with info on available beds in postcare facilities to reduce cost and length of stay. —QP

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T H E K I C K S TA R T E R

E V P L AT F O R M

ELECTRIFYING THE FUTURE OF RIDESHARE Rock Robinson and eCarra are driving cleaner air through green solutions.

CEO ROCK ROBINSON, ALONG WITH CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT KEVIN SHEA, LAUNCHED ECARRA, AN ALL-ELECTRIC VEHICLE

FRANK HOWARD | CO-FOUNDER AND CEO | GENEIQ GenelQ’s state-ofthe-art molecular diagnostics laboratory provides a 24-hour turnaround time for COVID-19 results. That’s similar to other rapid tests out there, but GeneIQ’s sample collection method involves a non-invasive self-administered nasal swab. One of the first labs

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to use this kind of dry assay, the team realized early on the benefits of providing a non-invasive swab that’s also highly accurate. The lab was already using PCR technology before it made the pivot to solely focus on providing COVID tests. The importance of turnaround times were a factor in GeneIQ’s

pivot. “A test that takes more than a few days to get results is practically useless, as a patient’s status can change in that amount of time,” Howard says. To keep up with Texas’ testing demand, GeneIQ added more than 50 new jobs to its DFW-based lab, tripled its instrument fleet, and bolstered its capabilities to

test 10,000 people a day. Today, GeneIQ is serving more than 500 long-term care facilities across the country, in addition to medical practices, small businesses, state and local municipalities, and corporations. And Howard doesn’t plan to stop fighting the war on COVID anytime soon. —AE

R O C K R O B I N S O N P H OTO : R E B E C A P O S A D A S - N A VA ; F R A N K H O WA R D P H OTO C O U R T E S Y G E N E I Q

ridesharing platform, in early 2019. The Dallas startup offers luxury “rides that matter” in their fleet of Teslas—and a tree planted for each ride given. To date, eCarra has planted more than 6,500 trees and prevented 40,000 lbs. of CO2 emissions. While the pandemic has been tough on the rideshare sector, eCarra landed its biggest corporate client to date earlier this year. The startup agreed to provide rides to Dallas-based executives from Amazon Web Services Premium, along with 650 AWS staff members in Virginia. In 2020, eCarra also developed air quality reader “SeedPod.” Robinson says it’s the “very first real-time air quality reader” inside a vehicle that records data as the vehicle moves. After testing the reader over the last few months, Robinson says eCarra is confident that the “unprecedented data will provide incredible value to people and businesses alike.” The new app will let users see real-time air quality in the cities where they live, work, and play, and companies partnering with eCarra like Amazon AWS can see air quality and emissions data for users who are linked to their organizations, he says. The startup also announced a partnership with Dallas-based solar power developer O3 Energy to install solar canopies and charging stations in parking lots to make the ridesharing company’s future brighter and greener. —SE


T H E K I C K S TA R T E R

Learning Leaders

Z O O M I M A G E C O U R T E S Y O F T H E M A R K C U B A N F O U N D AT I O N ; OT H E R P H OTO S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O M PA N I E S

The pandemic hit education hard when students and teachers had to embrace distance learning. These North Texas innovators are finding ways to bridge the instructional divide heightened by COVID. The lessons are forward looking.

STEPHANIE VALADEZ

OSSA FISHER

Managing Director Per Scholas

President and COO Istation

Expanding tech access

Future of virtual instruction

Per Scholas expanded their Learner Support Team services to those economically impacted by COVID-19, along with scholarships for learners to train in software engineering, cybersecurity, and other tech-centric fields. “COVID revealed the technological disparities our learners encounter when transitioning to a remote work/learning structure,” Valadez says. “One in five learners do not have access to the technology they need to fully participate in Per Scholas’ training.” So the organization implemented a device loaner program and started raising funds for “technology toolkits” to better prepare BIPOC students for future tech careers. — SE

Already a big player in online assessments and instructional tools, Istation saw a surge in traffic with the pandemic. While most educators, parents, and students “are itching to return to some sort of normalcy,” Fisher thinks some of the tech required by COVID-related distance learning will be here to stay. Istation’s technology can provide data and actionable recommendations designed to meet a student’s individual needs. The pandemic highlighted those who struggled the most with distance learning, with English language learners at the top of the list, Fisher says. For all students, Istation reviewed how they developed content with a focus on culturally relevant lessons. — SE

HEATHER BRYANT

JAY VEAL

Director of Innovation and Impact Momentus Institute

Founder and CEO INC Education

Training teachers in SEL

Connecting students and tutors

Momentous Institute—founded in 1920 by the Salesmanship Club of Dallas— just got the official stamp of approval for Changemakers: A Social Emotional Learning Curriculum from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, the nation’s top organization on SEL. Momentous’ curriculum for pre-K through fifth-grade students aligns with TEA standards. The program, based on mental health research using a trauma and equity lens, helps teachers effectively respond to students’ unique needs. Bryant says Momentus research has found that the “impact is much greater when teachers deeply understand trauma and equity. And that’s what Changemakers brings to the table.” — SE

Veal says that when COVID-19 shut down schools in March, he wanted to do something to help African-American and low-income students most negatively impacted by the move to remote learning. He decided to start a new nonprofit, Black Tutors of Social Media, and built a platform to connect tutors and students to help address educational inequities. Economically disadvantaged students can find free tutoring, financial literacy programs, and mentoring. He says, “The demographic of students impacted most due to non-instruction and technology access has been underprivileged and African-American students. So, that’s when Black Tutors of Social Media was born.” — SE

EDUC(A)T(I)ON

NEXT-GEN TECHNOLOGISTS Mark Cuban invests $2 million, teams with Walmart and Elevate for AI Bootcamps. Mark Cuban says there’s a next generation of technologists in underserved areas. He wants to find them. 2020 brought the second rendition of the Mark Cuban Foundation’s AI Bootcamp, a tech-based initiative that brings free education to students in low-income communities. The program teamed up with Walmart and Elevate to offer company volunteers that could

help lead the weeklong interactive camp. The foundation provides all of the curriculum, training, recruitment, and event coordination. The billionaire investor considers it a crucial program that he plans to keep funding—he even committed $2 million for additional resources that could educate hundreds of low-income high schoolers. 1,000 students by 2023 is the goal. —AE

ACCESS MY RESEARCH Mehmet Günal wants to remove the barrier between academia, the public, and industry with a new nonprofit social platform. Being denied free or affordable access to academic publications can hinder scientific progress, Günal says. Through his startup, AccessMyResearch, Günal wants to change that. By making research and higher education resources more accessible, he aims to help disseminate academic knowledge across the globe and level the playing ground for underprivileged communities by democratizing access to it. This past year, Günal says academic publishers temporarily waived fees for COVID-19 related research. It could be a silver lining if the pandemic shed more light on the open scientific access movement and the problem his startup aims to solve, according to the founder. His team has been working with UTD’s design program and, so far, has sponsored 16 computer science majors to help develop the new platform’s alpha release. AccessMyResearch is set to launch in the first quarter of 2021. —LH

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BIG-CITY RESOURCES. SMALL-CITY FEEL.

THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT FOR INNOVATION In a city defined by its roots, you’ll find the biggest opportunity for growth. Fort Worth is home to a dynamic ecosystem with all the key ingredients for innovation—creativity, culture, and an environment where business and ideas thrive.

iter8 Health Innovation Community: a 1,200-Acre, Highly Walkable Medical District Mobility Innovation Zone: a 27,000-Acre Real World Testing Ecosystem City Incentives available for R&D Development/Technology projects Top 25 Places to Live in U.S. (U.S. News & World Report) Ranked Top Places for Women Entrepreneurs (SmartAsset)

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CALL 817.392.6021


IDEAS

I N N O VAT I O N I S A F O U N DAT I O N F O R T H E F U T U R E O F E M E R G I N G T E C H N O L O G Y I N DA L L A S - F O RT W O RT H .

DESTINATION NEXT

P H OTO : N A S A

DALLAS IS HEADED TO MARS—SORT OF. SPACECRAFTS FROM SEVERAL COUNTRIES ARE currently flying from Earth to Mars, most of which are set to arrive in early 2021. One of the companies making significant contributions to make those missions happen is Dallas-based Continental Electronics Corporation (CEC), a trailblazing manufacturer of many of the world’s high-power radio frequency solutions. For more than 70 years, CEC has put RF technology on the map—literally—via science, industrial, government, defense, and broadcast initiatives on six continents. “Continental Electronics makes the longest-distance radio transmitters in the world,” CEC President Dan Dickey says. The state-of-the-art tech can actually send signals beneath the ocean’s surface to beyond the solar system. To Dickey, that’s a main reason why NASA has chosen a Dallas company for its critical missions. In 2020, CEC delivered two new high-power transmission systems to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. One is at the NASA Deep Space Network station, or DSS43, in Australia. The largest NASA communications antenna in the southern hemisphere, it helps guide and command spacecraft from several countries, including the U.S., as they approach Mars. It’s a tall task for CEC: The company’s transmission equipment sends data messages from Earth to the spacecraft, which is used for course correction, uploading new software, sequences of maneuvers, and more. The next Mars robotic mission, Perseverance, will also go through a challenging atmospheric entry and landing, so it’s critical the DSS43 is fully functional. —Alex Edwards D A L L A S I N N O V AT E S . C O M

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IDEAS

14 EMERGING TECH TRENDS Tech is booming, big-time. We saw its strength reflected in the 2020 stock market, despite a global pandemic. It’s also been a lifeline for people and businesses alike. As our next normal plays out, emerging technologies will continue to reshape how we live and work. Dallas-Fort Worth organizations large and small are working to meet new needs and identify rising opportunities. Here’s a look at key tech trends and some players leading the charge. By Quincy Preston and Sandra Engelland

AI, ML, and Big Data

IoT and “Smart” Devices

5G

Blockchain and DLT

Intelligent machines and smart data can transform our world. This tech trio—artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics—is the “glue” behind other trends on our list. Separately and together, they play a role in everything from public safety (Tyler Technologies) to financial services (Capital One, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, to name a few). In healthcare, Pieces Technology—a startup launched in 2016, spun out of Dallas’ Parkland Health and Hospital System—uses cloud-based AI with natural language processing and doctor-supervised machine learning to interpret patient information to support healthier outcomes. A local meetup group, WiMLDS, supports and promotes women and gender minorities in the fields.

IoT, another synergistic cluster of technologies that’s driven by 5G and fueled by data, is ushering in “Industry 4.0.” An ever-growing number of connected devices make our homes comfortable (Honeywell) and track assets across the globe (Polte). IoT and sensor-based tech has applications in every sector: industrial, healthcare, real estate, and more, according to Cisco, which offers services including remote monitoring with Industrial Asset Vision. AT&T and Microsoft also teamed on an IoT “guardian device” that connects to the cloud—bypassing public internet. IoT Texas, a monthly meetup run by Ed Hightower, recently hosted Taubyte, which emerged from stealth with its “smart computing platform.”

Hailed as the connectivity of the future, 5G brings speed and capabilities that will boost other technologies including AI and IoT. “The orders-of-magnitude performance boost that 5G promises doesn’t happen very often,“ according to a Deloitte report last year. In DFW, you’ll find major players like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile investing in the technology. Huawei notes 5G makes possible “zero-distance computing.” Earlier this year, networking pioneer DZS moved from Oakland to Plano, launching a new 5G R&D center. Ericsson also built the country’s first 5G smart factory in Lewisville, producing its first base stations that enable rapid 5G deployments. And in May, Nokia said it achieved worldrecord 5G speeds in its local lab.

Banking isn’t the only industry that could be transformed by distributed ledger tech, according to CB Insights: Watch for law enforcement, rideshare, insurance, and gaming to be impacted. Beyond its beginnings in cryptocurrency, a virtual ledger is a secure way to store, authenticate, and protect data. This year, Dallas DLT startup Hedera Hashgraph and The Coupon Bureau took the morethan-century-old coupon industry into the digital age by creating universal digital coupons. Another startup, GreenLight Credentials, was chosen to provide its blockchain platform to the Texas College Bridge. Now more than 6,000 students will be able to electronically share certificates and other records directly with colleges.

Autonomous Vehicles

Cybersecurity Protecting computers from theft or damage to electronic data, software, or hardware became even more important in 2020 as work-from-home accelerated use of the cloud, which boosts file sharing and potential cyber-attacks. Trend Micro, a Japanese firm with its U.S. headquarters in Dallas, just announced the world’s first security tool for cloud-native file storage. Other local firms include CRITICALSTART, HCL Technologies, QED Secure Solutions, and Jacobs. In education, UTD and SMU offer master’s degrees and cutting-edge intel on stopping cyber threats.

Facial Recognition and Computer Vision

Cobots and Robots

Autonomous vehicles—cars, trucks, aircraft—are on the way to commercial viability. In DFW, companies in the space range from Toyota to Bell to Waymo. “Autonomous activity is coming,” says Hillwood’s Bill Burton, “and DFW is well suited to benefit from it.” Driverless tech startup TuSimple recently expanded into AllianceTexas’ Mobility Innovation Zone. In Dallas, FusionFlight had the first successful flight of its small-but-powerful autonomous drone with vertical takeoff and landing called JetQuad, after three years of extensive development.

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AI tech allows computers to understand and tag images, including individual faces. It’s now used in driverless cars, fintech, retail, medical diagnostics, agriculture, and more. NEC, a Japanese company with its U.S. headquarters in Irving, is an industry leader in advanced recognition systems for retail, government, and travel. Others, such as Omnigo Software, provide facial recognition for police and schools. UTD is pioneering research on racial bias in the technology. Local meetup Amplified Vision shares and creates computer vision projects.

Cobots—collaborative robots, designed to work with humans in shared spaces—and robots, often used in industrial settings, are multiplying thanks in part to the pandemic. Locally, APS uses cobots to clean floors and sanitize offices. Hilti built the ceiling-hole-drilling Jaibot, and RoboKind’s robots help children with autism. AT&T worked with San Antonio-based Xenex on germ-zapping robots for hospitals. In education, UT Arlington Research Institute’s Automation and Intelligent Systems efforts focus on advanced robotics, while UTD uses robots to deliver food.


IDEAS

NEXTLEVEL

INVENTIONS DFW companies are doing cutting-edge work using emerging tech.

Genomics

Voice Tech and NLP

Experimentation that might be too expensive (or risky) in the real world is made possible by digital twin technology that creates a digital copy of a physical object, process, or environment. This year, Jacobs created a twin of a water reclamation plant in Singapore in an R&D project, and River Logic used its supply chain tech to create a twin of multinational tobacco company Philip Morris International’s global manufacturing footprint. UTD also formed the Digital Twin Health AI Consortium with plans to advance precision medicine. In Fort Worth, Bell’s opened its new Manufacturing Technology Center. The MTC, a “proving ground” for Future Vertical Lift aircraft, will “twin” itself to communicate operational details about its equipment and processes.

CRISPR has revolutionized life sciences. Gene editing and genomic breakthroughs coupled with artificial intelligence could change the face of healthcare. At the North Texas Genome Center in Arlington, scientists are unlocking human DNA through genome sequencing to create databases that would inform doctors of the right care approach. During the pandemic, the center has used its testing capabilities to run up to 500 COVID tests a day to serve the campus and community. In Bedford, Nanoscope Therapeutics is advancing gene therapy using light-sensitive molecules and light-assisted gene delivery. Its mission? Giving sight to the blind.

The field of smart voice, speech, and language processing lets machines recognize human language. From chatbots to Alexa and Siri, it’s been a game changer for how businesses interact with customers. Next-gen NLP is now being used in industrial IoT. North Texas startups are using the tech for myriad solutions: Illuma Labs offers real-time voice authentication, Briocare helps seniors “age in place” with the assistance of smart voice tech, and SalesBoost uses patented voice tech to train teams with on-demand learning. Enterprises like Toyota see an application for the future of mobility, employing engineers who design, develop, and test voice recognition solutions.

RPA

Quantum Computing

Robotic process automation uses computer software “robots” to do mundane, repetitive digital tasks, like copying and pasting, to free up employees for more complex work. It’s used in many industries, including financial services, healthcare, and telecom. Plano-based ABIA uses RPA to streamline workflows. Its “Automation Anywhere” provides AI-enhanced RPA solutions. Startup Ant Brains created Krista, a conversational intelligent process RPA platform, for identity management, and more. This year, Dallas-based EPSoft RPA was used to improve COVID-related safety in the workplace.

Quantum computers use the principles of quantum theory to solve complex computational problems. Atos, a French company with its U.S. headquarters in Irving, is a global pioneer in building Quantum Learning Machines for commercial purposes, such as portfolio management and logistics. In education, SMU recently received a $1 million grant to advance quantum-related cybersecurity devices. A team at UT Dallas just developed a technique for atomically precise manufacturing (APM) of silicon quantum devices to scale production. Richardson-based Zyvex Labs also focuses on APM.

Nanotechnology and Materials Science Nanotechnology is the use of matter on an atomic or molecular scale for medical or industrial purposes. In 2020, Orthofix Medical got FDA clearance for its 3D-printed bone screw that uses a “nano-surface” to stabilize the joint. Coppell-based Peak Nanosystems, which closed a $25 million Series C this year, plans to expand development of its nanolayered film used in optical lenses. OncoNano develops nanotech-enabled fluorescent probes for cancer surgery. UNT and UTA offer degrees in material science and engineering. Alpine Advanced Materials offers a lightweight alternative to aluminum for aviation and other industries.

Adaptive3D invented its innovative products for additive manufacturing, a.k.a. 3D printing. The startup makes a tough, rubberlike 3D printable material and more with applications from prosthetics to smart orthotics to bicycle handles.

Fort Worth’s Linear Labs recently landed its first partnership in the powersports industry to place its innovative electric motor tech in Volcon’s off-road vehicles.

For contactless shopping experiences, Addison-based Spacee created Hover, which allows companies to retrofit their existing tech, while making it germ-free.

P H OTO S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O M PA N I E S

Digital Twins

enews Hypergiant’s AI-powered, carbon-capturing Eos Bioreactor uses algae to “sequester” CO2 from the atmosphere to help fix environmental issues.

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ID F EE AT A SU R E

TECH COMES OF AGE IN DFW

The Dallas region is No. 2 in tech job openings on CompTIA’s Tech Town Index 2020— surpassing even San Francisco. It’s a major player for tech companies. by DAV E M O O R E COVID-19 HAS AMPLIFIED EVERYTHING. Every expense, inconvenience, and pain point has raised one thought for company leaders: How the heck do we deal with this? The answer has accelerated a trend that’s been happening for years—the move of tech companies to Dallas-Fort Worth. Nearly three years ago, the search to reduce the friction of doing business led Antuit.ai CEO Greg Silverman to relocate his PhD-level artificial intelligence company from Chi-

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cago to Frisco. Silverman himself lived in San Francisco for 10 years before moving to Dallas-Fort Worth to be closer to Antuit.ai. “I just moved here from San Francisco two years ago,” Silverman says. “I know that ‘ocean fun’—it’s got its different vibe.


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I L L U S T R AT I O N S : I S TO C K

DALLAS-FORT WORTH HAS A SPIRIT OF OPTIMISM— AND COMPANIES KEEP COMING.

But we’re an AI company that’s trying to help traditional brands transform their supply chain.” While Antuit.ai says it can improve efficiencies for its customers by between 10 and 40 percent, the quality of its employees’ lives was floundering in Chicago, according to Silverman. “When you think about it, from an employee standpoint, you fight through the snow for five or six months, and the rain, and the rest,” he says. “And the commute—you’ve got to get through the Chicago traffic. And, oh, you’ve got to go visit a client in New York, and you’ve got to go through O’Hare? And then you’ve got to pay those state taxes.” After a slight pause, Silverman shifts into a mode economic development professionals call “checking the boxes.” “Then you think about what you’ve got down here,” he says. “A super-safe place for families. Great school districts. And [DFW Airport, which] is as central a hub as O’Hare is. Then you’ve got that Legacy corridor, which is expanding, including NTT Data and others that have moved here.” Between 2017 and 2020, DFW added more than 10,000 high-tech jobs—from computer systems analysts to electrical engineers to software developers and more—

according to a Dallas Regional Chamber analysis of jobs data. Dallas recently landed second on CompTIA’s Tech Town Index 2020 for tech job openings, surpassing San Francisco. That’s a jump from seventh place last year. “With the cost of living 2 percent lower than the U.S. average, more and more young people are putting down roots in this area,” CompTIA writes. “With a median IT salary of $94,044, plenty of live music and professional sports teams, tech professionals are finding opportunity and quality of life in Dallas.” But to Silverman, it’s not about sports or the ping-pong table atAntuit.ai’s Frisco office. “We’ve recruited people from all over— and obviously, there are some really good schools here, with good AI programs,” he says, noting the University of Texas at Dallas. “We’ve recruited people from all over the coasts who were tired of the hard-toget-to-work in downtown San Francisco or New York.” They come here as a lifestyle choice, Silverman says. “But they’ve actually come here to be part of a cool AI story. It’s a startup like you’d normally hear about in Silicon Valley.” As he spoke, Silverman’s crew was work-

ing remotely at Antuit.ai, which also has offices in Chicago and India. The pandemic has put their spontaneous lunchtime brainstorming sessions on ice for now. SHADOW OF COVID

Will tech workers and others keep working remotely, even after COVID blows over? “It’s still too early to tell,” Clay B. Vaughn, senior vice president at CBRE says. “But once the pandemic is over, we think things are going to return to as close to normal as possible.” Currently, many believe that if workers are staying out of offices in the future, companies might not lease as much office space. Or, if they were previously thinking about relocating, why would they bother, if people are working remotely anyway? Vaughn is with Silverman in believing that there’s no substitute for the role offices play—both in bringing people together and uniting organizations. But he thinks that offices will have to step up their games. “Companies are going to have to make their office a destination where employees want to be,” he says. “Dallas is on everyone’s radar, and I think we’re going to be the beneficiary of the impact COVID has had on our country. I think we will get 30-40 percent more companies D A L L A S I N N O V AT E S . C O M

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relocating or establishing a significant presence in Dallas over the next five to 10 years. There’s doom and gloom in lots of markets around the country, but Dallas is filled with optimism.” One major checkbox that’s landed Dallas-Fort Worth on “everyone’s radar”: CBRE data that shows the region has a tech workforce approximating all large tech talent markets. That data doesn’t include a cost-of-living or cost-of-doing-business comparison. But the cost of living in Dallas stacks up very well against San Francisco, NYC, Boston, and most of the other cities on CBRE’s list. Based on a Dallas Innovates analysis of federal labor data compiled by CBRE in 2020, Dallas-Fort Worth is—by far—the most affordable metro among the top-five markets for tech workers. While the Bay Area and NYC might have substantially more tech workers, their cost of living is almost double DFW’s. Metro D.C.—which ranks third for most tech workers in major tech labor markets—has a cost of living that’s roughly 50 percent higher than Dallas, per the analysis. West and East Coast tech companies could benefit financially by moving to Texas, says Dehrel Seahorn, the senior delivery manager of direct hire services at BGSF staffing services. Seahorn believes the region’s economy is growing even more attractive to tech companies with continued expansions and relocations to the area. “Not only does Texas have a lower cost of living, but also one of the lowest combined corporate tax rates, which make the area quite appealing,” he says. ‘INTERESTING ENCLAVES’

“I see Dallas as a smaller version of New York City—with a lot of business being done,” says Alejandro Laplana, CEO of Shokworks. The firm has settled on calling Dallas home, Laplana says, which he attributes in part to the diversity of its economy and the availability of capital for investment. Shokworks, which creates digital products from existing analog projects, announced in Fall 2020 that it was moving its headquarters from Miami to Dallas. Its clients include Real Madrid, Kinesis Money, Dupont Chemicals, and Fox Sports. “Everyone knows that commercial real

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“ I THINK THAT THE SPIRIT THAT PERVADES THIS COMMUNITY IS A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT THAN WHAT YOU GET IN OTHER PARTS OF THE COUNTRY.” DAV E C O C H R A N , C O L L I E R S I N T E R N AT I O N A L estate is booming in Dallas,” Laplana says. “But even so, you can find some interesting enclaves. Right now we’re actively looking for office space. We found a spot in the Design District which is 5,617 square feet. We’re looking to create the ultimate makerspace, an invite-only situation.” ‘SOMETHING GREATER THAN THEMSELVES’

Dave Cochran has a theory about what attracts people like Laplana and Silverman to the Dallas region. Sure, he says, there are all those boxes to check—no personal income tax, lower cost of living, relatively easier regulations, and more. “It’s not only about money—people want to work for something greater than themselves,” says Cochran, the executive vice president at Colliers International. He believes there’s a spirit here that’s almost like a mission. In a lifetime of traveling and living in cities including Chicago, St. Louis, and elsewhere, Cochran has learned that Texans have a sense of pride that exists in only a handful of other places, like California and New York City. “Did I ever hear that when I lived in Chicago? Not really,” Cochran says. “L.A.? A little bit.” Californians are very proud of their state, and New York City is very proud of what it offers, he says. But Cochran finds Texans’ sense of pride to be “so pervasive” compared to cities like St. Louis, where he grew up. “It’s not a perfect place by any imagination,” he points out. “We have our issues like every other metro area. But I think that the spirit that pervades this community is a little bit different than what you get in other parts of the country.” COLLABORATING, OBSESSING, GIVING BACK

That sense of mission isn’t confined to startups or relocations in North Texas. Intuit found its way to Plano when it acquired Dallas-based software company Lacerte in 1998. Its employees contribute across Intuit’s business units. “Intuit’s mission is to ‘Power Prosperity Around the World,’” says Intuit VP of Product Management Jorge Olivaretta. “Whatever prosperity means to our customers, we’re committed to make it happen. In Plano, we focus on automation and data insights for tax and accounting firms.” Jorge says that the tech developed by his Plano team helps produce better financial outcomes for financial firms and their clients. Largely, that means working to automate much of the work accountants and tax preparers might be doing. “We focus on the areas that can solve their biggest problems,” he says. “This requires artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science. It also requires thinking and working beyond our immediate customers. We collaborate on solutions that solve similar problems for customers across Intuit’s businesses.” According to Olivaretta, collaboration is a key element of the company’s culture, which also emphasizes integrity, customer obsession, and giving back to the community. “We learn and share innovation practices with other companies in North Texas,” Olivaretta says. “We don’t have all the answers, so learning is important. We also work with local organizations, like nonprofits, to solve their important problems. Our innovation model, Design for Delight, focuses on what matters most to these groups. Our employees volunteer and share their expertise to help them achieve their goals.”


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P H OTO / I L L U S T R AT I O N : M I C H A E L S A M P L E S ; L O G O S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O M PA N I E S

Big tech names are at home in DFW. Some, such as Match Group, are homegrown and others, like Texas Instruments, have been here for a while. We’ve got fastgrowing startups, like Alkami, and laser-focused firms, such as Cysiv. Many more are ramping up with expansions including WiPro, InfoSys, Atos, Facebook, Amazon AWS, and Microsoft. For support, we’ve got a cadre of top-tier tech enablers, such as Deloitte, Accenture, Infosys, and Slalom. As companies from California to New York are looking at DFW, experts say the region has earned its stripes as a major player for tech companies.

BRINGING ‘OHANA’ TO NORTH TEXAS

Salesforce—which developed the leading global customer relationship management software—chose the Dallas region for its central U.S. operations for two big reasons, says Lance French, SVP of business technology: The company saw a rich talent pool and a cultural fit. “Obviously, there was a highly skilled and diverse pool of talent to draw from,” French says. “But we also felt a strong sense of community in the area. This is a place where people care about each other and go the extra mile, and those values are deeply ingrained in Salesforce culture.” An important part of that culture is “Ohana,” a Hawaiian concept that’s also one of Salesforce’s organizing philosophies. The idea is that Salesforce is a family—including employees, customers, partners, stakeholders, and members of the communities where it has offices—that is bound together in a sort of interdependent ecosystem. “We take our Ohana culture very seriously and, while we’re growing at a rapid pace,

we’re also very intentional about how we grow,” French says. “So we look for communities that share our values and have extraordinary talent and the ability to grow with us.” Salesforce found what it was looking for in North Texas, according to French. Area universities are providing the talent the company needs to grow its workforce— particularly its Business Technology team. “As an SVP for Business Technology, our internal IT organization, I also serve as the executive site lead for our Dallas hub,” he says. “That means I’m heavily D A L L A S I N N O V AT E S . C O M

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INDUSTRIAL IMPACT Digital logistics and supply chain hubs are big business in Dallas. If you wrote a mystery novel about why the Dallas region has become a hub for logistics and digital supply chain companies, it would be one page long.

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LANCE FRENCH SALESFORCE involved in our recruiting and management operations in North Texas. Within Business Technology, we have hundreds of software engineers, developers, designers, product and project managers, change managers, and other IT leaders based here in Dallas. Our hub remains one of the top-growing global locations for business technology.” ECO DEV AND PUBLIC SERVICE MEET IT

companies that have moved. Slync.io’s need for easy access to air travel is especially important, he says. “The airport had a lot to do with it,” Kirchner says. “I can get to Hong Kong or a lot of places in Europe in a single flight. That’s important, for our business in particular.” Though Slync.io is a digital company, he says, customer service and human interaction are integral to its business, especially in conducting site visits to observe shipping operations and loading docks, making sure Slync.io’s software is configured properly to match on-the-ground operations, and confirming that the company is operating as it should for each customer. Slync.io’s employees were virtual as of December due to COVID, but the firm is looking at opening an office in the Roanoke/Southlake area when the pandemic recedes, Kirchner says. — DM

Roughly 1,500 Cisco employees are working remotely from their North Texas homes, mostly in Richardson and Allen, per Cisco Regional Sales Manager Laura Baker. COVID has expanded the company’s mission to help underserved communities access the internet. “What we’re doing would probably fall more under economic development in helping to grow internet connectivity, for not only network connectivity, but also for the IoT,” says Baker. In one local initiative, Cisco has partnered with the City of Dallas to install public Wi-Fi hotspots outside four libraries. “I know children are in desperate need of basic Internet access, so they can do their homework,” says Cisco CIO Raja Singh. Achieving that “ubiquitous internet” takes a village, said Nick Michaelides, Cisco’s SVP for the U.S. public sector, earlier this year. He said Cisco is proud of its initiative with the City of Dallas to provide Wi-Fi to underserved communities in this time of “seemingly essential need.” That sums up tech and DFW in 2021: It’s a mutual gift that just keeps on giving. Dave Moore is a data journalist and staff writer at the Dallas Regional Chamber.

I L L U S T R AT I O N : T H I T I V O N G / I S TO C K

Here’s what it would say: Dallas-Fort Worth is literally and metaphorically in the middle of everything in the U.S., and digital logistics and supply chain companies are moving to take advantage of what’s here. The number of supply chain and logistics firms relocating to DFW is growing, including Omnitracs, Apptricity, Mercado Labs, and Slync.io. “It doesn’t surprise us that businesses are coming to Dallas,” says Chris Kirchner, CEO and co-founder of Slync.io, a digital supply chain and logistics company that moved to North Texas in June 2020. Kirchner says that Slync.io’s fast growth—the company’s adding an average of two to five employees weekly—required a family-friendly environment, including good schools, so he could recruit talent more easily. He needed quick access to both U.S. and international clientele, and he wanted more good weather than bad. He didn’t want individual state income taxes. He wanted a place that was business-friendly. Dallas-Fort Worth checked all those boxes for Slync.io, which employed 50 workers full-time as of November 2020, and whose customers include major global shippers DHL and Kuehn+Nagel. “We’re not the first company to move from California,” he says. “If you look at Charles Schwab and McKesson, they’re far bigger than us. And I actually played golf a few weeks ago with Jim Lentz,” referring to the retired CEO of Toyota Motors North America. That firm completed its move from the West Coast to Plano in 2016. The reasons Kirchner lists for relocating Slync.io from California aren’t much different than most other

“OUR HUB REMAINS ONE OF THE TOP-GROWING GLOBAL LOCATIONS FOR BUSINESS TECHNOLOGY.”


PEOPLE

FUTURE 50

T H E S E S TA N D O U T N O RT H T E X A N S A R E I N N O VAT I N G — F O R O U R N E W N O R M A L A N D T H E N E X T.

I M AG E : M I C H A E L S A M P L E S

By Quincy Preston, Alex Edwards, Lauren Hawkins, and Sandra Engelland

MEET THE INNOVATORS AND DISRUPTORS WHO ARE BLASTING NORTH TEXAS INTO THE FUTURE. Their secret weapon? The resilience that helped them conquer a rocky year and has them poised for 2021. They’ve scored big wins by hanging tough, doubling down, and being the right people with the best idea at the perfect time. Our editors’ picks are inventors, leaders, technologists, educators, and industry pioneers. From startup renegades to corporate kingpins to first-of-kind product launchers, they’re minting our future daily—and aiming to make a difference. Get ready to meet 50 people who’ve put Dallas-Fort Worth on a rocket ride to tomorrow. D A L L A S I N N O V AT E S . C O M

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F U T U R E 5 0 S TA R T U P

GENE THERAPY PIONEER

President, CEO, and Founder Taysha Gene Therapies

R.A. SESSION II

SINCE EMERGING FROM STEALTH IN 2020, TAYSHA GENE THERAPIES

has been anything but quiet. Founded in 2019, Taysha got an explosive start with $125 million in Series A and B funding, followed by more than $157 million and a September IPO. On its first day of trading, Taysha saw a 20 percent rise in its stock price, despite launching during a global pandemic. From there, Session and his team have stayed focused on a primary goal: wiping out monogenic disorders of the central nervous system. In recent months, the biotech company received Rare Pediatric Disease Priority Review and Orphan Drug Designation from the FDA for its treatment for Rett Syndrome, a rare genetic mutation found mostly in toddler girls. None of this would be possible, Session says, without Taysha’s partnership with UT Southwestern and Drs. Steven Gray and Berge Minassian. Gray pioneered the spinal injection method for delivering a corrected gene into the central nervous system while Minassian is credited with discovering the location of the genetic mutation behind Rett Syndrome. 2021 looks to be another productive year, Session says, as Taysha plans to pursue more gene therapies with the FDA and move into offices at the new Dallas bio hub, Pegasus Park. They’ll also break ground on their own manufacturing facility, which Session says will allow his team of industry veterans to control their own manufacturing destiny, a common bottleneck in the field today.

TELEMED CONNECTOR

REY COLÓN Founder and CEO

MyTelemedicine

ANALYTICS ARCHITECT

5G MOBILIZER

JAMES HANCOCK

EVELYN TORRES

Co-Founder

CEO

Parasanti

Solaris Technologies Services

Hancock calls Parasanti “the blue-collar analytics company”: It delivers AI and machine learning solutions to people who work hard. Founded in 2019, Dallas-based Parasanti provides analytics tools for the defense, agriculture, oil and gas, and (soon) space industries. Hancock says its analytics tool for agriculture saved farmers more than 360 million gallons of water in the last year, with the goal to save a trillion by 2024. Before co-founding Parasanti, Hancock served as the chief architect for Hewlett Packard’s public sector accounts, delivering DoD products designed to maximize mission success. He and Parasanti co-founder Joshua Seagroves, a veteran and former NSA data analyst, both had roots in ranching and farming, making the defense and ag solutions innovator a natural new fit.

5G is taking over the world of communications, and it’s crucial to powering the IoT. But to stay upto-date with the latest technology, cell tower providers need better towers—and location matters. That’s where Irving-based Solaris comes in. Torres leads a team that recently created a brand new 5G antenna design for its high-capacity mobile towers. “The additional radio requirements will be extreme,” she says, but the 5G antenna will be able to support multiple carriers and radios on the same tower. A decade since its founding, the company’s customers today include AT&T, Verizon, the U.S. Navy, and Dow Chemical. In tumultuous 2020, the team also helped restore service in hurricanedamaged areas with its cell-on-wheels towers, known as COWS. What’s next? Torres hints that expansion is in the making.

Colón and his fast-growth company are offering even more virtual medical solutions since COVID swept the globe. The pandemic is speeding the shift to virtual health, and MyTelemedicine is riding the wave of the future. In May, the firm established a subsidiary brand, Zeally Health, which offers a digital platform for healthcare providers to conduct video visits with patients through MyTelemedicine’s Access a Doctor mobile app. The platform has more than 3 million members nationwide, completing more than 250,000 virtual consultations to date. Doctors upload their patients, who then receive an automated message to set up their accounts and schedule virtual consultations. The company, which was founded in 2015, gives people around the world access to immediate healthcare with round-the-clock access to doctors on-demand via its secure mobile solution, Colón says. In December, the company moved to its new McKinney headquarters, thanks to an innovation fund grant from the city’s EDC. The startup plans to add 40 new high-tech and executive jobs over the next three years, nearly tripling their current staffing. Next up? “Leveraging the latest in AI technology” with a potential rebrand in the works, he hints.

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F U T U R E 5 0 S TA R T U P

VIRTUAL OFFICE PLANNER

Co-Founder and CEO

Walkabout Workplace

DEAL DIGITIZER

BANKING DISRUPTOR

SENECCA MILLER

STEPHEN BOHANON

CTO

Founder and CSSO

Dottid

Alkami

Miller and the Dottid team want to “bring true digital transformation” to commercial real estate with their platform and apps. With input from brokers, asset managers, and owners, they created a customizable workflow engine that lets businesses make their own templates for leasing deals (new, renewed, or expanded). While setting a new standard for lease transactions, they don’t want to lose the best of traditional practices: “We understand that CRE is truly a relationshipdriven industry. Our goal is not to replace those relationships, but to enhance them by bringing a new level of visibility and efficiency to the process,” Miller says. In the last year, Dottid raised $3.85 million in seed funding, became the first CRE platform to be accepted into the Microsoft Teams app store, and launched an iOS app. In early 2021, they plan to launch an Android version.

Last year, Bohanon predicted that Alkami’s next yearly milestone would be 10 million contracted users and $100 million in revenue. Fast forward and the fast-growing fintech has done it: 2020 brought in nearly 10 million digital users and more than $130 million of annual recurring revenue. Add to that a $140 million funding round that puts Alkami’s total funding upwards of $400 million. Bohanon and CEO Mike Hansen have built an intentional workplace culture of Alkamists in Plano around the idea that business innovation is the focus of the human capacity to create or improve products, solutions, and business models. Since its founding, Alkami has received some of the highest app store ratings in digital banking. Its cloud-based solutions are designed to modernize how clients do business and users do banking.

TECH TRANSFORMER

PRASANNA SINGARAJU

Co-Founder and CTO

Qentelli

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TONI PORTMANN LONG BEFORE COVID MADE WFH THE NORM FOR OFFICE WORKERS, Portmann’s firm was attracting huge customers like Mitsubishi and UT Dallas. Walkabout Workplace is an expert in “Placeware,” or customized virtual offices and classrooms that give coworkers or students online places to meet and collaborate. The tech is a combination of video or audio conferencing, screensharing, chat, and any related apps. Its floor plans can mimic familiar brick-and-mortar offices and campuses. Portmann believes that a hybrid of virtual and inperson work is the future of office space: “Companies, mindful of the money they save through work-from-home or workfrom-anywhere arrangements, will embrace digital real estate so employees can be in the office regardless of where they are in the world,” she says. While remote working and learning is the future—and that future is now—COVID proved that people need to be connected “more than ever,” Portman says. A virtual location encourages community while allowing people to live where they want, which can help reduce carbon footprints. She believes that a next step is for virtual real estate to be brokered, along with CRE, allowing the physical and virtual worlds to converge “in new and exciting ways.”

How do you modify software solutions on the fly to meet changing demands? Qentelli’s solution uses AI-powered frameworks and machine learning to help companies uncover the power of data they hold. “Today, I could give you hundreds of examples of how organizations still work in a siloed fashion and without any feedback mechanism,” Singaraju says. It’s a problem with far-reaching implications, he adds. The company’s six patent-pending frameworks are at the heart of the company’s success, helping clients increase revenue, efficiency, and usable information. There’s a tectonic shift to view everything through the digital lens, “so our products are enabling a digital future,” he says. “We believe Digital Process Automation is the ‘secret sauce’ for a lot of organizations to realize significant improvements in productivity.” Case in point? Empowering one of the world’s largest quick-service restaurants to increase its mobile commerce revenue by 23 percent in one year. The five-year-old Dallas-based startup made lists in recent months as one of the top five fastest-growing tech companies in North Texas and a top 100 fastest-growing private company in the region. As one of Fortune’s “Best Places to Work,” their work-fromhome game is next level, offering employees virtual yoga, mental health sessions, and stand-up comedy shows.

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F U T U R E 5 0 S TA R T U P

GREEN CHEMIST

BRAVIS BROWN

CEO

BPS Technology

Brown and his team of scientists at BPS Technology are improving agricultural production and the environment through a new chemical compound. The water-based additive enhances the effectiveness of fertilizers at lower levels, reducing the impact on soil and groundwater and improving a farmer’s bottom line. With a dozen patents filed in the last 12 months, BPS, which just moved from Southlake to Argyle for more space, also offers solutions for the oil and gas industry.

MATCHMAKER

CHRIS GARDNER CTO

Outmatch

Gardner oversees technology that helps companies hire and develop the best employees. The mission is to match people with purpose: The talent intelligence platform makes people decisions more scalable, predictable, and personal. By putting data and insights in a company’s hands, the world’s most recognized brands—think American Airlines, Toyota, 7-Eleven—can deliver a candidate-driven recruiting experience. This year, it developed a tool to help leaders better navigate a crisis and opened two new data centers to mark its global expansion.

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FUTURE 50 ENTERPRISE

DATA WRANGLER

KATE HOPKINS Vice President

AT&T “Imagine a world where no matter where you are you can get coverage, in any kind of emergency,” says Hopkins, who is proud of AT&T’s tech advances to support the first responder community. Recently, her team’s work on inbuilding data sets helped provide coverage in all ERs in a major city. It’s just one example of how the company is making its vision a reality. The AT&T team also provided the FCC with data that helped it levy a record-breaking $225M fine against robocall perpetrators.

COLLECTIVE FUTURIST

MARGO POSEY President and CEO

Dallas/Fort Worth Minority Supplier Development Council Working for economic opportunity and social justice has been part of the DNA of the council for 46 years, says Posey. A spotlight on these areas has allowed the group to be “even more proactive as an advocate for minority business inclusion as one of the single-most effective drivers to strengthen North Texas, transform our school systems, and grow the economy,” she says. “We realize this is the ‘New NOW.’”

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FUTURE 50 ENTERPRISE

TECH-SAVVY COMMUNITY CHAMPION President, Financial Services

Capital One

SANJIV YAJNIK YAJNIK IS WELL-KNOWN THROUGHOUT CAPITAL ONE FOR HIS TECH-

savvy and purpose-driven leadership. But his reach goes well beyond the organization. As a champion of innovation, social justice, and socioeconomic mobility, the executive is a standout in the region for his work to create a more vibrant and equitable Dallas. Under his servantstyle leadership, the company’s South Central region has developed multiple community programs, services, and products related to economic equity. This year that was especially heightened. “Our current climate of social injustice has struck an incredibly deep chord inside me and our organization,” Yajnik says. “We will all work together to be better within our four walls, the community, and beyond.” What resulted was the Capital One Impact Initiative, which kicked off with a $200 million, five-year commitment to support growth in underserved communities and close gaps in equity and opportunity. Locally, it came to life through a series of grants and partnerships. The pandemic also brought a rise in digital tech—and an opportunity to reimagine the carbuying experience. Car ownership is essential to the American dream, Yajnik believes. With his help, Capital One Financial Services was able to grow into one of the largest non-captive auto lenders in the U.S. “We do great things for people who need it the most,” he says. “By working together, we as a business community have the opportunity to serve as a catalyst for change. We must take the energy of this movement to drive action that will last long beyond our years.”

INSIGHT OPTIMIZER

ASHIM BOSE Chief Data Scientist and AI Officer

Omnitracs

Digital transformation is rapidly reshaping the transportation industry, says Bose, who has a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence. The Omnitracs exec took the wheel of the company’s data, AI, and machine learning operations last year to help customers with insight-driven solutions by harnessing data. The entrepreneurial analytics and AI technologist is building a cloud-based foundation to converge diverse data across silos at Omnitracs. Bose began his career working on the Hubble Space Telescope rescue mission for NASA, where he applied AI to optimize the planning and scheduling of space observations.

STEM STAR

JENNIFER BENSON Chief Engineer of Advanced Optics

Raytheon Intelligence & Space Based in McKinney, Benson is leading a distributed team spanning D.C. to California to develop lasers that can carry secure messages for satellites and aircraft. She’s also working on ways to overcome atmospheric distortion of digital signals. “The improved performance also comes in lighter, smaller packages, enabling better communications for smaller volumes,” Benson says. The goal is creating a system that works in rough atmospheric conditions 100 times as fast as the best residential Ethernet. Why? To help the U.S. military and other satellite providers fulfill their missions. It’s critical for national security that we continue making investments in research

and development to create the tech that will give our warfighters an advantage in the future, Benson says. COVID-19 has posed challenges, but her team persevered. “From a resiliency perspective, it helps to remind ourselves that our customer is the U.S. military,” she says. “They are not stopping because of the pandemic, and we have to continue working to support them in their service to our country.” Because the company’s work supports U.S. troops, its operations were deemed essential to national security. Earlier this year— not long after a promotion to her current position— she received the Raytheon CEO Award, the company’s top honor.

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FUTURE 50 ENTERPRISE

FEMALE FOCUSER VP of Transform and Innovation

Frito-Lay

CIARA DILLEY AT PLANO-BASED FRITO-LAY NORTH AMERICA, DILLEY

CARE COMMUNITY BUILDER

STEVE MIFF CEO and President

Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation

When COVID-19 began impacting North Texas in March, the data science and clinical experts at PCCI were already hard at work on ways to improve health in the underserved areas of Dallas. The team quickly built, tested, and deployed several patent-pending analytical models using machine learning and geomapping to visualize the progression of cases across the area. “Challenging times often accelerate innovation and collaboration,” Miff says. With the help of their models, PCCI staffers worked with Dallas area governments, schools, and community-based organizations to get help to the most vulnerable. Wholeperson wellness is the best way to achieve good health outcomes in the middle of a

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pandemic, Miff says. PCCI also developed a Vulnerability Index that includes demographic information, medical comorbidities, social determinants of health, and mobility data. Organizations can use the model to help determine how resources could be deployed. The team learned so much in the process that they published a book, “Building Communities of Care,” to help other communities manage and target help to underserved populations. People with unmet needs are more likely to have poor health outcomes, as COVID-19 has demonstrated. “Although we’ve been working harder than ever, our work feels more relevant and meaningful than ever before,” Miff says.

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is leaving a legacy of leveling the playing field for female entrepreneurs. With her more than two decades of industry experience, Dilley leads a diverse portfolio of Transform Brands. But her job also involves heading initiatives that push Frito-Lay beyond a mega snack company. That’s led to the executive harboring her own passion for championing female equality within the organization and beyond. She’s now known for “waving the flag” of Frito-Lay’s support of female entrepreneurs. Two programs were born, each designed to make a difference for female founders: WomanMade, a PepsiCo initiative that advances those in the food & beverage industry, and Stacy’s Rise Project, a grant and mentorship program that bridges the funding gap (women receive some 2 percent of VC funding). In 2020, Dilley and her team decided to kick it up a notch given the economic fallout from COVID-19. The Stacy’s Rise Project, which Dilley helms, supported 15 female entrepreneurs across all industries with $150,000 in grants, professional services, and ad space. To Dilley, it was all about putting women front and center. “This is the thing that gets me up in the morning,” she says. “This is the thing that I talk about every single day. This is the thing that makes me proud to work for a big corporation.”

FINTECH TRANSFORMER

JEREMY HANSON Technology Fellow Vice President, Global Head of Agent Engineering

Marcus by Goldman Sachs

In little more than two decades, Hanson evolved from a newly minted grad of Carnegie Mellon to part of the engineering leadership team building Goldman Sachs’ digital banking platform, Marcus. Hanson started by leading a team of three on Marcus in 2017. Nearly four years later, he’s running the 100-plus Consumer Engineering team in Richardson that’s helping to change the face of personal banking by continuing to grow the Marcus franchise—including the 2021 launch of Marcus checking accounts. The project has been touted by experts as a blueprint for the future of digital banking.


FUTURE 50 ENTERPRISE

OPENRAN FRONTRUNNER

PARDEEP KOHLI President and CEO

MAVENIR Voted the most powerful person in wireless for 2020 by Fierce Wireless, Kohli and his Richardsonbased company provide cloud-native network software for the wireless industry. In November, they were selected by DISH Network to deliver 5G nationwide. The company aims to bring multiple applications at a lower cost through virtualization. Mavenir’s next-gen flexible Radio Access Network, or RAN, has also drawn the attention of Intel.

INFRA INNOVATOR

DEV RASTOGI Vice President P H OTO A R T : M I C H A E L S A M P L E S ; P H OTO S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O M PA N I E S

AECOM Rastogi works with forward-thinking ideas, such as the Texas Hyperloop and Automated Bus Consortium—two big infrastructure game changers that could redefine transportation. With 36 years of experience spearheading complex transportation projects, she also oversees AECOM’s Dallas Cities program, addressing issues such as climate adaptation and sustainable economic development.

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FUTURE 50 ENTERPRISE

TOUCHLESS TECHNOLOGIST

Founder and CEO

Enseo

TECH GURU

NANCY FLORES EVP, CIO, and CTO

McKesson A veteran of the healthcare industry, Flores is passionate about making a difference for patients, caregivers, and professionals. At the start of 2020, she began a multi-faceted position at Irving-based McKesson as EVP, CIO, and CTO. It was her job to oversee technology initiatives— software, infrastructure, application development, cybersecurity—for the provider of wholesale medical supplies, pharmaceutical distribution, and healthcare tech. But six weeks into a new job and city, the pandemic hit. Flores and her tech teams had to reprioritize overnight, addressing systems and infrastructure in new ways to rapidly tackle the rise in PPE demand and dynamic supply chain activity. Now she plays a big part in McKesson’s partnership with the CDC to support Operation Warp Speed as a distributor of future COVID-19 vaccines and supplies. Tech is crucial to that. “For years, the healthcare industry has talked about shifting into more digital channels to optimize the industry,” she says. “I think that’s the silver lining: This is going to change and drive digital and an inherent level of efficiency. That’s going to be a good thing after COVID.”

VANESSA OGLE FEW INDUSTRIES WERE HARDER HIT BY THE PANDEMIC THAN

hospitality. Steamrolled by stay-at-home orders, Ogle and her “rock star in-house engineering team” had to iterate quickly—creating a whole new suite of touchless tech products “that make it safe to travel again.” They developed VERA, a virtual front desk agent; enseoCONNECT, which allows guests to control TVs, lights, and thermostats from their phones; and CheckPoint, a touchless temperature scanning device. “In the past, the hotel experience was ‘high-touch,’ but now guests want the flexibility to choose how much contact they want—or ‘my touch,’” Ogle says. Enseo’s contactless technologies let guests use their own devices and reduce unwanted contact with surfaces or people. The company also deployed communication systems like MadeSafe, CleanRoom, and LobbyView, so guests could assess cleaning practices. If guests know how and when rooms and common areas are cleaned, they’re more likely to feel safe and develop brand loyalty in this challenging season, she says. Enseo also is launching an IoT-controlled UV-C clean light that can sanitize a hotel room, classroom, or other space. This year, the Latina-led company split into three different divisions, with Enseo Holdings at the helm, as the firm looks to expand its touchless tech into new markets like senior living and hospitals.

TECHNOLOGY TITAN

JAMES KLEIN President, Infrastructure and Defense Products

Qorvo

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Klein helms Qorvo’s Richardson-based IDP business arm, which, with its three North Texas facilities, manufactures some 80 million semiconductors a week. The manufacturer of advanced semiconductors and radio-frequency solutions landed a $75 million contract this year to create a state-of-the-art microelectronics packaging facility in Richardson for the United States Navy. The results should advance semiconductor packaging capabilities for the Department of Defense and commercial customers—and enhance the country’s edge in technology and national security.


FUTURE 50 INVENTION

Enseo’s virtual front desk agent, VERA

P H OTO A R T : M I C H A E L S A M P L E S ; P H OTO S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O M PA N I E S

AERIAL FIREFIGHTER

SENSOR SCIENTIST

VICTOR TROTTER

GUIDO VERBECK

President and CTO

Professor

Trotter Controls

UNT Chemistry and Biochemistry

Trotter and his team at this Haltom Citybased company develop on-board technology that’s been called the “gold standard” in aerial firefighting. In 2020, they received a patent and FAA approval for the world’s first all-electric fire gate system. “Think bomb doors,” says Trotter. The company’s FRDS GEN III was selected as a fire gate for Air Tractor (based in Olney, 100 miles northwest of Fort Worth) and its latest version of the AT802F firefighting plane. The new system replaces the hard-to-maintain hydraulics and pumps with a simpler electric motor that’s 40 percent lighter. That means the plane can carry more liquid fire retardant. Plus, the design automatically compensates when the tank is not level to deliver consistent coverage on the ground. Trotter calls the new technology groundbreaking, saying it represents disruptive improvements. It’s not just making controls for single-engine prop planes. Earlier in 2020, the company developed an all-electric fire gate for the Blackhawk helicopter and created a new tank design and controls for Sacramento-based Helimax’s CH47 heavy helicopter. Next, it plans to deploy an all-electric gate for agricultural aircraft.

Verbeck and his group at UNT developed a chemical sensor, then teamed with Dallas-based Worlds Inc. to turn it into a rapid COVID breathalyzer test. By detecting unique volatile organic compounds, the invention “fingerprints” the virus. It was initially developed to look for chemical variants in the air, as in a fire, drugs in a car, or mass graves, Verbeck says. Beyond COVID, the device has potential groundbreaking applications of “sniffing out” other dangerous diseases like cancers and diabetes. “Creating a device that can look for not only respiratory illnesses, but also earlystage cancer markers and metabolic disorders in real time could really change the diagnosis field,” he says. “Because of this large application set, it was important to use AI and machine learning. This is why Worlds is such a great partner.” Verbeck, who earned his Ph.D. in chemistry at Texas A&M, is an expert in mass spectrometry focused on instrument design and development. What’s next for the professor? He’s developing a new device for cancer treatment and one for increasing organ viability for transplants while continuing to pursue a host of new metabolic disease markers for his chemical sensor.

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FUTURE 50 INVENTION

VOICE AUTHENTICATOR

MILIND BORKAR Co-Founder and CEO

Illuma Labs Coming soon to a credit union near you, Illuma Labs’ fintech offers realtime voice authentication powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. “Gone are the days of long questionand-answer sessions to prove your identity every time you call your financial institution. Our innovative approach helps our clients enhance the user experience they offer to their end customers, while simultaneously elevating security and improving operational efficiency,” Borkar says. Founded in 2016 by Borkar and Chief

LEEMON BAIRD Co-Founder and Chief Scientist

Hedera Hashgraph

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DETOX DEVELOPER

ROGER RALEY

DANIEL POWELL

President

CEO

Alpine Advanced Materials

Spark Biomedical

Raley leads a team of engineers developing HX5: a lighter, fasterto-produce alternative to aluminum for aviation, defense, space, and more. In 2020, they tested the patented material in space, underwater, the desert, and extreme temperatures. Reducing weight means less fuel, a smaller carbon footprint, and lowered operating costs, making air and space travel more possible and affordable. The company also sees other applications, including marine and industrial parts, firearms, and bicycles. “With HX5, we can make traditionally aluminum parts and components at half the weight, and those parts can be engineered more easily and precisely,” Raley says. In response to the devastating impact of COVID-19 on travel, the company has been looking to partner with commercial airlines to help lower their costs for future air travel.

Powell and his team have developed two products to help fight the nation’s opioid epidemic, which has worsened during COVID-19. The Sparrow Therapy System is a wearable neurostimulation device for drug-free opioid withdrawal relief for adults. Another device is in clinical trials to help the youngest victims with Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome. In the last year, the company conducted adult clinical trials with “great results,” Powell says. “Although we’re still waiting for FDA clearance, we have high confidence in our solution; especially when we hear comments from our clinical trial participants saying, ‘Easiest detox ever.’” After the opioid withdrawal tool is approved, the firm will focus on the benefits of the neurostimulation device to help with longterm addiction recovery. A large clinical trial will soon be in the works. “One of the biggest challenges for those recovering from long-term opioid use is the changes to the brain’s function that make it more difficult to handle stressors,” Powell says. “We believe our system can help the brain return to a state more like pre-opioid use and give patients the tools to stay sober in the long term.”

A year ago, Hedera Hashgraph put out a virtual welcome mat, inviting the public to create accounts or build decentralized applications on its main network. Baird and his team have since accelerated the mission to build a new digital future for all: Based in Richardson, the next-gen alternative distributed ledger startup is working to be a more secure alternative to blockchain. The platform is designed to provide faster transactions and greater capacity to scale. Think of it as “the trust layer of the internet,” Baird says. Hedera is governed by a council of some of the world’s largest organizations to ensure the stability and reliability of its network protocols and operations. Leemon, a serial entrepreneur with a Ph.D. in computer science, has multiple patents and publications in peer-reviewed journals.

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P H OTO S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O M PA N I E S

ALGORITHM INVENTOR

Technology Officer Jeremy Whittington, Plano-based Illuma Labs developed its Illuma Shield platform with $2 million in R&D contracts from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. As COVID-19 increased the volume of calls to customer service centers for financial institutions, Illuma Shield helped credit unions using the platform to reduce call duration and hold times, Borkar says. In May, Illuma Labs received an undisclosed amount of seed funding based on its participation in VentureTech for the best new fintech applications.

LOAD LIGHTENER


F U T U R E 5 0 E D U C AT I O N

BIOTECH BOOSTER

AVP of Commercialization and Business Development

UT Southwestern

GAP CLOSER

REO D. PRUIETT

CLAIRE ALDRIDGE ALDRIDGE LEADS EFFORTS TO MAKE DALLAS

P H OTO A R T : M I C H A E L S A M P L E S ; P H OTO : B R E T R E D M A N

a biotech hub. By helping UTSW faculty develop “the entrepreneurial mindset,” she and her team hope to turn scientific discoveries into real-world solutions. Case in point: Her group helped launch Taysha Gene Therapies. “We’re establishing closer relationships with potential commercial partners and keeping them engaged and aware of our pipeline of innovations,” she says. In the year of COVID, she’s helped highlight UTSW research on therapies like antibody plasma, remdesivir, and the anti-IL-6 inhibitors— as well as ongoing studies from the Lyda Hill Department of Bioinformatics that are assisting public health officials in a proactive approach to the virus. UTSW researchers are also leading the DFW Prevalence Study, “which is seeking to identify why certain populations and communities are harder hit.” Next up, the UTSW Office for Technology Development, which includes her team, will relocate to Pegasus Park to encourage collaboration among scientists, businesses, and nonprofits. Aldridge, who also serves as a scientific advisor for Pegasus’ Biotech Hub, says the move will increase the likelihood of meaningful collisions that spark reactions.

Senior Director of Programs

Educate Texas at Communities Foundation of Texas Despite the global pandemic, Pruiett and her organization continued to help students in underserved areas make gains in STEM. Through a partnership with Texas Instruments Foundation, they saw students in Lancaster ISD increase Algebra 1 proficiency by 51 percent compared to 2012. They also saw African American students in LISD start to close the achievement gap in math. As COVID highlighted the digital divide in low-income urban and rural areas in Texas, the nonprofit supported efforts for increased internet connectivity for communities that lack digital resources. It also launched the Texas Learning Exchange to help educators deliver effective instruction online, in person, or in a hybrid system. A thriving workforce brings economic security, Pruiett says, and the organization aims to increase the number of degrees and certificates earned by Texas students in the future. In the wake of COVID-related shutdowns. She says CFT also helped create a new funder collaborative called North Texas Cares, which awarded over $40 million in grants to 630 North Texas nonprofits.

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F U T U R E 5 0 E D U C AT I O N

CREDENTIAL CONNECTOR

MANOJ KUTTY Founder and CEO

GreenLight Credentials

Kutty is on a mission to change the education application process with GreenLight, a platform that connects students, academic institutions, and businesses by providing realtime access to lifelong learning achievements and records. Kutty compares the technology to a verified LinkedIn: From transcripts to recommendation letters, records are written into a student’s “electronic locker” by the institution that awarded the credentials. It’s an economic mobility platform of the future—no in-person visits or tedious, expensive processes required. Today, more than 50,000 Texas students have used GreenLight. Currently, the team is replicating its model to scale nationwide for the American Council of Education.

VIRTUAL HUMAN CREATOR

Director

UT Dallas’ Center for Simulation and Synthetic Humans

MARJORIE ZIELKE

WHAT IF STUDENTS LEARNING AT HOME HAD A

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BLOCKCHAIN BOOSTER

LEARN-AND-EARN GAMER

LEE BRATCHER

DANNY MARTIN

President

Founder

Texas Blockchain Council

Esposure

Bratcher, who teaches political science and directs the master’s program in international studies at Dallas Baptist University, wants to put the Lone Star State on the forefront of blockchain technology as the new president of the Texas Blockchain Council. Launched in early 2020, the council aims to make Texas “the jurisdiction of choice for blockchain innovation,” he says. To do that, members are advocating for blockchain-centric public policy and educating others about the benefits of distributed ledger technology. Member companies and partners include Hedera Hashgraph, Hyland, Trammell Venture Partners, and DBU.

In 2015, Martin cofounded Geekletes, a DeSoto esports development company that helped gamers go pro. But when COVID hit, the CEO saw an opportunity to transform his business into a comprehensive online hub. What emerged is Esposure, an accredited STEM.org platform for gamers, students, and entrepreneurs to learn about the business of esports. Esposure sits at the intersection of esports and community: Its “learn-and-earn” model includes master classes, enrichment programs, and resources for all aspects of esports education. But it’s also a communal way for gamers to connect—and a rite of passage for a growing user base.

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virtual teacher who could answer questions, give help, and find different ways to instruct based on individual needs? That’s what Zielke and her award-winning team at UTD are working to achieve. “This work was prescient and prepandemic,” she says. “My goal has always been to create a true virtual human hologram that can interact naturally with students and faculty to address the social and learning issues that currently exist in virtual learning systems.” Zielke believes the work they’re doing—along with the clear issues that have emerged with COVID-19—will create a new type of hybrid learning worldwide. This year, her team received two National Science Foundation grants to support their research. Working with the Richardson Independent School District and UT Southwestern on the projects, Zielke is exploring “critical aspects of virtual education” that have become more evident this year. “Research facets support social factors that have become crystalized,” she says. “We’re working on the development of both virtual teachers to extend the capability of human teachers and virtual students to explore social learning with peers.”


F U T U R E 5 0 E D U C AT I O N

EXAM PREPPER

CHANDRA S. PEMMASANI Founder and CEO

UWorld Born out of his own efforts to study for high-stakes med school entrance exams, Dr. Pemmasani built an education empire that’s “the gold standard” in the healthcare education industry. Now, under the gun of COVID-19, the 2020 EY finalist and his team are applying their knack for teaching difficult subjects via distance learning in public schools by “reinventing the ways students focus, engage, and learn.”

P H OTO A R T : M I C H A E L S A M P L E S ; P H OTO S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O M PA N I E S / O R G A N I Z AT I O N S

BRAIN RESEARCHER

SID O’BRYANT Professor and Executive Director, Institute for Translational Research

UNTHSC In September, O’Bryant and his team won the largest grant ever in the history of UNTHSC—$45 million from the National Institute on Aging to study the disproportionate impact of Alzheimer’s disease on Hispanic Americans. The grant allowed them to build one of the most advanced research brain imaging facilities in the U.S. Now they’re adding African Americans— also disproportionately affected by AD—to the study. The goal? Better treatments for all.

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PLANET ADVOCATE

RANIA BATRICE Senior Advisor and Interim Executive Director

March for Science In the pandemic, Dallasbased March for Science set out to bring together “the world’s largest science advocate community” for its global event. They pulled it off in a new virtual format, with a focus on women on the front lines, youth engagement, and more. “We’re all citizens of this planet, and coming together in community, even virtually during this time, is a key part of our work,” Batrice says. Up next, MFS is launching a Political Action Committee.

MOMENTUM BUILDER

CHAD HOUSER CEO

Cafe Momentum Cafe Momentum’s mission to transform the lives of at-risk youth caught up in the criminal justice system has grown dramatically in 2020 with the launch of the Momentum Advisory Collective (M.A.C.) to take its nonprofit restaurant model nationwide. With a goal to open restaurants and community service centers in 10 markets over five years, the program aims to decrease the number of youth lost to the cycle of incarceration. Shifting the model for juvenile justice in the U.S. could save between $8 to $21 billion per year, Houser says.

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JEREMY

MAHUGH

WEB WEAVER

EVIL CRUSHER

Co-Founder and SVP

DeliverFund

P H OTO A R T : M I C H A E L S A M P L E S ; P H OTO S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O M PA N I E S

MAHUGH LIVES BY DELIVERFUND’S UNOFFICIAL MOTTO:

“Our business is crushing evil … and business is good!” The Dallasbased nonprofit, which is run by a distributed team of former CIA, Special Ops, and law enforcement personnel, uses open-source intelligence and proprietary software to analyze the activity of human traffickers in the U.S. and help law enforcement take them down. “It’s not ‘Minority Report’ yet,” Mahugh says, referring to the movie’s Precogs and its predictive analytics. “But it’s getting closer.” Mobile technology has caused trafficking to skyrocket. DeliverFund has turned the tables, using that same tech to hunt the traffickers using it. “DeliverFund’s whole goal is to create a Hobson’s choice for the trafficker: they can continue to use internet technologies to conduct business and get caught, or they can stop. Either way, the good guys win,” Mahugh says. The former Navy SEAL signed the nonprofit’s lease at the old offices of Backpage, one of the largest marketplaces for buying and selling sex before it was busted in 2018. DeliverFund even assisted in taking down traffickers using it. Moving to the space was symbolic, bringing “light to darkness,” Mahugh says. What’s next? Helping his org establish the International Human Trafficking Analysis Center (iHTAC). “Think of it as a centralized brain for all things related to human trafficking,” he says. It’s something law enforcement has wanted for years and will be a huge weapon in the fight. Mahugh expects it to “significantly reduce human trafficking as we know it. The iHTAC will be an inflection point in history—history that will be made right here in Dallas.”

OCEAN WARRIOR

JEREMY MCKANE Founder and CEO

OCN.ai

DIVERSITY DRIVER

SHERYLE GILLIHAN

MANDY PRICE

CEO

Co-Founder and CEO

CauseLabs

Kanarys

Gillihan and CauseLabs provide websites and apps, mostly for small companies, nonprofits, education, and government entities. They also champion local entrepreneurship, and in November launched a conference—Impact Fort Worth—to feature game-changing leaders and ideas, including Symbology’s Marissa Heyl, Feel the Color’s Jakayla Dixon, and Jeff Williams of The Taste Project. The firm’s biggest recent task has been building a portal for the California Child Care Resource & Referral Network with user-friendly features for parents, childcare providers, and its network. Next up, they plan to offer Launch for Good with websites and apps at a variety of price points, which will “help CauseLabs better serve nonprofits and other purpose-driven businesses so they can continue thriving and serving our community.”

Price and her team at Kanarys, a platform that fosters collaboration between companies and employees on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), had a landmark year in 2020. They were chosen for the inaugural Google for Startups Accelerator: Black Founders. They were a recipient of Google for Startups’ Black Founders Fund, as well as a winner of the Rise of the Rest Seed Fund Virtual Tour. And they significantly enhanced the Kanarys platform to give companies a more detailed depiction of DEI that drives actionable insights and impactful interventions. Now company leaders have the data and metrics needed to make informed decisions when it comes to DEI to create a workplace that is inclusive for every employee. Price wants to build a world that’s transparent and accountable—one that offers an opportunity for everyone to make their voice heard. COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement highlighted the inequities in our society, she says, causing more companies to step up when it comes to supporting employees. Kanarys is there to help.

McKane’s OCN.ai gathers and stores data on ocean conditions using blockchain tech, drones, and information from scientific partners to keep ocean sanctuaries pristine with autonomous enforcement. His team has studies collecting data on the ocean’s surface temperature, PH, oxygen levels, ocean color, and more. And they’re testing drones that find and warn vessels illegally operating in marine protected areas, even demonstrating a prop-fouling system that would render a vessel useless. In recent months, OCN.ai signed a letter of intent with Australia for a pilot program and is working on agreements with five other nations. McKane sees a link between COVID-19 and the need to better understand the Earth. “Even with a vaccine, we have to remember why this is a problem to begin with,” he says. “It is our improper relationship to wildlife and their habitats.” That all starts with data, as well as “understanding what we’re doing and what the financial value of a healthy ecosystem looks like.” McKane, a technologist and photographer, might be best known for his artwork showcasing oceansaving efforts in his installations. “The shortest path between two humans is art,” he says.

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FAIR FASHIONISTA

MARISSA HEYL Founder and Creative-in-Chief

Symbology Clothing

The anthropologist-turned-fashion maven aims to “make fair trade sexy.” Working with artisans crafting fabrics, primarily in India, she uses fashion to empower women with fair wages and sustained employment. Turned off by the exploitive, superficial tendencies in the fashion industry, she had an “aha moment” while watching a woman create a block-printed tablecloth in a village in India. Heyl envisioned that tablecloth as a beautiful dress. A self-described “hippie, nerdy type with a fashion obsession,” she aims to create designs that look good on everyone. A recent Symbology photoshoot celebrated trans, non-binary, and plus-size models with a central message that “diversity is truly beautiful,” she says. Representation in fashion is about “being seen but also changing minds about what’s considered fashionable.” Heyl also runs Etico, a sustainable women’s collective on Fort Worth’s Magnolia Avenue, where she recruits BIPOC-owned brands.

GAMER-IN-CHIEF

STARTUP STORYTELLER

TONY GOODMAN

JONATHAN MORRIS

CEO and President

Entrepreneur and Host

PeopleFun

“Self Employed,” Magnolia Network

Goodman, a gaming legend behind Age of Empires, anticipated the rise of casual mobile games. Launching Richardson-based PeopleFun in 2012, he’s enjoyed “massive growth” building creative games like Wordscape for millions of players on iOS and Android. In 2020, the company nearly doubled its staff over seven months, says Goodman, who wants to make Dallas a destination for the gaming industry. With a data-driven approach to testing ideas, the studio’s “blueprint” for bringing games to market “sets the bar higher for other developers.”

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A soon-to-launch docuseries pilot features Morris visiting entrepreneurs across the country sharing their small business stories. As owner of the Fort Worth Barber Shop and co-developer of a boutique hotel under construction, Morris has a few tales of his own. On his goal of representing Black and Brown entrepreneurs, he says, “When we see ourselves reflected, whether that be a small business down the street or whether that be on a TV screen on Magnolia Network… it’s a really powerful opportunity.”

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AWARD-WINNING FILMMAKER

Writer-DirectorProducer

CHYNA ROBINSON THE FORT WORTH-BASED FILMMAKER’S DEBUT FEATURE,

“No Ordinary Love,” has managed to garner major success since its international festival run began late last year. Robinson’s micro-budget independent film—created, produced, and shot in North Texas— has racked up accolades including two Best Feature Awards and several Audience Choice Awards. “No Ordinary Love” also ranked No. 21 on the Domestic Box Office list for its official box office premiere in October, as it secures wider distribution. “No Ordinary Love,” a suspenseful tale of two women struggling with abusive relationships as their marriages take a toxic turn, shines a light on the issue. Abuse is an “ugly part of our culture that affects one in three women in their lifetime,” Robinson says. “[I] pulled it out of the shadows for all to see on the big screen.” Following the success of her feature, she wrote and produced a short film, “Lola/Lisa,” which is on the festival circuit. Now the multi-talented Robinson is looking to stretch her creative horizons by writing in different genres, from comedy to religion to sci-fi.


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FOOD FUTURIST

TYLER SHIN Founder

Revolving Kitchen Over the last year, food delivery has grown by 125 percent. To meet that surge in a hard-hit economy, Shin offers restaurateurs fully outfitted commercial kitchens for rental from his space in Garland. The “ghost” kitchens overcome capital demands and administrative burdens. Recently launched is the “future of food” in Dallas: a batched menu concept for customers to order from multiple restaurants, satisfying all cravings with one delivery fee.

COMMUNITY CHANGEMAKER P H OTO A R T : M I C H A E L S A M P L E S ; P H OTO S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O M PA N I E S

JASON ROBERTS Founder

The Better Block Artist, civic activist, and urban designer Roberts started Better Block in 2010 to improve our neighborhoods. The nonprofit educates, equips, and empowers locals to revitalize their built environments. Its Wikiblock, an opensource design library with files of benches, chairs, planters, and more, can be cut by a CNC router out of plywood. No glue or nails needed.

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MIKE RUFAIL

ESPORTS ENGINE

Founder and Chief Gaming Officer

Envy Gaming

cancellations early in 2020, esports found its time to shine. Rufail leads the Dallas-based Envy Gaming team, which was able to pivot in ways that other sports can’t. “Esports was born online, so while the cancellation of our live arena events was a significant shift, innovating in how we deliver online competition wasn’t,” Rufail says. The team can pull a crowd. When Envy’s Dallas Fuel team hosted Bud Light Homestand Weekend in Allen in 2019, it ended up selling out with over 4,500 tickets on both days of the esports event. Now, with safety precautions continuing to limit social gatherings, Rufail says, “We’re giving people more ways to engage with our players and teams than ever before—at an affordable price—with plenty of great incentives and in ways that traditional sports and entertainers don’t offer.” Envy’s new membership program comes with exclusive content and direct Team Envy access to fans. With Envy among the major esports organizations in Dallas-Fort Worth alongside Jerry Jones-owned CompLexity Gaming and Mark Cubanowned Mavs Gaming, the esports team looks to be on a major growth track, even amidst a pandemic. “The potential that esports has—not just in business, but in entertainment, hobbies, fandom, and more—is enormous and growing.” Rufail says. “We continue to see more and more North Texans want to be a part of that experience.”

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P H OTO A R T : M I C H A E L S A M P L E S ; P H OTO C O U R T E S Y E N V Y G A M I N G

WHEN THE PANDEMIC LED TO MASS SPORTS


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D E LO I T T E

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MCKINNEY

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TA S K U S

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ALKAMI

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I L L U S T R AT I O N : T H I S S ATA N V I A i S TO C K

MUSINGS ON INNOVATION FROM THE REGION’S PARADIGM-SHIFTING COMPANIES AND ORGANIZATIONS

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THOUGHT LEADERS

DELOITTE Kevin Knowles, Principal, Deloitte Consulting W W W. D E LO IT T E .C O M / U S/ DA L L A S

How should companies be thinking about building towards the future? Organizations face a choice between returning to a post-COVID world that is simply an enhanced version of yesterday OR building one that is a sustainable version of tomorrow. The risk is more than that of falling behind— it’s the possibility of never catching up at all. Deloitte has produced the “Capital H: A Human Capital Podcast Series” that provides perspectives on this new future and engages with leaders around the U.S. in their views and how they are building towards the future.

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What are some of the most critical changes North Texas businesses should make to face the future effectively? COVID-19 has challenged business leaders to do three things at once: stage the return to work, understand and leverage the advancements they enacted during the crisis, and chart a new path forward. As organizations stage the return to work, they should seize this opportunity to step back and make sure that they are creating clear connections across individual jobs, team objectives, and the organization’s mission. To strengthen the link between belonging and organizational performance, organizations should do more than treat their workers fairly and respectfully; they should enable a deeper connection by drawing visible linkages as to how their contributions are making an impact on the organization and society as a whole.

2021 EDITION

What do you see as you look ahead? What’s coming? Balancing risk and opportunity are absolutely critical. Organizations should manage the risk while also focusing on opportunity, growth and potential innovation. The organizations that are thinking it through, that are taking a step back and truly rearchitecting work, can meet the challenge head-on and have tremendous opportunity and untapped productivity moving forward.

A great analogy from our podcast series was the story of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. In the story, they talk about living in the world of the Red Queen. And, in the world of the Red Queen, you need to run twice as fast as you ever ran before to make any progress. And, that’s the world that we’re living in. In order to make progress, we do need to run twice as fast. And that’s part of the leadership challenge of the future.


The forces of work now shaping our world. In today’s transformed world, how can leaders embrace the possibility of returning to work in the future of work? We believe the future lies in bringing together technology and humanity and making bold shifts. With a decade of insights and new perspectives, Deloitte provides a path forward. The path starts here: www.deloitte.com/hctrends

Copyright Š 2020 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved.


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TASKUS Jarrod Johnson, Chief Customer Officer TA S K U S .C O M

TaskUs has also been consistently recognized as one of the Inc. “5000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America”. Founded in 2008 by Bryce Maddock and Jaspar Weir, the company raised over $250mm in 2018 from the world’s largest private equity firm, Blackstone. TaskUs currently has over 23,000 employees and offices across the United States, the Philippines, India, Taiwan, Mexico, Greece, Ireland, and is expanding in Latin America. TaskUs is a fast-growing tech-enabled business services company, delivering customer support, AI operations, and content security services that power the world’s most innovative and disruptive brands. High-growth companies and mature innovators rely on TaskUs to support their ongoing quest for success as they strive to create a consistent customer experience, ensure safety, and deliver swift digital transformation as they scale. TaskUs is uniquely qualified to deliver cutting edge solutions to fulfill consumer demand with responsiveness and agility in an ever-changing world. Listed as one of Glassdoor’s “100 Best Places to Work”, USA Today’s “Best Company Cultures” and consistently recognized by Comparably, TaskUs puts people at the heart of everything they do. This makes TaskUs an ideal partner for innovative companies who aspire to pave the way and make a meaningful impact on the way we live.

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Tell us about TaskUs. We are a collective of highly capable humans, who understand how to deploy technology and data to support the world’s most innovative and disruptive brands enabling them to thrive in an ever-changing world. From Digital CX to Content Security, Data & AI Operations, Consulting, and anything in between, we consider ourselves responsible for protecting our partners’ interests and supporting their long term success through innovation and technology—powered by ridiculously smart people. Describe what your industry looks like and where does TaskUs come into the picture? Connectivity and globalization have allowed us to make large strides in short periods, providing better and faster services all around the world, and increasing the average income around the globe. However, with increased connectivity comes increased consumer demand and

2021 EDITION

competition, and more exposure to fraud, theft, and misbehavior. Innovative companies lead the way in fulfilling that demand but need help supporting their own scale and ultimately protecting what they build. They rely on Us to treat their business like our own and work with them to provide consistency and scale in an ever-evolving and demanding world. How does TaskUs differentiate itself from others in the region? We understand that achieving growth for our partners requires a culture of constant motion; actively seeking the best inquisitive minds, incessantly experimenting with new technologies, and ready to handle any challenge at a moment’s notice. We stand at the top of our industry in protecting our global team—and our partners— by providing the best people, tech, experience, and conditions to thrive in and grow. Our culture is a direct reflection of our people as a collective spirit.

How would you define your company’s innovations? TaskUs’ innovations are a balance of technology implementation and smart human resource management. We do not favor technology over humans—or vice versa—we let the right solutions dictate the right balance. Businesses today recognize the value of an A-player and work hard to retain great talent. High-value talent cannot be bogged down by cumbersome, mundane, and simple tasks. They need a fresh working environment where they can move swiftly, are empowered to think differently, and where their efforts and contributions make an impact. This is where TaskUs deploys Data Science, AI, and Automation to unleash the power of human capital to solve complex problems for our clients. We turn innovation into impact by knowing our customers, understanding their pain points, and providing the tools and team to fuel hyper-growth. Refreshing, smart, creative, and true—that’s TaskUs.


Next-Generation Customer Experience

Which company powers customer experience for the world’s most disruptive brands?

We partner with the world’s leading companies to transform their customer experience. CONTENT SECURITY

DIGITAL CX

CONSULTING

AI / ML

For more information: www.taskus.com | info@taskus.com | (888) 4000-Task


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ALKAMI Edited By Akiko Bremar, Talent Acquisition and HR Programs Specialist at Alkami A L K A M I .C O M

Per Scholas Graduates Rashmi Uv and Samaria Taylor

What sets Alkami apart from other tech companies in Dallas? Mas: Simply put, our culture sets Alkami apart from other companies. Specifically, our ability to demonstrate “Caring-Collaboration” and “Optimistic-Perseverance.” Our culture has been fundamental to how we respond and adapt to marketplace conditions and technical demands, and has allowed us to maintain our fast-paced working environment despite challenges that come. To sustain such a pace, we encourage continuous learning and growth. We invest in an infrastructure that reinforces continuous learning with a commitment of 24 hours of professional development for

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each Alkamist annually. Through Alkami University, professional learning communities that share knowledge and expertise, and leadership development programs, Alkamists are afforded opportunities to continuously learn, grow, and improve. How has Alkami managed to remain resilient during Covid-19? Mas: Working from home was never difficult at Alkami as we have long provided flexibility to do this when needed. However, this is the first time that we’ve all had to do it at once. Working remotely means we are dispersed with many individuals confronted by new challenges. Over 40% of Alkamists

2021 EDITION

Alkami builds and delivers the nation’s most innovative digital online and mobile banking solutions for credit unions and banks with over 10M contracted users on its platform. An element of their growth and success—including multiple consecutive years of being listed as one of the Fastest Growing Tech Companies in the U.S. by Inc. 5000, Best Place to Work in Fintech, and Best Place to Work for Workplace Culture—is attributed to their partnerships with community organizations with particular focus on breaking down educational barriers to technical careers. These partnerships for Alkami include Bold Idea and Per Scholas. With Resilience being the theme for this issue of Dallas Innovates, Alkami shares how its resilience has helped Alkamists and the company thrive during these remarkable and unprecedented times. Concurrently, Alkami highlights their partnership with Per Scholas, an organization that serves as a catalyst for individual resiliency. Per Scholas offers tuition-free education to students who traditionally would not have access to technical education. Alkami donates time, resources, and money to Per Scholas; but most importantly, they hire Per Scholas graduates. Mas Kono, VP of Quality Assurance at Alkami; Chanel Tyes, HR Generalist at Alkami; and Stephanie Valadaz, Managing Director of Per Scholas in Dallas share more about Alkami’s partnership with Per Scholas, how their partnership helps one another grow, and how both organizations are discovering what resilience means, and what it especially meant in 2020.

have school-aged children at home; many are caring for vulnerable family members; some are finding themselves taking on the financial burdens for extended family; and others are finding themselves home alone and isolated. Taking all of that into consideration has required managers and leaders to learn how to engage, motivate and connect with our teams in new ways. Our HR team has been pivotal in helping us rethink and reimagine our ways of work through education and learning programs, sponsoring cross-organization events/activities, and sharing of best practices. This has helped us all transition smoothly, making this time considerably less difficult than

many may have anticipated. How has Alkami continued to foster a sense of community and culture while working remote? Mas: We rely a lot on tools and technology, such as Slack and Google Hangouts, to stay connected at work, but we do more than work meetings. “Caring-Collaboration” and “Real-Fun” are core to our culture, so we do a lot to create the human connection. With Slack channels dedicated to varying areas of interest, we encourage cross-organizational connection. For example, one channel is dedicated to foodies where recipes, tips, and photos of recent creations are shared. Alkami has hosted several


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THOUGHT LEADERS

celebrity chefs to lead virtual cooking classes, which our CEO and his family have joined in on, too. Additionally, every morning, people join Slack Channels saying, “good morning,” just like they would if they were in the office; and every evening, they sign off saying “good night.” It’s the little things that make remote work more human. What is Per Scholas? Stephanie: Per Scholas is a 25-year-old national non-profit that drives positive and proven social change in communities across the country. Specifically, Per Scholas Dallas provides motivated individuals in the DFW area with tuition-free IT instruction, leading to industry-recognized credentials and support services that launch tech careers. Career coaching, individualized student support, direct connections to employers, and career advancement support are some of the additional services offered. Since launching in Dallas in 2015, we have been a diverse and capable talent pipeline to more than 100 businesses in DFW and helped more than 700 individuals launch careers in tech. Our students come with diverse perspectives and varying backgrounds; yet, they all have one thing that is consistent to their success: an ability to adjust to adversity with focused commitment on changing the course of their professional futures. What makes Alkami’s partnership with Per Scholas unique? Mas: Our partnership isn’t unique as much as Per Scholas itself is. They’re a non-profit, but they’re selective with whom they enroll; the candidates must have a drive Continued on 50

Meet the Per Scholas Graduates at Alkami: Hymie Herrera, NOC Analyst ■ Prior to Per Scholas, I was a: Warehouse Supervisor at UPS ■ Why IT? I have always had a passion for technology, but I never actively pursued it. Eventually, I wanted to make it more than a hobby and learn to do it for a career. ■ Why Per Scholas? I liked their mission statement, “Opening doors to technology careers for individuals from often overlooked communities.” Their commitment to upskilling the underemployed seemed, and is, genuine. ■ Most Memorable Experience at Per Scholas: Getting a 20-minute nap before class. It sounds silly to say now, but I was working nights full-time at a hotel while attending class full-time, and traffic made my commute home last over an hour. I was lucky to get 3 hours of sleep during my time in the program. ■ Favorite Part About Working at Alkami: The company culture is as genuine as it portrays itself to be. Everyone is welcoming and willing to help each other. It is a truly positive environment. ■ Advice for others looking to break into IT: It’s not enough to simply want it. You have to put forth the effort to make it happen. There is no rush; take it one day at a time.

Rashmi Uv, Associate QA Engineer ■ Prior to Per Scholas, I was a: Homemaker ■ Why IT? I love troubleshooting and investigating the root cause. I also wanted to do something related to Engineering. ■ Why Per Scholas? Per Scholas trained people like me who were on a career break and wanted a career transition with potential, but did not know where to start. ■ Most memorable learning experience at Per Scholas: The entire experience was nostalgic and sent me back to college days, which I cherish. There were 36 students from different backgrounds who all had so much passion to learn. ■ Favorite part about working at Alkami: People!!! I found amazing mentors here at Alkami. Everyone knew where I came from and they never judged me for not knowing everything in the first few months. ■ Advice for others looking to break into IT: Just be honest and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Reach out to people when you don’t know the concepts. Keep learning everyday and just don’t give up.

Gabby Ibarra, Associate Quality Engineer ■ Prior to Per Scholas, I was a: Self-employed Hairstylist and Entrepreneur for 4+ years ■ Why IT? I was ready to try something new and challenging. I love challenges! ■ Why Per Scholas? When I first heard about Per Scholas, I thought that it was too good to be true. As I learned that Per Scholas’s mission is to help adults transition to IT careers, I knew in my heart that this was the school for me. I love helping others grow and I could see that Per Scholas shared the same passion. ■ Most memorable learning experience at Per Scholas: I will never forget how patient and caring the instructors are. I knew almost nothing about programming, yet in 3.5 months, the instructors took this creative Hairstylist Entrepreneur and taught her how to incorporate her past skills to creatively build a full stack application. ■ Favorite part about working at Alkami: Being surrounded by people who follow Alkami’s culture compounds. The culture Alkami has set has made it a dream to be able to collaborate and communicate with others, while having fun. ■ Advice for others looking to break into IT: Believe in yourself and do not be afraid to fail. There will always be someone who is willing to help you get back up and support you to keep going. You are not alone.

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THOUGHT LEADERS

Meet the Per Scholas Graduates at Alkami: Samaria Taylor, IT Support Technician ■ Prior to Per Scholas, I was a: Full-time Mommy! ■ Why IT? I have always dabbled in different aspects of technology and felt that I would really flourish in the IT field. ■ Why Per Scholas? The in-class learning was really appealing to me because I was not someone who thrives in online classroom environments. ■ Most memorable learning experience at Per Scholas: I remember feeling such a warm welcome from everyone. I felt so at-home during the entire span of my course and have truly made some lifelong friends because of Per Scholas. ■ Favorite part about working at Alkami: The culture of Alkami will always be my favorite part of working here. The overall friendliness that exists is refreshing. ■ Advice for others looking to break into IT: Find something that you think you will like and start! The IT industry and field is so diverse that you never have to be stuck in any one part.

Ivell Romas IV, Associate QA Engineer ■ Prior to Per Scholas, I was a: Manager at Texadelphia, a small cheesesteak chain. ■ Why IT? I’ve always been fascinated by technology. I’ve taught myself a couple of programming languages and even made a garage door opener out of a Raspberry Pi. ■ Why Per Scholas? Like most alumni of the program will tell you, I thought it was too good to be true. It seemed unlikely that a non-profit would dedicate themselves to helping people transition into tech for free, but when I walked through the door and got a chance to speak with Jackie, Tom and Charley, I knew that I was going to thrive. ■ Most memorable learning experience at Per Scholas: I’ll always remember the practice interview I did with Tom at Per Scholas for this position at Alkami. I was nervous. I didn’t know if Alkami would even take me as a candidate because I didn’t have a degree. Tom reminded me that I already obtained the knowledge I needed, and that I should focus on what I wanted out of the interview as well. After that, I felt confident enough to interview with the VP of QA and not even know it at the time. ■ Favorite part about working at Alkami: My coworkers are the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Every time I walk through the doors in the morning, I smile because I don’t meet the same resistance to progress at Alkami that I did in past jobs. ■ Advice for others looking to break into IT: Having the skills is one thing, but engaging with people in the field or even going to meetups/ other industry-related events can be extremely beneficial.

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to succeed in spite of challenges and obstacles that life may bring to them. The three Per Scholas graduates on my team—Rashmi, Ivell, and Gabby— have a “No problem; I can do it!” kind of energy that not many people have and it’s inspiring. They are the true examples of resiliency—adapting, learning and translating their experiences into changing the course of their lives through a technology profession. Stephanie: Alkami has become a destination of choice for Per Scholas graduates; the commitment to growth and investment in employees is evident. When Adrianne Court, Alkami’s Chief HR Officer, called me at the beginning of this summer, my heart initially sank thinking it was another company telling us they are reducing their commitment to the students due to the impact of COVID-19. Instead, she told us that they were making an additional financial donation; and even better, Alkami planned to implement a purpose-built paid internship program for Per Scholas students to gain real working experience. It is their intent to help give the students a competitive advantage during these uncertain times. Allkami kicked off their internship program, GROW, in August with six interns. A few of those six will now continue on to full-time employment with Alkami once their internships end. While there are many companies that “talk” about doing something, Alkami just does it. Even in these uncertain times, they are the true definition of a resilient partner.

How else does Alkami give back to the community? Chanel: Beyond Per Scholas, Alkami ACT (Alkami Cares Together) partners with many organizations in the DFW area with a focus on eliminating education barriers and tackling poverty. To highlight another organization that we work with, Bold Idea helps young people learn about technology. Our Alkamists give their time to mentor children about computer coding with the purpose of opening their minds to future possibilities and STEM careers. Because of how quickly our volunteers adapted during COVID-19 by converting the program from an in-person classroom to an engaging virtual learning experience within a few days, Alkami was the only company that was able to maintain its commitments to the children this past spring semester. We also sponsor organizations like Women Who Code (WWC), offering resources and support to foster learning, educational opportunities, and networking. Furthermore, ACT partners with TangoTab’s Feed the City to help prepare meals for those in need in our communities. The most incredible thing about our Alkamists and Alkami is that during times like these, when many people might naturally begin to look inward and focus on themselves, Alkami’s commitment to community remains strong. To learn more about Alkami, please visit: Alkami.com To learn more about Per Scholas, please visit: PerScholas.org


MONEY

A R T : M I C H A E L S A M P L E S I M AG E S : V D P I T C H E S DA L L A S , I S TO C K

F E M A FL E MFAULNEDFEURN S DI N E RDA S IN LLA DA S -LFLOART S - FW OO RTRTWHO . RT PLU HS. ,PBL IUGS ,F BUIN GDDI N EA GL D S EAANLDS A EX NIDT SE X I NI T2S0 I2N0 . 2 0 2 0 .

VENTURE DALLAS IS A CATALYST OF CONNECTIONS LED BY EIGHT DFW DEALMAKERS.

Pairing founders to investors in a way that seems almost kismet, the nonprofit wants to underscore the DFW region as a place to do deals, find opportunity, and foster innovation. The Venture Dallas organization—helmed by Aaron Pierce, Vik Thapar, Bryan Chambers, Duane Dankesreiter, Samantha Colletti, Jonathan Crowder, and Joe Beard—hosted more than 300 local entrepreneurs and cross-country investors at its first two-day summit in 2019. The success of that invitation-only event led the committee to plan a year in advance for a would-be September 2020 summit. Then the world went virtual. In a pandemic pivot, Venture Dallas 2020 was reimagined as a 34-day mobile experience for founders and investors. A curated group of startups pitched investors via bite-size video in a “Tinder-meets-Instagram Stories” format (pictured above) via the Thumbraise platform. Mutual interest led to one-on-one meetings and, hopefully, investments. The flagship event garnered 143 companies and 137 investors, says Capital Factory’s Bryan Chambers, a Venture Dallas host, with investors from across the country drawn to software startups and those at the seed-funding level. A global pandemic can’t stop North Texas’ flourishing startup community: They leaned in, gave it their best shot, and the data shows that they made an impact, according to Chambers. “As our event becomes more established, and we implement the best of physical and virtual going forward, we’ll have more and more investors participate,” he says. “The gravity of Texas is undeniable.” —Alex Edwards D A L L A S I N N O V AT E S . C O M

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MONEY | FEMALE FUNDERS

FEMALE FUNDERS

Meet 12 women shaking up the future of startup investment in Dallas-Fort Worth. by J AS M I N B R A N D

As a young girl, I’d look up at the stars and get lost for hours. The stars meant possibilities—and to my eight-year-old mind, those possibilities were endless.

*

Today, looking

at the state of women and funding in North Texas, that same starry sky can represent the countless opportunities connecting us in infinite ways.

*

We know the view of a

constellation can change according to perspective: As we explore what 2021 will bring to the region, we turned to the experts. We talked with some of the incredible women who are part of our constellation of female funders in DFW to get their take.

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FEMALE FUNDERS | MONEY

it’s an exciting time to be a woman in the North Texas entrepreneurial cosmos. Regardless of the challenges (yes, there are a few), female investors and startup founders are hopeful about the opportunities in an ecosystem that’s yet to reach its tipping point. What’s fueling their optimism? • North Texas women are making bold moves and boosting awareness of the Dallas region, even in a pandemic. • An increased use of videoconferencing is leading to greater connectivity. • Through pitch competitions, angel, and venture investment, female founders of color continue to source and utilize capital opportunities. • The arrival of new VC firms to Texas has increased deal flow potential. • A new female-focused fund, led by Texas’ youngest fund manager, launched in DFW.

THE PICTURE IS CLEAR—FROM FOUNDER TO FUNDER,

report, four million new jobs and $981 billion in revenue would be added if the average revenue of minority womenowned firms matched that of white women-owned businesses. Closing the revenue gap for minority women-owned businesses would create a massive boost for our local economy, experts say. How do we tackle this issue? A great way to start is by increasing the number of female investors.

THE CONSTELLATION IS EXPANDING

RISE OF THE FEMALE INVESTOR

First, the good news: According to the State of Woman-Owned Businesses report by American Express, the number of female-owned businesses in the U.S. continues to rise, increasing 3,000 percent since 1972. In 2019, that number grew 21 percent, while all businesses increased by only 9 percent. Women are starting up companies more than ever before, especially here in Texas. A recent study by SmartAssets, a personal finance technology company, ranked Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington as a top 10 place for female entrepreneurs, placing 10th with 24,383 woman-owned businesses. With our high startup growth, moderate cost of living, and absence of a corporate income tax, it’s no surprise that Texas is a growing home base for female founders.

BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT’S EASY

I M A G E S : I S TO C K P H OTO

In the same SmartAssets study, research shows only about 79 percent of woman-owned businesses in the region break even or ever turn a profit. Access to deal flow, mentorship, education, and economic disparity are possible culprits. And while women entrepreneurs will play a role in Texas’ post-COVID economic recovery, many are being overlooked. Historically, female founders have been underestimated and underinvested in. Although women received a record-breaking amount of venture capital in 2019—$26.6 billion was invested in firms with at least one female co-founder, according to Crunchbase—that represented only 2.8 percent of all startup investment. Without access to adequate funding, the potential of game-changing women-led companies will never be fully recognized. And economic disparities could continue to widen, especially for founders of color. Minority founders have experienced an unmatched level of exponential growth: In 2019, women of color were responsible for the creation of 89 percent of new women-owned U.S. businesses—an astounding feat considering that they represent only 39 percent of the total female population, according to an American Express report. Black female founders, especially, are leading the charge toward business creation and growth.

WOMEN OF COLOR CONTINUE TO FACE DISPARITIES

Despite this, the average revenue of Black women-owned businesses is far lower than that of women-owned businesses as a whole—with a disparity exceeding all other minority groups. This has had a huge effect on the U.S. economy. According to the AMEX

Over the last 10 years, the percentage of female angels has increased exponentially, reaching 29 percent in 2019, up from 11.3 percent in 2009, per the 2020 Angel Funders Report. This could be a game changer, since female founders have a better chance of receiving funding from female investors. According to the Angel Capital Association, female investors are nearly 10 times more likely to care about a founder’s gender than their male counterparts (51 percent women, 6 percent men). Women also are twice as likely to say social impact is important in investing. With more women considering angel investing—and better representation of women VCs—the opportunity for increased innovation, job creation, and financial parity is increasing.

A DOZEN MAKING A DIFFERENCE

No one understands this better than the women featured on the following pages. You’ll meet a dozen North Texas female funders who are making our ecosystem constellation shine. They’ll reveal the “why” fueling their efforts, the wins pushing them forward, and how the stars are aligning for our region in 2021.

D A L L A S I N N O V AT E S . C O M

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MONEY | FEMALE FUNDERS

REIMAGINING DEI

THE FIRSTS Margot Carter

Darlene Boudreaux

Helena Krusec

Founder and President, Living Mountain Capital; Co-Founder, Cien

Entrepreneur/CPA; Former Executive Director, TechFW; Founder, Cowtown Angels

Senior Corporate Venture Associate, Capital Factory

With concurrent stints as a corporate lawyer, C-suite executive, entrepreneur, and investor, Carter’s perspective is unique. She’s passionate about getting more women on boards and investing in the local ecosystem with both her time (currently as a Capital Factory mentor) and through her firm, Living Mountain Capital, which offers advisory consulting services and invests in tech startups. Her career started as a corporate lawyer in New York, merging companies and taking them public. She first came to Dallas in the 90s. At age 27, she was likely the youngest chief legal officer of a public company at the time. Later stints included another 10 years in New York rebuilding Cantor Fitzgerald after 9/11 and working at edtech company Princeton Review.

One of the founding architects of the North Texas entrepreneurial ecosystem, Boudreaux has worn many hats: CPA, CEO, entrepreneur, and investor. She co-founded a pharma manufacturing startup following a successful career as a CPA—later growing a nonprofit medtech incubator. She’s also served as executive director of TechFW and is the founder of—and now investor in—the Cowtown Angels, one of the most active angel networks in the state.

CARTER ON HER ‘SIDE GIG’: After the Princeton Review sold to Bain, I moved back to Dallas in 2010 to help take RealPage public. It was at this time that I started Living Mountain Capital, primarily investing in tech entrepreneurs. I’ve bought and sold hundreds of businesses over the years and gotten to know a lot of really amazing people. It’s kind of been my own side gig for 22 years now.

ON POSSIBILITIES: In Dallas, anything you put your mind to is possible. Anything. I moved here twice to take companies public, and I feel blessed to have had those opportunities. I want to give back and continue to invest in the ecosystem. As women— any entrepreneurs, for that matter—are successful, if they pay it forward, there will be more of us. And as investors do well and get good returns on their investments, they’re going to want to invest more.

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ON BECOMING AN INVESTOR: I started Cowtown Angels in 2012. Now I’m an investor in the network. I find it’s completely different being on the other side of the table. ON REPRESENTATION: I’m proud of what the Cowtown Angels have achieved. Of its current 30 member companies, 14 are led by women and 33 percent are by minorities. That’s a big difference from when we began. Some of that reflects my various roles in leadership. Women feel more comfortable being there when others are too. But it takes these successful female entrepreneurs staying involved in the angel network scene, because it then attracts more women. Representation matters: The real key is getting more of those women who have been successful entrepreneurs to get involved in the angel network scene. ON BEING “THE ONLY ONE”: It can be hard for women to walk into a room where they’re the only one. I’m used to it. For the majority of my career, I was the only one. It still takes all of us women jumping back in, after what we’ve achieved and accomplished, harvesting the results of all of our efforts. And now we have money to invest. But for some of us, it’s not completely natural to just jump in there and do it. We didn’t have any role models on how to do this. Female founders didn’t have female investors back then. They didn’t have those role models as to who to become later.

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DARLENE BOUDREAUX

In her role, Krusec provides business development opportunities for a portfolio of Capital Factory companies to connect with corporate partners across multiple industries, including prime defense contractors and the government. Widely known as the “center of gravity for entrepreneurs in Texas,” Capital Factory supports, collaborates with, and invests in early-stage tech companies.

KRUSEC ON RAISING MONEY: When it comes to raising money, it’s really hard unless you’ve done it before. It can seem impossible unless you have a mentor or a serial entrepreneur on your team who can say: “Look, I’ve done this. I know how it works.” It’s like trying to break into this really, really highly guarded boys’ club. ON COMMUNITY BUILDING: If you want the community as a whole to rise, everyone has to make a concerted effort to help one another out. You can’t just expect the other side to understand where you’re coming from—or what resources you have if you’re not making them available. I’ve seen some good stuff come out of Fort Worth: Sparkyard, for example, is a cool resource for early-stage entrepreneurs with a lot of sharing. Capital Factory is also working hard to unite people in an online space. No matter your location, there are resources and support. ON DEI: We need to stop just talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion: We need to put women in positions of investment making. We need to invest in more diverse founders. For the deals that aren’t at a level where we would consider looking at them, we need to do more as a community to educate those founders and get them to a competitive point. Founder education also is something that we can all work on to improve the offerings. The other half of the equation is that you are more likely to invest in diverse founders and find differentiated deal flow if you have women and people of color at the decision-making table. And that’s only going to happen if we support each other in making it happen.

I N O B AT K A R A S P H OTO : Q U I N C Y P R E S TO N ; OT H E R S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O M PA N I E S

ON “PAYING IT FORWARD”: I started my career a long time ago, when I was generally the only female attorney in the room, the only female C-suite executive, the only female director. Over the last two years, I’ve seen more changes in North Texas than ever before. It took a long time to make that happen. I think it’s people—my generation—that are doing it. Now, we’re trying to pay it forward for the next generation.

BOUDREAUX ON COMING TO TEXAS: December marked my 26-year anniversary of moving to North Texas as a female founder. There have been lots of changes since then. For one thing, there are more women than just me now.

“ IT CAN BE HARD FOR WOMEN TO WALK INTO A ROOM WHERE THEY’RE THE ONLY ONE ... IT STILL TAKES ALL OF US WOMEN JUMPING BACK IN, AFTER WE’VE DONE WHAT WE’VE DONE, AND HARVESTING THE RESULTS OF ALL OUR EFFORTS.”


FEMALE FUNDERS | MONEY

HEALTHCARE TECH TO VC Cindy Revol Principal, Perot Jain Revol spent a decade working in healthcare tech in New York before a unique opportunity to delve into private equity brought her back home to Texas. She currently serves as a Principal at Perot Jain, a Dallas-based venture capital firm focused on seed-stage companies and founded in 2014 by long-time business partners Ross Perot Jr. and Anurag Jain. The firm’s average check size: $500,000.

REVOL ON MOVING TO DALLAS: After going to school at UT Austin, I moved to New York and lived there for 10 years where I worked at a healthcare tech startup called Flatiron Health, which was acquired in 2018 by Roche Pharmaceuticals. I then moved to Dallas, going back and forth to New York and remotely managing a large team. Eventually I reached a turning point where I didn’t want to continue

to travel that much. I looked for roles in Dallas and started exploring what I really wanted to do. Realizing private equity was a bigger deal here, I eventually landed at Perot Jain. ON INVESTMENT FOCUS: Perot Jain’s thesis is rooted in investing in companies that make sense for the platform that our two partners, Ross Perot Jr. and Anurag Jain, bring to the table. For Anurag, that’s his firm, Access Healthcare, as well as his experience as an entrepreneur. For Ross, it’s Hillwood, his real estate development company, as well as our Mobility Innovation Zone initiative, which leverages the physical infrastructure and real estate that exists at AllianceTexas, Hillwood’s flagship development. It has more than 500 companies with operations there in some form. We’re bringing them together with startups to solve mobility problems, whether that’s by land or air, autonomous, or not—there

are a lot of really cool opportunities. How do we find companies that make sense for this platform? With COVID-19, it was a launchpad for us to ask ourselves: “Okay, what worked?” and “How do we improve our access to deal flow?” ON DALLAS VS. AUSTIN: There’s a mass exodus right now from other regions to Texas. Some really big firms have moved to Austin, in particular. Mithril Capital, Peter Thiel’s fund, moved there a year or two ago. Breyer Capital, Jim Breyer’s fund, moved there. And, 8VC just recently announced a move to Austin. Those are big moves. Yes, Dallas and Austin are very different, but there are great things happening in both cities. Dallas can leverage what’s happening in Austin. Let’s be good at what we’re good at. To the rest of the world, we’re Texas. So let’s look at the state as a whole. We’re in this together.

TEXAS TRANSPLANT Inobat Karras

Principal, Interlock Partners

Born in Uzbekistan, Karras began her career in investment banking in Europe. The search for bigger opportunity brought her to Dallas in 2014. An internship evolved into her current role at Interlock Partners, which specializes in early-stage Series A technology companies. The firm’s average check size: $2 million.

KARRAS ON THE “OPPORTUNITY TO BUILD SOMETHING GREAT”: I saw an opportunity to build something in Texas that hadn’t been built before. We have a great market. Yes, we have an investment gap from an institutional perspective, but Texas is a beautiful state. We have schools with great tech talent and an economy with a tax-friendly environment that’s a good fit for business. When I first arrived, I thought to myself, “This is an opportunity to build something great.” I was so passionate about this, it ultimately led to me joining the team at Interlock. Five years later, we’ve invested in eight companies, two with female founders: Begin, an NYC-based edutech, and ZenBusiness, an Austin firm that recently led a successful Series B round. Shanaz Hemmati is one of the co-founders. She is absolutely a badass lady; I love her. When we initially invested in Series A rounds, we were the only Texas VC that did so. They were funded by Greycroft. ON SILICON VALLEY: Silicon Valley, as well as the East Coast, has started to look at Texas more because we have great entrepreneurs. And we have great companies. There’s so much opportunity. Historically, our evaluations have been reasonable, unlike Silicon Valley, sometimes. Texas has embraced me, and I have embraced it back. I’m a proud Texan: This is my home, and I’m excited about what the future holds here. ON ADVICE TO FOUNDERS: You can’t always wait for someone to invite you in. That’s the one thing my grandfather always told me: “Inobat, you want something? Ask for it. No one is going to come and offer it to you.”

“THIS IS OUR TIME. THIS IS FEMALE FOUNDERS’ TIME. IT’S FEMALE INVESTORS’ TIME.” D A L L A S I N N O V AT E S . C O M

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MONEY | FEMALE FUNDERS

WHAT’S NEXT

BRAND NAME

SOCIAL SCIENCES

Rachel West

Marisa Bertha

Nicole Small

Senior Director, New Business Development and 7-Ventures, 7-Eleven

CEO, Lyda Hill Philanthropies and LH Capital

Scientific Analyst, GPG Ventures

Bertha is responsible for selecting the portfolio of brands in which 7-Eleven invests. That makes her an expert on how brands succeed within the 7-Eleven ecosystem. 7-Ventures invests in early-stage food and beverage businesses and convenient services to anticipate and respond to an ever-changing consumer.

As the former CEO of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science from 2002 to 2014, Small’s passion for philanthropy and STEM education firmly prepared her for her current role as president of the Lyda Hill Foundation and CEO of LH Holdings Inc. Small is committed to funding transformational advances in science and nature, empowering nonprofit organizations, and improving Texas and Colorado communities.

Prior to joining Green Park & Golf Ventures, Tyra earned her Ph.D. in Neuroscience at UT Southwestern Medical Center. There, she was awarded the prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation to support her research and broader impact activities on the UTSW campus and in the local community. Dallas-based GPG Ventures invests from initial Seed to Series B rounds, with follow on funding in successfully growing companies. The firm’s initial check size is typically $500,000 to $1.5 million, with follow-on up to $4 million to $6 million over the life of the company.

Principal, Head of Seed Stage Investment Team, RevTech Ventures As the youngest fund manager in Texas for RevTech’s new female-focused fund, West also serves as the Dallas lead for SoGal, the largest global platform redefining the next generation of diverse founders and funders. RevTech Ventures specializes in early-stage investments (pre-seed and seed) at the intersection of retail and technology. The firm’s average check size: $100,000 initial investment, $200,000 to $2 million follow-on funding.

WEST ON FEMALE-FOCUSED FUNDING: Some of RevTech’s best-performing investments are female. The Citizenry, for example, has been a home run. We’ve had a burgeoning pipeline of femaleled opportunities, a passion to change female representation in the industry, and a focus on delivering superior returns. The idea for our new RevTech Equity for Women fund emerged when we realized that it was a perfect way to realize these goals. ON GIVING BACK: Someone paved the way for me to have an opportunity in venture funding. Now it’s my turn to help pave the way for future generations. That requires teamwork. I’m thankful for the women, as well as the men, in Dallas who offer support. I’m really grateful for RevTech’s David Matthews. You don’t see a lot of VC partners or managers who go above and beyond to make a difference with their platform. ADVICE FOR FOUNDERS: Just keep fighting. If you’re ever feeling discouraged or down, just remember to tap into your community. There are people here to help you.

BERTHA ON FINANCIAL EDUCATION: Greater opportunities for female founders and founders of color start with the general partners and limited partners. The investors themselves, and the people putting the money to work should also be females and minorities. But if there are currently few female and minority GPs and LPs, then we must engage young women in high school and college about careers in finance. I learned early that being smart, ambitious, and independent were characteristics that would serve me well. ON COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY: Studying finance in undergrad and grad school gave me the tools to be successful professionally. I knew about VCs and PEs, but even with my background I was less familiar with family offices, institutional investors, and venture groups. We have a collective responsibility to foster more exposure in this space to women and minorities—we can do that by attending career days, volunteering for classroom visits, offering internships, or job shadowing. ON DIVERSE TALENT: We must seek—and retain—talent from diverse backgrounds to join our teams, which will improve opportunities for investment for founders who represent diverse backgrounds themselves.

SMALL ON POSITIVE IMPACT: It’s a really exciting time in North Texas for life sciences and social innovation. In the life sciences sector, North Texas has had incredibly smart people and terrific science at our institutions, including UTSW, UTD, UTA, UNT, SMU, for many years. What we’re now seeing is more interest in converting those ideas into companies and technologies that can have a positive impact on the health of our communities and the world. ON WHAT’S NEXT: With the launch of Pegasus Park and the biotech “Bio+ Hub” in 2021, we’ll now have a magnet to connect and attract companies and people who are passionate about life sciences and biotech development. In the social sector, we have some incredibly innovative thought leaders who are helping lead the way to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. ON ADVICE FOR FOUNDERS: Be bold. Be brave. Get out there and change the world.

In partnership with Equity at Work, RevTech Ventures created the RevTech Equity for Women Fund to enable the next wave of female innovators to transform the retail industry. The fund hopes to capitalize on the changing landscape of retail—both in diverse representation and technological advancement.

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The new fund is led by RevTech Venture’s Rachel West (above) and Managing Director David Matthews, along with Michelle Bogan, CEO and founder of Equity

D A L L A S I N N O VAT E S | 2 0 2 1 E D I T I O N

at Work. The advisory board includes Coresight Research’s Deborah Weinswig Golden Seeds’ Laura Baldwin, former Neiman Marcus CEO Karen Katz,

Cratebind’s Brittany Graft, serial entrepreneur Satish Tadikonda, and Dorsey & Whitney’s Gina Betts. Bogan says, “Investing in female founders, co-founders and

leaders is not only the right thing to do, it makes good business sense,” Bogan says. The fund’s focus is on female innovators who are transforming a stagnant industry.

TYRA ON BEING A SCIENTIST IN VC: Working in venture is unusual for a scientist. In my fifth year of training at UT Southwestern, I was deciding what was next. I had internship opportunities and offers to do a post-doctoral fellowship, which is the usual path. I was exploring the business side of things when an opportunity with GPG Ventures came up. I didn’t understand it as career field for scientists. Then I realized my training, scientific background, knowledge, and skills could be applied to funding the best and most innovative medical devices, drugs, diagnostics, and products for consumers and patients. Part of it is personal: I have a child that relies on a medical device every day. I can attest to the impact an innovative medical device makes in a family and patients’ lives. ON COVID, ACCESS, AND DIVERSITY: A lot of healthcare VCs think very holistically and about patient populations as a whole. There’s a really clear understanding of the impact that diversity can have on your leadership team and patients, as well your impact on development. One thing the pandemic has laid bare are the struggles with access to quality healthcare in the Black community. For healthcare investing, in particular, it’s important to increase diversity. There’s potential for driving progress with Black physicians interested in getting into VC—sort of making the jump as a side hustle, if you will. I suggest investing as angels, getting into funds, or doing something a bit systemic with their partners.

P H TO O S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O M PA N I E S

REV TECH LAUNCHES A NEW FEMALE-FOCUSED FUND

Lauren Tyra


FEMALE FUNDERS | MONEY

DALLAS NATIVE

“ KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN. TAKE OPPORTUNITY WHERE IT IS AND MAKE OPPORTUNITY WHERE IT ISN’T. WE’RE REALLY GOOD AT DOING THAT ANYWAY.”

Arlan Hamilton

Founder, Managing Partner, Backstage Capital “Dallas will always be home,” says the LA-based venture capitalist. Hamilton began her journey into investing in an unconventional way: homeless. Dedicated to minimizing the funding disparities in tech, she started Backstage Capital in 2015 to invest in high-potential founders of color, women, and/or LGBT. Backstage has now raised more than $7 million and invested in more than 130 startup companies led by underestimated founders.

HAMILTON ON INVESTING IN NORTH TEXAS: I’m currently based in Los Angeles, but I’m originally from Dallas. Over the last five years, Backstage has invested in about 150 companies. We’ve made some investments in North Texas, more so over the past year and a half. We’ve invested in ShearShare for years; they were very proactive and came to us. We also recently invested in Equalizer, a virtual football training app based here. I am very vested in being a part of this ecosystem, not just from afar as an advisor, but really being a part of it. My mother still lives in Dallas. My brother still lives here. His youngest child’s name is “Dallas.” Dallas is life over here! It’s why we’re making more and more investments here—and have no plans to stop. ON INVESTING IN FOUNDERS OF COLOR: When it comes to increasing the amount of funding that founders of color receive, if most of these funds only have white men at the helm writing checks, history and our own experiences have shown us that we, as minority founders, are likely not getting the check. When that’s not the case, it’s great. But we’re not going to pretend that’s not the case most of the time. That’s the entire reason I started Backstage Capital. This is not to say that, because I’m a Black woman, I’m going to invest in every Black woman I meet. I have the most diverse portfolio in the country—and we did this intentionally. Sure, female founders and founders of color could be more aggressive when it comes to deal opportunities. But I also think that investors need to be less lazy and complacent and get more creative and proactive. Investors, by and large, are not doing this correctly. They’ve gotten complacent because they’re in a place of privilege across the board. They’re missing out on opportunities right under their noses, in their own cities: They can do 10-times better. I can’t—and won’t—stand to be the person who gaslights a founder because you, the investor, are not making an attempt. That excuse was thrown out the door several years ago. ON THE POWER OF ANGEL INVESTORS: My heart is with angel investing and the power of angels coming together. I love angels. VC is one thing. I never set out to be a VC—I kind of just broke into that world. We have a new syndicate, Backstage Crowd, where people from all over the world can invest in the companies we have. What would be interesting in 2021 is to see Backstage Crowd not only facilitate these $100-200K investments—we’ve done 500 deals to date—but also lead an effort to get groups of people together to talk and invest in deals together. I did a presentation to a group of Black female executives at a Fortune 500 company. They were so excited by the idea of putting $5,000 into a company with 10 of their friends—and that their investment has the ability to take a company to a new level. And they also get our expertise when they call for it. It just blew their minds. Can we bring this concept to North Texas? Yes, we can. D A L L A S I N N O V AT E S . C O M

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FEMALE FOUNDERS TALK FUNDING

For these four successful women entrepreneurs, finding the money wasn’t easy—but they did it.

Brenda Stoner Founder, PICKUP “I’ve experienced gender bias multiple times in my 20-plus year career as an entrepreneur. This was never treated as an insurmountable obstacle, just something to go around. The best way to improve opportunities for diverse founders is to show dramatic success: good, fundable ideas and solid teams to execute them. Success is color and gender blind, and success is also self-replicating. The problem fixes itself when we create great companies. I certainly hope that the diversity in funding types continues to grow as it has been. Our job as an ecosystem is to coalesce our giant region into a connected community of founders. There’s an ongoing gap, partly due to lack of proximity of startups, but also a lack of quality infrastructure to encourage it. The best advice you can get as a founder, proven daily during 2020, is to tap on the shoulder of other CEOs. We all went through this and experienced challenges of monumental proportion, and we did it in common.”

Piersten Gaines Founder, Pressed Roots “The truth is that many VC firms and investment networks adhere to a legacy practice when searching for their next investment. Many investors are convinced that ‘warm introductions’ de-risk a founder because the introduction is coming from a trusted source. However, because many female founders and founders of color have been left out of these networks historically, many times it leaves them out of the game. It’s really important that firms and investors rethink the way we identify and support innovators—there are easy things that you can change to improve the opportunities for these groups, such as making your contact information easily accessible, and welcoming ‘cold’ introductions.”

Lyndsey Harper Founder, Rosy “It’s never easy for a founder to raise money. It’s a true test of commitment to the cause, combined with sheer determination and perseverance. I think that as we continue to have successful startups out of Dallas, the ecosystem will grow and the risk tolerance will increase. We are in the middle of converting a culture of traditional investors to earlier stage. It isn’t for everyone, but the more proof points and success stories we have, the easier these deals will flow.“

Courtney Caldwell

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Laura Baldwin

Heather Gilker

Managing Director, Golden Seeds

Executive Director, Southwest Angel Network, North Texas Branch

Baldwin brings more than 20 years of experience in finance, treasury, corporate development, and investor relations to Golden Seeds, one of the country’s largest networks of angel investors. Founded in 2005, the firm seeks and funds high-potential, women-led businesses. It’s headquartered in New York City, but has active chapters in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, and Silicon Valley— with active members throughout the country.

Gilker leads the newly formed SWAN North Texas, which is a result of collaboration and cooperation with Social Venture Partners. Since 2015, the Southwest Angel Network has focused on supporting early stage companies that are just at revenue or early-stage revenue through Series A and are addressing significant challenges facing society. More than 4t0 percent of the founders they invest in are underrepresented. Average Check Size: $250,000-$300,000.

BALDWIN ON THE PANDEMIC: With the pandemic, it’s been really good to see more engagement from our members. We’re still witnessing a lot of deal flow nationally. Our members are investing, maybe not quite at the same level, but they remain interested in doing deals. None of us were sure how it was all going to work out, but we’ve seen a lot of really good companies during this time. It’s been more positive than we thought it would be. ON BLACK LIVES MATTER: When everything started happening earlier this year with the Black Lives Matter movement and coinciding protests, we at Golden Seeds looked internally. We put out a statement focused on access to capital and diversity. What can we do to increase the deal flow for women of color? ON MORE WOMEN ANGELS: When it comes to increasing the number of female angels, I think it may just be a lack of education and awareness, and not knowing that these groups are out here. In general, there may be a lack of understanding of what innovative, game-changing angel investing is. The perception is that it’s risky. It’s important to get the word out that there are groups like Golden Seeds that are focused on women.

GILKER ON IMPACT INVESTING: Impact Investing is not a fad. It’s a longterm trend with data illustrating strong investor demand, especially among women and next-generation investors. Dallas and Texas have been a little slower to catch up to other parts of the country, but the timing is good for SWAN to be in Dallas. ON FUNDING IN DALLAS: Dallas is one of the most entrepreneurial cities on the planet, and yet, we need a more robust funding ecosystem for our entrepreneurs—particularly during this challenging economic environment for small businesses. Many struggle to find local funding and go out of state for funding. Dallas is a city of generous philanthropists—impact Investing can be the intersection of the two. A growing group of women and next-generation investors don’t just want to invest in companies and separately write checks to charity—they are looking for companies that can grow, be sustainable, and make an impact in the areas they care about. SWAN North Texas hopes to create new connections and energy for entrepreneurs and investors around investing in early stage impact companies in DFW and Texas.

Interviews, as told to Jasmin Brand, are edited for brevity and clarity. Jasmin Brand is a writer, entrepreneur, and thought leader focused on digital media and startups. As a change agent, she’s embarking on a new adventure in 2021— a community-driven platform created with Texas women in mind.

P H TO O S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O M PA N I E S

Co-Founder, ShearShare “If you had asked me about the current funding landscape for female founders or Black founders two years ago, I would’ve said it was not at all favorable. When we raised our pre-seed round in 2018, only two of our pre-seed investors were from Texas. Today, having recently closed our $2.3 million seed round, we’re happy to say that nearly 40 percent of our investors hail from our home state. There’s not just one thing that has contributed to this dynamic, but I do feel that nationwide media exposure of Texas startups in general (being selected for illustrious programs like the Google for Startups Accelerator for Black Founders, Established’s Startup of the Year competition, and others) has helped to increase local support for local founders.”

MEET THE ANGELS


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MONEY

RIDING THE FUNDING WAVE COVID brought in-person meetings and pitches to a screeching halt this year, but that didn’t stop deals from getting done. VCs, angels, and corporates kept the money flowing for companies in Dallas-Fort Worth, funding future developments, hires, and next-gen tech. From Taysha Gene Therapies’ $95M Series B to Alkami’s $140M round—both startups featured in our Future 50—the investment landscape was alive. Here are other notable deals. Pieces Technologies

Spotio

DoctorLogic

Cysiv

Biotech startup Eyevensys, which has U.S. operations based in Fort Worth at UNT’s HSC and headquarters in Paris, France, raised $30 million in series B funding in January 2020. The privately held clinical-stage company develops non-viral gene therapies for retinal and other ophthalmic diseases.

The Dallas healthcare artificial intelligence and tech startup closed a $25.7 million Series B round led by Concord Health Partners in January. Physician and scientist Ruben Amarasingham invented the Pieces platform to connect providers with data and people with services. Since 2015, it’s built integrated communities with clients from hospitals, health systems, and health plans to community clinics, service providers, and educational services.

Sales software provider Spotio received $4.5 million in January 2020 in Series A funds from Florida venture capital firm Ballast Point Ventures. The Dallas startup is a mobilefirst platform for field salespeople to manage sales territories, conduct face-to-face meetings, and improve sales performance. Founder and CEO Trey Gibson said the funding would be used to accelerate development of its tech pipeline, add to its sales team, and strengthen its marketing efforts.

The Plano-based healthcare website marketing platform announced a $7 million Series A funding round led by Austin-based PE firm Unbundled Capital in January 2020. Founded in 2003, DoctorLogic works with medical practices in the field of aesthetics, dentistry, surgery, and general medical. Its software includes a proprietary “Content Creation Engine” showcasing its customers’ online presence, helping them acquire new patients and measure their marketing efforts.

Cysiv is an Irving-based enterprise Security Operations Center-as-aService company originally incubated within Trend Micro. The spinout closed a $26 million Series A funding round in February to scale business operations and fuel further platform enhancements. Its cloudbased platform combines elements of a proactive, threat-hunting security operations center with a managed security stack for hybrid cloud, network, and endpoint security.

Worlds Inc.

Recode Therapeutics

Bestow

Peak Nanosystems

Trivie

Dave Copps and Chris Rhode started their third AI venture—Worlds—in 2018. Emerging from stealth in early 2020, the duo raised a $10 million Series A in February. Its platform creates live AI-powered models of real-world scenes, making it possible for organizations to remotely sense physical environments from a single interface. The founders recently unveiled Worlds Protect, a non-invasive, rapid breath test for COVID-19 (featured on page 9) that has FDA emergency-use authorization on the radar and a team that includes Texas A&M and the U.S. Army.

In March, the Dallas biopharmaceutical company received an oversubscribed $80 million Series A investment led by Colt Ventures, the Dallas-based family office of Darren Blanton, and OrbiMed Advisors LLC. The funding will help bring two new lung disease drugs to market—ReCode plans to file an investigational application with the FDA in 2021. As part of the deal, ReCode also merged with TranscripTx, a California-based biotech firm.

The Dallas-based digital life insurance platform finished 2020 strong with a $70 million Series C funding round, following a $50 million Series B raise in February. So far, the insurance innovator has raised $145 million in total funding as it readies for expansion. The startup wants to make life insurance coverage fast, easy, and accessible to millions—and expand the market. Bestow also acquired Centurion Life Insurance Company and started a nonprofit during the pandemic.

The Coppell-based company, which specializes in the development and deployment of nanotech systems, closed on a Series C funding round with a $25 million investment from Connecticut-based Squadron Capital in April. The company is expanding its optical product development and acquired PolymerPlus, which has developed its own tech for optics and film capacitors that are ready for product launches in 2021. Through the acquisition, Peak Nano will get exclusive rights to that tech.

In June, Frisco-based Trivie, a training and communication startup that helps companies better engage their workforce in knowledge retention and communication, closed $5 million in Series A funding to increase distribution of its app. Trivie said the investment round, led by Cottonwood Venture Partners, will expand its remote learning technology to a variety of national industries, including energy, manufacturing, hospitality, healthcare, and consumer goods.

Patricia Zilliox

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P H TO O S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O M PA N I E S

Eyevensys


MONEY

EYE ON

Dennis Cail CO-FOUNDER AND CEO, ZIRTUE

StackPath

TestFit

The Dallas-based edge computing innovator announced a Series B equity funding round in March that it said will be used to accelerate growth in product development, engineering, and go-to-market activities. Led by California-based Juniper Networks and Atlanta-based Cox Communications, the amount of the round was not disclosed. Including an earlier Series A round led by Abry Partners, the new funding brings StackPath’s total equity raised a reported $396 million.

The Dallas building configuration software startup landed $2 million in early 2020 from Parkway Venture Capital. The gamelike city-building software helps architects, real estate developers, and general contractors run simulations to determine how buildings can be set up on a site within a map. TestFit CEO Clifton Harness said the funding would help the firm scale to meet its increasing demand, expand into new markets, and continue to innovate in generativedesign software.

Mercado

Shiftsmart

The Dallas-based “firstmile” supply chain startup closed on a $2.5 million funding round in July, following a $3.2 million seed round announced in late 2019. The startup, which offers solutions for importers and connects global supply with demand through its platform, aims to bring international trade into the digital age.

Shiftsmart Inc., a Dallas-based marketplace for part-time work, raised more than $16.3 million of a $16.5 million equity funding offering, per a filing in February. Founded in 2015, Shiftsmart connects part-time workers with open shifts in a number of industries. The startup helps companies source workers and manage peak shifts, and provides a channel for running promotions and incentives. An app matches workers with jobs based on their credentials, availability, and preferences.

Zirtue wrapped 2019 with a $1 million seed-funding round. In 2020, the fintech company gathered more than $1 million from several sources, including Dallas Cowboys Jaylon Smith’s Minority Entrepreneurship Institute and the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund. t

Rob Garrison

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M O N E Y | F U N D I N G WAV E

EYE ON

Kyle Waldrep FOUNDER AND CEO, DOTTID

Prop tech Dottid started 2020 strong with $3.85 million in seed funding from investors who included David Ridley, founder and former CEO of Invesco Real Estate; Laurie Dotter, a current investment board member for two public Texas pension funds; and David Farmer, a former COO of Invesco Real Estate. Founded in 2016 by Waldrep, Dottid seeks to transform commercial real estate by streamlining the leasing transaction process, while allowing owners, brokers, and tenants to close deals faster with lower costs. Dottid’s tools such as asset visualization allow its clients to have a bird’s eye view on their upcoming lease expirations and vacancies. In 2019, the company launched Dottid

Industrial to fill a major gap in the marketplace for industrial property owners. Waldrep says Dottid is the first asset and lease management platform for these owners in a sector that has boomed during COVID-19 with the rise of e-commerce and logistics. As the DFW industrial market continues to skyrocket with an estimated 30 million square feet of new space under construction locally, “Dottid is

positioned to change not just industrial leasing, but shift the narrative away from industrial assets being ‘just a box,’” he says. How? By providing new data collection and visualization of the properties, giving owners and brokers “a new perspective on their portfolios.” In the long term, Dottid aims to streamline and gain efficiencies in many parts of the CRE process while relationships continue to drive deals, he says.

SEEDED

SIX TO WATCH 1. FlyLine $500,000 A Dallas-based flight booking startup with a money-saving subscription service.

2. Kanarys $1.6 million Kanarys’ tech platform fosters collaboration on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

3. Equalizer Games $100,000 The Dallas startup’s app is a virtual football training program for quarterbacks and coaches. This Irving startup determines the timeframe in which an at-risk patient could get a chronic illness diagnosis.

5. Apty $5.4 million

Linear Labs

Adaptive 3D

The McKinney-based beauty tech startup closed a $2.3 million seed round in November. It’s a time of rapid financial growth for ShearShare, as it reaches $3.4 million in overall funding. The mobile marketplace for stylists said it experienced a 157 percent increase in users over the past few months, despite the pandemic.

In June, the smart electric motor maker kicked off a public/private partnership with the City of Fort Worth, which included economic incentives worth up to $68.9 million to create a smart electric motor manufacturing facility and a research and development facility in the city. In October, the startup got a $6 million round and plans to expand its employee base. Founded in 2014, its motors have “twice the torque of competitive motors or equal torque in half the size,” Co-Founder Brad Hunstable says.

Spun out of UT Dallas, the startup founded in 2014 wants to change how the world mass manufactures plastics and rubbers. In October, it closed on an undisclosed Series B round to scale up its materials for 21st century manufacturing. With a team of inventors and a large IP portfolio, it plans to use the funds to scale production and distribution to deliver photoresin parts at a fraction of the weight and cost. Its photopolymer resins for additive manufacturing are “tough, strain-tolerant, tear-resistant rubbers.”

Apty develops Digital Adoption Platform software for enterprises to improve complex business processes.

6. Botisimo $700,000 Livestreamers can scale their streams through the Dallas startup’s tools for better audience engagement.

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Dr. Tye and CourtneyCaldwell

P H TO O S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O M PA N I E S

4. FelixHealthcare.AI $1 million

ShearShare


F U N D I N G WAV E | M O N E Y

EYE ON

Sunny Nadolsky FOUNDER AND CEO, MEDIBOOKR

Gig Wage

Nanoscope Therapeutics

In October, the Dallasbased pioneer in simplifying payroll for the gig economy raised a $7.5 million Series A round to boost its banking platform. The funding was led by Green Dot, a Pasadena-based financial technology and bank holding company. Additional participation comes from Techstars and Rise of the Rest, among others. The deal goes beyond just an investment—Green Dot will now serve as an infrastructure bank partner to Gig Wage.

The Bedford-based startup closed an oversubscribed Series A funding round in July for its leading work on retinas, which could enable the blind to see. The undisclosed amount of funding is expected to be used to begin a clinical trial on inherited retinal disorders and other eye-related initiatives. The startup, a TechFW client, also announced the addition of Dr. Alvaro Guillem, a co-founder of ZS Pharma, as its chairman of the board.

o9 Solutions

Yesway

In April, the supply-chain planning pioneers announced a minority equity investment from KKR that valued the company at over a billion dollars. o9 Solutions’ AI-powered platform, which helps global enterprises drive digital transformation, has grown its annual recurring revenue by more than 100 percent in the last year, it said at the time. The first external capital raise in its history, the funding is expected to accelerate o9’s go-to-market initiatives across industry verticals and global markets.

The convenience store company moved its HQ to Fort Worth last summer, closing on $235 million in equity funding in October for a store “raze-and-rebuild” campaign across its portfolio. The five-yearold startup’s fast-growth track was kickstarted when it acquired the 304-store Allsup’s chain in 2019. Yesway, which has 402 store locations, is on its way to a goal of 500. Yesway says it wants to pursue other acquisitions complementary to expanding the Yesway/ Allsup’s brand.

Dallas-based MediBookr has raised a total of $3.3 million in seed round funding, and announced a bridge round in October from an unnamed institutional investor for an undisclosed amount. Nadolsky says the funding “will help accelerate our growth on multiple fronts, including expansion of our patient engagement platform.” The platform, which streamlines communication between patients and healthcare providers, uses video, audio, live text messaging, and smart notifications to improve quality of care and reduce costs for patients, providers, employers, and health plans, according to Nadolsky. Traditionally, healthcare services have overlooked improving the end user’s experience, losing opportunities to earn customer loyalty. “We aim to change that,” Nadolsky says. By focusing on that UX, the ultimate end result can be lower operating costs and increased revenue, she said. Nadolsky says the pandemic prompted a faster rollout of several features. “Our clients were desperate for digital engagement solutions when COVID took its toll last March. We quickly acted by customizing several solutions for our clients to engage quickly using SMS, secure messaging, video conferencing, and mobile as our baseline,” she says. Up next, Medibookr plans to connect health providers with employers to educate them on improving patient care choices. —Sandra Engelland

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THE EXIT

LUCAS RODRIGUEZ HAS GOOD TIMING. In August 2016, the CerSci co-founder (left) used his early funding to acquire CT-044, a molecular compound that works at the source of pain, unlike opioid and other analgesic painkillers. That was just weeks before the U.S. surgeon general declared opioid abuse a public health crisis. The compound was invented by Scott Dax (right), who was the startup’s chief scientific officer.

EXIT STRATEGIES

P H TO O S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E C O M PA N I E S

From IPOs to M&As, 2020 saw plenty of action in DFW. Taysha Gene Therapies (see page 23) went from stealth to IPO in about five months. Here are other notable deals.

Exact Diagnostics

Lantern Pharma

Emergent Cold

CerSci

Topgolf

Fort Worth-based Exact Diagnostics announced in February its acquisition by Bio-Rad. The company, which manufactures diagnostic products (like a March offering of a SARS CoV-2 standard) that help ensure the validity of test results, was founded in 2015 by Jerry Boonyaratanakornkit and Richie Petronis at UNTHSC, with help from TechFW. It plans a move to its own lab on Vickery Boulevard.

The Dallas clinical-stage biotech startup specializing in precision oncology therapeutics earned more than $26 million in its June IPO. That will allow it to hire more biologists, cancer researchers, and AI developers, said CEO Panna Sharma. Lantern recently surpassed one billion data points on its proprietary AI platform, a milestone that could help improve patient outcomes by matching biomarker signatures with the best treatment options.

In June, Lineage Logistics, of Novi, Mich. closed its acquisition of Dallasbased Emergent Cold for an estimated $900 million. The combined company provides the world’s largest temperature-controlled facility network of over 1.9 billion cubic feet of cold storage in 12 countries across five continents. Emergent Cold is a market leader in Australia and a leading provider in Vietnam.

The Dallas-based biotech, which develops nonopioid meds to treat pain, was acquired by Acadia Pharmaceuticals for $52.5 million in August. The deal could net nearly $900 million more for shareholders with milestones and royalties. Co-Founder Lucas Rodriguez was getting his doctorate at UT Dallas when he met Dr. Ted Price and Dr. Gregory Dussor, faculty researching non-opioid pain relief. It took them three hours to decide to work together. The exit is their dream: Acadia will move the drug through its remaining clinical development.

In early 2020, Dallas-based Topgolf was planning for an IPO, but in October, the Dallas-based company with 63 locations announced an all-stock merger with Callaway, with an implied equity in Topgolf of about $2 billion. Callaway was already an investor owning 14 percent of the open-air entertainment company. The merger is expected to be complete in early 2021, with Callaway owning about 51.5 percent of Topgolf.

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INNOVATING. DALLAS! “Resources like the UT Dallas Seed Fund and the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars have been essential to SURVIVR’s success. I can’t imagine a more positive, supportive place for a student-led startup.” Brian Hoang | BS ‘19 Founder & CEO, SURVIVR

“The technology transfer team at UT Dallas is a key partner in commercializing my lab’s research. Their intellectual property agreements are innovative, creating unique incentives for industry partnerships with faculty-inventors, like me.” Dr. Shalini Prasad | Department Head of Bioengineering Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science

“Whether it’s sourcing the CEO for our largest startup to date, from the Master’s program in entrepreneurship, or providing office and lab space in its Venture Development Center, the range of support we’ve received has been outstanding.” Dr. Ted Price BS ‘97| Eugene McDermott Professor School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences Co-founder, CerSci Therapeutics & Doloromics

“The diversity of academic offerings and experiential learning, including our heavy focus on social entrepreneurship, offer students an opportunity to be resilient, well-prepared leaders in the workforce of the future.” Dr. Toyah Miller | Associate Professor Naveen Jindal School of Management

With 200 active patents, more than 680 PhD-level staff and faculty researchers, and the 13th and 15th ranked Bachelor’s and Master’s entrepreneurship degree programs in the nation, UT Dallas serves as a powerful engine of economic impact for the North Texas region. Learn more at innovation.utdallas.edu.


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Profile for Dallas Regional Chamber Publications

Dallas Innovates 2021  

The Future 50; Tech in DFW; 12 Female Funders; Top Trends For 2021

Dallas Innovates 2021  

The Future 50; Tech in DFW; 12 Female Funders; Top Trends For 2021