Editor’s note: In advance of our CultureMap Social: The Innovation Edition, we chatted with our event partners about the Dallas startup scene. Finishing up the series: Michael Sitarzewski of Launch DFW.
Michael Sitarzewski, veteran entrepreneur and new publisher of Launch DFW, has his finger on the pulse of the Dallas startup community. The founder of Zerologic and CEO of Epic Playground also serves as mentor to many local startups.
This summer, Launch DFW began its renaissance under Sitarzewski’s leadership to include regional editors across Dallas-Fort Worth and new partnerships with Dallas Innovates and Startup Dallas.
We chatted with Sitarzewski about Launch DFW and why the Dallas startup scene is ultimately a social community.
CultureMap: What makes the startup community in Dallas special?
Michael Sitarzewski: The answer to that question requires a deeper understanding of what “Dallas” means to me as it relates to “community.” It represents the whole of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Our community is made up of several cities, colleges and universities, corporations, startups, coworking spaces, accelerators, and everything in between.
We have density and urban living in downtown Dallas, the small town in Denton, big business in Frisco, and gaming in Plano. Fort Worth has lots of activity too, but the best of all is that we’re all connected through one single startup community with a true “give before you get” foundation. That’s what makes Dallas special.
CM: What is something that people don’t know about doing business here?
MS: Every ecosystem has advantages. While we’ve done a great job at building community for the past two years, the best is easily yet to come. We have a tremendous resource in the colleges and universities, and more important, they’re becoming active in the community. From hackathons to HackDFW, activating 350,000 students across the area will provide a scalable and replicable weapon: talent.
CM: Why do you think Dallas is as important an entrepreneurial hub as cities like San Francisco or Austin?
MS: Snapshot: 7,000,000 consumers, 18 Fortune 500 companies, and two dozen or so billionaires. Doing business in Dallas is a no-brainer. Being connected to the startup community means you’re no more than a few introductions away from all of it.
I don’t spend brain cycles comparing our accomplishments to other cities. They’re all unique recipes, all with individual success stories and paths. People choose to move here from those cities because of the culture we’ve built, and the opportunity for growth is significant.
Most of the “mature” ecosystems have been at it for a decade or more. Dallas has been focused on our ecosystem, in earnest, for two years. Through that lens, the data speaks for itself. Start here, exit here. No matter the industry.
CM: Sum up Dallas in three words.
MS: Collaborative, giving, powerful.
CM: How does your organization fit into what's happening on the startup scene?
MS: Launch DFW is one of the first brands that comes to mind when “startup community” is mentioned in the area. It’s our responsibility to continue to provide stories, events, and resources for the greater community to connect and collaborate. You’ll see more of these collaborations in the coming months. The story of our community is ever evolving — we cover that like no one else can. We live it day to day.
CM: What does innovation look like to you?
MS: There are a million answers for this, but I’ll start here: “I know it when I see it.” When you see a product, service, or company for the first time, and your first thought is “Wow!” a good follow-up is “How did they do that?” We don’t need more social networks for blue-winged bird owners. We need more “WOW!” And even better than wow is “Please take my money.”
CM: What is Launch DFW doing that's different than anyone else in Dallas?
MS: We are a startup community catalyst. Most other publications take a traditional approach to content and readership, and some even dabble in events. Launch DFW is powered by a 20-year veteran startup founder, and it is supported by regional editors that play a role, day to day, in the startup ecosystem. We’re embedded here, and view this as our community and our people.
Launch DFW covers a wide array of issues — some playful and fun, and others more serious and professional. The core is seed-stage startups and the ecosystem that surrounds it. We’re media organization agnostic, and provide content for anyone to use and repurpose.
If it hasn’t happened by the time this is published, we’re moving to a Creative Commons license similar to the one used by Wikipedia. Take our content, remix, and reuse. Just attribute the source.
CM: Is there a hidden value to nurturing startups?
MS: The value isn’t hidden, or it shouldn’t be. We should all want to help other people succeed so our area builds on the already established and recognized legacy of entrepreneurial success. The more people activate and join the community, the better the chances of a big win. The better their chances for growth. That’s why we nurture startups. It’s not hidden or covert.
CM: How does Launch DFW educate entrepreneurs?
MS: More than the publication, it’s the reality that meeting new people will always broaden your horizons. Our content is just the tip of the iceberg. For example, it starts with founders and the purpose for their company. If it’s solely a money grab, there’s not much I can do for them. I work best with passionate people, and I like those around me to exude it.
Once that’s established, introduce them to people that can help present the product to audiences that the founder/founding team don’t have access to. If you’re making an IoT device, who better than Texas Instruments or AT&T to talk to?
Those are the people that read Launch DFW. They’re the people I’m happy to introduce to founders. Education is more than books and college. It’s social.
Buy tickets to the CultureMap Social: The Innovation Edition, which takes place September 30, 6 pm, at 129 Leslie.