For most, the term “startup” conjures images of Zuckerberg. Ping pong tables and casual business attire. Instagram. Maverick dreamers made unemployable by corporate standards. And most of all, the “it” place — Silicon Valley.
But Silicon Valley is just today. It hasn’t always been the “it” place for startups (Al Gore pointed out in his 2013 SXSW keynote that one of the earliest “it” places was actually Detroit), and it’s got some fierce competitors in the fight to keep that claim into tomorrow.
One such competitor is Dallas.
As local serial entrepreneur and co-founder of HAUL, Alex Muse, put it in this article, something big is happening in Dallas right now. Once a tiny, insignificant blip on the startup radar (if a blip even at all), Dallas is now holding its own by becoming a very attractive city in which to start your startup and offers some really cool co-working spaces (like Common Desk over in Deep Ellum) in which to do it.
You say you don’t believe me? Then I say you’re just not looking in the right places. And you most certainly didn’t attend Tech Wildcatters Pitch Day last week to get just a tiny taste of the passion your fellow Dallasites are drumming up around startups. Their startups.
Pitch Day is an annual thing. It’s the final component of a 12-week, Forbes-ranked top accelerator program hosted by Tech Wildcatters. Each spring and fall, five to 10 startups are selected to take part in the program. They get a hefty dose of mentoring by some of the best in their industries and, at the end, a coveted opportunity to pitch their ideas and companies to investors.
Last week more than 700 entrepreneurs crammed into the Granada Theater to experience this final stage of the spring program and listen to 11 budding entrepreneurs pitch their businesses with the hope of having a real shot by garnering funding to make it happen.
Take Voncierge, for instance. Because calling all 50 of your wedding vendors to book an appointment is so last year. With this virtual planning site, you just find a vendor’s available time online and schedule it without ever having to pick up the phone. (Bonus is you can do it while also looking busy at work.)
And how about the fundraising you and your friends need to do for the charity walk coming up? No problem with GroupRaise.com, a site that will put you in fast touch with a restaurant willing to donate a portion of its proceeds if you simply promise to bring everyone you know to the venue one night.
Or there’s SmokePhone, a product that allows you to have several phone numbers, which you use for a variety of purposes, directed to your one phone. So when the guy with a face for radio asks for your number, you can give him the 972 one. Or when you’re interviewing for a job in Austin, put the 512 number on your resume to project the “local” vibe.
And then there’s CrowdFeed, an experience for concert-goers who want to sync into the event just a bit more by socially networking with other attendees, connecting with the venue and the artists themselves, or even purchasing backstage passes on the fly.
Here’s the full list of companies that presented, because I just barely scratched the surface.
Keep your eyes peeled, because companies coming from this experience have a way of finding success. Companies like Key Ring, recently acquired by Gannett, and Promoxo, acquired by Lucent Mobile. Or the 35 other companies that were born from the program, together having raised more than $25 million and generated over 200 jobs.
Yes, folks, while you’re seeing hiring freezes, layoffs and measly bonuses in the corporate world, startups are creating jobs and raising money. Chew on that one as you ponder your next career move.
Is Dallas the next “it” city for startups? We can hope. Or, we can cheer on more budding entrepreneurs like those 11 founders who stood on the stage at the Granada with an idea and a plan, and watch it happen.