From Reunion Tower in Dallas, to AT&T stadium in Arlington, and on to the historic Fort Worth Stockyards, the people of DFW are generating a palpable energy.
“Dallas is booming with innovation,” says Cheri Garcia, president of Cheri Garcia Consulting.
That boom, and the energy behind it, is sparked by and manifested in the area’s greatest resource: its talented, good-hearted, and committed people. They are what make Dallas a growing hub of innovation.
Over the past few years, more people have moved to DFW than almost anywhere else in the United States. As DFW quickly approaches 7 million people, it’s the quality of both long-term residents and those coming to the area that is most impressive. Consider, for example, the high-quality researchers, doctors, and leaders within the area’s colleges and universities.
DFW is home to five Nobel Laureates, the most of any metro area in Texas, and many area colleges and universities have several other Nobel Laureates on their visiting staffs.
“There are currently six Nobel Laureates in Medicine and Physiology on the UT Southwestern Medical Center faculty,” says Frank Grassler, vice president for technology development at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “To put that into perspective, that’s more than any other medical school in the country.”
Several other researchers at Dallas-area institutions of higher learning have played pivotal roles in Nobel Prize-winning work. Fifteen of the authors on the published Higgs boson paper, which is associated with the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics, came from the University of Texas at Arlington. Today, researchers at UT Arlington’s Center for Excellence in High Energy Physics — who helped discover the Higgs boson (known as the God Particle) — continue to further investigations into dark matter, dark energy, and the discovery of new particles.
Private schools also are attracting and retaining top leaders in their fields to grow innovation across their campuses. Southern Methodist University recently announced Dr. Duncan MacFarlane as the University’s first Bobby B. Lyle Centennial Chair in Engineering Entrepreneurship. In his new role, MacFarlane, a pioneering photonics engineer, will aim to help members of the SMU community cultivate big ideas into business opportunities, while working to grow an engaging entrepreneurial education. He’s held positions at several technology and engineering firms, including Texas Instruments.
“It is my hope the line between teaching and practice gets blurred,” MacFarlane says of his new tenure. “My goal is to help students, faculty, and staff build companies.”
Dallas has become a launch pad for new entrepreneurs. For those running a new company, both the minds and hearts of the Dallas community are helping them get to the next stage. This is especially apparent in DFW’s startup scene.
“Dallas has done great as far as a startup community, as far as an innovative community,” says Oscar Villarreal, founder of ReKall, a secure platform that allows users to give information and direction to friends and family in the event something happens to them. “It’s very ambitious, yet I’m so impressed with how much people are willing to help here, how genuine they are, and how people stay true to their word.”
Many successful Dallas-area entrepreneurs willingly support the city’s next generation of founders, job-creators, and idea-starters. Take for example, Bryan DeLuca, CEO and co-founder of Foot Cardigan, and Matt Alexander, founder of the fashion and lifestyle companies Need and Foremost.
In November 2014, the two accomplished entrepreneurs teamed up to open Unbranded, a pop-up exhibition and event space that provides new leaders in DFW culture, arts, design, and fashion a platform to showcase their creative acumens.
“The main thing about Unbranded is that it’s free for vendors to participate,” DeLuca says. “We know what it’s like as startups trying to save every dollar.”
Many of the companies Unbranded gives free space to are themselves giving back to local, national, and international causes.
Cheri Garcia is another example of an area entrepreneur who possesses both a sharp mind and a good heart. She organizes networking events put on by Cyber Dust, an app created by Mark Cuban and Ryan Ozonian in which sent messages and media disappear without leaving a trail after they are viewed.
“As an inventor myself, I’m passionate about innovation and creating an awareness of the hard work inventors face behind the success of an invention,” Garcia says.
Cyber Dust’s events provide creative ways for entrepreneurs to network. To celebrate National Inventors’ Day, Garcia organized a successful trampoline dodgeball event. On March 3, Cyber Dust, along with VALT, and the law offices of Vela Wood, will host an evening event, followed by an after-party with a DJ.
“The entrepreneur ecosystem is growing, but we need to stick together as we grow,” Garcia says.
Dallas is blessed with the conditions that make a city ripe for business: a friendly tax structure, two airports, and a relatively low cost of living, among other assets. The city also is filled with leaders who are committed to ensuring today’s students will sustain, lead, and improve upon the progress that has been made across DFW for generations to come.
“Over the course of the past two years, we have rethought the way we teach pre-K and how we partner with others to make sure they raise their quality of teaching as well,” says Miguel Solis, 1st vice president of the Dallas Independent School District board of trustees.
Solis and others have committed to providing kids with a 21st-century education by investing in a more accessible and higher quality early childhood education, and by advocating for the expansion of choice schools such the Innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship Academy (IDEA) which delivers an individualized education to each of its students.
“Today, we are providing kids with 21st-century learning we know they need to be successful in both college and career,” Solis says.
DFW’s charter and private schools also are committed to educating children through a 21st-century approach. Uplift Education has developed a data-centric culture that goes beyond teaching kids to pass standardized tests, while Cristo Rey Dallas is preparing its high school students for the real world with real jobs through its corporate work-study program.
“Expectations are very high,” says Gunnar Rawlings, corporate work-study director at Cristo Rey Dallas. “But we believe we’ve created an environment where our students are loved and supported.”
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