Dallas Mayor Names Pinnacle Group CEO Nina Vaca as Dallas’ First Entrepreneur-in-Residence

The city’s inaugural Entrepreneur-in-Residence position was recommended by the Mayor’s Task Force on Innovation and Entrepreneurship to better foster the start-up environment in Dallas. "While Dallas is known as a great place for big business, now we need to show that we are a great place for scalable, sustainable, and high-growth startups as well," Vaca says.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson hosted a press conference this morning to announce Nina Vaca, CEO of Pinnacle Group, as Dallas’ inaugural Entrepreneur-in-Residence. In her role, Vaca will provide advice and counsel to the mayor and promote Dallas as an international magnet for innovation and entrepreneurship. 

The new position was recommended earlier this year by the Mayor’s Task Force on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which he formed to better foster the start-up environment in the city.

“As a Dallas-based leader for 25 years, Nina Vaca has demonstrated the business prowess and the commitment to entrepreneurship that make her the ideal choice to represent our city’s entrepreneurial community,” Mayor Johnson said in a statement.

“I have no doubt that as our first-ever Entrepreneur-in-Residence, she’ll offer incredible insight to our city government and to our aspiring and diverse community of startup leaders,” Johnson added. “Together, with Nina’s help, we can ensure Dallas takes its rightful place as an internationally recognized and inclusive hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Increasing awareness of Dallas entrepreneurship locally, nationally, and globally

Vaca founded Pinnacle Group from her Dallas apartment in 1996. Twenty-five years later, she’s grown her company into an award-winning global workforce solutions provider. Pinnacle Group recently reaffirmed its commitment to the city with a new global headquarters on North Central Expressway.

“Pinnacle Group is living proof that Dallas is a great city for entrepreneurship and startups, but not enough people know it,” Vaca told Dallas Innovates. “By increasing awareness locally, nationally, and globally, we hope to attract more innovators and entrepreneurs to the city while retaining the amazing talent we already have.”

The new Entrepreneur-in-Residence aims to help keep Dallas on the leading edge of the 21st century economy while growing the prosperity of the city and its residents.

“While Dallas is known as a great place for big business, now we need to show that we are a great place for scalable, sustainable, and high-growth startups as well,” Vaca added. 

From spotlighting needs to increasing the pipeline of young entrepreneurs

Vaca says her foremost role in the new position will be as a public voice and advocate to help advance Dallas’s reputation as a leading city for entrepreneurship and innovation.

She’ll also provide guidance to the mayor and other city leaders based on her 25 years of experience as a Dallas-based entrepreneur. “I’ll help spotlight the unique needs of entrepreneurs and how best to attract, support, and retain them,” Vaca told us.

Another key goal will be finding ways to get students and other young people excited about entrepreneurship.

“To increase the pipeline of young entrepreneurs, we need to go upstream and teach them that this is a skillset they can cultivate that leads to a path of amazing opportunities,” Vaca said. “It’s not for everyone, but we need to reach the ones who need to ‘see it in order to be it.'”

“By showing young people that entrepreneurship is a viable career and life path, we’ll benefit by increasing the numbers of those engaged in ‘next generation’ ideas and innovation,” she added.

Aiming for more startup support for diverse entrepreneurs

Vaca is interested in more than plans. She’s aiming for results—starting with targeted support for entrepreneurs and startups to “foster greater creativity, spur investment, and spark innovation in the city.”

She also wants to amplify the work organizations are already doing to support entrepreneurs here—”especially diverse entrepreneurs in the city”—and leverage those organizations to spur increased support and advocacy.

Mandy Price co-founder and CEO of Kanarys and co-chair of the Mayors Task Force [Photo: Kanarys]

Price: ‘Nina is a true pioneer who has blazed a trail for women’

Mandy Price, co-founder and CEO of Kanarys and co-chair of the Mayor’s Task Force on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, calls Vaca “a true pioneer who has blazed a trail for women in Dallas and around the country.”

Price told Dallas Innovates that “Partnering with entrepreneurs is a critical component of the roadmap we laid out earlier this year. Nina will help us bring our roadmap to fruition and provide fresh thought leadership. She’ll also help identify and create a pipeline of projects to support entrepreneurs, innovation, and startups throughout Dallas.”

“One of our city’s strengths is the many talented entrepreneurs, and in order to foster growth and innovation, we all need to work together,” Price added. “Nina will bring a fresh perspective to the task force and help the city think creatively about how to support entrepreneurs and startups. Part of her role will be acting as a liaison between the entrepreneurial community and the City of Dallas, and also ensuring corporations are supporting the initiatives laid out in our roadmap. 

In working with Vaca as Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Price believes the Mayor’s task force will successfully achieve the goals that it’s laid out in its roadmap, including “increasing funding to diverse and underserved startups, implementing initiatives that will bring together VCs and diverse entrepreneurs, increasing startup exits, and adding new jobs to Dallas through startups.”

“Specifically, as a female entrepreneur and a woman of color,” Price said in the statement. “[Vaca] knows firsthand the challenges we need to address in order to ensure Dallas is one of the top cities for underrepresented entrepreneurs, especially women and people of color.”


Bowles: Vaca is ‘one of the number-one entrepreneurs in the world’

Trey Bowles, Gay Donnell Willis, Nina Vaca, and Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson [Courtesy photo]

Trey Bowles, chairman emeritus of The DEC Network and co-chair of the Mayor’s Task Force, called Vaca’s appointment an important move.

“With the announcement of Nina Vaca in this role, we’re able to leverage the experience, expertise, and reputation of one of the number-one entrepreneurs in the world,” Bowles said in a statement. “Nina has been a part of the PAGE program (Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship) created by President Obama, and she is a perfect example of a leading lady in entrepreneurship.”

“She’s an example of why Mayor Johnson has committed that Dallas will become the number one city in the world for women entrepreneurs,” he added.

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