Dallas Startup Week 2018: Day 3 Roundup

Wednesday's panels have tackled disruptive technologies such as blockchain, the corporate-startup relationship, and more.

Dallas Startup Week

We’re getting information overload over here in a good way. So many inspiring and insightful moments so far in Dallas Startup Week and there’s still plenty of things left to come. 

Dallas Startup Week

Activating Youth for Social Change and Entrepreneurship panel at Wild Detectives. [Photo: Merissa De Falcis]

In an education session at Wild Detectives yesterday afternoon, the conversation turned to our future entrepreneurs and how to activate them for change. 

The panel featured students and mentors from three different North Texas student programs — Dallas Youth Poets, which teaches high school age kids how to write poetry, Storytellers Without Borders, which helps high school kids become journalists for their community, and lastly, Faith in Texas, which is a multiracial, faith-based movement for social justice. 

Arnulfo Garza, former bilingual community organizer for Faith in Texas, said try to captivate a smaller group first when aiming to get students involved.

“We don’t have to change the whole school, but we can work with some of the students and help them understand what it means to organize, what it means to work together, what it means to advocate for other people in a holistic way so they can pass that on,” Garza said. 

Jill Ford, principal at Toyota AI Ventures, was featured in Tuesday afternoon’s fireside chat. Toyota AI Ventures is the venture capital subsidiary of Toyota Research Institute. It focuses investments on autonomous mobility, robotics, data, and the cloud.

“As we are developing the next generation technologies it’s going to take a lot of companies and people acting in different roles interdependently — the investors, entrepreneurs, and the innovators who are really imagining technologies we don’t have today,” Ford said. 

CounterFind Founder Darren Woodson (right) embraced his role as an entrepreneur at a special Dallas Startup Week edition of Dallas New Tech. [Photo courtesy of Sarah Verstegen]

Then last night, CounterFind Founder Darren Woodson embraced his role as an entrepreneur at a special Dallas Startup Week edition of Dallas New Tech. 

The former Dallas Cowboys player said “the startup market here has been incredible.”

“It’s like this place is on fire right now. There are so many people who are motivated.”

Darren Woodson

“It’s so impressive to see … It’s like this place is on fire right now. There are so many people who are motivated.”

His company, CounterFind, helps businesses defend against counterfeit versions of their products being sold on the internet. 

Woodson said the startup has barely scratched the surface of counterfeit goods.

“The future is that in the next three to four years, we’ve reached at least four to five different verticals,” Woodson said. 

Dallas Startup Week

Serial entrepreneur Valerie Freeman (left) took attendees down memory lane of her entrepreneurial journey during a morning session moderated by D CEO’s Danielle Abril in Irving. [Photo: Heather Noel]

Wednesday morning kicked off with a plethora of startup pitches at the area’s weekly 1 Million Cups events in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Frisco. 

And, serial entrepreneur Valerie Freeman, who has started firms specializing in staffing, recruiting, and human resources, took attendees down memory lane of her startup journey during a morning session moderated by D CEO‘s Danielle Abril in Irving. 

“Hope is not a strategy. You can’t hope for the best. You got to make it happen.”

Valerie Freeman

Freeman said starting companies hasn’t been an easy path. You have to learn to deal with the challenges that come along the way and you can’t let them consume you. 

Leaders are truly tested in times of adversity.

“Hope is not a strategy. You can’t hope for the best. You got to make it happen,” Freeman said. 

She also had advice for women trying to navigate male-domaniated fields. She said it’s a great time to be a female entrepreneur and encouraged people to take advantage of it if they’re able. However, she acknowledged that disparities and outdated ideas of gender roles still persist. 

“We have to band together [as women] and help each other,” Freeman said. 


Back at the Chase Basecamp, blockchain experts discussed all the ways the distributed ledger technology could revolutionize our everyday world.

“We’ll own our data again.”
Lacey Shrum

“This is the next big jump forward,” said Cody Marx Bailey, CEO of XRAM Capital and blockchain technologist. “You have a bunch of people who don’t trust each other with the ability to communicate. There’s trust baked into the protocol.”

The decentralized nature of a blockchain makes it ideal for digital currency, but it’s so much more than bitcoin. Smart contracts could cut out the middleman for buying a home, for example. Car insurance companies could get a much better risk assessment based on driving behavior, when people drive, and where people drive, meaning rates could potentially go down.

Lacey Shrum, compliance consultant and blockchain enthusiast, said there are so many inefficiencies in the world today that could be disrupted by blockchain.

“We’ll own our data again,” Shrum said. “We’re paying for it with our personal information and we don’t know that. They say that we agree to it, but I think that’s arguable.”

Dallas Startup Week

Dallas Business Journal Editor-in-Chief Jeff Schnick (left) moderates Dallas Startup Week’s CIO Panel, with Jason Illian (Koch Disruptive Technology) and Sherif Mityas (TGI Fridays). [Photo: Michael Samples]


Huge corporations such as Koch Industries and TGI Fridays are actively seeking out startups that can give them a leg up on their competition, leaders from both companies explained during a Wednesday panel. 

“If you’re not thinking about the future, we’re all going to be carrying our belongings out in boxes in 10 years,” Jason Illian, managing director of Koch Disruptive Technologies, said, quoting another Koch executive. “The best ideas aren’t created here. The true entrepreneurs are the ones creating the best ideas.”

Koch established a Koch Labs where it can bring in startups to let them tinker and perfect their concept. Koch usually becomes a minority partner in the startup, Illian said.

“If you’re not thinking about the future, we’re all going to be carrying our belongings out in boxes in 10 years.”

Jason Illian

TGI Friday’s Restaurant & Bar is a 50-year-old brand that’s working hard to reinvent and reintroduce itself to a new generation.

Sherif Mityas, CIO and chief experience officer for Friday’s, said he’s in charge of everything that touches the guest. He reports to the CEO about how to make things as frictionless as possible. It’s looking for startups that are still in stealth mode, but have a cool idea that can improve the company’s processes.

Startups that have a solid idea can participate in Friday’s quarterly Shark Tank competitions. Right now, the company is piloting a computerized bartender that’s powered by artificial intelligence. That tech came from a startup who pitched in its Shark Tank program.

The biggest piece of advice Mityas has: don’t try to sell us stuff from day one.

“The ability for you to come in and just listen, to allow my team to learn from you — don’t ever be the smartest people in the room — and just get a good dialogue going, and be ready to talk about what’s next,” Mityas said. “Tie it to something we can measure. We don’t pilot anything unless it has a starting metric for success.”


Tonight brings one of Dallas Startup Week’s marquee events — State of Entrepreneurship. This year’s event will be held 6-9 p.m at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas. 

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is expected to attend. Also, the 2018 Startup Evangelist of the Year will be announced. The five finalists are: Leah Frazier, founder and CEO at Think Three Media; Caitlin Studley, director of culture marketing at Lifeblue and director of ecosystems at Launch DFWKim O’Neil, founder and managing partner at Cause Studio; Kedreon Cole, director of partnerships and business development at LaunchPad City; and Meagan Moakes, director of community development for RevTech.

Hope to see you there as the community celebrates all its accomplishments over the past year!

ICYMI: #DSW18 on Twitter

Hospitality Keynote: A Female Founder’s Hard-hitting Approach to a Sweet Guest Experience


How to Make Corporations Your Customers

How Lyft is Driving Mobile Marketing in 2018

Fireside Chat with Jim Keyes

Startup Grind DFW

Momentum: Five Principles for Growing Your Business in the Digital Age



Dallas Startup Week 2018: Day 1 Roundup

The Future of IoT Rests on Putting the Puzzle Pieces Together

Dallas Startup Week 2018: Day 2 Roundup

Experts: Choose an Accelerator or Incubator That Fits Your Startup’s Goals

Business of Social: Bringing the Entrepreneurial Mindset into Nonprofits


Why Championing Corporate Diversity Isn’t Enough

Panelists from Baylor Scott & White, UT Southwestern, and Children’s Weigh In On Hospital Innovation


Check the official schedule here to sign up for events.

Get on the list.
Dallas Innovates, every day. 

Sign up here to get what’s new and next in Dallas-Fort Worth.

One click, and you’re done.   
View previous emails.


R E A D   N E X T