Dallas Startup Week: Entrepreneurs say Perseverance is Key



Whether it’s mobile keyless access for hotels, app controlled lighting, or developing an interactive golf experience, some of the most successful entrepreneurs in North Texas faced moments of doubt or even failure when starting their companies.

It’s the way they persevered through the challenges, however that made the difference.

A panel of four North Texas entrepreneurs discussed their stories during Dallas Startup Week’s Spark of Genius seminar, Tuesday morning at the Dallas Entrepreneurs Center Co-working Space in downtown.


TJ Person, founder of Open Key, revolutionized the hotel industry with mobile key platforms so guests don’t need plastic keys and spend less time at the front desk.

Person said it sounds great and worked flawlessly in the lab. But his first test on two doors at one hotel didn’t go so well. He said doors either opened randomly in the middle of the night, causing major safety concerns, or wouldn’t open at all.

“I was running out there at midnight trying to figure out what was wrong. And this was just two doors.” _ TJ Person

“I was running out there at midnight trying to figure out what was wrong. And this was just two doors,” Person said. “It was an absolute disaster. The networks in hotels aren’t as beautiful as ours.”

Like many startups, Open Key had reached a fork in the road when it came to developing the software and the hardware. Person said they had to make a strategic decision to focus entirely on the software and partner with a different company to build the locks and hardware.


It’s a similar story for Peter Bastawros, founder and CEO of World Class Creations, the Dallas tech startup behind Game Cart Golf. Instead of competing against others physically present at the course, Game Cart allows golfers to compete against anyone online.

“It connects players into a live interactive, immersive experience,” Bastawros said. “You can literally follow along with games, a virtual tournament, playing against each other.”

He said this was the future of golf because it makes it relevant for a younger generation who want to stay connected.

That connection, facial recognition, video and competing, requires hardware on the golf cart. Originally, Game Cart Golf intended to build its own roof attachment that included the video camera. But, now a golf cart manufacturer has offered to integrate Game Cart Golf into the carts themselves.

“Coding is very creative. It’s an art and there’s some talent involved.” _ Peter Bastawros, World Class Creations

That means Bastawros can do what he does best.

“It allows us to focus on the software,” he said. “Coding is very creative. It’s an art and there’s some talent involved.”

Bastawros said it can take years to build the hardware needed for this whereas the software takes a few months.

Regardless, he said being an entrepreneur is a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

“Sometimes it’s taking two steps back to take three steps forward,” he said.


Corey Egan combined the LED lighting innovations with the functionality of apps for his company, ilumi Solutions. He got validation early on when the concept won UT Dallas’s annual business idea competition contest. Egan and his co-founder Swapnil Bora got the idea funded.

But getting a tangible product ready for selling in the mass market proved to be a different challenge entirely.

“It was a challenging process and it took us a lot longer than we thought it would,” Egan said. “It’s not as quick an iteration as you might like.”

But there’s a reward for sticking with it.

“We’ll be in all Best Buy stores nationwide,” he said. “It’s a nice display.”

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