DI People: New Hires in DFW Startup Scene, NTT Data Promotes Pryor to CEO & Texas A&M Names New Law Dean

You'll also find details of Peter Berweger taking the reins as CEO at AgBiTech and the creation of a new CCO position at Urban Air Adventure Park, in our roundup of personnel activity highlights across DFW companies.



The Dallas Entrepreneur Center named Alyce Alston as its next CEO earlier this week. 

Alyce Alston

Alston, who has experience in for-profit and nonprofit leadership as well as being a mentor and advocate for startups, took over the reins Wednesday from co-founder Trey Bowles who announced plans to step down in April.

“I think Trey has built something really special. He really created this ecosystem with a wide focus on collaboration and support throughout the city for entrepreneurs. … Right now, my goal is to build on that mission,” Alston told Dallas Innovates. Read more about who Bowles’ called a “rock star” hire here

The DEC’s partner, Capital Factory, has snagged the expertise of a business development and investment professional in the  local startup community.

Bryan Chambers, who serves as a professor as well as director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Texas at Dallas and the UTD Seed Fund, will be adding the roles of Capital Factory accelerator director and venture partner to his resume. 

The Austin-based entrepreneurial organization recently moved into its first Dallas location, which it shares with The DEC. As part of his new responsibilities with Capital Factory, Chambers will help manage and oversee the accelerator program as well as identify investment opportunities and provide portfolio management support for Capital Factory’s venture fund.

“UT Dallas and Capital Factory are highly aligned, synergistic organizations (similarly to UT Austin and Capital Factory),” Chambers told Dallas Innovates via email. “Both organizations are committed to training and helping entrepreneurs and startups succeed. Both organizations will benefit from continuing to share best practices, thought leadership, networks, and information in an effort to grow a stronger regional and state-wide ecosystem.” 

Steve Guengerich, executive director for UTD’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, also has ties to Capital Factory as a mentor for the organization. 

“I’ve found that my role as a Capital Factory mentor for the past five years has been very complementary to my other day-job pursuits. So, am pleased to have another member of the UT Dallas team in a key role, helping to shape the Texas startup ecosystem,” Guengerich wrote in a LinkedIn post about Chamber’s new roles. 


Sandy El-Rayes has joined the Fort Worth-based nonprofit, TechFW, to build partnerships and oversee communications.

Sandy El-Rayes

The firm mentors and helps emerging tech companies in growing their businesses in the area.

El-Rayes previously worked for Smart Circle International as the national training and development director. Prior to her work with the marketing agency, she headed Bay City Connections and Grayson Carter as CEO for seven years.

“Fabulous fit,” Hayden Blackburn, assistant director of TechFW, said in a release. “She is an entrepreneur, natural leader, and has quality experience in business development, strategic planning, operations, training, sales, and social media marketing.”  

El-Rayes graduated in 2009 from Temple University with a bachelor of arts in advertising. She is currently earning her executive master of business administration from the University of Texas at Arlington. Recently, El-Rayes was accepted into the service organization Rotary International (Fort Worth).

As marketing director for TechFW, El-Rayes will oversee all internal and external messaging and forge partnerships for the organization.  


Effective July 1, NTT Data Services COO Bob Pryor will take over as CEO. Current CEO John McCain was named the company’s new executive chairman.

Bob Pryor

“As COO, Bob played an essential role in setting this strong foundation, including the successful integration of the former Dell Services, and he will do a great job as CEO leading this company and our clients into the future,” McCain said in a release.

Pryor, who has been with NTT Data since 2016, will oversee the company’s business operations and drive growth and development in digital, cloud and security. He will also serve on NTT Data Services Board of Directors.

“Mr. McCain led an evolution of NTT DATA Services and helped improve the company’s global reach and market share through a combination of organic and inorganic strategies,” Jimit Arora, partner at Everest Group, said in a release. “Because of Mr. Pryor’s involvement in all facets of the business during the last two years, we expect he will seamlessly take the reins and continue driving expansion of capabilities to serve clients.”


Peter Berweger has been appointed chief executive officer of AgBiTech, succeeding company founder Anthony Hawes who will stay on as founder and chief technical officer.

“With the recent registration of several new products and a number of others coming over the next year, now is the right time to transition leadership of the company as it evolves from a development company to a commercial company,” Hawes said in a release.

Berweger is a director of Paine Schwartz Partners, a private equity firm focused on sustainable food chain investing, which currently invests with its $893 million Food Chain Fund IV for food and agribusiness investing. AgBiTech Pty Ltd is a Paine Schwartz Partners, LLC portfolio company.

“With the company’s recently registered products, late stage pipeline and newly built manufacturing center in Dallas, I am excited about our prospects and our ability to capture growth opportunities by providing efficacious and sustainable biological solutions to growers,” Berweger said in a release.

Berweger previously held the title of Group CEO of Eurodrip S.A., a micro irrigation solutions provider and Paine Schwartz portfolio company. Prior to that, he held positions Syngenta and KPMG.


The employee benefits and payroll services provider headquartered in Dallas announced the appointment of Robert C. Love to president of its benefits division.

Robert C. Love

Love is charged with leading the division and developing organizational infrastructure around plans for company growth and expansion.

“Bob’s track record of driving successful growth for carriers and their broker partners will guide our strategies as we accelerate growth for BenefitMall, and our broker and carrier partners,” Scott Kirksey, BenefitMall CEO who assumed his role in January, said in a release.

Throughout his 30-year career, Love has led sales and operations teams at Prudential, Guardian and MetLife. He served on the board of directors for Hyatt Legal Plans and Safeguard Health Plans Inc.

“BenefitMall’s guiding principles and dedication to excellence drew me to the company, and I am motivated to become a true change agent within the organization,” Love said in a release.

BenetfitMall provides combined employee benefits and payroll services to over 200,000 small and medium-sized businesses nationwide through its network of 2,000 brokers and CPAs. Most recently, the firm’s growth initiative included the acquisition of Slattery GA, a benefits wholesale general agency in New Jersey, in April.


iPhotonix, a developer of software-defined access network technology, announced the appointment of Tim Harden as chairman of the board.

Tim Harden

Harden comes from AT&T Services Inc., where he most recently served as president of supply chain and fleet operations. Part of Harden’s role at AT&T involved working with developing companies in which he served as the CEO/COO of three startups, including iPhotonix.  

Before leading the supply chain, Harden served as president and CEO of AT&T West.

Harden is also chairman emeritus of the QuEST Forum executive board, which manages the TL9000 quality management system for meeting supply chain quality requirements in the telecommunications industry.

“Tim is an enormously talented executive with a broad perspective and a proven track record of driving innovation and growth in the networking industry,”  Amir Elbaz, CEO of iPhotonix, said in a release.


Jay Thomas will join Urban Air to fill a new position for the company as Chief Commercial Officer, in which he will lead commercial strategy and park development from the company’s Dallas headquarters.

Jay Thomas

Thomas most recently served as vice president of international park development at Six Flags Inc. before coming to Urban Air. Throughout his 30-year career with the amusement park corporation, Thomas held executives roles in several departments including administration, operations, human resources, marketing, and information systems.

“This transition will allow me the opportunity to take everything I have learned over the last 30 years and share it with one of the fastest-growing franchises in the world,” Thomas said in a release.

Thomas’ wide-ranging industry knowledge will be used to oversee and drive franchise relationships, marketing, sales, operations, safety, product development and customer service for Urban Air. His hire comes after the company’s appointment of new executive chairman Ken May last month.

The company has 209 parks open and under construction, and once all are operational, the parks are expected to bring in an estimated 36 million guests per year, according to a release.


Texas A&M University School of Law will welcome Robert B. Ahdieh as its new dean and holder of the Anthony G. Buzbee Endowed Dean’s Chair.

Ahdieh comes to the Fort Worth law school from Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Georgia, where he served as professor of private international law and director of the Center on Federalism and Intersystemic Governance. 

The law school became part of Texas A&M in 2013 and is currently among one of the top 80 law schools. according to U.S. News & World Report.

“I believe no law school in the country has traveled further, in so short a time. Nor does any have more upside potential, going forward,” Ahdieh said in a university release. 

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