Diversity Fuels North Texas Startup Funding

"We’re on to a second wave of what our innovation ecosystem looks like," says Proximity to Power's Clarisa Lindenmeyer.

Diversity Rocket

From angels to family offices to venture capital firms, women and people of color are emerging in North Texas both as decision-makers on who gets capital and as the writers of checks.

“Women are starting businesses at record levels, with the ideas, skills, and talents to build great companies,” says Laura Baldwin, co-leader of the Dallas chapter of Golden Seeds, an angel investment group that backs businesses with at least one woman in a C-suite operating role. “But like all early-stage entrepreneurs, they need capital to fuel their growth, and Golden Seeds is committed to helping them raise that capital,” says Baldwin, who runs the 20-member chapter with Louise Kee.

DIVERSE TEAM: The Perot Jain team consists of Ross Perot Jr., principal Cindy Revol, partners Joe Beard and Anurag Jain.

The Perot Jain team consists of Ross Perot Jr., principal Cindy Revol, partners Joe Beard and Anurag Jain.

Beyond angels, women are now principals in the North Texas offices of venture firms like Interlock Partners (Partner Inobat Igamberdieva). People of color lead local venture firms (such as Naya Ventures and TXV Partners) and family offices that do venture-style investing (Perot Jain).

Beyond the numbers game, the business value of diversity is that groups make better decisions when their members have different backgrounds and perspectives, studies show.

Clarisa Lindenmeyer, Proximity to Power

Clarisa Lindenmeyer, Proximity to Power

“If you want the best solution and the best people solving a problem, you need them to be experienced in handling different kinds of challenges,” says Clarisa Lindenmeyer, founder and president of Dallas-based Proximity to Power, which helps C-level executives tackle growth-related questions in early-stage companies.

Entrepreneurs may feel more comfortable working with investors who look like them, she adds. Similarly, people can take inspiration from the success of those with whom they share similar backgrounds.

“It’s important to inspire ideas about what I can do with my life,” she says.

To be sure, at a broad level the startup-funding world is similar to when Sevin Rosen Funds helped pioneer venture capital in Dallas with its 1980 launch.

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A 2011 survey by the National Venture Capital Association found 89 percent of investors were male and 87 percent were Caucasian. The industry in 2017 invested $68.2 billion in companies that men founded but only $1.9 billion in those started by women, according to PitchBook data (via Bloomberg).

But while change can be slow, change is happening nonetheless.

Experts like Lindenmeyer see it happening in the world of North Texas startups. “We have a diversity of ideas and people who want big things in this city,” she says. “We’re on to a second wave of what our innovation ecosystem looks like.”

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Dallas Innovates 2019—The Magazine explores the region as a rising tech hub that will shape the future of innovation. The theme of our second annual print publication, “A Breakout Moment,” explores why now is the time for the region to grab its place in the tech universe.

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