PricewaterhouseCoopers recently released its MoneyTree report detailing US venture capital (VC) funding for 2015.
To my surprise, DFW did not rank very highly (only edged into the top 25 markets). While it was not a shock that we came in lower than the traditional VC hotbeds of the Bay Area, Boston, New York-New Jersey, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. — we also were outpaced by many smaller locations such as Ann Arbor, Boulder, Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham, Austin, Utah, and Denver.
According to PwC, DFW generated $188 million in total VC funding during 2015 (mostly in the biotech arena). In comparison, this is 10-20 percent lower than Ann Arbor and Boulder, and well less than a third of funding levels in Atlanta, Denver, and Austin.
Quite simply, looking at VC funding alone is a misleading gauge of a region’s innovation potential.
So, that made me ask, “What was going on behind the numbers and what was the real underlying story?” After a bit of sleuthing, I think I found the answer.
Quite simply, looking at VC funding alone is a misleading gauge of a region’s innovation potential. And, we must not forget that VC funding is a financial wager on the future of small companies — a wager that focuses on high-yield, early-stage speculative ventures looking for that next “unicorn.”
Overall, innovation is a broad topic and DFW is a very innovative region on many fronts.
Whether it’s the leadership that developed Klyde Warren Park and the changes that are now being felt in the creation of a cohesive downtown — or our region’s mature technology roots that go back decades — innovation is part of our community.
What is particularly telling for me is that venture capital funding does not tell the whole story. For example, while DFW falls low in the VC pack, it is a consistent “top 10” performer on patent generation — another critical measure of innovation. In fact, since 2000, DFW companies have been awarded almost 29,000 patents, with close to 80 percent falling into important advanced technology sectors such as computers, telecom, and biotech. This puts our region on par or even well ahead of many of the big VC winners, and underscores our market as one of the preeminent innovation hubs in the U.S.
Since 2000, DFW companies have been awarded almost 29,000 patents, with close to 80 percent falling into important advanced technology sectors such as computers, telecom, and biotech.
The key players responsible for this success are household names, rather than small startups.
Over the last five years, our top 10 patent originators generated more than 4,400 new patents — that’s almost 40 percent of total patent awards in the region. These companies included the likes of Texas Instruments, Samsung, Verizon, Halliburton, Raytheon, Cisco Systems, H-P, the University of Texas, Lockheed, and Nokia.
Where does that leave DFW?
While our region does not attract significant technology-oriented venture capital, that is not a bad thing. Often these dollars are fickle and even though the funding makes the news, its high-risk nature does not necessarily always turn into new products or processes. What we do have here are technology drivers across many advanced industries that continue to innovate successfully and change our world. As a sustained economic driver, I’ll take that consistent performance over a “unicorn” any day.
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