This story was originally published in Dallas Innovates 2020: The Magazine.
The Dallas-Fort Worth economy has a number of emerging industries that eventually may become synonymous with the region.
“We have an opportunity to be the electrification capital of the world,” said Brad Hunstable, CEO and founder of Fort Worth’s Linear Labs, at last year’s Venture Dallas conference. “We have the pieces if we brand it properly to stake it, name it, (and) claim it as a region.”
Hunstable aims to create the next generation of motors for the electric power industry.
The West Point-trained engineer funded research by his dad, Fred, that produced an electric turbine that the younger Hunstable says gives electric vehicles 10 percent more range than regular magnet motors.
Hunstable knows something about disrupting the marketplace: The Granbury native was co-founder and CEO of Ustream, a video platform born in 2007 so military-deployed personnel could connect with their loved ones. IBM acquired the company in 2016 for $150 million and rolled it into its Cloud Video division.
Hunstable’s current company, Linear Labs, is set to expand with a new large-scale manufacturing plant at the AllianceTexas development, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price recently announced during her State of the City address. The plant is expected to create more than 3,000 high-tech jobs in the region in the next 10 years, per the Fort Worth Business Press.
Linear Labs is also “moving an advanced manufacturing facility and corporate office from Mexico to Fort Worth, in a move that Price called “reshoring.”
And beyond his own business, Hunstable cites the presence of large local players in mobility such as Toyota, that could help drive mobility in the region.
AllianceTexas: Mobility for the future
AllianceTexas, a 26,0000-acre development near Fort Worth, recently announced it will be testing grounds for technology-piloted vehicles, ranging from autonomous cars and trucks to drones as a “mobility innovation zone.”
Hillwood, the real estate firm that spearheaded AllianceTexas, is working with technology giant Uber to build infrastructure for local skyports for landings and takeoffs of Uber’s Elevate budding air-taxi service.
“Our goal is to be able to, in the course of the next several months—not years, months—start some testing publicly as a way of showing (less noise) and safety and reliability,” said Wyatt Smith, head of Elevate’s business development, in a Venture Dallas panel.
The Federal Aviation Administration is changing how it does business to work effectively with new tech, according to Scott Drennan, vice president of innovation at Fort Worth aircraft maker Bell.
“The FAA is transforming in a way that many companies that you deal with are transforming,” he told the event’s 300-plus attendees. “They’re really using innovation as a new lever to move forward with these technologies.”
Technology changing finance, pro sports
Another emerging area of expertise in North Texas is fintech. Competing against giants like Fiserv, Plano’s Alkami has grown to more than 400 employees since its 2009 founding by supplying technology that large U.S. banks and credit unions use to serve their customers digitally.
“Ultimately, everyone will go to electronic delivery” of financial services, said Stephen Bohanon, a co-founder who oversees its product direction, strategy and sales efforts.
Attendees also learned about less-known opportunities, such as investments by the family of private equity titan Ken Hersh in esports, or multiplayer video games.
Hersh made his fortune launching Irving’s NGP Energy Capital Management, but he has stakes in Envy Gaming and the Dallas Fuel of Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League.
The Fuel in April sold out its 4,500-seat inaugural home games at the Allen Event Center. “It is so loud in that arena,” said Randy Chappel, who directed investments by the Hersh clan.
Another less-heralded growth area is medical device companies such as Addison’s MyndVR, which uses virtual reality therapy to allows the elderly to experience anything from nature to live music or art via a headset.
Thirty five operators of senior living communities have used MyndVR’s apps in 25+ states, according to co-founder and CEO Chris Brickler.
In 2018, MyndVR unveiled a research coalition with six organizations, including UT Dallas, to study how VR impacts the aging mind.
“We are making no medical claims at this time,” Brickler said. “Early research suggests a very bright future for this next-gen wellness modality.”
Quincy Preston contributed to this report.
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