The DEC Network’s State of Entrepreneurship Event Has a Confirmed Speaker Lineup and a New Title Sponsor

The State of Entrepreneurship will celebrate the people behind North Texas' thriving startup ecosystem on May 5. Title sponsor Dallas Incorporated helps take innovations from idea to market in 30 days.

This year, attendees can enter to win $100,00 of startup support. Here's how, along with the just-announced lineup of speakers.

Published March 24, 2021; Updated April 29, 2021
The DEC Network has announced its title sponsor, Dallas Incorporated, and the lineup of speakers (below) for the event. Dallas Incorporated is launching a 12-month program to find, fund, and launch the best ideas in the region. State of Entrepreneurship attendees can enter to win $100,000 of startup support.

The Dallas Entrepreneur Center is back with its State of Entrepreneurship, an event that has, for seven years, grown to be a tradition for highlighting the people, places, and passions that power North Texas’ growing startup ecosystem.

On May 5, both virtually and in-person (capped at 200 attendees), the event will celebrate the launches, fundings, exits, and overall wins from local entrepreneurs over the past tumultuous year.

This year’s event has a new title sponsor: Dallas Incorporated, a privately funded initiative to find the best innovations from across the city and launch them from idea to market in 30 days. Per The DEC Network, Dallas Incorporated has a unique “start-up-as-service” model that lets innovators keep 100 percent equity and gives them access to resources in the community.

Enter to win $100,000 of startup support

Attendees of The State of Entrepreneurship — in-person or virtual — can enter to win $100,000 of start-up support. The winner, which will be announced on May 12, will have the opportunity to launch their new business for free in 30 days

Here are confirmed speakers for the event, which includes Fortune 500 executives and the leaders behind some of 2020’s breakout small businesses:

  • Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson
  • Charlie Lass, founder of Dallas Incorporated
  • Bill Chinn, CEO, The DEC Network
  • Mandy Price, co-chair of the Mayor’s Task Force on Innovation and Entrepreneurship and co-founder and CEO of Kanarys
  • Zarin Gracey, executive pastor, Concord Church and member of BUILD Advisory Group
  • Stephen Bohanon, founder, chief strategy and sales officer, Alkami
  • Marco Johnson, ecosystem network builder at Sparkyard
  • Duane Dankesreiter, senior vice president, research and innovation, at Dallas Regional Chamber
  • Demetra Brown, senior director of The DEC Network
  • Tyler Chapman, general manager and senior vice president, food service, at PepsiCo
  • Tarsha Hearnes, director of the LiftFund Dallas/Fort Worth Women’s Business Center

Trey Bowles, who is also co-chair of the Mayor’s Task Force, will emcee.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, along with the members of his Dallas Task Force on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is dedicated to finding steps the City of Dallas can take to make it a hub for budding founders with big ideas.

“As we begin to recover economically from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have the opportunity to accelerate our growth by fostering a culture of innovation in our city,” Mayor Johnson said in a statement. “Dallas already has a robust and diverse business community, but the State of Entrepreneurship helps show us what we need to do to help small businesses continue to flourish in Dallas in the years to come.”

How the hybrid event came to be

In 2019, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings took to the stage to implore the audience to continue the city’s innovation progress being made. That was followed by the DEC announcing a partnership with the North Texas Angel Network, Craig Hall remembering Herb Kelleher, Dumb Money talked success on YouTube, and the Dallas Startup Evangelist of the year was named.

SOE was The DEC’s anchor event for Dallas Startup Week—but then COVID-19 hit.

“Since beginning in 2014 with just 75 attendees, the State of Entrepreneurship has grown into one of The DEC Network’s most popular events,” Bill Chinn, CEO of The DEC Network, said in a statement. “It’s important to take stock of where we are as an entrepreneurial community, and the State of Entrepreneurship gives us a chance to stop for a moment and celebrate our successes.”

Despite the restrictions caused by the pandemic, The DEC Network, a nonprofit that drives economic impact by assisting entrepreneurs, moved forward with the State of Entrepreneurship last year. The event aired on YouTube with special guests that included Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson; Michael Shawn, radio co-host of K104FM’s DeDe In the Morning; Sanjiv Yajnik, president of Financial Services at Capital One; and Trey Bowles, co-founder of The DEC Network and president of Innocity Partners LLC.

As the vaccine continues its rollout across Dallas-Fort Worth—and the rest of the state—The DEC decided to move forward with this year’s State of Entrepreneurship in a hybrid format.

Register now

Registration is now open for the State of Entrepreneurship. In-person attendance is sold out. There is no limit on virtual attendance, which is free.

Quincy Preston contributed to this report.

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