The DEC to Welcome Entrepreneurial ‘Rock Star’ Alyce Alston as CEO

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

Alyce Alston

Alyce Alston has always brought a pioneering spirit to her work whether it was launching O, The Oprah Magazine, or De Beers Jewellers, the first new luxury diamond retailer in decades.

As the newly named CEO of The Dallas Entrepreneur Center she’ll soon be shepherding North Texas entrepreneurs in their journey to create transformative ventures.

After being an entrepreneur and helping other early-stage startups for years as a mentor and advocate, it’s a natural fit for Alston.

“To me, it’s about innovation and that’s what startups bring.”
Alyce Alston

“To me, it’s about innovation and that’s what startups bring. That’s what I’ve been able to bring throughout my career to the organizations at which I’ve worked with and led,” Alston told Dallas Innovates.

And, she’s held a myriad of top roles from president of the then New York-based Reader’s Digest Association and CEO of Texas media company, CultureMap, to her most current work of building the Dallas-based nonprofit Relationships First as CEO.

On Wednesday, she’ll take over the reins at The DEC from Trey Bowles who announced plans in April to step down from the nonprofit he helped start in 2013.

Trey Bowles

Trey Bowles [Photo: Merissa De Falcis/Dallas Innovates]

Bowles believes this “rock star” hire can help propel The DEC to the next level of growth. He said the caliber of her background sends a statement about what the nonprofit plans to accomplish.

“It brings along a certain amount of great credibility for the organization to big business that indeed we have somebody that’s played at the highest level and now believes that the entrepreneurial ecosystem in North Texas is a vibrant, valid economic development initiative. … I think it’s a great move for The DEC, but an even greater move for the entire ecosystem,” Bowles said.

“I think it’s a great move for The DEC, but an even greater move for the entire ecosystem.”

Trey Bowles

She’ll join The DEC as it’s in midst of change beyond its top position. Last week, it officially celebrated its headquarters move and cemented its partnership with Austin-based Capital Factory, which Alston has served as mentor with for years. The two organizations unveiled their joint space at The Centrum. The DEC also is finishing out its expansion into southern Dallas.

“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 said.

She said it’s too early for her to give specific details on her plans, but she’ll be looking at expanding programming as well as “the mission to help entrepreneurs along with the entrepreneurial journey.”

Advocacy for the North Texas entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole also will be a top priority, she said.

Bowles believes Alston is well positioned to take on that responsibility and share the stories of the startup community’s success on a global scale. 

“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.”

Alyce Alston

“When we look at what will become of this entrepreneurial ecosystem and the power and importance it should have as we plan as cities, as businesses, as regions, that’s the kind of stuff that Alyce gets really excited about and is perfectly poised to play a leadership role in and to go out there and be the face of The DEC for that,” he said.

As for Bowles’ next chapter, well he’s still working on that. For the next few months, he’ll be helping Alston get settled into the organization and the community. From there, he’ll stay on as executive chairman of the DEC board of directors and likely pursue a business growing opportunity in the for-profit space.

“I’ll either continue building companies either as a CEO that’s leveraged by a venture capitalist firm or a private equity firm or two, I may play a key role inside a corporation helping head up their innovation department,” Bowles said.

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