Last month, local nonprofit organization Venture Dallas made a big announcement: In the wake of COVD-19, its second annual event had been reimagined as a month-long experience that’s “not your typical virtual conference.”
Venture Dallas 2020, held from Sept. 15 to Oct. 18, will connect founders and investors through a curated networking platform called Thumbraise. It’s something that has yet to be done in the region—the mobile-first platform allows a selection of Texas startups to pitch investors via short-form video.
Mutual interest leads to one-on-one meetings and hopefully, investments.
The organization committee of nine North Texas dealmakers decided on this format to help startups, drive economic development to the region, and advance the venture ecosystem. The group decided it was key for the highest impact to “not do what everybody’s been doing for months” with yet another lineup of Zoom panels and discussions, and instead focus on engagement.
Register here for Venture Dallas 2020.
That’s a main reason why many of the sponsors signed on, too. Venture Dallas recently announced its six sponsors—Baker Tilly, Carta, Perot Jain, Silicon Valley Bank, the University of Texas at Dallas’ Institute For Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Vela Wood—that will assist in attracting both companies and investors to Dallas-Fort Worth.
For some sponsors, like Baker Tilly, the conference is an opportunity to network and play a part in gathering like-minded startups and investors within a premier venture ecosystem. In fact, Baker Tilly has supported Venture Dallas since its inception last year.
“Opportunities always tie back to forming and strengthening relationships across the entire ecosystem. We are always much stronger working together,” Chase Murphy, CPA, a tax partner at Baker Tilly, says. “It’s the perfect opportunity for our firm to connect with old friends we’ve worked with for years, and continue to support, while also connecting with new and exciting influencers on both sides of the isle.”
For sponsors like Carta, Venture Dallas is a way to boost new, emerging tech.
Carta, a software company that helps startups and investors manage their equity, is offering a 20 percent discount on the first year of its cap table management software and 409A valuations for Venture Dallas participants.
“In March I inherited the Texas region as part of the territory I support for Carta. For each area I support, I like to get engrained in the unique startup ecosystems,” Jeff Erickson, Carta’s director of business development, says. “Venture Dallas presents a unique opportunity to connect with entrepreneurs, investors, startup attorneys and other service providers supporting founders and their startups.”
And for others—namely Perot Jain and Silicon Valley Bank—Venture Dallas is a brainchild of their own.
“As a VC firm based in Dallas, we have a vested interest in developing our startup ecosystem and creating an environment that supports local entrepreneurs and attracts VC dollars,” Cindy Revol, a principal at Perot Jain and founding member of the Venture Dallas committee, says. “Venture Dallas is a great way to attract both companies and investors to our region.”
Hear from the sponsors
Meet a few of the Venture Dallas sponsors to see what to expect at this year’s virtual event, why they’re involved, and what the conference can do for our region.
As an advisory, tax, and assurance firm, Baker Tilly understands a business’ needs in each phase of its life cycle. The firm aims to help founders position their company for continued growth and success, and is committed to a knowledgeable and valuable relationship based on trust.
The firm’s professionals have the industry experience to proactively identify issues and discuss a range of potential solutions strategically and profitably.
According to Chase Murphy, Baker Tilly has enhanced and protected hundreds of startups from formation through the end of the life cycle. The firm prides itself on being a “a strategic partner” for venture backed portfolio companies and VC firms—and that’s a driving factor for its decision to participate in Venture Dallas.
“We enjoy representing both founders and investors, and being another catalyst to help bring the two together, while still providing high quality accounting and tax services,” Murphy says. “We’ve continued to build powerful and long lasting relationships in DFW and beyond, and look forward to many new opportunities provided by this year’s virtual platform. The annual Venture Dallas showcase has provided countless opportunities to Baker Tilly and my personal network to build meaningful connections and continue to support the venture backed ecosystem across the state.”
Perot Jain is a Dallas-based venture capital firm founded in 2014 by Ross Perot Jr. and Anurag Jain, two long-time business partners and experience entrepreneurs and operators. Daily operations are led by Revol and supported by Anushka Jain, an analyst.
Perot Jr. and Jain founded the firm to invest in tech companies and stay on top of trends and innovation within their industries. The duo also hopes to help early-stage companies scale by leveraging their experience and operating company platforms.
Currently, Perot Jain’s portfolio includes some 53 active investments, with an investment thesis based on early stage, B2B, exponential companies. Its team is comprised of avid supporters of the startup ecosystem in Dallas, and being involved with Venture Dallas just further contributes to that ecosystem.
“Dallas is ripe for B2B technology solutions. We have 42 Fortune 1000 companies headquartered in DFW. If you have a B2B enterprise solution, you are likely making a stop in Dallas at some point in your sales journey,” Revol says. “This specific virtual event will likely yield potential investment opportunities and new relationships with other investors.”
According to Erickson, more than one-third of venture-backed startups use Carta to issue, track and manage their equity. The software company aims to make it easy for investors to manage their portfolio companies by providing fund administration services.
Equipped with a proprietary software platform, Carta enables VC firms to share real-time data with investors. Coming soon, the software company will bring liquidity to investors, employees, and other shareholders in privately-held companies.
Erickson himself loves working with founders and startups. He sees Venture Dallas as an opportunity for Texas-based startup founders to connect and forge relationships that will ultimately build a stronger collective ecosystem. With Carta, he hopes to help educate founders about equity and fundraising.
“Venture Dallas will hopefully help us spread the word about Carta and the tools available to founders to help them manage their equity and prepare for the fundraising process,” Erickson says. “Carta has recently developed a free version of its software for early-stage founders. Carta Launch is free for companies that have raised $1M or less and have 25 or fewer stakeholders on their cap table. This will be applicable for many of the startups participating in Venture Dallas.”
The University of Texas at Dallas
UT Dallas has 200 active patents, more than 680 PhD-level staff and faculty researchers, and the 13th and 15th ranked undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurship degree programs in the nation. Combine that and you get a powerful engine of economic impact for North Texas—and a major contributor to the area’s startup ecosystem.
UTD’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has several dozen university-sourced startups that engage with mentors, angel investors, and industry partners. Most are members of the campus incubator, participants in mentor networks, or learners of the university’s accelerator programs.
So entrepreneurship clearly runs throughout the lifeblood of the university. UTD was even founded by entrepreneurs 50 years ago: Eugene McDermott, Erik Jonsson, and Cecil Green, who are the three founders of Texas Instruments.
“As we begin our next 50 years, we believe events like Venture Dallas will help establish the university as a motivated partner for startups, investors, and industry R&D leaders,” Joseph Pancrazio, Ph.D, the vice president for for Research, says. “Our entrepreneurship institute and our tech transfer group are ‘venture ready.’ We look forward to making many new connections with experienced founders, venture capital firms, and others during Venture Dallas.”
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