Next week, nine North Texas dealmakers are unveiling an enterprise of their own: Venture Dallas. The new tech conference will give startups and investors an opportunity to connect with innovators, business luminaries, and investors from around the nation.
It’s one step towards expanding the region’s presence in the national conversation around venture capital and entrepreneurship, says Cindy Revol, principal at Perot Jain and a Venture Dallas host.
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“Dallas has everything you need to have a thriving tech scene: innovation, strong labor force, a significant number of Fortune 1000 and other corporate clients, as well as capital,” Revol says. “There are some amazing companies coming out of this region and the investor base continues to grow.”
Bryan Chambers, Capital Factory
Vik Thapar, Cypress Growth Capital
Duane Dankesreiter, Dallas Regional Chamber
Natalie Pazera, Dallas Regional Chamber
Jonathan Crowder, Intelis Capital
Aaron Pierce, JF2 Capital
Cindy Revol, Perot Jain
Joe Beard, Perot Jain
Samantha Colletti, Silicon Valley Bank
Organized by seven local investors from Capital Factory, Cypress Growth Capital, Intelis Capital, JF2 Capital, Perot Jain, and Silicon Valley Bank, and two Dallas Regional Chamber leaders, Duane Dankesreiter and Natalie Pazera, the event aims to be a catalyst to help facilitate more investments coming to Dallas.
The event kicks off Tuesday afternoon with one-on-one meetings between North Texas’ tech companies and investors. The meetings, described by the Venture Dallas host committee as “an investment version of speed dating,” pairs startups and investors that best meet each other’s needs.
On Wednesday, attendees can choose from up to 10 different speaking engagements and panels, as well as four networking breaks. Speakers range from investors to tech executives to educators—and, yes, even Bill Nye (The Science Guy) and Dallas Cowboy-turned-entrepreneur Emmitt Smith will be there.
Hear from the host committee
Dallas Innovates talked with the host committee to hear how Venture Dallas came to be and where it’s going.
Colletti is Dallas-based senior vice president at Silicon Valley Bank. The bank is credited with hosting the investor roundtable where the idea for Venture Dallas was first shared.
How did you feel when the idea of Venture Dallas was first mentioned?
Last October, when I had a roundtable, a group of the investors in attendance had just gotten back from one of the tech conferences—it might have even been Venture Atlanta—and they were all excited about it. Somebody in the room said, ‘We should do a conference in Dallas.’ And I remember being so excited because I’d always hoped that a catalyst like this would come.
And I said, ‘Okay, that’s great: Here’s a signup sheet.’ I ripped out a paper from my notebook and said, ‘Who would like to sign up, and I’ll put together the first meeting?’
From where did you draw inspiration when planning for Venture Dallas?
We interviewed all the tech conferences that we felt we wanted to take pieces from and borrow best practices from. So, we interviewed Venture Atlanta, a conference that happens in Chicago, as well as one in Salt Lake City and one in Phoenix. We really wanted a conference that would be all of the above. So, we think about it like an investor conference, but also for companies.
What do you hope attendees take away after the event?
I want takeaways from the event to be a couple of things: One is awareness of what’s going on in the Dallas region in terms of technology and innovation. I hope that people leave the conference having gained a sense of the key innovative areas that are going on here, and they understand that Dallas is a place where companies grow and have really meaningful exits.
The second thing we’re hoping for is to be a catalyst for those investments. So, if we can bring together excellent entrepreneurs and tech companies with investors that are interested in investing in the Dallas region, we can hopefully be a catalyst to help facilitate more investments coming to Dallas. And then, hopefully, that will lead to more exits, and be that spark that ignites a new wave of success—really catalyzing the tech universe.
Chambers is Capital Factory’s Vice President of Accelerator and Investment Fund. Chambers says his role in planning the event consisted of donating money to sponsor the event, conducting fundraising, designing content, recruiting speakers, and inviting his network of investors and startups to attend the event.
How did you come to be involved in Venture Dallas?
Dallas hasn’t had a large scale venture investment event … until now. Investors and startups in Dallas are well aware that there is a void in our venture market, and an event like this one would be a significant step forward to advance our region and drive meaningful economic impact.
We leveraged another event — a roundtable discussion—that brought us together. We polled several people from our community. Many were interested, and recognized the importance and significance of this. A few people showed up committed to the cause, ready to contribute and play any role required. I was one of them.
What should attendees expect to see at Venture Dallas?
Attendees should expect to find Dallas’ most innovative startups and diverse content that highlights the strengths and opportunities of our region. They should also expect to find a large number of local investors and partners/sponsors that care deeply about advancing our innovation community and business climate, and who are committed to helping accommodate investor’s interest by building authentic relationships that connect them to our region in significant ways.
How will Venture Dallas impact entrepreneurship in the DFW area?
I suspect a number of DFW startups will build new and meaningful relationships with many of the nation’s leading venture investors as a direct result of meeting them at Venture Dallas. Many startups will go on to continue conversations after the conference, and our hope is that some will go on to secure millions of dollars in venture investment.
Revol is principal at Perot Jain, a venture capital firm based in Dallas and founded by Ross Perot Jr. and Anurag Jain in 2014.
How did you come to be involved in Venture Dallas?
The idea for Venture Dallas came out of a gathering of investors where we were discussing how great we thought Dallas was, and how we wanted to make sure the rest of the world knew it as well. Thus, Venture Dallas was born.
Dallas has everything you need to have a thriving tech scene: innovation, strong labor force, a significant number of Fortune 1000 and other corporate clients, as well as capital. There are some amazing companies coming out of this region and the investor base continues to grow.
What should attendees expect to see at Venture Dallas?
We will highlight how Dallas’s unique characteristics in terms of location and footprint, regulatory environment, quality of life, and career opportunities continue to attract large corporations, savvy tech companies and entrepreneurs to come and build their businesses here.
What does this mean for North Texas entrepreneurship?
As local investors, we know how great Dallas is for innovation and entrepreneurship. We hope that this conference will help investors recognize the opportunities here and within this ever-growing asset class. This conference is one step towards expanding Dallas’s presence in the national conversation around venture capital and entrepreneurship.
Thapar an investor in tech companies through Cypress Growth Capital in Dallas.
What’s the overall goal of Venture Dallas?
It’s a day for folks to learn about entrepreneurship and learn from other people—not only successes but mistakes they’ve made—so that way, you as a future entrepreneur don’t make those mistakes … The goal is to showcase the local technology ecosystem, and then to attract out of town investors, and folks like that to Dallas for two days.
Describe the genesis of Venture Dallas.
Silicon Valley Bank has offices scattered around the world, including one in Dallas. They were generous enough to, two to four times a year, have an investor roundtable where they would gather all the tech-focused investors in Dallas, as well as folks that come to Dallas.
During one of those roundtables … there was a variety of topics that were discussed. At the end, they were like, ‘Hey, does anybody want to talk about anything else?’ And then I sort of raised my hand. And I’m the one that said, ‘You know, we could use a conference like this in Dallas.’
How did the committee plan for the ‘Speed Dating’ event?
We’ve reached out to quite a few Dallas-based tech companies; we reached out to the investors that are coming to the conference. And we asked them to answer five to 10 questions on each side. Based on those answers, we’re pairing each investor up with six 20-minute meetings… It’s like speed dating, but obviously 20 minutes. So it gives them a chance to get to know each other in that block of time that’s being hosted at Capital Factory.
Crowder is a partner at Intelis Capital, a venture capital firm in Dallas investing in early-stage technology companies.
Where did the idea for Venture Dallas first come from?
The genesis felt really organic. It’s not one of those things, at least from my perspective, where I can pick a moment when it happened. It was really that a number of the members of the host committee have developed, in addition to professional relationships, also personal friendships over the last couple of years. I think we all share a similar vision for the opportunity for technology companies in Dallas to be founded and to thrive.
Tell me about the timing of the event. Why is it significant that the event is being held in 2019?
I think something we all know is that there’s no lack of talent or entrepreneurial energy in Dallas. Historically there’s this fairly small group of early-stage investors that are focused on primarily technology companies in Dallas.
I think, for years, we sort of—much like entrepreneurs—lamented that and wanted to find a way to bring our more geographically dispersed networks to Dallas to kind of see the opportunities, see what’s going on here. I guess over time, the idea of doing something like Venture Dallas became more fleshed out.
Will Venture Dallas leave a lasting impact on Dallas? How, and why?
Historically, investors from other markets struggle when they come to Dallas or anywhere else. They just don’t know where to start. We view this as an opportunity for those who really know the Dallas innovation ecosystem to bring in some of our contacts from outside and give a curated, handholding experience to show, ‘Okay, well, these are some of the really exciting trends that are happening here.’
Beard is a partner at Perot Jain. Perot Jain is an early-stage focused venture firm in Dallas and across the U.S. “We spend a lot of time across mobility, healthcare, and the Business Services space,” Beard says.
How is Venture Dallas similar to or different from other startup events in Dallas?
The idea was: we have a lot of events in Dallas, but nothing is really based around investing. Dallas Startup Week, for example, is all about startups and entrepreneurship. But could we put together an event that was more centered around investing and educating people about the processes and what it means to raise capital, etc? That’s how this idea was born, basically saying, ‘Let’s create something.’
What role did you play in bringing this event together?
Because we had a good committee of nine people that were working on this, people were able to break out pieces and kind of put in the time they were able to contribute and focus on the areas where they could be most meaningful.
For me, being at Perot Jain, I think I have the luxury of working for a brand that is pretty well known … I think what we were bringing to the table was credibility—the fact that if we were involved, that this was going to be a credible initiative that people could get behind, whether that was sponsors or speakers. So we helped on the speaker front.
What makes this different from other Venture events across the country?
I think this event is taking it to a whole new level. The lineup that we’re putting together is typical of what you might see at conferences where there are thousands of people. We’re doing that for a group of 350. So I think this is going to be a unique opportunity for people to attend a conference and hear high-powered speakers and get great education in a very intimate format.
Pierce is managing director at JF2 Capital, a single-family office in Dallas.
What was your role in bringing together the inaugural Venture Dallas?
So formally within Venture Dallas, I am one of three directors, and am the chair of this year’s event. But, more informally, I’ve kind of lead the charge of helping to make certain that our first event is everything that we hope it to be. And it starts with having the right people around the table. Samantha [Colletti] and I, from the very beginning, said, ‘what do we need to make this to be a great event?’
Then my focus was, ‘how are we going to pay to make this a great, sustainable event for many years to come.’ And I leveraged relationships with sponsors and institutions here in the Dallas area that are affiliated in the early-stage technology ecosystem and asked if they would be open and willing to sponsor for the inaugural event.
What should Venture Dallas attendees be most excited about?
So what you’ll see at Venture Dallas is everything from Dallas icons getting up and sharing their accomplishments to why we, as a general public, should be excited and enthusiastic about what’s happening here in Dallas from an early-stage perspective … You will see we’ll have one-on-one meetings with companies and investors that are flying in from all over the nation to meet with and access some of Dallas’ best companies.
What was your individual role in bringing the event together?
Everybody’s got different things that they’ve spearheaded, some of which are very macro level. From my perspective, it was kind of high-level: coordinating a lot of stuff, including sponsors, and just making sure all the meetings were conducted and happening. But, everybody’s played an equally meaningful role. And it couldn’t have happened without any individual person.
Duane Dankesreiter and Natalie Pazera
Dankesreiter is SVP of research and innovation, and Natalie Pazera is director of innovation at the Dallas Regional Chamber.
What were your roles in bringing the event together?
We are a bit different from the others on the host committee. We aren’t investors. Our role in the community is to be an advocate for all the great things happening here, to make connections, and to help incubate the activities that can make innovation and entrepreneurship stronger here. Like others on the host committee, we leveraged our connections to bring speakers and to get the word out about the event. In addition, since this is the first year of Venture Dallas and it is volunteer-led, the DRC was also able to bring the expertise and resources of our events team in to execute the event.
Why is Venture Dallas important for our region?
Increasing the availability of capital to our startups and growing the brand of Dallas-Fort Worth as a high-tech hub are key pillars of our regional innovation strategy. Having an event of this nature and scale in Dallas-Fort Worth is critical to furthering those efforts. We are spending a good amount of time working with tech companies from Silicon Valley and elsewhere that are considering moving their HQ or expanding operations to Dallas-Fort Worth. Many of those are high-growth startups. Having a robust venture capital ecosystem is an important part of our pitch. Companies need to know they will be able to find the resources they need if they make the move here. Conversely, we regularly get calls from investors who are trying to better understand the Dallas-Fort Worth region. The event is a perfect opportunity for us grow that conversation.
Dallas Innovates is a media sponsor of Venture Dallas 2019.
More on Venture Dallas 2019
Next Tuesday and Wednesday, startups and investors will gather in Dallas to embark on a first-of-its-kind journey in our city: to connect with innovators, business luminaries, and investors from around the nation and showcase the things that make Dallas’ entrepreneurial landscape fertile.
Some 80 entrepreneurs and investors gathered at Capital Factory for custom-tailored meetings during Day 1 of Venture Dallas. Here’s how it went.
Entrepreneurs and investors at the Venture Dallas conference this week painted pictures of four fields with which this region may be synonymous one day. Video games are involved.
Venture Dallas’ presentations showed where opportunities are, who is going after them, and how the area can work together to give moonshots better chances of landing. The curated crowd included investors from some 15 states.
Read about what you may have missed from panels and individual presentations.
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