North Texas’ newest tech conference—launched by nine local dealmakers dedicated to expanding the innovation ecosystem—made its debut this week. The two-day summit, dubbed Venture Dallas, garnered founders and investors both locally and nationally to grow the region’s innovation ecosystem and display the abundantly successful technology, ventures, and opportunities that happen here.
The Venture Dallas committee consists of investors from Cypress Growth Capital, Capital Factory, Intelis Capital, JF2 Capital, Perot Jain, and Silicon Valley Bank, and two Dallas Regional Chamber leaders. Together, the team started planning almost a year ago to highlight why Dallas-Fort Worth is one of the best places in the world to create, grow, and invest in companies.
“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,” Aaron Pierce, managing director at JF2 Capital, says. “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.”
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Looking back: Day 1 of Venture Dallas
Those one-on-one meetings, held at Capital Factory, led Venture Dallas’ introduction to the community on Tuesday afternoon. Each individual 20-minute meeting was coordinated by the Venture Dallas organizers beforehand, specifically tailoring investor to DFW-based tech company.
Upon arriving at the event, registered attendees received an advanced curated schedule for the “speed dating”-esque event.
“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,” Vik Thapar, a partner at Cypress Growth Capital, says. “Based on those answers, we’re pairing each investor up with six 20-minute meetings.”
And based on the high energy from some 80 entrepreneurs and investors that filled the room at Capital Factory during the rotating meetings, the host committee’s plan worked.
“We could pretty much turn up and know that at least half the time these were companies that were aligned with our solution,” Nik Kitson, co-founder and CEO of Haxiot, a provider of enterprise IoT connectivity solutions, says. “When you’re out there sort of ‘dating’ investors, it’s like, ‘Does my offer meet your investment thesis?’ And the fact is, that kind of work was already pre-done. So then it’s just like, ‘Can we work together?'”
Kitson has experience working directly with Capital Factory, too—he says after working with the accelerator, he closed around 80 percent of his revenue and 60 percent of his annual target in 60 days. Right now, Haxiot is in the process of closing a seed round and driving into a Series A in 2020.
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“To be honest, it’s a lot better to get perspective on entrepreneur/investor right across the table,” he says. “Because you don’t have to waste the time traveling someplace, setting up a one-hour meeting, or figuring out after you’ve invested all that time and effort whether or not you’re a good fit. Here, you’re somewhat pre-vetted.”
Brenda Stoner, CEO of Dallas delivery service PICKUP, says she was really impressed with who, investor-wise, was brought to the table. There was a heavy East Coast presence, which she says is beneficial for a service-based business like hers because, soon, the PICKUP team is going to start raising its Series B.
“We got to come in here and ask, ‘What are you looking for in a Series B, what makes sense? What should I be doing? What should we be prepared for? What matters?'” she says. “Being able to do that on a concentrated fashion, in one day, is like a fire hose of information.”
Two of those East-based investors were Sean Barkman and Robert Faber of Florida’s Ballast Point Ventures. Ballast Point currently has one portfolio company in Dallas, but they said they’re always looking for more.
Barkman and Faber both said they’re always on the look-out for an event like Venture Dallas, but had never been to anything quite like it before. They got connected through Samantha Colletti, SVP at Silicon Valley Bank and member of the host committee.
Colletti, along with fellow committee member Jonathan Crowder, did most of the behind-the-scenes matchmaking for the first session.
“We’ve learned a lot about what to do better for next year,” she says. “And we’re so happy because it seems like it went really well.”
Crowder says the first session personifies what Venture Dallas is all about: giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to share their vision with investors who are excited about what they’re doing. He also explained that when planning, they decided to put the meetings at the front of the conference so attendees could follow-up on connections during day two.
As a local investor—Crowder is a partner at Intelis Capital—he says he knows there’s certainly no shortage of entrepreneurs here in North Texas. So it was his job to give them a platform and create some visibility for that.
“This is really about facilitating those one-on-one introductions and hopefully sparking something that becomes really valuable,” Crowder says. “As you plan it the first year, you see the things that you did really well, and you see the things that you could have done better. The hope is that we’ll grow [Venture Dallas] and make it a bigger and better event each year successively. But I think this has been a really great foundation point to build off of.”
Dallas Innovates is a media sponsor of Venture Dallas 2019.
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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.
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