Why You Need to Know Her:
At 18, Gabriella Draney was single and childless, working as an executive assistant at an aviation company while going to college. Two years later she was a mom, a wife, and had launched a start-up software company with her then-husband.
It’s safe to say she caught the start-up bug early. “People look at startups and say, ‘Oh they just got lucky,’ or, ‘They know the right person,’ or what have you,” Draney says. “But really, there’s a process for successful startups that truly innovate.”
Several years ago Dallas’ innovation system, she contends, was badly broken: scattered resources, negligible venture capital, and no one to fix it. Toward that end, Draney in 2009 co-founded Tech Wildcatters, a start-up seed accelerator that offers a 12-week boot camp to tech entrepreneurs. The groups get $25,000 in seed capital—and entrepreneurial mentors—in return for 6 percent of the company’s common founding stock.
Since 2010, 49 different groups have come through the system, including the first class of Health Wildcatters in 2012. Forbes recently named Tech Wildcatters one of the top accelerators in the country. Over the next few years, Draney hopes to launch two more Wildcatter programs, including one perhaps in renewable energy.
“The cool thing about our business community is the diversity: semi-conductors, oil and gas, healthcare,” she says. “Innovation is the thing that brings everybody to the middle. How do oil and gas and healthcare connect? I don’t know; just get in the room and something might spark..”
The accelerator will grow physically as well. Late last year, Draney announced that Tech Wildcatters would be leaving its Uptown space—the “Tech Church,” named for its location in an old chapel—for a new, yet-to-be-revealed location. The new space, she hopes, will serve as a home base for the entire Dallas tech community.
Oh, and it will be massive. “We want lots of people to co-exist, us plus other groups: nonprofits, for-profits, tech companies,” she says. “We’re looking at something that’s over 200,000 square feet. That’s 10 times the size of the church.”