Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings addressed the crowd at the State of Entrepreneurship. Danielle Abril

Tech & Startups

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings: Startups Are Setting the Tone for the City

The mayor highlighted local startup success and growth at the State of Entrepreneurship during Dallas Startup Week.

Mayor Mike Rawlings saluted startups at the State of Entrepreneurship Wednesday evening for re-energizing the city, celebrating diversity, and providing one more reason corporate giants like Amazon should consider making Dallas their home.

“Startups are setting the standard,” Rawlings said to a crowd at the Majestic Theater. They “continue to set the tone for the rest of the city.”

The mayor spoke at the event, hosted by the Dallas Entrepreneur Center at the Majestic Theater in Dallas, as part of Techstars Startup Week Dallas. Rawlings said though Dallas has grown into a “big company city,” it is energized by startups. In fact, much of Dallas’ success as a business community historically has been due to startups, he said, referencing Southwest Airlines, Texas Instruments, EDS, and Neiman Marcus. And now pushing the needle forward are companies like SoftLayer, which sold to IBM for $2 billion; Masergy, which reportedly sold to Berkshire Partners for $900 million; RewardStyle, which recently reported driving $1 billion in sales for its users; and OrderMyGear, which announced a $35 million investment earlier that morning.

“Think about what has happened in this place,” Rawlings said to the room of entrepreneurs and startup advocates. “That’s the legacy you’re working with.”

And it’s those success stories that aid the mayor in luring major corporations, say perhaps like Amazon, which is seeking a location for its second corporate headquarters. Amazon operates under founder Jeff Bezo’s philosophy that every day is “Day 1,” meaning that the company acts as though it’s always the first day. Therefore, it’s always in startup mode.

“Amazon may have visited Dallas or may not have visited Dallas,” he said. “I might or I might not have told them that Dallas, Texas is the ‘Day 1’ city. … We have an attitude that we can do things bigger and better than the other guys. … We understand what it takes to make a city but more importantly, we have the human DNA.”

And Rawlings said he had the opportunity to get a taste of the current startup climate after witnessing the lines of people waiting at Cake Bar run by Tracy German in Trinity Groves, a restaurant incubator in West Dallas. He also touted the success of CocoAndré Chocolatier, run by Andrea Pedraza. The chocolate shop in the Bishops Arts District is selling its chocolate on American Airlines flights.

“It’s one of the highlights to hear about these ladies… by the way, African Americans and Latinas,” Rawlings said. “They understand and get what Dallas is all about. We’ve got to continue to cheer people on and attract talent to this city.”

Rawlings, who started his speech remembering the historic day 50 years ago when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated said the startup community serves as an example of how a community can operate without segregation.

He ended with words of encouragement for startups in the theater: “Forget about what we accomplished in the last decade of the city … all those things are history. The question is what are we going to be like in 20 years? Tomorrow you’re going to wake up and you have a decision to make. I believe you’re going to step up and do something.”

The event also highlighted the numerous successes to the community in the last year and honored Leah Frazier, InStyle Magazine editor and founder CEO of Think Three Media, as Startup Evangelist of the Year. It lauded new funds for startups Lantern Pharma, CyberMiles, Door, Traxxo, CounterFind, Modern Message, ShearShare, Kubos, MediBookr, Hypergiant, and OrderMyGear. Highlighted startup exits included Simpli.fi, Reata Pharmaceuticals, BenefitMall, and Rise.

The State of Entrepreneurship also released some interesting facts about the growth of the community. According to data collected by event organizers, Dallas has:

  • 62 co-working spaces versus 13 in 2014
  • 81 executive offices
  • 40 incubators/accelerators
  • 24+ innovation/experience centers
  • 18 makerspaces

Data also revealed that the city ranks:

  • 14th in the country for overall investment with $5.4 billion
  • 10th in the country for return on investment
  • As the fifth fastest-growing high-tech workforce
  • Seventh as the largest community of high-tech workers in the country.

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