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Innovation Awards

Meet the Finalists: Leaders From Eosera, Dallas Cowboys, Axxess, and Capital One

Winners of The Innovation Awards, presented by D CEO and Dallas Innovates, will be revealed at an exclusive virtual event on Jan. 21.
By Kelsey J. Vanderschoot |

Innovation is often associated with entrepreneurs and the startups they launch. But there is plenty of disruption happening in big businesses, too. Leading up to our second annual Innovation Awards event on Jan. 21, we’re sharing excerpts from interview Q&As with the 51 finalists, one category at a time. Today, we feature the four Corporate Innovator of the Year honorees.

For information on the virtual awards event, presented in partnership by D CEO and Dallas Innovates, click here. Tickets are just $20.

Elyse Dickerson

Elyse Dickerson

CEO and co-founder, Eosera

ON INNOVATION: “To me, innovation means bringing the latest technologies that can positively impact the lives of others to market. It means listening to the market and providing solutions for underserved issues, then making those solutions accessible.”

2020 HIGHLIGHTS: “We’ve been developing a product that will change the way people take care of their earbuds. It launched in November, and we couldn’t be more excited. The Earbud Cleaning Kit cleans your waxy, dirty earbuds in no time; it works by pulling out the wax and dirt with cleaning putty, disinfecting [the earbuds] with alcohol towelettes, and brushing away large debris with two delicate brush heads.”

LESSONS LEARNED: “The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I continue to learn something new every single day. Learning never stops, especially when you have your own business and you come across issues daily that you’ve never dealt with before. I wish I had known that even though I won’t know everything, I can learn anything.”

RATING DFW: “I would rate North Texas’ environment for innovation and growth for entrepreneurs as exceptional, especially programs and institutions such as Tech Fort Worth, UNT Health Science Center, Bio North Texas, and the DEC.”

LOOKING AHEAD: “We’re excited about the overwhelming support for small businesses, especially those run by women and minorities. More and more, it seems that people are conscious of who they do business with, who they buy from, and who they choose to support. Women and minority business owners are supported now more than ever, and I can’t wait to see what the future brings.”

Will McClay

Will McClay

Vice president of player personnel, Dallas Cowboys

ON INNOVATION: “To me, innovation means creating new ways and ideas to efficiently and effectively solve new and challenging problems.”

2020 HIGHLIGHTS: “The pandemic caused all of us at the Cowboys to create new ways to do our jobs—building the team and preparing for the season. In my department, we were faced with the challenges of researching prospects without the benefit of in-person interviews. … We had to create new ways to get the details we needed to make the right decisions on players. We used more data from in-house and outside services and became highly proficient in WebEx communication. The most impressive innovation was the ‘human’ innovation displayed by management, coaches, and scouting staff. We rolled up our sleeves and figured out how to be our best in an environment that was different from anything we have had to deal with before.”

LESSONS LEARNED: “The biggest lesson that I have learned is that you must have a plan, communicate that plan, and be able to adjust that plan around circumstances to still achieve winning results. [Things are] never going to go quite like you envisioned, so you must be able to adjust and innovate to succeed.”

RATING DFW: “North Texas has a great environment to support growth and innovation because of the bright minds and ingenuity that come from the region. There are worldwide industry leaders who come from here, and their collaboration and idea sharing are what makes North Texas continue to be a nationwide leader in many areas.”

LOOKING AHEAD: “The uncertainty of the future excites me the most because it is at uncertain and new times that you find the leaders and innovations to lay the path for growth.”

John Olajide

John Olajide

Founder and CEO, Axxess

ON INNOVATION: “Innovation is the way to make life better for someone else. I have always been driven by the desire to make the world a better place, and although that might seem like a lofty ideal, I believe it is possible to achieve that goal, one person at a time. Innovation springs from a willingness to look at something without bias, and I challenge myself to do that every day.”

2020 HIGHLIGHTS: “Axxess provides software solutions for care organizations serving the most vulnerable population to COVID-19, and we have gone to great lengths to ensure we are doing all we can to promote the safety and wellbeing of these organizations’ clients and patients. Beyond introducing COVID-19 assessment features in all our solutions, our strong relationships with business partners and vendors allowed us to help lead no-touch PPE distributions to the small business community. We also expanded the availability of our Axxess CARE solution— a scheduling and staffing solution that connects home health organizations with qualified clinicians to provide timely care—to 16 states to help address COVID challenges. … Additionally, we have introduced a state-of-the-art solution for hospice providers that was created by our hospice experts, who helped us build the solution they wish they had when they were caring for hospice patients. It’s the new standard in the industry.”

LESSON LEARNED: “The most important insight I have gained is the importance of bringing your authentic self to every situation and the vital role that collaboration plays in innovation. To create something special requires talented individuals working together.”

RATING DFW: “I would rate North Texas a 10 out of 10 as an environment that supports and cultivates innovation and growth. As 2020 chair of the Dallas Regional Chamber, I can tell you the DRC is absolutely committed to supporting economic growth and attracting the best talent to our region by tackling issues and roadblocks that could get in the way. Its willingness and ability to respond to a need, such as coronavirus and racial injustice, in a thorough and swift manner exemplifies an attitude of innovation.”

LOOKING AHEAD: “The DFW region has been a model that other areas are trying to emulate. We’ve enjoyed tremendous prosperity over the past 20 years with our welcoming environment and friendly business climate, and I have no doubt that Dallas will continue to be the best place to live, work, and do business in the years ahead.”

Sanjiv Yajnik

Sanjiv Yajnik

President of financial services, Capital One

ON INNOVATION: “One concept I focus on surrounding innovation is the S-curve. Many companies fail because they don’t recognize the external landscape and impending changes, or they don’t realize the impact these will have on them. Companies must make the jump to a new S-curve, reimaging their business into something completely new and innovative in order to survive.”

2020 HIGHLIGHTS: “With the rising need to practice safe social distancing, there is increased interest around completing more of the car-buying process digitally. According to research from Urban Science and The Harris Poll, 61 percent of consumers think that the vehicle purchase process will change forever due to COVID-19. The shift to a digital-first car-buying process allows consumers to think about the financing part of the transaction earlier than ever. … We reimagined the car-buying experience technologically and analytically creating Auto Navigator to be a tailored experience for consumers. Auto Navigator helps consumers find a car and see if they prequalify for financing without any impact to their credit score. We’ve continued to build out Auto Navigator and today, its digital inventory includes millions of cars from thousands of dealerships across the nation, with new cars added every day…We’re in lockstep with [consumers and dealers] throughout the process of buying a car, giving consumers the transparency that they need, and helping dealers engage with consumers.”

LESSON LEARNED: “The biggest lesson I wish I had learned earlier in my career is about the transformative power of people—the untapped potential in every person and the responsibility of a leader to allow that inherent potential and creativity to express itself in a positive way.”

RATING DFW: “Vibrant businesses and vibrant communities go hand in hand. Two ingredients that combine to make Dallas-Fort Worth a dynamic region on both fronts are arts and technology. The arts are deeply personal to me. Not only do they have the power to transform businesses and communities today, but they’ll also inspire our future leaders and cultivate our creative culture for generations to come. North Texas has been steadily gaining momentum as the next major tech hub, and it will take continued investment in the arts and education to ensure our region continues to thrive.”

LOOKING AHEAD: “We are a young, founder-led company, and our journey is just beginning. Along with its challenges, the current environment brings amazing opportunities to reimagine financial services so that this lifeblood is available and accessible to serve community needs.”

Click here for more information on The Innovation Awards.

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