The eighth Dallas Startup week headlined Abe Minkara, founding partner of Legacy Knight as its keynote speaker. Minkara discussed his entrepreneurial journey as a Lebanese immigrant who grew up in Paris, then moved to Dallas as an adult. He previously worked conducting due diligence for Shark Tank, a show in which Mark Cuban and several other institutional investors fund budding entrepreneurial ventures.
Minkara’s speech followed an announcement from the mayor’s office revealing plans to partner with the DEC Network on The Mayor’s Startup Package, which provides more than $500,000 in offerings to help entrepreneurs build and scale their business, including discounts from Amazon, Dell, IBM, Google, and Microsoft.
“This isn’t just a one-off. This is part of a sustained effort at the City of Dallas. It’s an effort [Mayor Johnson] is going to sustain,” a spokesperson said.
Here are four takeaways from Minkara’s speech on Tuesday.
Continuous innovation is essential not only for growth, but for survival.
“I had the privilege of working with a lot of us entrepreneurs and going through all of the obstacles and challenges. The best part is it was such a wide range of companies on Shark Tank: We worked with tech companies, consumer product companies, service-based companies—we saw at all. And there’s definitely a common theme.
“You have to constantly innovate as an entrepreneur: You can’t stop. At your business, if it’s a service or a product, whatever you’re doing, you always have to constantly innovate. And you have to push, push, push, push. Your product today, in a year from now, if you’re not constantly tweaking and upgrading it, somebody else can come in and come up with a different product. As long as you keep pushing, innovating, improving, you will have an edge.”
Execution is key.
“Everyone has a great strategy. Everyone has a clear vision. But not everyone really has what it takes to execute and get there. And it’s tough. That’s a tough part. The challenges come in many ways. You personally, as an entrepreneur, as a leader, always have challenges. Your team has challenges. Look at the Olympics: If you watch the U.S. basketball team, it’s a team of all-stars, and it lost to France. Individually, they’re superstars. But it’s like a startup: you might hire a team of superstars, but if they can’t blend together as a group and execute on a strategy collectively, you’re going to potentially lose to another French company that’s doing the same thing.”
And cash is still king.
“I would say the other [category of companies who fail] would be companies that don’t manage their cash correctly. They don’t think about cash flow the right way, and they overspend in places where they shouldn’t, and they don’t project the right way. Think about your companies that don’t look at margins. What happens is they think, ‘Great, we’re growing.’ But the more we grow, the less money we make, and eventually we’re going to be out of money, and we won’t be able to pay our bills…and then, when you get investors, they are going to be all over [cash management] because it is their money, too.”
Dallas’ entrepreneurial ecosystem is rich; we just need to help entrepreneurs find the resources available.
“At every stage of your entrepreneurial adventure, I think there’s the right group in Dallas to offer you something—from the early stages of angels, accelerators, and incubators. There’s definitely a lot of capital in Dallas… If you look at Dallas, we’ve got, probably second to New York, one of the largest group of Fortune 500 headquarters that are based in the Dallas area. And these are all potential clients. Some have venture groups that could potentially invest, and some could be just mentors or advisors that you reach out to. So, there’s a lot on the ecosystem; we just need to connect the dots. As an entrepreneur, the more you understand what your community has to offer, the more you start being more strategic about your approach when you’re out there.”