When Trey Bowles, Jennifer Conley, and Jeremy Vickers launched the Dallas Entrepreneur Center in 2013, they could not have imagined the impact it would soon have. The nonprofit’s mission to provide a collaborative environment and access to education, resources, and mentorship has allowed local entrpereneurs to successfully launch their companies while simultaneously driving the region’s economic growth.
In just two short years, the DEC and its new spinoff, the Addison Treehouse, have seen more than 39,000 people come through their doors—many walking away with new deals, funding, and stories of success. One of those successes is Oyokey, a company established at the DEC after founder Nitin Anand merged his company with another startup. The business, which harnesses the power of Internet search engines by optimizing clients’ websites with internal keywords to tailor searches for mobile devices, made headlines in August 2014 after securing more than $1 million in seed funding.
To keep the successes coming for Dallas-area startups, the DEC collaborated with the town of Addison to open a second location called The Addison Treehouse. It received unanimous support from Mayor Todd Meier and the city council, as supporting startups is a big component of Addison’s strategic plan for economic development. The Treehouse opened last spring and offers all the benefits of the original Dallas Entrepreneur Center, including a successful ambassador program and weekly events. (Together the DEC and Addison Treehouse have participated in more than 430 events.)
In September, the DEC announced a public-private partnership called the Dallas Innovation Alliance, which will bring together stakeholders from corporations, civic and nonprofit organizations, academic institions, and the private sector to drive innovation, sustainability, and economic growth. Thanks to efforts like these, the habitat for startups in DFW is only getting better.
“The power of the DEC and organizations like it is the fact that you have all these people in a close geographic and physical vicinity, and they create these organic collisions,” says Bowles, co-founder and CEO. “We have a strategy for continued growth and expansion over the next two years, both in the West End and downtown area, as well as across the region.”
The DEC and Addison Treehouse both offer three membership tiers, which generate about two-thirds of revenue. The DEC has also recently begun to cultivate private donations, in addition to writing federal grants. It’s the first organization in Texas to have a partnership with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
With relationships like these, the DEC hopes to continue fostering a fertile environment for companies to access the right resources necessary to grow, Bowles says.
“You have this perception that we’re standing on a cliff looking off into this concept of entrepreneurship and starting our own businesses,” Bowles says. “But now, if these people are standing up on a cliff and looking over the edge, there are thousands of people below saying, ‘Go ahead and jump … we’re going to help you.’ And that’s what places like the DEC and the Treehouse help facilitate.”