I have been involved in the startup space for about two decades as a serial entrepreneur of both for-profit and nonprofit ventures. I launched an entrepreneurship program at SMU’s Meadows School for Arts Entrepreneurship/Arts Management and co-founded the Dallas Innovation Alliance, the Dallas Entrepreneur Center, and, most recently, InnoCity Partners.
Last year, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson appointed me co-chair of the city’s Task Force on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which developed recommendations for attracting, retaining, and growing startup companies. (I encourage you to read the report online.) Our city was built on innovation—its history is filled with stories of entrepreneurs, wildcatters, and pioneers who made the region what it is today.
To continue to evolve, grow, and attract the best talent, we must make a continued and intentional commitment to our innovators. An environment conducive to launching and building startup companies will result in more jobs and a stronger economy.
Here are five things we must do to be a city of innovation:
- Provide financial support. Mayor Johnson’s Task Force on Innovation and Entrepreneurship recommended launching a “fund of funds,” that would lead to massive investments in the region. This would create exponential job growth and a more robust local economy.
- Establish Innovation Zones. One way to bring much-needed and deserved attention to our city is to highlight areas where Dallas is leading by creating different Innovation Zones. This would showcase the diversity of innovation that we have throughout the market.
- Make innovation a private-sector priority. Business leaders in Dallas have been a mighty force in North Texas for decades. Corporate and private-company CEOs must step up and advocate for innovation through investments, resources, and other support.
- Harness the power of education. It is through the combined assets of our educational institutions at all levels of training that we begin to see what is possible for attracting and developing the future of talent in the region.
- Create a culture of “give first.” One of the most significant differentiators between Dallas and other major cities is that we are willing to help others succeed. Deepening this “give first” mentality in Dallas will unleash the true potential of the city.
Trey Bowles is the co-founder of InnoCity Partners and co-chair of the Mayor’s Task Force on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.