Dallas Entrepreneur Center Set to Franchise Startup ‘Blueprint’

Dallas Entrepreneur Center founder Trey Bowles has a quick metric he says shows how large the region’s technology and innovation community has grown.

In 2013, he says, “We started the ‘State of Entrepreneurship’ event and we had 75 people. “We had 400 people in 2014 and 850 people attend this year.”

The swell of interest in startups presents a different picture of the North Texas business community, which traditionally has been dominated by large corporations in business and financial services.

“This kind of support really helps us show the rest of the country that we’re doing amazing things,” Bowles says.

The DEC was founded 2 ½ years ago as a co-working and incubator space in the offices of cloud computing company SoftLayer, shortly after the Dallas company was bought by IBM. The center then moved into its own digs in Dallas’s historic West End neighborhood, where it now occupies three floors with virtual “first-come, first serve” desks and dedicated desks and offices for startups at each stage of development.

“Our original vision was to help entrepreneurs build new businesses and help Dallas be recognized as an international hub for entrepreneurship and innovation,” Bowles says. “We are doing this.”

Since its founding, the DEC has also made attempts to help tackle more global issues such as a lack of diversity within the technology community and how innovation can help make cities smarter.

Looking forward, the DEC is multiplying—in a sense. It has partnered with the Dallas suburb of Addison, TX, to open the Addison Treehouse, which provides programming such as organizational development, business and legal planning, and customer research and segmentation for young companies, along with the Addison Economic Development Department. A facility in northern suburbs of Houston is also planned, Bowles says.

The effort is the start of franchising the DEC’s model to other parts of Texas. “We provide them best practices; we’ve built a 200-page DEC blueprint on how to build and run an entrepreneurial center,” Bowles says. “This gives different groups a like-minded council of people that they can call to understand what works and what doesn’t work. The membership benefits go across the locations.”

Another area of focus is better capturing venture capital and angel investments in North Texas. “We’re trying to figure out a good way to amass a more realistic number of investment that’s happening,” he says. “It’s much bigger than what’s being reported.”

For example, Bowles says that analyses by firms such as PWC don’t take into account investments made to startups from family offices.

The investor community is starting to pay attention to Dallas’s growing innovation scene, Bowles says. “We have some investors moving into the third floor,” he says.

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