Moving On: Dallas Entrepreneur Center Founder Trey Bowles Steps Down

Dallas—Five years after founding the Dallas Entrepreneur Center, Trey Bowles is stepping down as its chief executive officer.

“What I love to do is starting, building, and growing things,” Bowles said in an interview. “The DEC is doing what I wanted it to do—and it is not done by any means—but there is value in bringing in new leadership.”

Bowles said he had personally given himself a deadline of five years to build up the nonprofit DEC—which hosts a co-working space for companies and offers incubator programs—and then figure out what’s next for him professionally. He said he’s still weighing his options but that he definitely will pursue something in the for-profit sector.

In the meantime, he is becoming the DEC’s executive chairman and will help find his successor and help that person transition into the job. He expects that that person to be an entrepreneur and, likely, someone already in Dallas, who “has a deep affinity for this city.”

Among that person’s priorities will be to engage with political and business leaders in making the case that communities should invest in programs that support entrepreneurship, like the DEC. That’s sometimes been a hard sell, he said, when communities are looking for quick payback. Programs like DEC “are not real estate plays,” Bowles said. “This is an investment in the future.”

In the five years Bowles has helmed the DEC, the organization has sought to boost innovative tech companies in the region and also to promote entrepreneurship to groups that are underrepresented in the industry. “Entrepreneurship should be available to everyone,” he said.

To that end, the DEC co-sponsored programs such as a pitch contest with Comerica Bank to support women and minority entrepreneurs, and has opened three centers in Dallas’s southern half—a largely minority area that has been historically neglected–to create the Southern Dallas Entrepreneur Network.

The DEC has also exported its model both within the North Texas region and other parts of the state. Two years ago, Bowles worked with a group of San Antonio leaders to establish the San Antonio Entrepreneur Center.

Given the growth of tech centers throughout the state, one thing that Bowles said the DEC will stop doing is offering co-working space. “We now have 62 co-working spaces in Dallas—it’s no longer as important,” he said.

The DEC is moving its operations on June 1 to a building in Dallas’ Oak Lawn neighborhood as part of a partnership with Austin-based co-working space and accelerator Capital Factory. The two groups will focus on programming to connect startups with resources such as funding or mentors.

“For ecosystems to have long-term sustainability, you have to do succession planning and bring in the next leaders of the region,” Bowles said. “A measure of success is, ‘How does the company do when the founder is no longer there?’”

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