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Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson

DALLAS – Mayor Eric Johnson’s Task Force on Innovation and Entrepreneurship on Thursday released its report detailing its recommendations for how the City can attract, retain, and grow startup companies.

Mayor Johnson formed the Mayor’s Task Force on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in January 2021, elevating startups and entrepreneurs to a mayoral priority. He named as co-chairs Mandy Price, CEO of Dallas-based Kanarys — a technology company that takes a holistic approach to solving diversity, equity and inclusion challenges, enabling companies to immediately take action toward systemic change — and Trey Bowles, co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of The DEC Network, formerly The Dallas Entrepreneur Center.

The two co-chairs joined Mayor Johnson on Thursday for a news conference at Pegasus Park in Dallas, a 23-acre campus dedicated to business, social impact, and biomedical innovation.

The Task Force recommendations are a key part of Mayor Johnson’s “Build for the Future” agenda.

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“Innovation and entrepreneurship are part of our city’s DNA,” Mayor Johnson said. “But to build for the future, we must be intentional about fostering a culture of innovation. That means putting the pieces in place now for entrepreneurs to succeed.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to become an internationally recognized, cutting-edge hub for entrepreneurs. We can become the undisputed top city in the country for women entrepreneurs. We can focus on growing representation in our startup community among historically underrepresented groups. And the Mayor’s Task Force on Innovation and Entrepreneurship has provided us with the road map that we need to get us to where we want to go.”

The Task Force recommended five overarching initiatives — focused on curriculum, coaching, capital, and customers for startups — to be implemented over several years:

  • Entrepreneurial Liaisons within City Hall — An “Entrepreneur in Residence” and “Venture Capitalist in Residence” inside City Hall to bring a fresh perspective. Sourced from the local entrepreneurship community, these new roles will help the City think creatively about how to support startups, financially or otherwise;
  • Entrepreneurial Support Platform — An integrated platform that streamlines startup support. The platform will be built and maintained by an organization on behalf of the City;
  • Entrepreneur Resource Hub — A fully automated resource platform that provides premier curricula and support content. This will be a centralized, up-to-date location to obtain information and make human connections;
  • Innovation Zones and Infrastructure Network — Programmatic support to facilitate the innovation zone and infrastructure network. The Task Force recommends a minimum of five innovation zones, each with its own incubator and programmatic leader, which will become a microcenter tied to the Dallas infrastructure network;
  • Capital Sources for Startup Growth and Success — A private limited partnership, independent of but with strong support from the City, will raise capital from Dallas-area corporations, family offices, foundations, endowments and high net-worth investors. This “fund of funds” would drive private investment and to help startups secure Seed, Series and Exit investments.

Price and Bowles will present the Task Force recommendations on Thursday morning to the Dallas City Council’s Economic Development Committee.

“When I started Kanarys and began fundraising, I learned that for such a strong market, Dallas had more work to do in terms of supporting their many talented entrepreneurs,” said Price. “Through the Task Force, we want to ensure the City of Dallas is creating a supportive hub for startups, bringing more founders to the table, and driving innovation.”

“The work that will be completed at the innovation zones will be arguably the most impactful startup investment that we see over the next decade. I believe it will result in tens of billions of dollars of economic impact and is a great example of bringing together different stakeholders,” said Bowles.

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Bowles and Price were joined by a diverse and experienced team. The members of the Mayor’s Task Force include:

  • Kristin Battle – President and CEO, Strategic Focus, LLC, Strategic Focus Educational Services
  • Bryan Chambers – Vice President of Ventures, Capital Factory
  • Duane Dankesreiter – Senior Vice President of Research and Innovation, Dallas Regional Chamber
  • Michael J. De La Cruz – Senior Vice President of Business Development, Group O
  • Diana Flores – Immediate Past Chair, Dallas College Board of Trustees, and Vice President, Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Angie Gaylord – Deputy Chief of the Office of Transformation & Innovation, Dallas ISD
  • Wanda Granier – CEO, BridgeWork Partners, and past Chairman, Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Robert C. Johnson – Venture investor and TeamSupport LLC founder
  • Aasem Khalil – Head of Southern Region Investment Banking, Goldman Sachs
  • Emily Ledet – Market Executive, Bank of America
  • Simon Mak – Executive Director and Professor of Practice, SMU Cox Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship
  • Raamel Mitchell – Director, Corporate Citizenship and Market Development, Microsoft
  • Sanjiv Yajnik – President of Financial Services, Capital One

The Task Force received additional support from Accenture, a global professional services company that provided pro bono research, strategy, and consulting. Dallas-based Sunwest Communications has served as the Task Force’s communications and public relations partner. Project Mockingbird has also served as a communications partner.

Mayor Johnson said continued public and private collaboration will be vital to implementing the recommendations. He announced that he is willing to dedicate discretionary bond funds to help support incubators, and that his office has had preliminary discussions with Fair Park First about using a portion of a Fair Park building as a future incubator.

“As the Mayor establishes a program focused on nurturing and supporting emerging and entrepreneurial businesses in the Southern Sector, Fair Park First is honored he’s considering Fair Park for a business incubator location,” said Darren L. James, President of Fair Park First. “We appreciate his investment in Dallas residents, especially in the neighborhoods surrounding Fair Park.”

City Council Economic Development Committee Chairman Tennell Atkins plans to include the Task Force’s recommendations as part of the City’s new comprehensive economic development plan, which is expected to receive a City Council vote later this month.

“We have to build for the future with a focus on providing equitable opportunities for all of our residents, especially those in southern Dallas,” said Chairman Atkins. “I am grateful for Mayor Johnson’s creation of the Task Force and for the Task Force’s push to ensure equity. I look forward to making the Task Force recommendations a key part of the City’s economic plans going forward.”

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Mayor Johnson said support for the Task Force recommendations now will create an atmosphere in Dallas that will continue to foster a culture of innovation in the years ahead.

“Collectively, we hold the keys to a better tomorrow,” Mayor Johnson said. “And by building for the future now, we can create a resilient economy for the 21st century.”

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