How Dallas is Blossoming Into the Most Innovative City in the South

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With almost 1.3 million residents, Dallas is in fact home to more than 40,000 newly started businesses every year, boasting nine accelerator programs and 11 incubators within its municipal limits. However, Dallas is also home to over 20 innovative Fortune 500 companies, including Exon, Wal-Mart, and AT&T, with giants Toyota and FedEx also moving their corporate headquarters to the area in 2017. What is it about this busy Southern metropolis that makes it home to both leading enterprises and a rich startup ecosystem? Qmarkets’ Steve Reed, Senior Commercial Manager for North America, takes us on a guided tour of the Dallas Innovation ecosystem.

Over the course of my life, I’ve lived in some very different cities. From Frankfurt in Germany, to Seattle in Washington, various locations in Northern California, and most recently of all, Dallas, Texas. While all cities have their own unique qualities, I wasn’t expecting a “culture of innovation” to be one of those which I would encounter when I moved to Dallas in 2014. Now three years later, I can confidently say that Dallas is the most innovative place I’ve ever lived. While it might not have as strong of a start-up scene as Silicon Valley or the corporate infrastructure of New York, Dallas takes the crown because it facilitates innovation in equal measure across the three key audiences – Corporate Innovation, Startup Innovation, and Civic Innovation. I’m going to use this post to explore how each of these essential parties are supported in Dallas, and how other cities can benefit by using a similar approach.

1) Civic innovation

dallas_blog_civic_innovationCivic innovation is the concept of actively involving citizens directly in the innovation initiative of the city, municipality, or country which they inhabit. While this might seem like an obvious approach, it’s much easier said than done.

Civic innovation is closely allied to the concept of Digital Democracy which seeks to use digital platforms to engage citizens and create ideas that are capable of aligning governance and policy with actual needs, such as Qmarkets’ Q-city. The successful efforts by citizens of New Orleans to reform their education system after Hurricane Karina are often cited as an example of the kind of change that such projects can effect.

Formalized civic innovation platforms typically connect local government resources (such as the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation) with the individuals that are seeking to drive social change within their communities. Such programs seek to drive systemic societal change through these collaborations rather than create effects that are limited to a specific industry or societal sector.

Dallas has invested significant time and resources in implementing this concept. One of the primary initiatives being the recently convened Dallas Festival of Ideas, a festival which seeks to ‘shape the city of the future “by igniting, uniting, and energizing the people of Dallas through the power of ideas.” In partnership with corporate sponsors such as AT&T and the Bank of America, this festival produces tangible results year upon year, and goes a long way towards fostering a culture of innovation among all participants.

In addition, the city is home to the Dallas Innovation Alliance (DIA) – a public-private partnership dedicated to the design and execution of a smart city plan for Dallas. The program, which will be focused around a physical hub in the West End district of downtown, is a partnership between the City of Dallas and a variety of industry partners including AT&T, Cisco, and Deloitte to make Dallas an exemplary smart city.

The creation of a formalized network for partnerships between the municipal government responsible for implementing the smart city concept, and the technological companies that supply the know-how, is likely to create synergies that would not have been realizable had the two not agreed to a formal means of cooperating. 

2) Startup innovation

When well-organized, the startup ecosystem in a city can be a force of its own to drive further innovation within it, helping to propel and inspire the ideas of future entrepreneurs towards fulfillment.

The more startups cities contain, the more ancillary ‘spin-off’ services are likely to develop around them, such as startup incubators, accelerators, coworking spaces, sources of funding, and of course a pool of seasoned entrepreneurs able to provide mentorship to those new to the startup game.

Perhaps for this reason, research has also revealed that startups which are founded in ecosystems tend to do better than those that are started in major cities. Although New York City is hardly a dwarf in the tech world, companies started in Silicon Valley are able to raise 2-3x more money in their first stages of development and have a 22% proportional higher success rate than their counterparts in the Big Apple.

Dallas ranks third in the United States for overall venture capital funding and is already home to a huge variety of startups, including tools to help parking operators boost revenues and a company making socks that are guaranteed to never shrink.

According to tech observers, Dallas is quickly catching up with the nearby Austin for the title of the Lone Star State’s leading startup ecosystem. Events such as Dallas Startup Week, a five-day celebration of the Dallas startup community, and Startup Angels Angel Summit have also helped to put Dallas firmly on the map of startups both in the rest of Texas and elsewhere.

3) Corporate innovation

dallas_blog_corporate_innovationAlthough the startup and large corporate ecosystems can sometimes feel like two different planets, there is much more scope for collaboration between the two than is commonly thought. Startups and corporations can together form a sort of symbiosis, in which startups can tap into corporations’ much deeper pockets and capital outlays when they win business from them, while startups can be relied on by corporations to take on projects that require the agility and speed which is difficult to achieve in the more bureaucratic environment in which they operate. One example of this corporate innovation, for instance, is the collaboration between Qmarkets and Ford, which allows Ford to straddle the line between startup and enterprise corporation, coming up with startup-like ideas but being able to dedicate enterprise-grade resources to those ideas.

One important source of value which currently offered locally to corporations in Dallas is Qmarkets, a globally renowned idea and innovation management solution, which I represent as the senior commercial manager for North America. Qmarkets offers a range of collective intelligence products and services to help large organizations overcome a wide variety of challenges, from disruptive innovation, process improvement, to new product development, to digital transformation. An example of this is what Qmarkets and Nestle have accomplished together, creating an idea & innovation management platform that can tap into the collective intelligence of Nestle’s employees and customers in order to find new, fresh and innovative ideas for strategic business challenges. With the on-site workshops and product demonstrations I have run for numerous companies in the region, the innovation needs of Dallas’ corporations are well served.

In partnership with Qmarkets, national consulting agency Point B also offer a wide variety of services, not just to corporate audiences, but also individuals, start-ups, and more.

Looking Forward

The confluence of an established corporate and growing startup scene in Dallas together with an established framework and culture for civic innovation is to the advantage of all parties involved in forging the future of this unique Southern city.

Large companies can leverage startups’ passion for innovation while both can work through platforms such as the Dallas Innovation Alliance (DIA) to channel their energies towards making the city a better place for all its inhabitants. The result is likely to drive the city in exciting new directions for decades to come.

Join the Texas Innovation Leader Tour and come see for yourself how your organization could leverage collective intelligence to drive digital transformation.

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Because this amazing city is becoming such a hotbed for innovation Qmarkets, in collaboration with PointB, are bringing the innovation leader tour to Dallas on June 8th. Qmarkets’ SVP of Global Solutions Michael Stilger will be joined by Point B Practice Director Jimmy Cordy, recently named one of the top 25 consultants in the United States by Consulting Magazine. Click here to learn more.

 

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