By Kevin Grace, MBA

The Fort Worth Stockyards embody the Western heritage of the area. It’s an incredible part of the city, and in 1917 the Stockyards were the most important horse and mule market in the world. Now, thousands of cattle are sold by satellite.

The rich heritage and historical perception created over hundreds of years sometimes prevents a full understanding of what the area has to offer in the 21st century. Some people are unable to reconcile the city’s historical image with a city brimming with innovation and opportunity.

Today’s Fort Worth is a super-connected community, with more than 820,000 estimated Facebook users. Given that the city’s population is 854,113 based on the 2016 census: that’s 96% of the city who are connected!

Beyond being connected, Fort Worth has multiple, rich layers of culture and creativity that offer attractive opportunities for the business community.

Consider:

    • Facebook chose Fort Worth for a 2.5 million square feet data center that will become one of the largest in the world
    • A recent $2.7 billion acquisition of a Fort Worth founded start-up, ZS Pharma
    • The new 300-acre American Airlines campus that’s currently under construction

Rising Tide Initiative

The Rising Tide Initiative is a non-profit that has been working with the community to empower entrepreneurs. Here are just two visions of the future of Forth Worth:

What is your perspective on the state of the Fort Worth entrepreneurial ecosystem?

“Overall, my general thought is that it’s the byproduct of a lot of smart people working in a lot of smart jobs and having ideas they are pursuing. Contrast that to Austin, where start-ups are a huge part of the economy. I get the impression that Fort Worth is still focused on traditional businesses, which isn’t bad at all — just different.”

— Chip Hanna, Dando Advisors 

Which ecosystem do you think exemplifies the closest to what you would like to see in our local ecosystem?

“About five years ago, Kansas City declared itself ‘America’s Most Entrepreneurial City’ and it has been hustling to live up to that claim ever since. Their community is always doing something organic and innovative to build their community. After Google Fiber arrived in 2011, they built an entire “start-up village” around the first neighborhood to get the fastest internet in the world. They recently broke the world record for the largest number of people co-working in the same place. I think FW could learn a great deal from the way KC embraces, nurtures and champions its start-ups.”

— Cameron Cushman, previously Senior Advisor to Kaufmann Foundation

The characteristics of the Fort Worth region create an opportunity for entrepreneurs and businesses.

Median Age Advantage

Fort Worth is getting younger.

That’s enticing from an entrepreneurial perspective.

Dallas is aware of the advantages of attracting Millennials. In fact, this is one of the primary goals for the “Say Yes to Dallas” campaign. Fort Worth should be taking advantage of this strength. It creates the possibility that people within our community who already desire STEM careers will contribute reciprocally. Young entrepreneurs have the highest intentions to start a business, with 30.5% saying they intend to start one.

The chamber is re-imagining how they can offer support to the small business and entrepreneurial community. As part of the new five-year strategy, \ Fort Worth is positioning itself as an international city in addition to providing entrepreneurial support. In the next four years, the city is aiming to achieve top 20 status in national entrepreneur rankings in at least one category.

UNT Health Science Center

UNT Health Science Center and TECH Fort Worth have worked closely together to provide resources and guidance to biotechnology ventures through an Acceleration Lab, including access to laboratory space, administrative support, and research expertise. Companies benefitting from these resources include ZS Pharma and Encore Vision, both Fort Worth start-ups acquired by Big Pharma.

UNT Health Science Center has also established a drug safety project with Texas Health Resources, launched the nation’s largest study of cognitive disease in Mexican-Americans, and worked with Texas Christian University to open a new medical school that could create hundreds of new residency slots in North Texas.

A new research building is scheduled for completion next year that will house the medical school, as well as UNTHSC’s pharmacy college and eye research institute.

UTA Research Center

UTA is advancing towards a Tier 1 status, graduating more than 200 Ph.Ds and increasing research expenditures by nearly 9 percent. UTA has developed a strong innovation pipeline, with more than 100 patents issued over the last five years and more than 25 technologies licensed to outside companies.

Some 60 faculty and students are currently working on start-ups and more than 20 start-up companies are developing around UTA.

“UTA is committed to developing an environment and culture that eliminates obstacles to innovation and entrepreneurship so that results of research and creative activity can be moved from our studios and laboratories into the economy for the benefit of society,” UTA President Vistasp Karbhari said.

Timely Initiative

The Rising Tide initiative has been thriving since its launch at the Fort Worth Science and History Museum. The team has spent the year touring and interacting with various organizations contributing to the ecosystem. It has heightened our excitement about the opportunity that the area has to start and sustain new entrepreneurs.

We have a passion for adding value to the local community in the form of new, successful businesses. Rising Tide focuses on people, culture, and software that fill in the gaps in the entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem.

To increase the odds of success, we’re collaborating to close the gaps that exist between support organizations. Entrepreneurs will be guided to resources that best serve their needs. If we can learn to serve the needs of the builders, we will all have a little more opportunity.

Interested? Check out our happy hour

If you are curious about Rising Tide or would like to get involved, check-out out the happy hour hosted by Catalyst Partners every Thursday at 5 PM at HG Sply Co.

Also, check out our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/risingtideinitiative/) for details on our next big event in November for collaborating with the areas best and brightest entrepreneurs. We’re encouraging a culture of collaboration that is friendly and focused.

We’re excited to announce that a new interactive experience will available for free to serve the needs of the community. In the next 30 days, entrepreneurs and organizations will start connecting in a new way.

IT STARTED WITH ONE DISCUSSION, GREW TO HUNDREDS AND NOW HAS REACHED THOUSANDS NATIONWIDE.

Kevin Grace is Chief Executive Officer at AME, and Managing Partner at Catalyst Partners. This article originally appeared on Kevin’s LinkedIn page.