Lift­ing many boats

Col­lab­o­ra­tion isn’t just a buzz­word. It can and does do great things. One spe­cial col­lab­o­ra­tion here in Fort Worth is build­ing on the idea to make Fort Worth the great­est en­trepreneurial city in Amer­ica.

Star-Telegram (Sunday) - - Jobs, Autos & Classifieds - By Mark Fad­den

I’ve said it be­fore and I’ll say it again. There’s some­thing spe­cial go­ing on in the Fort Worth busi­ness com­mu­nity. I’ve been cov­er­ing the job sec­tor in this town for the past five years and what started out talk­ing about trends in var­i­ous DFW in­dus­tries has evolved into (what I hope is) a valu­able tool for peo­ple to get more out of their work lives. No mat­ter what in­dus­try we work in, no mat­ter if we’re fresh out of school, start­ing a new ca­reer mid­way through our work lives, or look­ing for some­thing to keep us busy in re­tire­ment, work can and should de­fine who we are. In that re­gard, whether we work on an assem­bly line, teach our com­mu­nity’s chil­dren, or are even the CEO of an in­ter­net start-up, we all can and should have own­er­ship of our jobs. We have the re­spon­si­bil­ity to make sure that we are us­ing the lat­est tools and tech­niques avail­able to us to de­liver the best prod­uct to those we serve. In other words, we all have the op­por­tu­nity to be en­trepreneurs.

Wait…hold up. Aren’t en­trepreneurs those that are in busi­ness for them­selves? Yes and no. In a re­cent Forbes ar­ti­cle, au­thor Brett Nel­son wrote as to the true def­i­ni­tion of be­ing an en­tre­pre­neur: “Con­sider the fol­low­ing two def­i­ni­tions of "en­tre­pre­neur,” one found in Mer­riam-Web­ster’s dic­tio­nary, the other from Dic­tio­nary.com: Mer­riam-Web­ster: “one who or­ga­nizes, man­ages and as­sumes the risks of a busi­ness or en­ter­prise.” Dic­tio­nary.com: “a per­son who or­ga­nizes and man­ages any en­ter­prise, es­pe­cially a busi­ness, usu­ally with con­sid­er­able ini­tia­tive and risk.” The dif­fer­ence is sub­tle, but fun­da­men­tal: It’s the word “any.” Dic­tio­nary.com has it right: En­trepreneurs, in the purest sense, are those who iden­tify a need —any need — and fill it. It’s a pri­mor­dial urge, in­de­pen­dent of prod­uct, ser­vice, in­dus­try or mar­ket.”

THE SIL­I­CON PRAIRIE AND THE VAL­LEY OF DEATH

So as we all con­tinue to try and fill busi­ness needs here in Cow­town, we’ve got a lot of re­sources to help us do that. And while Fort Worth may still con­jure im­ages of cat­tle, cowboys, and oil rigs, many of these re­sources have gone high-tech. Or­ga­ni­za­tions such as TECH Fort Worth, Cow­town An­gels, and the Fort Worth Cham­ber of Com­merce all em­body the fact that Fort Worth is mak­ing the change from cow chips to sil­i­con chips. In fact, back in 2016 I coined the phrase “Sil­i­con Prairie” to de­scribe our city as the high-tech jewel of the high plains (I’m still wait­ing for that term to catch fire, but just wait and see!). To foster en­trepreneur­ship, many lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions have be­gun host­ing con­tests that award en­trepreneurs and their best ideas. TECH Fort Worth has their Im­pact Award, which cel­e­brates lo­cal in­no­va­tions that are im­pact­ing our world, the City of Fort Worth's Of­fice of Small Busi­ness has a busi­ness plan com­pe­ti­tion, and The United Way has its KER­NEL con­test, which awards re­sources and seed fund­ing for or­ga­ni­za­tions that com­prise a com­bi­na­tion of so­cial im­pact, a sus­tain­able rev­enue model, and an in­no­va­tive ap­proach to solv­ing the so­cial chal­lenges in our com­mu­nity.

A rel­a­tively new Tar­rant County or­ga­ni­za­tion, Ris­ing Tide Ini­tia­tive (RTI), a non­profit hub for in­no­va­tion within our lo­cal com­mu­nity, also has a new award de­signed to sup­port en­trepreneurs when they need it the most. “The FORT is a place where re­sources are avail­able to cross the "Val­ley of Death." In a new busi­ness, the "Val­ley of Death" is the area be­tween busi­ness launch and prof­itabil­ity. It can be chal­leng­ing for a new busi­ness to sus­tain the amount of time it takes to reach prof­itabil­ity. There's a lot of ground to cover dur­ing this time. It is for this rea­son that the val­ley needs a par­tic­u­larly strong fo­cus,” said Kevin Grace, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer at AME, and Manag­ing Part­ner at Cat­a­lyst Part­ners. As part of the FORT award, RTI part­nered with WeWork Com­pa­nies Inc., a global net­work of workspaces where com­pa­nies and peo­ple grow to­gether, to pro­vide en­trepreneurs a free place to start and grow their busi­nesses for six months in an ef­fort to help them suc­cess­fully cross through the val­ley from start-up to prof­itabil­ity. “Through this part­ner­ship, the or­ga­ni­za­tions will as­sist in in­creas­ing the odds of suc­cess for our re­gion's en­trepreneurs,” said Grace. “By of­fer­ing the space and re­sources at no cost, the op­por­tu­nity is passed along di­rectly to the en­tre­pre­neur. In ad­di­tion to a col­lab­o­ra­tive en­vi­ron­ment, the en­trepreneurs will re­ceive men­tors and coaches ac­cord­ing to each busi­ness. The re­cip­i­ents will be held ac­count­able for mea­sur­able goals for busi­ness growth.”

As part of be­ing in the first FORT co­hort, the fif­teen se­lected en­trepreneurs will also be par­tic­i­pat­ing in a unique give­back pro­gram where a small num­ber of hours weekly will be given back to the com­mu­nity.

THE FIRST FIF­TEEN

The fif­teen area en­trepreneurs se­lected to be in the first co­hort in­clude: Se­cur­ing Life To­day, a vet­eran-owned fi­nance soft­ware com­pany de­signed to help se­cure your fi­nan­cial fu­ture, Neuro Re­hab VR, a vir­tual and aug­mented re­al­ity train­ing ex­er­cises for phys­i­cal ther­apy lever­ag­ing break­throughs in neu­ro­plas­tic- ity, Rollin' n Bowlin' Fresh Foods, a fresh food com­pany started by TCU stu­dents in their se­nior year, and Flour­ish, an app that helps you give to causes every time you swipe your debit or credit card and tracks the im­pact of you do­na­tions. So what does it mean to be a part of this first group of win­ners? “As a founder, I'm ea­ger to learn and im­ple­ment ac­tion­able items as part of the ac­cel­er­a­tor cur­ricu­lum and look­ing for­ward to meet­ing the team mem­bers of all the com­pa­nies se­lected for the co­hort, work­ing along with and help­ing each other out as we all go through the ac­cel­er­a­tor,” said Veena So­mareddy with Neuro Re­hab VR.

RTI is an all-in­clu­sive non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that any­one can join. It strives to match the needs and re­sources in every in­dus­try from the solo­preneur to the ma­jor in­dus­try lead­ers in North Texas.

You can con­nect with RTI mem­bers every month with events aimed at build­ing re­la­tion­ships be­tween com­mu­nity as­sets and en­trepreneurs and also at their weekly happy hours every Thurs­day at 5:30pm at HG Sply Co.

For more in­for­ma­tion on RTI, in­clud­ing read­ing about the com­plete list of the RTI first FORT co­hort win­ners, visit http://ris­ingtideini­tia­tive.com/.

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