Entrepreneur Summit

Starting a business – and keeping it alive – is tough, so local entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders and others came together July 29 at the Fort Worth Business Press’s inaugural Entrepreneur Summit to talk about strategies to make a business successful.

“The definition of an entrepreneur, for me, is somebody that jumps off a cliff and builds an airplane on the way down,” panelist and Cowtown Angels member Les Kreis said.

The event took place July 29 at Texas Christian University. Speakers and panelists covered a range of topics related to entrepreneurship, from customer development to local resources available to entrepreneurs.

Daniel Castaneda, a senior TCU student who runs watch retailer Monaco Watch Co., said he’s looking forward to applying what he’s learned to his business.

“I sat through these panels with the inclination of wanting to learn and grow myself to hopefully get to the levels of some of these people one day, learning from their mistakes and their experiences in order to help my own,” he said.

Check out some of the highlights from the event.

On preparing for the future…

Anticipating the future of a product or market is a key part of being an entrepreneur. Keynote speaker Jim Stikeleather, chief innovation officer at Dell, said the best way to prepare for the future is to understand what is happening in the present – things like the economy, politics and demographics – and also understand your company’s internal strengths. That way a company can come up with future scenarios and plan how to handle them.

“What are our capabilities as an organization? Financial capabilities, technical capabilities, reach across the marketplace – we put all of these things together and we create our future scenarios from it,” Stikeleather said.

On the entrepreneurial mindset…

There’s a difference between being an employee and being an entrepreneur, said panelist Robert Pollock of consulting company Culture Index.

“There’s just a big difference in mindset between being a founder or a technology person or an owner versus that entrepreneur,” he said. “They’re not the same. You can have the great idea, but that doesn’t necessarily make you the one who’s hard-wired to see that idea scale.”

Another panelist, Michael Fletcher of Ride TV, said that running a successful business takes more than smarts and a good personality.

“You have to be willing to take risk but you have to be a free thinker and be willing to do a lot of analysis and react quickly,” said panelist Michael Fletcher of Ride TV. “It’s a different mindset.”

On customer development…

Analyzing customer data, such as demographics and behaviors, are helpful in understanding what customers want, said panelist Peter Bacigalupo of Buxton.

“Data’s great, but it’s what you do with it that actually matters,” he said. “It’s putting it into motion. It’s applying it and leveraging it in ways that can impact strategy moving forward.”

Social media is another way to connect with customers. Panelist Jonathan Morris of Fort Worth Barber Shop said Snapchat has allowed customers to interact with his business on a daily basis.

“When we can be in our customers’ pockets every single day and have a touchpoint every single day with them that’s ultimately just a narrative of who our brand is, it’s huge,” he said.

On working with investors…

Local investors from organizations like the Cowtown Angels and Satori Capital talked about what makes them interested in a company and what doesn’t.

Having clear financial information, paying taxes and maintaining good credit are some of the things investors look for in a company, said panelist Brooke Lively of Cathedral Capital. Companies that don’t have those things, she said, are red flags.

Keeping presentations short and simple is also attractive to investors, said panelist Rugger Burke of Satori Capital. After an investor chooses to put money on a business, giving the investor regular updates on the business also helps build a relationship and encourages the investor to help the business again, he said.

“You won’t be looking for money – the money will be looking for you if you have a great business,” he said. “What you’re looking for is choosing the right partner for you.”

On building your network…

Fort Worth offers many resources for entrepreneurs, such as business incubator IDEA Works FW or business coaching and advisory board service The Alternative Board (TAB).

Panelist Kenn Scott of children’s music startup Zoomeez uses TAB and offices at IDEA Works, as well as other organizations to help leverage his business.

“Today it’s all about connectivism,” he said. “Connectivism is using technology and your social circles to be able to reach out and acquire knowledge. By taking advantage of the ecosystem here, it’s allowed me to do that at such a tremendous rate.”

The event partners were IdeaWorks Fort Worth and TCU's Neeley School of Business.

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