Entrepreneurs: Accelerate DFW prepares for slate of events, programs

Ed Riefenstahl

Accelerate DFW Foundation

Annual Fundraising Gala

Oct. 3

Fort Worth Club

- FWBP Digital Partners -

Featuring John Paul DeJoria, founder of Paul Mitchell Hair Systems and Patron Tequila


By Ed Riefenstahl

Entrepreneurs should get ready for some exciting developments in North Texas.

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On Wednesday, Oct. 3, those attending Accelerate DFW Foundation’s Inaugural Gala will witness the relaunch of an organization that has been dedicated to serving entrepreneurs for 20 years in North Texas.

For those who will not be present, read on!

Accelerate DFW Foundation (formerly the BAC Education Foundation) has a new mandate to build entrepreneurs by connecting them to whatever they need and filling the gaps in their businesses. The foundation strives to produce tangible outcomes for entrepreneurs that can be immediately implemented.

Most readers may not recognize either of those names as we have recently rebranded and the former has not been a public facing name for some time. However, most will recognize the foundation’s anchor program: IDEA Works FW.

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Established in 2014, it is a business incubator where companies can go to get mentorship, make the business connections they need to take their business to the next level, and get assistance in areas where they may not be experts.

In addition to the foundation’s incubator program, Accelerate DFW Foundation is expanding its reach to include advocating for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship through storytelling and facilitating practical workshops for entrepreneurs throughout the region.

Bold, YES. Aspiring, YES. Needing additional resources to achieve its Mission, YES.

So much has changed in the area west of Highway 360 when it comes to entrepreneurs.

As mentioned in our last article, the BAC Education Foundation board hired two consultants in late fall 2017 experienced in working with startups in a diverse array of entrepreneurial ecosystems, including international ecosystem development.

In their meetings with community leaders involved with assisting and supporting entrepreneurs, small business owners, and entrepreneurs, they noted: 1.) the misperceptions and misunderstandings of the role and intentions of the BAC Education Foundation in the community; 2.) the disparate perspective of organizations seeking to assist entrepreneurs and small business owners whose focus was slanted to their primary organizational mission and strategies; 3.) the confusion surrounding and inordinate amount of time spent on “discussions” pertaining to the definition and needs of an entrepreneur vs. small business owner; 4.) that there existed many “under-the-radar” entrepreneurs who either were not aware of or opted not to explore taking advantage of resources currently available to advance their ideas; and 5.) some significant resource gaps – e.g., having a viable business accelerator (different than an incubator) – in the area.

If you are confused about the differences among these concepts and the difference between a small business owner and an entrepreneur, do not feel alone. Most people are. For reference here are two great articles talking about those differences.

To understand the common distinction of an incubator vs. an accelerator, see:

Hubert Zajicek’s May 26, 2017, article in Entrepreneur magazine, “Accelerator vs. Incubator, Which Is Right For You.”

For an excellent explanation of the common distinction between an entrepreneur and a small business owner, read Melanie Spring’s May 15, 2014, article in Entrepreneur.

From the foundation’s perspective, it is less interested in definitions and more interested in helping people build their businesses.

With all of this concurrent activity occurring in 2017, just as sustainable businesses must adapt to survive and thrive, the BAC Education Foundation Board recognized the need to evolve to have greater relevancy.

In January 2018, as part of our rebranding efforts, it embraced regional collaboration to accelerate the development of a cohesive entrepreneurial ecosystem in North Texas as one of its main foci.

Working with others and working as a region is of critical importance when building a community of entrepreneurs who can get things done, and get connected with those that can help them in their endeavors. The primary clients that the foundation will focus its regional support and invest foundation resources in the area in the future – both at its IDEA Works FW incubator and anywhere in the region through its outreach initiatives – will be entrepreneurs with innovative solutions and who are committed to growing a sustainable business.

So, let’s get back to what is an entrepreneurial ecosystem?

As entrepreneurs may not get all that is needed from the community in which they reside, they should get more from a collaborative entrepreneurial ecosystem.

So, what does that mean?

Simply put, it helps entrepreneurs achieve their startup ambitions. The definition of an entrepreneurial ecosystem that resonates with me is the one I found in an IGI Global article:

“An entrepreneurial ecosystem is a community of private and public players composed of various factors and interdependent actors, interacting within a geographical region, in a shared context, which formally and informally evolves over time, in order to promote the creation of new businesses.”

Accelerate DFW breaks down its impact into the following specific areas:

1.) IDEA Works FW business incubator: Helps companies ranging from idea stage to those with traction. Entrepreneurs set the pace and determine their objectives; we help keep them with accountability to meeting those objectives within a shorter 6 to 18-month timeframe. IDEA Works programming focuses on three services to members: building connections through our digital Connections Platform; programming designed to fill the gaps in an entrepreneur’s expertise; and accountability to the goals set by the entrepreneurs themselves.

2.) Startup Bootcamp: Output-oriented workshops that span a wide range of topics critical to entrepreneurs, including sales, marketing, financials, technology, and many other topics that are in demand led by highly qualified subject matter experts. This is targeted to anyone in the region interested in getting specific feedback and help on one razor focused topic.

3.) Storytelling: Entrepreneurs inspire other entrepreneurs and would be entrepreneurs. Accelerate DFW Foundation provides a voice to get the word out about startups being launched in our area as a way to activate the ecosystem and show entrepreneurs that they aren’t alone. This builds confidence to those contemplating becoming an entrepreneur and also excites the general public about the business being built in their area.

4.) Startup Ecosystem Building: Accelerate DFW works collaboratively with others to provide experiential activities, such as Startup Weekend, Global Entrepreneurship Week, Startup Crawl FW, which are designed to help established entrepreneurs as well as those who are just starting out.

Mark your calendars for two great events to get your feet wet with entrepreneurship where Accelerate DFW is one of many partners organizing the events: Start-up Weekend Fort Worth and Global Entrepreneurship Week – Nov. 9-16, where there will be a group of events focused on entrepreneurship here in Tarrant County and around the world.

Check our website for details www.AccelecateDFW.org/events

For program related inquiries, please contact Accelerate DFW Fourndation’s directors:

Marco Johnson, Programs Director: Marco.Johnson@AccelerateDFW.org

Walker Lutringer, Foundation Director: Walker.Lutringer@AccelerateDFW.org

Ed Riefenstahl is the director of experiential learning in the TCU Neeley School of Business’s MBA program. He is a former director in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneurial Services practice and a Global Alliance director for KPMG Consulting. He and his spouse, Valerie, founded The Alternative Board in Fort Worth. He serves on the board of directors of the Accelerate DFW Foundation. e.riefenstahl@tcu.edu