NTX Magazine Volume 3 - Page 24

feature story INNOVATION empowering women Whitney Martin of Texas Women Ventures focuses on women-owned businesses looking to excel and achieve a higher level of success. great place for innovation, but also for serial entrepreneurs. Rex Kurzius, founder of Asset Panda, a mobile application software company that helps other businesses manage the life cycle of their assets, and Timberhorn IT Solutions, a technology staffing and services company among others, claims the North Texas market has all the ingredients for great business success. “There are a lot of really talented people in North Texas – that’s a big thing,” Kurzius explains. “Second is diversity of economy with lots of opportunity to interact, which leads to innovation. The third is mindset: This is a young and transient city – there is a newness in people and culture that translates itself into business.” This, Kurzius says, translates to opportunity for all. “I’ve sold all over the world, and when you go to New York City and Chicago, there is very much a pedigree that people want to talk about first before you do business with them. North Texas gives opportunities to young entrepreneurs with ‘type A’ personalities who want to achieve,” Kurzius said. Beyond the open invitation to compete, the North Texas area is also known for honoring the process of innovation, the risk-taking nature that doesn’t always end up with a win the first time. “You are allowed to fail here,” notes Whitney Martin, co-founder, co-chair and managing director of Texas Women Ventures. “Maybe it’s because we’re in Texas where we learn that if you fall, you get right back on the horse. We have a culture that allows for success and also allows for failure – and the opportunity to try for success again. Not all states or countries have that mentality, but that’s one of the most important things, that mindset. And the fact that we have the capital.” Martin notes that North Texas’ tough, resilient entrepreneurial community is one that is poised and ready to invest. Martin and her investors recently launched Texas Women Venture Fund II, a new, larger fund guided by more than 90 tech and business experts who serve on the portfolio advisory team. With a focus on women-owned businesses looking to achieve that next level of success, Texas Women Ventures is continuing to thrive and build – especially in a time when North Texas is experiencing an entrepreneurial renaissance of sorts. “We’re seeing really good deal flow,” Martin explained, “and an uptick in entrepreneurial activity coming out of this prolonged recession. North Texas is primed and ready for take-off because we have a lot of jet fuel, a lot of capital ready, willing and available to help an entrepreneur start a new company or take an existing one to the next level.” Conscious Capitalism It’s not all about bleeding-edge technology, either, when it comes to successful business enterprises, Martin notes. For many, it’s about being innovative in the company’s established industry or with how the company itself is run. “We are interested in those companies that operate in a holistic view around their business, ones who care about their employees, their vendors and their customers,” she said. Texas Women Ventures in itself is a unique approach to investing: it is the first fund of its kind to be privately funded by individuals with the mission to invest in women-owned or women-led companies. Texas Women Ventures helps established businesses grow to that next level, with a host of success stories to its credit. “We were launched by a group of women who said we want to provide growth capital to women-owned or women-led businesses,” Martin explained. “As they grow their companies, they also become community leaders to help give that voice at the civic level. We pride ourselves in that the companies we invest in are good corporate citizens. When we invest in them, they grow their influence within their communities. The larger they get, the more they can be role models for entrepreneurship in a holistic fashion.” Variety of Innovation Innovation in North Texas takes many forms. Darlene Boudreaux with TECH Fort Worth points to several companies with which she has been involved as DFWborn-and-bred ideas that will change the world in private technology. “We work with any sort of proprietary technology and in a lot of different industries,” she noted. “We are seeing growth in the life sciences with new medical devices and drugs, but also energy technologies, new types of hydrogen cells, electric brakes for freight trains – it can be almost anything.” Graduates of the TECH Fort Worth program include ZS Pharma, based in Coppell, that has a new drug that removes toxins from the blood, and could 22