Digital Dallas interviewed James Garner, recent President-Elect of TeXchange (Technology Entrepreneur Exchange), a premier networking organization in Texas that was created to promote the entrepreneurial environment in Texas and help develop the next generation of executives for technology and life sciences companies. Find out how TeXchange helps technology entrepreneurs establish and grow their businesses.
Digital Dallas: Could you introduce yourself to our audience?
James: I was born and raised here in Dallas and I love this city – it has such a great personality, a great feeling about it. It has a tremendous amount to offer. I attended Jesuit College Preparatory school before heading down to the University of Texas at Austin. I moved back here in 2001 after completing my Masters degree and began working for a Big-4 accounting firm at that time. However, I realized how much I enjoyed working with owner-operated businesses, so I left the Big-4 world in 2011 and began focusing on start-up mid-market businesses.
Now, I work for Wagner, Eubank & Nichols, L.L.P. and have focused much of my career on working with technology companies. I find that owners of these types of business exhibit such a passion and excitement for what they do. I feel I’m able to help them personally and professionally with their business so much more because all of their issues are so personal to them.
"When I think about what makes a person successful in their career – in their life – I realize that the most important characteristics are passion and authenticity.People who are passionate about what they do are driven by strong intrinsic/internal motivators, rather than by extrinsic/external motivators. This means that when things start to get tough, an external motivator may no longer provide enough motivation to push through the pain. External accolades and rewards are not near as powerful as a genuine belief in a higher purpose. This same sense of 'passion and purpose' is what motivates me in my life."
In business, this means better relationships with your employees, colleagues and bosses. It also means better relationships with your suppliers and customers. It makes you stand out from your competitors. I see these traits very strongly in the majority of entrepreneurs that I meet with. It is what makes them special and successful.
Digital Dallas: You recently became President of TeXchange. How did you get involved?
James: TeXchange is a premier networking organization in Texas for business executives and entrepreneurs to meet, exchange ideas and share experiences. We have two chapters: Dallas and Austin. Our mission is to promote the entrepreneurial environment and help develop the next generation of executives for technology and life sciences companies. Both the Austin Chapter and DFW Chapter of TeXchange hold dinner events monthly. Events are centered around a keynote presentation, followed by open table discussions and Q&A. Monthly events are focused on current business topics and led by industry thought leaders.
I got involved with TeXchange in 2011 while I was working at a different company. From the start, I was impressed with the leadership of the organization and with the engagement of the members. Everyone seemed to be there for the right reasons and the board always seemed to embody the concept of servant leadership. As I learned more about the group, I found that I intrinsically wanted to do more. I was just always willing to help – no matter how big or how small the task was. The board noticed and appreciated this commitment to the organization that they care so passionately about, and that, in large part, is how I got where I am now. I feel very privileged.
TeXchange focuses specifically on entrepreneurs in the technology environment. Where other organizations may focus on all things digital, regardless of size or who you are, or another organization may focus on all things entrepreneurial regardless of industry, we’re addressing a very specific aspect where those two points merge.
A lot of these entrepreneurs are incredibly gifted in their technology and their ideas, but either don’t have the time or the ability or the education to structure their business most effectively, or forecast most efficiently, or market their company to get the visibility and funding they need.
What TeXchange does is provide seminars and knowledge-sharing presentations that touch on each of those facets. We have a very healthy and active investor member base in our membership, and they are at every event ready to talk to people, and give them insight and guidance on structuring and approaching investors. We are trying to provide the entire infrastructure and education to help entrepreneurs achieve what they’re dreaming.
"TeXchange focuses specifically on entrepreneurs in the technology environment. Where other organizations may focus on all things digital, regardless of size or who you are, or another organization may focus on all things entrepreneurial regardless of industry, we’re addressing a very specific aspect where those two points merge."
Digital Dallas: What sets Dallas’ chapter apart?
James: We have unique and impactful events. We have a breakfast seminar series hosted by our sponsors. Every few months, 1 or 2 of our sponsors in tandem will give a seminar in the morning about some business topic that sponsor is an expert on, and also has direct relevance to a technology firm. That might be something from an accounting perspective, or a legal perspective. It sometimes focuses on the “un-glamourous” side of staring a business.
We run a very popular and successful “member showcase” event, which allows members to present their company (in a trade-show type setting) to potential customers and investors. There’s also a “One to Watch” award, which highlights member companies that our investors and other members feel are on the path to achieving something special.
The question asks what sets us apart – but another aspect I would like to mention is something else that makes us successful: and that is the strength of the Dallas technology community. There is a strong sense of camaraderie among technology entrepreneurs and a strong sense of giving back to your community. We are fortunate to be a part of that community and our leadership has always embraced that mindset. We partner with other area organizations that focus on entrepreneurs or technology, and the collective result provides incredible benefit for our members and the members of these partnering organizations.
Digital Dallas: Why is having a community centered on technology entrepreneurs so important?
James: This is an incredibly important industry in Dallas, but I realize that there are still a lot of people – in Dallas and out of Dallas – who don’t yet know how vibrant and impactful it is (and will be) to our city. I am constantly amazed at the ideas that our member companies are working on. The technology entrepreneurs are truly the people who will change the way the rest of us live our lives. So when you look at it like that – as well as the jobs that will be created through these kinds of companies – our city absolutely must embrace and cultivate this environment. But it takes organizations like TeXchange – and all of the other incredible tech/entrepreneur organizations that are thriving in Dallas – to help put the Dallas tech community on the map.
Digital Dallas: Are there any particular events/ initiatives you’re especially looking forward to?
James: One of the main events we started 2 years ago that has really taken off is our Member Showcase. It’s an event where we give members the opportunity to set up a booth in a “trade-show” type format that allows them to advocate their product. You do have to be a member to showcase your company, but the event is open to everybody. We actively and aggressively market the event to make sure the right crowd is cycling through there.
It gives companies the chance to show prospective customers who they are, show potential investors why they should get involved, meet marketers, and establish relationships. This is an event that our members love, and that our organization is especially proud of. The next showcase is in the Fall.
Coming up more quickly, we have a program called the One to Watch Award, which is going to be in its 3rd year. The past 2 years it’s been promoted and sponsored by accounting firm Travis Wolff. This award is wonderful because the members vote on other members who they feel are onto something special. A big part of the criteria is based on potential. It has nothing to do with proven revenue, or proven profit. It’s, “Who do we think we need to keep our eye on who’s doing something special?” The members take the first pass at narrowing down the field, and that group of finalists gets to have a mini-pitch day with all of the investor members.
One benefit is that finalists get meaningful face time with the people who they want to be in front of the most – the companies who have the money to invest in companies like theirs.
To learn more about TeXchange, their upcoming events, and how you can get involved, visit www.texchange.org