SCN Series: Fostering What’s Next in Fort Worth Highlights

The Startup Champions Network (SCN) Fall Summit is happening in Fort Worth this October. Ashley Ray, the Social Media and Communications lead at SCN, has been shining a light on the University of North Texas Health Science Center team hosting this event in Fort Worth. Here are some highlights of Cameron Cushman, the Assistant VP of Innovation Ecosystems at HSC Next. 

Cameron is on our Summit Host team and is working side by side with fellow committee members Marco Johnson and Kendel Rogers to create a unique, Fort Worth experience for attendees. Cameron is a movement maker, who started on the path to ecosystem building while working in the George W. Bush administration in partnership with the Kauffman Foundation on the “Program for Entrepreneurial Growth.” The program supported entrepreneurs in Brazil, Russia, India, and China with mentorship and resources. After working side by side with Tom Ruhe at Kauffman, he was offered a job there to be the Chief of Staff to the President and CEO at the time, Carl Schramm. Cameron was considering graduate school, but when Schramm assured him that he would learn way more at the Kauffman Foundation than he would in grad school, he was all in.   

“He was absolutely right,” says Cameron. 

The work Cameron did in his five years at the Kauffman Foundation really solidified his passion for entrepreneurial ecosystem building – a term that had not yet been coined. You know that popular entrepreneurship event we all know and love called 1 Million Cups? Cameron started that in 2012.  

“1 Million Cups was built on this idea that if you don’t know who the entrepreneurs are in your local community, then you can’t help them. And so all we did was just invite two entrepreneurs into the Kauffman Foundation to share their stories with whoever showed up that day. We gave them coffee and it turned into a thing,” says Cameron. 

Starting a Movement in Fort Worth

In 2013, Cameron moved back to his hometown of Fort Worth eager to grow an entrepreneurial ecosystem there.  

“When I got to Fort Worth, I just kept saying ‘I want to build Fort Worth.’ I wanted to bring some of the things I was doing in Kansas City to Fort Worth. People looked at me like I was crazy. They had no idea what I was talking about. They had no idea why we needed this and they would literally say things to me like, ‘I don’t think Fort Worth needs that.’ And I’d say, yes, it does. Every community needs this,” Cameron says. 

After trying to start a business and then spending three years as a volunteer ecosystem builder, Cameron landed a gig at the University of North Texas Health Science Center 

“UNTHSCs President was passionate about supporting entrepreneurship in Fort Worth because he knew the value it brought to the local economy. He saw that the city of Fort Worth wasn’t doing as good of a job as he thought it should be. And I don’t mean the government necessarily. I just mean everybody in the city that includes nonprofits, ESOs, others. He thought we could bolster those efforts,” explains Cameron. 

And so, with the help of many others, HSC Next was born.    

Supporting what’s next in Fort Worth

HSC Next supports two types of innovators: early-stage biotech companies and citizens who have ideas for solving problems in the health sciences field. HSC believes that everyone can be an innovator, not just researchers or clinicians.   

Through the Innovation Challenges, Fort Worth citizens can either help solve a current challenge in the world of health science or submit their idea to solve a challenge they see in the field. The program offers feedback and coaching and then a chance to enter a pitch competition.  

For innovators in the field, they offer Innovation Labs, which seek to eliminate barriers for growing biotech companies by providing lab access, as well as office and admin support. 

HSC Next was branded as such from the idea that they are trying to create “what’s next” for their ecosystem.   

Uncovering Innovation in Fort Worth

Spreading the word about entrepreneurs in your ecosystem through storytelling is powerful. But so is uncovering the metrics and health of your ecosystem. Cameron and his team went through SCN’s Ecosystem Health Challenge last year and had quite a few aha moments.   

One of the biggest aha moments for Cameron was learning about what Tom called “cool jobs” and location quotients. “Figuring out your location quotient shows where you have a concentration of certain kinds of jobs. And that tells you where you have a concentration of expertise, of labor, and of companies that are hiring that kind of person. And so the thesis here, if you extrapolated it out, is to identify the kind of startup ecosystem you need to build because those people are already there,” explains Cameron. 

Going through that activity uncovered a field new to them: computer system design. 

Making a Movement: The Fort Worth Summit

The Fort Worth Summit will be hosted in the Stockyards – which was the first center of commerce in the city. Cameron is excited to show the rich cultural history of Fort Worth while also showcasing its innovation ecosystem.   

I really want folks to think about the theme that we’ve chosen: Making a Movement and how entrepreneurial community building is still at the beginning stages of a movement. Nobody knows what it is. Nobody knows how to do it. How do we make it more of a movement? We’re going to highlight two things in particular: The 10-year anniversary of 1 Million Cups and how that event turned into a movement; and, with the help of the ‘Grandmother of Juneteenth,’ how that became a movement that was finally declared a National holiday this year.” 

You can check out the whole write up here or learn more about SCN here. 

About the Author

Ashley Ray is the Social Media/Communications lead at Startup Champions Network where she loves sharing stories and successes from their amazing ecosystem building members.

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