The State of Entrepreneurship in Fort Worth is Strong

I had the opportunity this year to deliver the 5th annual State of Entrepreneurship Address at the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) luncheon event sponsored by HSC Next and FortWorth,Inc and it was an honor to highlight all the great work that was accomplished by local innovators, entrepreneurs, startups and ecosystem builders in the past year.

I have highlighted a few of my key talking points below, but you can also watch the full event, recorded by the FWISD students in the Broadcast Journalism/Media Technology program at Southwest High School here. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram did a nice recap of the event and Fort Worth Report wrote a feature about the keynote speaker of the event, Victor Hwang, here. Highly recommended.

With GEW back for a 5th year with an entirely new volunteer organizing team, we continue to show that our ecosystem cares about entrepreneurship and celebrating founders and their companies.


  • Just this month, the Tech Tribune put out their 2023 Best Tech Startups in Fort Worth list with household names, seriously let’s make these household names, Linear Labs, TimelyMD, Digital Seat Media, Sinclair Digital, Neuro Rehab VR, PumpJack Dataworks, and Revitalize Charging Solutions. Get to know these companies.
  • On this year’s Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing companies in America, many local companies made the list. TimelyMD ranked #116 and making Inc. Best Workplaces and continues to rake in the awards and recognitions as an excellent place to work. Others making the Inc. 5000 include PlayMakar, Eosera for the second year in a row, and Student Success Agency who has bootstrapped their growth, just to name a few.
  • The growing conversation on the VC model vs. bootstrapping is an important one to tune into for high-growth companies. Many local companies raised significant financing rounds. Sanara MedTech post-IPO raises and’s private equity raise in 2021 stand out plus many angel rounds for startups throughout the city.
  • Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants from 11 different Federal agencies will be a focus for our region in the coming years. We saw awards from the Army and Air Force to two Fort Worth companies. Be on the lookout for an exciting announcement from Tarrant County and HSC Next soon on strategies to increase applications, and, hopefully, awards.
  • Sparkyard’s Fall 2022 Jobs Report was recently released – New firms in Tarrant County created almost 25,000 jobs in 2020 – resilience, perseverance, determination – no matter the challenge entrepreneurs will find a path to create.
  • 2022 has not been any easier than the one before. Many founders have said goodbye to their companies in the past year and deserve our celebration as much as those making headline news.
  • Lean into the support of our community because they will always be entrepreneurs. We just can’t help but start new things. With a recession on the horizon, opportunities will be presenting themselves left and right. Historically, entrepreneurship has increased during recessions so a more connected and robust community of support from mentors, investors, support organizations, universities, service providers, and the media and storytellers will help us take our ecosystem to the next level. Become a customer of the small businesses in your community.
Darlisa Diltz, Instigator of the Year Awardee
Jennifer McDonald, Speaker from Institute for Justice
Victor Hwang, Keynote Speaker from Right to Start


  • Speaking of storytelling, this year saw a bump in storytelling about local innovators and entrepreneurs, particularly through podcasts and a little TV show called Self Employed on the Magnolia Network. Jonathan Morris continues to be a powerful voice of entrepreneurship and growing each day as a role model. Check out Season 1 and especially episode 18 ‘Serving Smiles’ with Kari and Melt Ice Creams.
  • A new podcast called Stories with Soul from Jamey Ice and the team at 6th Avenue Storytelling features incredible local entrepreneurs from restaurateurs to artists to musicians, brewers and more.
  • Cortney Gumbleton, who gave life to Locavore and sparked new support for food entrepreneurs debuted The FoundHers Club Podcast, a show that has out of the gate featured incredible women founders from Fort Worth and from around the state.
  • The Innovate Fort Worth, podcast has now released over 80 episodes, all telling stories of innovation in our city. Find a favorite and shared with a friend.
  • Seek out and find the storytellers to get to know the people behind the brands and companies that make up the fabric of this city.


  • We saw the launch of the world’s first physical health accelerator program, right here in Fort Worth. Under the leadership of Managing Director Trey Bowles, 10 companies from all over the world descended on Fort Worth in September for the first Techstars accelerator in Fort Worth. Mark your calendars and grab your ticket for December 6, when they will have their Demo Day where all 10 companies will pitch at the end of their program. You won’t want to miss it!
  • Cowtown Angels had another great year reaching 10-years in operations with a growing number of eyes from across the country looking at Fort Worth for capital.
  • TCU launched the Horned Frog Investor Network to bring more capital into our ecosystem.
HSC Next, SOE Host and Sponsor
FortWorth.Inc, Sponsor of Investigator of the Year Award


  • TCU has continued to invest into internships and experiential learning for students looking to get involved in entrepreneurship firsthand, while simultaneously climbing in the national rankings.
  • This year saw several new entrants into our community. First, we saw the expansion of the vision for the Texas A&M Law School and Aggieland North. First announced during Global Entrepreneurship Week 2021, we now know so much more about what Texas A&M will be building on the southwest side of downtown. The excitement continues to grow about having a much larger presence for A&M in Fort Worth under the leadership of Chancellor Sharp and Dean Ahdieh.
  • Neighbors to A&M’s Law School, UT Arlington made news with the launch of their Center for Entrepreneurship & Economic Innovation and their continual investment into student founders with $185k awarded this summer to students in the MavPitch Competition.
  • On the research side, we saw several large grants be awarded to local researchers, including a $148M grant to study how Alzheimer’s Disease in people of different ethnicities to Dr. Sid O’Bryant at UNTHSC. This is the largest grant at HSC, Fort Worth and Tarrant County, breaking his own record from 2020. And, keep an eye out for some exciting news from the company that is commercializing Dr. O’Bryant’s technology, Cx Precision Medicine, in the first half of 2023. It will be huge news!

Support programs

  • The City of Fort Worth launched CDFI Friendly Fort Worth to increase fair and patient lending for Fort Worth’s minority-owned businesses, affordable homeownership, rental housing, and commercial real estate.
  • City of Fort Worth’s econ dev shop ranks 2nd in North Texas for economic deal value — $569M in 2021.
  • The City of Fort Worth is mining Bitcoin and recently approved the extension of the pilot project, illustrating that the captains of our city truly embrace innovation and risk-taking, which are hallmarks of entrepreneurship
  • At TechFW, this year we supported 50+ founders in our startup support programs. Everything from biotech and medical devices to mobility and agriculture and everything in-between.

I love this ever-evolving city and we, as the entrepreneur community, need to be open and honest about our gaps and our weaknesses and to never stop continually improving to support the risk takers. We are in the long game. Planting seeds today that will bear fruit in the future, so let’s get better nutrients, talent, capital, and everything else, that entrepreneurs need to grow today and tomorrow.


  • Our community hosted the Startup Champions Network Summit about a month ago. This organization selected Fort Worth to host its fall gathering of entrepreneurial ecosystem builders from around the country and Canada.
  • At TechFW we were stoked to bring our Impact Showcase & Awards back so thank you to everyone who came out and celebrated with 30+ tech startups at Globe Life Field. The Showcase will be back in Fall 2023!
  • Shared values drive a community, and the culture is born from the actions within that community. I wanted to give a special shoutout to Elyse Dickerson for bringing to life the new EmpowHERment Pitch Competition for female founders in the state of Texas. Eosera won a pitch competition early in their venture and have now recreated the opportunity for others with support from Simmons Bank, Satori Capital, TechFW and BioLabs at Pegasus Park.
  • Sparkyard continues to break new ground, expanding this resource for entrepreneurs to connect to the right resources at the right time in their development. This partnership between HSC Next, the City of Fort Worth and TCU has translated the site into Spanish and Vietnamese, the top two languages spoken in Tarrant County, after English. And, look for a new ecosystem dashboard that will show new data on the health of our entrepreneurial community, including a first-of-its-kind metric on topophilia or “the love of place.”

I love this ever-evolving city and we, as the entrepreneur community, need to be open and honest about our gaps and our weaknesses and to never stop continually improving to support the risk takers. We are in the long game. Planting seeds today that will bear fruit in the future, so let’s get better nutrients, talent, capital, and everything else, that entrepreneurs need to grow today and tomorrow.

All photos courtesy of Devan Peplow

About the Author

Hayden Blackburnhas centered his career around social entrepreneurship and economic development. Most of us imagine a dream job; as Executive Director of TechFW and Director of Cowtown Angels, Hayden is in his. He is passionate about helping people realize their dreams and creating a positive impact in the world. Hayden coaches entrepreneurs commercializing innovative technologies, facilitates connections between entrepreneurs and angel investors, partners with universities to commercialize technologies, and is a leader in the development of an entrepreneurial culture and mindset across the DFW region. He has helped organized multiple community staples for entrepreneurs, including Startup Weekend and 1 Million Cups Fort Worth. Hayden serves on the boards of organizations working in economic development and education, including Near Southside Inc. and the Fort Worth Public Library Foundation.

Before joining TechFW, Hayden was the creator and founding Director of IDEA Works FW, a mixed-industry incubator that was formed in 2013 as a public-private partnership to fill a gap in the Fort Worth entrepreneurial ecosystem. Before that, he was involved in launching Stages of Recovery in Lubbock, TX, a sober living program and community that supports those in recovery from addiction to alcohol, drugs and other related behaviors.

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