Scrappy startups contribute millions to local economy, thanks to Frisco's NTEC | Crain's Dallas

Scrappy startups contribute millions to local economy, thanks to Frisco's NTEC

Kevin Harris had a dream of creating a coding boot camp for aspiring app developers, something North Texas sorely lacks.

But he needed office space and training rooms that he could use as classrooms, and traditional office space was often too expensive and didn't have the flexible terms a startup often needs.   

Enter the North Texas Enterprise Center in Frisco, half tech accelerator and half incubator. Harris founded the Guild of Software Architects startup there in January and taught his first boot camp there last month with seven students.

“There’s no way I could have made it this far without help from NTEC,” Harris said. “They liked the concept of what I’m trying to do.”

The 50,000-square-foot NTEC is a modern-looking office building with marble finishes and floor-to-ceiling windows, a far cry from the exposed interior brick and duct work of the West End startup spaces. The offices are fully furnished with medical and tech labs and meeting spaces. The facility was built through a partnership with the city of Frisco and the Frisco Economic Development Corp. in 2008 near Eldorado Parkway and the North Dallas Tollway.

More than the physical space, it’s the collaboration, mentoring and other support that startups receive at NTEC that generates success for the companies.

“It’s a great place to be around a lot of smart people who help you in a lot of different ways,” said Christina Carlisle, director of programs for NTEC. “The people we deal with are a little past the idea stage. They generally have a little bit of money when we start working with them. Our sweet spot, typically, is the later stage.”

NTEC currently has 23 companies with about 150 employees working there. And while each company may only have a handful of people, these small but mighty startups contribute $117 million towards the local economy, according to a study by Collin College.

In the future, NTEC plans to launch a coworking space where startups who aren’t part of the accelerator program can rent space.

NTEC traces its roots back to 2002, when it primarily worked with companies who were developing new medical devices.

“That doesn’t generally happen as fast as other industries,” Carlisle said.

As the North Texas startup community started to boom, NTEC shifted its focus and started accepting other tech-related companies.

Casey Wehr launched his video-game news app, PVPLive, in April at NTEC. The culture of being around so many other entrepreneurs who are going through the same challenges has been a huge benefit, he said.

He also leans on the advisors that NTEC provides.

“That’s the real backbone of NTEC, not only the space, but you have an advisor,” Wehr said. “We can ask, does this make sense? How can we make this have a greater impact?”

Wehr has 10 offices for 20 employees plus freelancers at NTEC.

Valify, one of NTEC’s biggest success stories, just signed a lease in another office building a few blocks away.

CEO Chris Heckler said the company raised $2 million in June and has 20 employees.

“They did everything they could to help us get started,” Heckler said of the NTEC. “They really treat us more like family. That’s their whole job is to grow companies. They really want them to stay in Frisco after they leave NTEC.” 

September 13, 2016 - 11:34am