Meet 6 Investors Fueling the North Texas Startup Boom
From Dallas Innovates
LINK: Dallas Innovates
Clockwise from left: North Texas investors Clarence Bethea, Kat Weaver, Michael Moe, Pialy Aditya, Clarence Bethea, and Allison Ball.
BY SANDRA ENGELLAND • MAR 22, 2023
North Texas has emerged as a prominent hub for innovation and entrepreneurship, drawing a diverse group of investors who now call the region home. Among them are these six relatively new North Texans, comprising seasoned venture capitalists and up-and-coming angels, who bring expertise and capital to the region. Their backgrounds span venture capital, entrepreneurship, and technology, and they’re focused on investing in dynamic growth companies and diverse founders with innovative solutions in emerging technologies such as AI/ML and fintech.
The presence of these investors reflects North Texas’ growing reputation as a leading destination for innovation, entrepreneurship, and investment, say local investment leaders. Eager to take “big swings” and make an impact with their investment dollars, they’re contributing to the development of a thriving startup ecosystem—and paving the way for the next generation of successful startups and founders.
Meet the investors
Founder and CEO, GSV Holdings
Moe, the mastermind behind GSV Holdings (GSV), a growth-focused investment platform based in Silicon Valley, has a remarkable track record of picking out “the Stars of Tomorrow”. GSV has a portfolio of some of the most successful companies in the digital era, including Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Snap, Lyft, and Spotify, to name a few.
GSV invests in “dynamic growth companies” with a special focus on digital learning companies, according to Moe. The investor’s passion for education is evident in the creation of GSV University and GSV MBA, an accredited graduate program for entrepreneurs. He’s also authored three books, including “Finding the Next Starbucks,” “The Global Silicon Valley Handbook,” and his latest release, “The Mission Corporation …Contemporary Capitalism.”
After living in Silicon Valley for 25 years, Moe moved to Dallas, “because it feels like the future—much like Silicon Valley did when we first moved there.” He cites the city’s central location as an innovation hub, the vibrant culture, and the “can-do” attitude of the people as some of the reasons for his move.
Founder/Managing Partner, Growth Warrior Capital
Phelon describes herself as an “underdog—part of the 2% in Silicon Valley.” The serial entrepreneur has raised more than $100 million and transformed, bought, and exited companies. Phelon, a successful woman of color in technology and the Valley, brought “pioneering tech to influencer marketing, human capital management, and web infrastructure,”
Today Phelon aims to be a “champion of underdogs.” Her company, Growth Warrior Capital, focuses on diverse and female founders at Seed and Series A stages, while building equitable solutions in AI/ML, fintech, and the future of work.
“I actively invest in, build and buy promising SaaS companies including one startup in our portfolio which is experiencing triple digit revenue growth and has increased in valuation 10X in the last 18 months,” the investor said on Linkedin. Her company portfolio includes Forcemetrics, which aims to improve law enforcement and community interactions using data-driven insights.
The former Silicon Valley resident recently returned to Dallas, where she double majored in business and religion at SMU.
CEO, Power To Pitch
Weaver understands, first hand, “how daunting and overwhelming building and scaling a business can be.”
Last year, Weaver successfully sold and exited Locker Lifestyle, which offers wearable workout accessories where you can stash valuables. Despite obstacles, including a devastating fire, Weaver scaled the company, landed national media attention, and appeared on Good Morning America. After what she describes as a rollercoaster acquisition that included four failed attempts to find the right buyer, Weaver landed a six-figure sum in March 2022.
Throughout the journey, Weaver learned to tell her story and make her passion contagious, resulting in winning 22 pitch competitions and securing six figures of capital to scale her business along the way. Her story-telling success led to a viral video on FedEx’s top pitch tips, and founders began seeking her out for coaching.
Now Weaver is on a mission to help pre-seed to seed founders get funded faster through support and resources. The entrepreneur founded her second company, Power to Pitch, to help founders create a winning pitch script, develop a personalized pitch deck, and get directly matched to investors in their industry.
“When it comes to raising capital, you have to start with your story,” says Weaver, who has helped hundreds of founders do just that to drive results and get funded faster. She emphasizes that investors are buy into the founder first, before caring about the idea, product, or service
Weaver also is a NextGen Advisory Board Member for WBENC to help young women entrepreneurs. The investor moved to North Texas from the Chicago area.
Chief Strategy Officer, Republic
Aditya, an innovation-driven exec with years of early-stage investment experience and an angel investor, is CSO at Republic, an investing platform comprised of global private companies, which are seed and stage agnostic.
Republic’s private capital division operates select funds in areas like deep tech, fintech, climate tech, and blockchain technologies. Realm Metaverse Real Estate, Aptera Motors, and NeXtGen Biologics are a few examples of investment opportunities with Republic. The platform now invests in alternative asset classes, such as art, wine, and whiskey.
With a passion for sharing her knowledge of the tech industry, Aditya frequently appears as a keynote speaker. Recently, she’s spoken on topics such as Web 3.0 at Harvard and delivered a presentation on tech and entrepreneurship to a worldwide audience in Bahrain for Manama Entrepreneurship Week.
Aditya and her husband, artist JM Rizzi, moved to Dallas in 2020.
Angel Investor and Venture Scout, True Ventures
Seven years ago, Bethea founded Upsie, an insurtech venture, to tackle the issue of predatory warranties with exorbitant markups. These warranties often go unnoticed by customers during checkout and can cost up to 900% more, as Bethea explained in a 2021 Techcrunch interview. By prioritizing the end-user over retailers, Bethea streamlined the process to make it transparent, affordable, and accessible. According to the consumer warranty startup, Upsie saves its customers anywhere from 50% to 90% when compared to competitor warranty plans.
Bethea’s commitment to people hasn’t wavered.
He’s now an angel investor with True Ventures, where the emphasis is on supporting founders as individuals first, and business leaders second. True Ventures is a Silicon Valley-based VC firm that specializes in seed-stage investments in early-stage tech startups, with a focus on companies that aim to make a positive impact on the world.
Bethea says, “We seek out founders who aspire to change the world.”
True Ventures’ culture emphasizes open and honest interactions, enabling founders to feel supported and empowered to be maximally creative. In addition to providing financial capital, True Ventures offers a significant amount of human capital, including guidance and mentorship, to help founders bring their vision to life. The firm’s past successful investments include ventures like Peloton, Fitbit, and Ring.
Bethea and his family moved to Dallas in August 2021 from Minnesota because of North Texas’ diversity.
Partner, Hanover Technology Investment Management
“Pick your investors wisely,” says Ball. “Think about whether these are the people that you’ll want when you have to make really hard decisions.”
Ball supports tech entrepreneurs at Hanover, helping them maximize customer impact and achieve ambitious growth goals. The California-based venture capital firm focuses on pre-seed to Series A investments in areas like cloud computing, SaaS, cybersecurity, and energy transition.
The firm, which also focuses on enterprise sales and marketing, mortgage origination, payroll, software development, energy, and advertising sectors, has a portfolio that includes supply chain platform Kargo and Flatfile, a cloud data services company.
Ball, an Austin native who got her start at Goldman Sachs and led multiple teams at Facebook (now Meta), recently moved to Dallas after living in the San Francisco Bay area.
Last year, in a venture capital panel at Venture Dallas, Ball explained that Dallas is an important place to develop sales pipelines and market products, with a collaborative spirit that sets it apart from other tech hubs like the Bay Area, Boston, and New York.
According to Ball, the collaborative environment in Dallas encourages entrepreneurs to come together and build companies, especially in the early stages. ‘The market is not so concentrated and crazy that you have to be quite as competitive [here],” she said. “We really need to use that to our advantage.”