North Texas Daily

Area entrepreneurs talk local business at startup panel

Area entrepreneurs talk local business at startup panel

Oaktopia 2015 Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

Area entrepreneurs talk local business at startup panel
September 29
12:17 2015

Matt Payne | Senior Staff Writer

Entrepreneurs with promising technology startups frequently seek to establish footholds in marquee cities of the United States, where talent in technological innovation is rife and reputations go unquestioned.

But this was not the case among the host of technology entrepreneurship at Oaktopia’s panel “Denton Tech City: Denton’s Thriving Tech Start-Up Environment and its Future” on Saturday afternoon. With company founders specializing in software development, new technology investment and client assistance, all had specific reasons for starting a business in Denton.

Market size

CEO and co-founder of Epic Playground Inc. Michael Sitarzewski expressed how having realistic goals for profit and growth is critical for any fledgling company.

“One has to consider how much capital their company initially needs, and how cheaply they can attain it,” Sitarzewski said. “A benefit of keeping your company small for a while is avoiding a lottery of competition that you’d find in Dallas.”

Sitarzewski made it apparent that this specifically holds true for tech start-ups. With Epic Playground’s specialization in offline marketing for contracted partners, what has been responsible for Epic Playground’s growth over the years has been what Sitarzewski refers to as a “safety for failure.”

“If you start in a small market, and a business practice doesn’t produce a desired result, typically, you’d want to relocate to another location,” he said. “With Denton, the community of small businesses with the same goal of growth helps everybody.”

He said Denton has provided businesses with a welcoming atmosphere. He elaborated that the concentrated community is more prone to seize onto a blue-collar-made product fresh out of a garage compared to anything studio-made.

Establishing consumership

Marshall Culpepper is the CEO and co-founder of Kubos, a start-up focused on creating a software platform for the emerging commercial space industry. He expressed his disdain for voracious profit collection.

“You’re taught in business school that if you see money on the table, you swipe it up,” Culpepper said. “We find this practice abhorrent.”

Culpepper said a fundamental necessity for Kubos is the requirement for a spacecraft in order to demo prototype software and to specifically tailor code to accommodate outer-space systems properly. His method is not to hastily collect money through lenders or invest too heavily, but to prove through example that his platform is worthy.

“In order to prove what you offer has a real benefit to society, you get consumers to buy into what you’re testing,” he said. “It’s really quite simple.”

Accommodating the community’s demographic.

Denton is bursting with students from UNT, TWU and NCTC who are interested in computer science and various engineering vocations.

Cindy Tysinger is the CEO of GSATi, Inc., a certified Women-Owned Business specializing in helping clients with technical design (website hosting, application development and media) and marketing. Tysinger said GSATi deliberately hires interns from the several schools around Denton to close the experience gap between fledgling students and seasoned talents already in the field.

“We keep the talent local, and although many of our interns are not fully skilled to the level of proficiency we’d prefer to be, it’s important to invest in the parts of the community exhibiting dedication,” Tysinger said.

The employment method implemented by GSATi is meant to manifest an entry into the modern technology market. By adhering to the locally-oriented internship selection, the company hopes to attract talent to the metroplex. GSATi has employed interns from Mexico, China and Nigeria through their efforts in expansion.

“The goal is to modernize the market on a global scale,” Tysinger said. “We’ve learned that many schools still teach Flash as a fundamental coding necessity, and we’re aiming at fixing that.”

Attention to diversity

Culpepper had a non-traditional entrance into the field of modern technology. He never attended college and is a self-taught coder in many computer languages.

“Here we find ourselves speaking at the venue of Oaktopia, where several incredible musicians, artists and small businesses all collaborate for a great purpose,” he said. “I think it’s important to invest in this talent.”

Every panelist focused on accommodating the community’s diverse and progressive characteristics. Economic development program administrator Julie Glover commented specifically on the upcoming development of a 9,000 sq. ft. technology facility to be located by the rail yards off South Bell Avenue.

“We want to facilitate the growth of the tech community by creating a space for local events, organized ‘hacks’ and resources,” she said. “It’s efforts like this that will make the tech community grow and become dense in Denton.”

Culpepper held similar views. He said accommodating the city’s diversity and interests are critical to a company’s integration in any given region, especially for attracting a younger generation into the field of modern technology.

“Be it Minecraft clubs or ReadyRosie, whatever gets students interested in learning,” Culpepper said. “Creativity needs to be the base kernel for support and adoption, and in a city abounding with exactly that brand of talent, Denton is extremely valuable.”

Featured Image: Three panels were hosted at this year’s Oaktopia festival at the Greater Denton Arts Council. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

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