Gabriella Draney Will Help You Pitch Your Business Idea Back Into the World

In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 30 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Stanton Stephens. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.

She makes it sound as obvious as retying a loose shoelace.

"I had a problem that I wanted to solve, so I've gone about trying to solve it," says Gabriella Draney, the founder of Tech Wildcatters. "People have found that they appreciate that."

Draney started her career hustling to make money as an entrepreneur, and to grow it as a wealth-management pro. Then, a few years back, she had an idea for a start-up gaming company. She quickly found that the necessary resources were present but frustratingly disparate in Dallas, where the tech scene never fully recovered from the dot-com bubble burst and potential financiers are often unfamiliar with the jeans-and-flip-flops ethos of tech startups.

"All the pieces were here," she says. "Somebody just needed to help pull them all together."

So Draney, a year out of SMU's business school, shelved her own start-up idea to launch a business to help others in her position. In 2009, Tech Wildcatters was born. The company provides fledgling businesses with $25,000 in seed money in exchange for 6 percent of the equity. It's what comes with that investment that entices entrepreneurs, though: a 12-week mentorship program designed to catapult their business development, product development and funding.

A post-program success story goes like this: A company finds marketplace success; it makes a sizable profit when another company purchases it; the founders begin another project and act as mentors for newer companies coming through Tech Wildcatters. It's a cyclical network of like-minded entrepreneurs.

It's intensive, Draney says, "like drinking through a firehose for three months." For the most recent class of start-ups, Draney's company chose 11 teams from 400 applications.

The mentorship program culminates with a Pitch Day, when investors gather at the Granada Theater to see if there's anything worth opening their wallets for. Draney, the mom of a teenage son and an active kite boarder and paddle boarder, might seem like a prime candidate to bolt for the shores of the San Francisco Bay. But she likes operating outside that noisy tech bubble and appreciates the seriousness with which Dallas takes its business, and its money.

Plus: It's working. Tech Wildcatters was recently named one of Forbes' hottest incubators, and Draney has transitioned from the stress of getting her business off the ground to "almost a crisis of opportunities," she says. "It's the problem that we hope every start-up gets to."

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