Denton recently awarded its first job-based Entrepreneurship Economic Development grants to two technology startup companies, which are projected to create almost 200 local jobs over the next 10 years, according to the Denton Economic Development Partnership.
City staff worked closely with representatives from the two Denton-founded companies to understand their expansion needs after they expressed a desire to stay local. Internet of Things (IoT) company, TeamOfDefenders, received $106,500 and is projected to create 54 jobs over the next decade. The virtual reality development studio From The Future was awarded $243,500 and anticipates creating 138 jobs over the next five years.
“Once we saw their potential for growth and desire to stay in Denton, we brainstormed how to creatively apply our existing Tax Abatement and Incentive Policy for these companies,” Director of Economic Development Jessica Rogers said. “This was the first time we used the policy in this manner. But it clearly met the established goals of providing support to tech-related businesses and entrepreneurs. It was a great team effort between the city and two wonderful tech companies working together.”
Rogers said the two grants are only the beginning of Denton’s support of tech-based businesses, startups and entrepreneurs. The city continues to focus on growing this sector of the local economy.
Both companies have experienced significant growth over the past couple of years and need to expand both their workforces and office spaces. A variety of criteria was used to identify the companies as eligible for the grants, including belonging to emerging fields, creating high-paying local jobs and substantially contributing to the local community, Mark Cieri, TeamofDefenders CEO and co-founder said.
TeamOfDefenders is an IoT platform that connects the physical world to the digital realm. Currently focused on real estate and property technology, the company uses electronic sensors to communicate with the cloud to detect physical assets and human activity. Motion, temperature, humidity, smoke and other physical phenomena data are used to provide insights to clients.
“We believe that local creativity shapes and comes out in our products,” Cieri said. “We just like the [Denton] area very much, it’s a great and vibrant area. We didn’t want to be consumers of the area we’re in, we want to be givers.”
TeamofDefenders has supplied over a dozen jobs to individuals affiliated with the university, including full-time positions to two undergraduates. The company also offers internships to current students. A member of TeamofDefenders sits on the advisory board for the department of computer science and engineering.
“We like being near UNT, TWU and NCTC,” Cieri said. “We want high-quality students that we can bring to grow our company.”
VR software company, From the Future, develops training, therapy and education programs for a variety of industries. This includes equipment and soft skills training, autism therapy and manufacturing. The company highlights the “freedom to fail” within its programs without suffering the real-world consequences, Vice President of Business Development Justin Mullin said.
From the Future is working directly with the university on VR development initiatives. It has also hired a number of university students, with one starting as an intern and currently working as a full-time producer. Other formerly employed students have gone on to work at high profile companies like Apple and Amazon.
“We’ve been really really pleased with the talent we’ve been able to cultivate from,” Mullin said. “We’ve been focused on trying to continue to cultivate the talent in the area by being part of the community.”
City Council member Paul Meltzer told the North Texas Daily that while Denton had low unemployment rates relative to the state before the COVID-19 pandemic, wage rates had not been high. TeamofDefenders and From the Future fit the mission of Denton by providing intellectually challenging, upper-level career paths to students for high salaries, Meltzer said.
“Both companies have and continue to focus on hiring locally and providing high-quality jobs for local graduates,” Rogers said. “One goal of supporting companies like these and keeping them here in Denton is that they create the type of jobs that recent graduates have to leave Denton for presently. By focusing on job creation here, we can help graduates from all our local education institutions stay in Denton by providing them quality opportunities at local, thriving businesses.”
Featured Image: The From the Future offices are located inside The Bank Building in Denton, Texas. Image by Quincy Palmer