International Entrepreneurs Make Dallas Connections | KERA News

International Entrepreneurs Make Dallas Connections

Mar 19, 2014

A group of female entrepreneurs from two dozen countries across the world visited Dallas this week. As part of the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership program, the women got a chance to meet with North Texas entrepreneurs.

Mrs. Sara Gezhay, Ms. Patience Barandenge, Ms. Claire Robertson, Mrs. Haydee Moreno Serna…

You may not know these names now. But there’s a good chance you will.

These women, selected to participate in the State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Program, are emerging leaders from across the globe. In the 70 years of the State Department’s program, 300 of the alumni have gone on to become heads of state.

“The program is very selective,” says Lissette Handal, “We get to have them in north Texas and we need to take advantage of that.”

Handal is chair of the Global Women’s Initiative at the North Texas Center for International Visitors. Highlighting the number of corporate headquarters and foundations in Dallas, Handal successfully lobbied to have Dallas be one of the cities in their three week-trip to the U.S.

Lissette Handal is chair of the Global Women's Initiative and the North Texas Council for International Visitors.
Credit Lauren Silverman / KERA News

“I think there’s a big disconnect between Washington and Dallas,” Handal says. “I believe Washington is doing great things internationally, and they really don’t know the great resources we have in Dallas.”

Her hope is to make the Global Women’s Initiative the platform for connecting Dallas to Washington D.C., to abroad.

Tech and Tea

After visiting Dallas startup accelerator Tech Wildcatters, the Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, and having lunch with the Dallas Petroleum Club, the international visitors connect with local entrepreneurs over tea at the Fairmont hotel in downtown Dallas.

Sitting at one of the tables is Ecem Baran, from Turkey.

Baran’s tech company, Alictus, turns smartphones into motion sensing controllers for games.

“It’s a great network opportunity to be here,” Baran says. “It can open other doors for us.”

At the table with Baran is Anne Lacey Holmes, co-founder of a Dallas tech company called iPal. It’s a wearable computing device that broadcasts what your eyes see and allows you to capture the moment with the wink of an eye. Holmes says the two could collaborate on future games.

“Imagine iPal could be the hardware to play the game,” Holmes says, “To play the app with just the movement of your eye versus waving your hands.”

A Sweet Business Opportunity

Haydee Moreno Serna, from Mexico, works with Mexican investing fund Plainigrupo. She also has two dulcerias, or candy stores.

Seeing the startup accelerators and incubators in Texas she says, has opened up the possibility of her expanding her business to the U.S.

Baran, from Turkey, says Dallas still has the reputation of being better for big corporations than fledgling companies. But she says, hearing from female entrepreneurs about overcoming challenges in Dallas, is something she can relate to.

Ecem Baran (right) is co-founder of Alictus, a tech startup based in Turkey. Anne Lacey Holmes is founder of Dallas-based iPal, a wearable computer device.
Credit Lauren Silverman / KERA News

“Because it is also for me difficult for me to do these things in Turkey,” she says. “But we are trying our best to reach the opportunities.”

Although the internet makes connecting to companies across the world easier, Baran says there’s something special about face-to-face.

The Global Women’s Initiative hopes to make these personal connections part of Dallas custom.