Sky Noir Photography by Bill Dickinson/Getty Images

Fort Worth folks know that sometimes — okay, many times — it feels like they're living in the shadow of Dallas. Well, a new ranking of the best U.S. cities for startups flips the script by putting Dallas in Fort Worth’s shadow.

In the ranking, produced by commercial real estate platform CommercialCafé, Fort Worth appears at No. 12 among the country’s 20 best cities for startups. The city is three notches above Dallas (No. 15) and seven notches above closer neighbor Arlington (No. 19).

“Fort Worth is coming into its own and embracing the startup scene,” CommercialCafé declares.

CommercialCafé’s analysis looked at the 50 most populous cities in the U.S. For each city, CommercialCafé examined these data points: growth rate for solo businesses, startup survival rate, startup density, startup growth rate, success of Kickstarter fundraising campaigns, education levels, growth in tech employment, wage growth, rent-to-income ratio, coworking costs, and presence of millennials.

Among the factors in Fort Worth’s favor were a low rent-to-income ratio of 15 percent (versus 16 percent in Dallas), tech employment growth of 25 percent (versus 20 percent in Dallas), and millennial population growth of 11 percent (versus 10 percent in Dallas).

Still, Dallas held its own at No. 15. “Ranking third for [coworking] cost affordability and fifth for rent-to-income ratio, Dallas is a place where a tech salary can stretch a long way,” CommercialCafé notes.

As part of an economic development blueprint released in 2017, the City of Fort Worth strives to ensure “that expanding startups see the city as hospitable to their continuing growth.” That includes expanding networking opportunities for entrepreneurs in Fort Worth.

“Communities with a highly engaged, connected, and collaborative startup scene have a built-in advantage in the global competition for high-growth business development,” the city’s economic development plan says.

To help burnish its startup-welcoming attitude and promote tourism, Fort Worth — now the 13th largest city in the U.S., climbing ahead of Columbus, Ohio, and San Francisco in population last year — sent a contingent to this year’s South by Southwest confab in Austin. By contrast, Dallas had no official presence at SXSW.

“Fort Worth is a bit of a blank slate for folks,” said Robert Jameson, president and CEO of Visit Fort Worth, told Texas Monthly of Cowtown’s SXSW blitz this year. “This is an opportunity with people from all around the world, all across the country, to be able to give them a sense of what opportunities exist, what the spirit and energy is for the city of Fort Worth.”

Jameson added that Fort Worth boosters at SXSW were spreading “a message of innovation and inclusion and creativity and technology and inspiration … .”

At No. 1 in the CommercialCafé ranking was Austin. Among the standout statistics for Austin were success of Kickstarter fundraising campaigns (26 percent), tech employment growth (37 percent), millennials’ share of the population (31 percent), startup density (17.9 percent), and growth of solo businesses (3.9 percent).

One way Fort Worth hopes to emulate Austin’s startup success is by mirroring the popularity of SXSW’s interactive conference, a premier tech event that has helped forge Austin’s status as a global tech hub.

“Elevating the Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival to incorporate tech-related elements that draw an international audience can serve as a vehicle for the attraction of artists, graphic designers, and related creative individuals to Fort Worth,” the city’s economic development plan says.

SXSW sounds off with celebrity-filled 2019 keynote and speaker lineup

SXSWho have we got here?

A few short weeks after SXSW dropped the first details of its 2019 programming, the homegrown festival made its second keynote announcement and added even more notable names to the featured speaker lineup.

On October 9, SXSW revealed Joseph Lubin will join SXSW Interactive as a keynote speaker. According to a release, Lubin is the founder of ConsenSys and "co-founder of blockchain platform Ethereum, a decentralized application platform incorporating a virtual machine that executes peer-to-peer contracts based on cryptocurrency micropayments." (Got that? Sure. We did, too.)

"Lubin is one of the foremost visionaries shaping the rapidly developing blockchain industry, and as such we're excited to have him as the first-ever Keynote complementing the Blockchain & Cryptocurrency track in the second half of SXSWeek," said Hugh Forrest, SXSW's chief programming officer.

Lubin joins the previously announced Chrvches frontwoman Lauren Mayberry; writer, producer, and director Marti Noxon; Garbage singer Shirley Manson; and Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom as next year's keynote speakers.

Leading this round of featured speakers is comedian and actor Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project, Suicide Squad); VP of Amazon Web Services Sandy Carter; musician Wyclef Jean; and famed French chef Dominque Crenn.

Additional speakers include:

  • Cannabis rights activist Steve DeAngelo
  • Actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson
  • Senior advisor to the Obama Foundation and author Valerie Jarrett
  • Director of the Digital Currency Initiative at the MIT Media Lab Neha Narula
  • Author and entrepreneur Neil Pasricha
  • Former Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz
  • Actress and entrepreneur Zoe Saldana
  • Award-winning journalist and author Maria Shriver
  • EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager
  • Author Frank Warren
  • Author and Kiip co-founder and CEO Brian Wong
  • Actress and comedian Sasheer Zamata
  • CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker

"The speakers announced today run the gamut of conference content," continued Forrest, "exemplifying our standing as the foremost destination for creative people to gain the skills, knowledge, and inspiration to achieve their goals."

SXSW returns to Austin March 8-17, 2019. Badges for all portions, including Interactive, Music, and Film, are available now.

6 music acts poised to be the breakout stars of SXSW 2017

Brink of Stardom

These days it's impossible to know exactly what any artist is going to pull from SXSW Music festival in Austin, but that's not stopping us from taking a guess at who might beat the odds and flip a bit of buzz into a wave of success. Take a look, make some notes, and maybe jump on a bandwagon or two.

Originally from Houston, the now Minneapolis-based Lizzo is entering SXSW poised for a legit breakout. The singer/rapper and her commanding stage presence will surely steamroll every crowd she comes across at the festival. Make sure you're in one of them.

SXSW will serve as a great opportunity for Austin-based S U R V I V E to parlay the attention garnered from their work on Netflix's Stranger Things soundtrack into something bigger. Expect to hear a lot from months-old album, RR7349, which is just as synth-infused and atmospheric as what they did on the show.

D.R.A.M. (Does.Real.Ass.Music.) may have just been nominated for a Grammy, but he's still flying slightly under the radar. His unique sound and ever-loveable personality should hit at SXSW, and it will be really surprising if he doesn't jet out of Austin with a new legion of diehard fans.

White Reaper
White Reaper are getting ready to release a new album called World's Greatest American Band, so they're certainly in the right mindset heading into SXSW. It is, however, the band's infectious energy and super hooky songs that will be what SXSW-goers latch onto and talk about long after the fest is over.

Tei Shi
The stage is set for Tei Shi. Not only is she riding a solid wave of buzz, but her debut album, Crawl Space, is set to release at the end of March. Expect the alluring singer to make a splash at the festival and emerge with fans galore.

Jay Som
Jay Som is 22-year-old Melina Duterte. Her diverse indie pop act is out of Oakland, and her recently released debut, Everybody Works, is being called one of the year's best albums. Expect to hear her name bandied about frequently during and after the festival.

Photo by Daniel Cavazos

The best free parties of SXSW, plus RSVP secrets you need to know

Festival Fun

You're in Austin for SXSW, you have neither a wristband nor a badge, but you're still set on participating. What do you do? That's easy: Hit up the following parties that are free and loaded with great acts. Show up early, hang tight, and have fun.

First of all, if you're an early bird, local radio stations KUTX and KGSR have morning broadcasts March 15-18 that are pretty stacked and totally worth the effort. Now, onto more afternoon-oriented affairs:

Independence and Lagunitas present Austin BugOut
BugOut is described as a "two-day celebration of fresh beer, killer bands, and freaktacular entertainment." On a normal week, it would be advised that you avoid anything listed as "freaktacular," but since it's SXSW, we think you should jump in feet first. See garage rock vets Thee Oh Sees, synth poppers Sylvan Esso, the buzzy Diet Cig, the even buzzier Lizzo, and lots more. RSVP here.
March 14-15 at The Historic Scoot Inn

Levitation at SXSW
Unfortunate circumstances may have put a hitch in Levitation's step, but that's not stopping the Austin fest from rolling out a very strong SXSW showing. Head to Hotel Vegas on March 16 for a rad and varied mix of rock acts, including Royal Trux, Cherry Glazerr, Boogarins, No Joy, Wand, Guantanamo Baywatch, and Meatbodies. Be sure to pack your earplugs for this one. The event is free — no RSVP required. Check out the full lineup here.
March 16 at Hotel Vegas

Waterloo Records
Waterloo Records has daily shows lined up between March 15-18, and they're all worth your time. A great bill is set for March 17; not only are hometown heroes Spoon playing, but you'll get a diverse mix of support that includes Grandaddy, Middle Kids, Diet Cig, Allison Crutchfield, PWR BTTM, and Tkay Maidza. Plus, Mastodon and Future Islands will be doing a signing. The store is also just off the beaten path enough that if you'd like to participate in SXSW without being in SXSW, it's the perfect spot. Check out the full lineup here. It's free and all ages.
March 15-18 at Waterloo Records

South By San Jose
South by San Jose runs March 15-18 at Hotel San Jose, but we think it's the best place to spend the final Saturday of the fest. By that time, you're going to be feeling largely done with the SXSW experience, so it's best to avoid downtown and head to SoCo. The event starts at noon, it's free, and you'll get to showcase your fest-closing dance moves with Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, while indulging in Merchandize, Cherry Glazerr, PWR BTTM, Khruangbin, Ron Gallo, Slow Dancer, and the Peterson Brothers Band.
March 15-18 at Hotel San Jose

RSVP tips and more free parties
If you're interested in diving into even more free parties, we recommended you do one of two things:

No. 1: Toss $40 to RSVPster and let them do all of the work. Just show up, knowing that you're on the list.

No. 2: Use a combination of Do512 and Showlist Austin to dig up RSVP links and build the greatest schedule known to all SXSW-goers. This is the manual way, but if you're determined to have a free SXSW, a little legwork shouldn’t bother you.

Photo by Tye Truitt

The best official SXSW events that are totally free to attend

Free Festival Fun

Heading to Austin for SXSW? The festival doesn't have to break the bank. Here's the lowdown on the best free official SXSW happenings throughout the festival, which runs March 10-19. All you need to get in is a Guest Pass, and it won't cost you a dime.

SXSW Create
This community-oriented showcase at the Palmer Events Center offers cool tech-driven demonstrations and activities for innovators of all ages. March 10-12.

General Assembly + SXSW
The folks at General Assembly are hosting a variety of educational panels for those looking to learn more about fundamentals of business for musicians and technology for everyone. March 10-12.

SXSW Outdoor Film Screenings
SXSW is bringing back its free film series at the Long Center. Catch the original animated version of Ghost in the Shell, a 20th anniversary screening of '90s grunge doc Hype!, and new content from Cartoon Network. March 11-14.

SXSW Job Market
Sure, SXSW is about partying and having fun, but the festival is also about networking. Connect with some of the hottest companies and employers during the SXSW Job Market at the Austin Convention Center. New this year is a stage showcasing speeches from top businesses and professionals. March 11-12.

SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake
SXSW's annual outdoor music showcase returns for three days. Our advice? Come early and prepare for a massive crowd. This year's acts have not yet been announced yet, but stay tuned. March 16-18.

Flatstock at SXSW
Flatstock is a long-running tradition at the Austin Convention Center, displaying beautiful work from top poster artists. Peruse the collection and purchase a few new additions for your office or home. March 16-18.

SXSW Marketplace
The first-ever SXSW Marketplace at the Austin Convention Center (next to Flatstock) is a curated exhibition of local and national brands selling everything from tech to jewelry. March 16-18.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

'Lightscape' shines bright in this week's 5 most popular Fort Worth stories

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines. Looking for the best things to do this weekend? Find that list here.

1. What to expect at 'Lightscape,' Fort Worth's new walk-thru winter wonderland. Fort Worth’s most Instagrammable new holiday lights display is best enjoyed without clinging to a phone. “Lightscape,” which made its North Texas debut at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden on Friday, November 18, walks visitors through a winter wonderland experience unlike any other in DFW.

2. Hoffbrau Steak fires up the grill for new location in Grapevine. A longtime steakhouse is coming to Grapevine: Hoffbrau Steak & Grill House, a small family-owned and -operated chain that's been in Dallas-Fort Worth for more than 40 years, will open a location November 28 at 700 W. State Hwy 114, previously home to a Brick House Tavern & Tap, which closed during the pandemic.

3. Yellowstone and 1883 stars cowboy up at Fort Worth gala honoring Taylor Sheridan. Fort Worth has always been "where the West begins," and now it's where TV's hottest Western drama begins, too. The 2022 Lone Star Film Festival Gala - held November 11 at Hotel Drover in the Stockyards - leaned hard into the city's connections to Yellowstone and its prequel, 1883, with signs and programs that boasted "The Road to Yellowstone Began in Fort Worth."

4. Divine doughnuts and tempting tamales top this Fort Worth restaurant news. This roundup of restaurant news around Fort Worth has tidbits about doughnuts, Cajun food, vegan tamales, and gourmet ice cream, culled from press releases, social media, and the occasional hot tip. Here's what's happening in Fort Worth restaurant news.

5. Here comes Santa House, back to Grapevine for a very charitable 2022 Christmas season. After taking a much-needed break last year, Louie Murillo and his family are once again decking their halls, yard, and rooftop to bring back the Grapevine Santa House — a smash hit during the 2020 holiday season. The half-acre property is a "Where's Waldo?" maze of more than 1,000 Santa statues, which visitors can walk among, snap photos with, and then, they hope, make a donation to Grace Grapevine's Christmas Cottage program.

Texas parks beckon throughout 2022 holidays with festive events and peaceful escapes

If roasting ‘smores and hiking in the great outdoors sounds fun, pack up your family and visit one of Texas’ state parks this holiday season.

Texas state parks and historic sites are ringing in the holidays with a number of festive events. There are drive-thru light tours, special holiday hikes, arts and crafts for the kiddos, and more.

Reservations fill up quickly, so be sure to visit an individual park's website before you head out. And check the Holidays in the Parks page for many more fun options, pricing information, and more information.

Dallas-Fort Worth-area parks

Tyler State Park
Avoid the Black Friday madness with the 15th annual “Walk-off the Bird” Bird Walk, a 2.1-mile walk by the lakeshore at 9 am November 25. Bring your binoculars to relax and enjoy the bird life of the East Texas Pineywoods. At 2 pm the same day, enjoy a Fall in the Savannah fall foliage hike. Enjoy Reading Ranger Campfire Stories around a cozy campfire at 3 pm December 3. Head back December 9-10 for A Pineywoods Christmas, when you can stroll or drive through the Lakeview and Big Pine campgrounds to take in campers' elaborately decorated sites and take a Winter Wonderland Hike.

Lake Tawakoni State Park
Drive through or stay at the park and decorate your campsite with your favorite Christmas decorations to receive your second night of camping free during your stay. There will be a decorating contest, complete with awards, as well as a reading of The Night before Christmas — all part of Twinkle Tour 2022, 5-8 pm December 3.

Daingerfield State Park
Drive through the park lit up like Santa Land during the 10th annual Christmas in the Park drive thru lights tour December 14-17 (times vary). Marvel at the decorated campsites and lights, and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies while waiting for a chance to visit with Santa.

Eisenhower State Park
Help those in need and spread holiday cheer — and as a bonus, get free entry to the park — by bringing one unwrapped donation item to the park’s Holiday Donation Drive from November 25 to December 19. Come back December 9-10 to visit the Light Up the Park drive-thru lights event, featuring milk and cookies with Santa. This year, the park is taking unwrapped toys to donate instead of collecting entrance fees for the event.

Cleburne State Park
Enjoy Pancakes With Santa and make pinecone bird feeders 9-11 a.m. December 10.

Cedar Hill State Park
Walk off your Thanksgiving Day meal and explore nature in the cool fall air during the three-mile Thanksgiving Nature Walk 7:30-9 a.m. November 26. Search for birds taking their winter break at the park during their Winter Birding Walk, which takes place 7:30-8:30 am December 13. Explore Christmas on Penn Farm on December 17: Learn about the history and pioneers of the Penn Family and the farm they built 150 years ago.

Lake Mineral Wells State Park
Experience Christmas, cowboy style, at Cross Timbers Cowboy Christmas, December 3. Park ranger and cowboy poet David Owens will gather guests around a campfire at the Lone Star Amphitheater for an evening of cowboy culture through songs, stories and poems.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
In partnership with Toys for Tots, the park is hosting Christmas in the Valley, a full day of ranger-led events, programs, family friendly activities, arts and crafts, food and more. Bring a new and unwrapped toy for free admission for the whole family. The event takes place 1-4 pm. December 17.

Austin/San Antonio-area parks

Bastrop State Park
The park’s annual Gobble Till You Wobble hike November 25 has been canceled due to predicted rains. However, you can still follow ornaments with clues through the park every day in December during the annual Fa La La Through The Forest Scavenger Hunt. Enjoy the Lost Pines Christmas Parade, a collaborative event with Bastrop and Buescher Parks, at 6 pm December 10. Tour the inside of the historic Refectory and see how the Civilian Conservation Corps celebrated Christmas away from home during A Lost Pines CCC Christmas 9 a.m. to noon December 17.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site
Attend Deck the Halls, 10 am. to 3 pm November 26 to explore how early Texans at the Sauer-Beckmann Farm got ready for the holidays by stringing popcorn and decorating cookies to hang on their Christmas tree; learn how to make wreaths out of local cedar and dip candles as the farm staff get ready for das Weihnachten (Christmas). Return to the park at 5:30 pm December 18 for the 53rd Annual Tree Lighting, a holiday tradition started by President and Mrs. Johnson.

Garner State Park
Join the Buffalo Soldiers program and friends as they stop into Garner State Park before leaving for Christmas break during the Marching Towards Christmas event 10 am to 2 pm December 10. Christmas activities will include hand-dipped candles, frontier Christmas painting, Christmas-themed hard tack in Dutch ovens, and stories of the Buffalo Soldiers.

Buescher State Park
Take a Giving Thanks Guided Hike and learn how the Civilian Conservation Corps built the park from 3-4 pm November 26. On the Fa La La in the Forest Scavenger Hunt, you can follow ornaments with clues through the park to secure a prize at the end, December 1 to January 1. Enjoy the Smithville Festival of Lights and Lighted Parade, a collaborative effort between Buescher and Bastrop parks, on December 3.

Hill Country State Natural Area
See how art, history and state parks are connected; learn some basic watercolor techniques and paint a card or two to take home during the Watercolor Christmas Cards event 2:30-4 p.m. December 3. Come back for Horses in History & Ornament Craft from 2:30-4 pm. December 22 and learn how horses played important roles in the lives of vaqueros, native people, ranchers and more. Then, play a round of horseshoes and paint a horse ornament to take with you.

South Llano River State Park
At Christmas at the Ranch, 2 to 5 pm December 3, guests can warm up with hot chocolate and cider, listen to live entertainment, enjoy crafts and cookie decorating, and anticipate Santa's visit while taking in the twinkling lights and Christmas decorations at the historic Ranch House that now serves as Park Headquarters.

Houston and Gulf Coast-area parks

Brazos Bend State Park
Holiday in the Park is an all-day affair on December 10. Events include a self-guided "Elf Hike," Christmas crafts, "Pup Parade," s'mores, and more.

Goose Island State Park
See the park in lights, enjoy holiday activities, and camp for free when you decorate your campsite during Christmas in the Park on December 17. Guests are invited to "Santa's Village" at the CCC Recreation Hall for holiday crafts, games, hot chocolate around the campfire, and to drop off letters to Santa in the North Pole Mailbox.

Lake Livingston State Park
Learn about your favorite Thanksgiving food (the turkey) during Campfire Turkey Talk on November 26. Rangers will cover the history of Thanksgiving, the habits and behaviors of wild turkeys, and share interesting facts about turkeys, including how it nearly became our national bird.

Lake Corpus Christi State Park
Get in the holiday spirit with the second annual Holiday Light Drive Thru 6-9 pm December 10. Visitors can enter the park for a drive through the lighted areas of Javelina and Opossum Bend camping loops, plus the Old Pavilion.

West Texas and the Panhandle-area parks

Franklin Mountains State Park
Pack your Thanksgiving leftovers and hike 1.5 miles up to Aztec Caves during the park’s Turkey Trot at 11 am November 25. On December 3, make ornaments and holiday cards with recycled materials as part of the Art in the Parks series. During Cookies and Cocoa, you can decorate and take home your own Christmas treat while sipping on a cup of hot chocolate 2-4 pm December 23. Come back on Christmas Eve for a guided, two-mile Santa Hike at 11 am.

Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site
Bring your family out for Home for the Holidays guided family hike on December 10 and moderate hike on 17.

San Angelo State Park
Enjoy a drive-thru tour of lights and optional pictures with Santa and Smokey Bear during Holly-Days in the Park 6-8 pm December 10.

Affluent Fort Worth neighbor leads list of lavish holiday spending budgets in U.S.

Santa Baby

As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, holiday shopping budgets are in the spotlight, and a study from WalletHub lists Flower Mound as one of the top cities where Santa doesn't need a whole lot of help.

According to the personal finance website, the average holiday budget in Flower Mound is $3,531 per person, the third highest in the nation.

The town's 2021 population of 77,243 (per the U.S. Census) boasts a median income $139,703 and earlier this year was named by Ventured.com as the richest city in Texas.

In spite of an increase over last year's gift list totals, Flower Mound dropped to the third spot after being ranked No. 1 last year with a budget of $3,427. Newton, Massachusetts (budget $4,233) and Palo Alto, California (budget $3,920) edged out the Texas city this year.

Flower Mound was the only Texas city in the top 10, but there's plenty of holiday cheer to be found in the report, and not just for Flower Mound Santa fans.

Each year, WalletHub calculates the maximum holiday budget for over 550 U.S. cities "to help consumers avoid post-holiday regret," the website says. The study factors in income, age of the population, and other financial indicators such as debt-to-income ratio, monthly-income-to monthly-expenses ratio and savings-to-monthly-expenses ratio.

Despite nationwide focus on inflation strains, holiday spending is expected to be healthy, and higher than last year.

"The seeming social upheaval in recent times may lead households to spend more in an attempt to take some control of the environment which they can control," says Robert Wright, University of Illinois, Springfield professor emeritus who was among five experts consulted for advice about holiday shopping.

This could be good news if your Christmas wishes are on local shopping lists. Eight other North Texas cities landed in this year's top 100 heftiest holiday budgets:

  • Allen, No. 17 , $2,670
  • Frisco, No. 37, $2,150
  • McKinney, No. 45, $2,070
  • Plano, No. 50, $1,999
  • Carrollton, No. 55, $1,837
  • Richardson, No. 58, $1,823
  • North Richland Hills, No. 81, $1,658
  • Lewisville, No. 90, $1,630

Fort Worth landed at No. 366 with a budget of $890, while Dallas landed at No. 401 out of 558 cities with an average holiday budget of $845.

Elsewhere in Texas, spending in the Austin area won't be ho-hum with the Capitol City's budget of $1,705 ranked at No. 78. Two Austin suburbs, Cedar Park (budget $2,855) and League City (budget $2,541) ranked 14 and 20, respectively.

Santa's bag could be a mixed bag in the Houston area with three suburbs in the top 100, but the urban center falling behind:

  • Sugar Land, No. 15, $2,793
  • Pearland, No. 36, $2,172
  • The Woodlands, No. 71, $1,733
  • Houston, No. 366, $890

Things don't look too jolly for San Antonio, ranked at No. 431 with an average budget of $803 or Pharr, which was the lowest ranked city in Texas.

At No. 553 with a budget of $487, the Rio Grande Valley city came in just a few spots ahead of last place Hartford, Connecticut, with a budget of only $211.