D CEO – January 2023
When faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, these four North Texas innovators refused to give up. Here’s how they’re helping shape the future.
Tricia D’Cruz, Catalyze Dallas
Early in her career as a software engineer, Tricia D’Cruz faced the possibility of the company she worked for going out of business. The now founder and managing director of holding company Catalyze Dallas was serving as software director for North Texas-based telecommunications firm Efficient Networks in the ‘90s when flat ethernet cables hit the market, rendering the product her team was working on useless. “We were doing local area networking technology. It was called ATM to the desktop,” D’Cruz says. “You’ve never heard of that because it’s not a thing anymore.”
Her team could have folded she says, but instead, they re-purposed the tech toward high-speed internet. “That company ended up becoming world No. 1 market share position for the little box that goes in your closet for high-speed internet, based on the same technology that had failed originally,” D’Cruz says. Efficient Networks subsequently was acquired by Siemens for $1.5 billion in 2002, but not before D’Cruz led its products divisions through an IPO in 1999 and a two-year revenue explosion from $3 million to $200 million. She became president and general manager of Siemen’s Access Solutions division after the acquisition.
From there, D’Cruz held a division leadership role at Plano-based Tekelec, a global internet tech supplier, before founding and scaling numerous startups, and through her consulting firm VectorPoint helped high-tech companies grow. Having seen the scaling process through corporate and startup vantages, she realized she wanted to continue to bring new technology to market but “reduce risk and go fast.”
At the same time, D’Cruz and her husband, Joe, realized there was a lot of non-strategic intellectual property owned by corporations that did not wish to scale the tech they ideated. “They develop all sorts of really amazing technology, and some of it doesn’t end up hitting the light of the day through their processes for all sorts of different reasons, especially through M&A,” D’Cruz says. She realized if she could acquire tech at the go-to-market stage, she would be getting heavily tested products that could be brought to market quickly.
She began by acquiring an aerospace drag technology from Lockheed Martin, which she used to form Dallas-based Metro Aerospace in 2016. The company uses the tech to help commercial and military planes fly more effectively by reducing fuel consumption. It took only two months from the agreement with Lockheed Martin to first product launch. Three years later, D’Cruz formed Alpine Advanced Materials, a Dallas-based engineering firm that uses tech purchased from Lockheed to manufacture lightweight parts for planes.
Just as things were getting underway, the pandemic hit. “We had contracts underway with some really significant commercial aerospace manufacturers to develop products, and all of that vaporized,” D’Cruz says. But her team bounced back by focusing more on space and defense and less on air travel. Catalyze Dallas recently closed a deal with consulting giant IBM and spun-out Almaden Genomics in 2022, a company focused on making it easier to analyze the human genome. “I feel like we’re just hitting our stride, where we’re going to be starting companies on a more regular cadence,” D’Cruz says. “We have more capital to put to bear, so we can start some more capital-intensive projects as well. I’m super excited about what we will be doing in the next few years.”
Tricia D’Cruz was recognized as the Innovative Leader of the Year at the 2023 Innovation Awards, presented by D CEO and Dallas Innovates. Learn more about the other winners in the January/February 2023 issue of D CEO magazine.