Meet #MyDTDContest Winner Karen Lao – A Dallas Girl Who Codes & Instagrams Our City

This blog is part of a special series featuring winners of Downtown Dallas Inc.’s Live Like a Local contest, which asked for ambassadorial locals to submit mobile friendly, self-guiding experiences on the Guidrr iPhone app showcasing their #mydtd journeys. Karen Lao is featured today, along with a link to download her free, winning experience: Dallas Photo Guide.

Karen Lao is a full-time girl who codes, who’s also in a part-time love affair with the power and reach of social media. She’s built a large and engaged local following under her Instagram handle @karen.lao and on her personal blog of the same name.

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Karen Lao is a coder by day, but also a popular Instagrammer & blogger

Despite her success (she has close to 100,000 followers on her popular Instagram account), she doesn’t see her social brand becoming a full time gig. “I am passionate about coding. I love to solve problems with technology and am constantly thinking about ways to build better solutions.” Karen’s a huge fan of her employer, DFW marketing technology services firm Epsilon. She’s spent much of her career at Epsilon, after completing an undergrad degree at UT Austin and an MBA at UT Dallas’ Jindal School.  

While it’s all about work all week – come the weekend, this Garland, Texas native of Chinese ethnic origin (“I do wish I spoke the language better”) is often out exploring in order to find interesting corners to photograph and experiences to enjoy. “I found I was sending long emails to friends with lists of places to go, things to eat, spots to photograph,” she shares. “Almost every weekend I was out and about discovering the city.”

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Via her handle @karen.lao she posts her city and travel discoveries

“There are so many angles and so many fun places to Instagram in Dallas” – Karen

Karen is known by followers and friends to have an authentic, visually appealing way of posting that has also helped her build support from national fashion and style brands like Fossil, J Crew, Gap, Google, Mazda and more.

Those who follow her seem to love that she’s always ready to respond and engage online, and that she always finds a unique perspective to display in her posts. Her posts often center of tech, coffee, fitness, travel and she says it’s all about “seeking beauty in the little things.”

When she heard about the Downtown Dallas, Inc. Live Like a Local contest, Karen was one of the first to get online at the free Guidrr creation site, and submit a Dallas guide. “I wanted to share the cool and unique spots where I personally love to go to take photos for Instagram, so my followers and other locals can discover them on mobile and discover in my shoes,” she says. “There are so many angles and so many fun places to Instagram in Dallas.” The DDI team loved her perspective & the unique idea of exploring Dallas via a photo guide, choosing her as one of the contest winners.  

Dallas-Photo-Guide-Karen-Lao.jpgDon’t miss downloading Karen’s winning free experience at her channel on the Guidrr app, a perfect way to explore downtown, either solo or with a group of friends. You can download it directly by using this link (ps: so we can text you a link to directly download the free app & and directly open this beautiful experience).

Don’t forget to hashtag #mydtd and tag
@Karen.Lao @Guidrr and @Downtown_Dallas #livelikealocal so we can see you made it there!

Thanks for being a #mydtdcontest winner and #downtowndallas ambassador, Karen. We’re looking forward to more of your downtown journeys hitting the Guidrr app! Always keep exploring. 

All the reasons Downtown Dallas is one of the best neighborhoods to dine

Article by CultureMap Dallas


It’s an often-touted fact that Dallas has the most restaurants per capita of any city in the nation, meaning there’s no shortage of places here to eat. One such pocket of dining bliss is Downtown Dallas, which is densely packed with a variety of cuisines at all price points.

Like CBD Provisions, an adventurous brasserie in The Joule hotel that was named to Texas Monthly‘s list of best new restaurants shortly after it opened in 2013. It’s famous for its Berkshire pig head carnitas, though insiders know to also stop by the bar and ask for a McKnight: a Grey Goose, champagne, and lemon concoction named for one of the restaurant’s regulars.

Another fun stop at The Joule is its roaming cocktail cart, which you can catch in the lobby every Thursday through Saturday starting at 5 pm. The bartender will whip up a crafty libation personalized to your tastes.

If the idea of food on the go is appealing, head to Browder Street Plaza. Yes, Downtown Dallas has its own food truck park, where local favorites such as Ruthie’s Rolling Cafe, The Butcher’s Son, Crazy Fish, and Mr. Snowie gather at lunchtime during the work week. What’s a better way to cool down than with a tiger’s blood or horchata snow cone on a hot Texas day?

Or if your office is already an iceberg and you need warming up, take a break for hand-pressed espresso and hear the joke of the day from John, owner of the impossibly charming Serj Books.

A good reason to stay in the Downtown area on Wednesdays is for Cafe Izmir‘s “neighborhood night.” Wines are half price and tapas — think beef piroshky rolls, saffron chicken kabobs, and veggie dolmas — are only $4 at this family-run paean to Greek, Turkish, Lebanese, and Persian cuisine.

Craving some down-home cooking? Find it at Ellen’s Southern Kitchen, where breakfast is dished out all day, and the fried green tomato salad is a must.

Or build your perfect pizza at Tutta’s. It’s not advertised on the menu, but you can take any topping listed and secretly combine them into your dream pie. Did we mention the restaurant specializes in smoked meats? If you happen by on the third Thursday of each month, it’s stand-up comedy night hosted by Jimmy Nelson. Four to six local comedians perform short sets starting at 8:30 pm, so get there early to take advantage of happy hour from 3-7. And bring Fido if you want to enjoy the dog-friendly patio — he’ll even get his own bowl of water.

The best-kept secret for happy hour is Dallas Fish Market, where on Wednesdays and Fridays between 5 and 7 pm glasses of wine are only $5 and you get a free sushi roll with each drink.

Another happy hour of note is at Frankie’s, which is also agreed upon by many as the best sports bar in Dallas. There are $4 Moscow Mules, 20 Texas craft beers on tap, and a mixed drink menu devised by cocktail king Eddie “Lucky” Campbell, all in addition to 44 HD TVs that have all the top sports packages.

If you’re still on a cocktail kick, The Woolworth is a worthy option. Perched above Tony Tasset’s famous Eye sculpture, this drinks den was a former — you guessed it — location of a Woolworth five-and-dime. Visit Mike at the bar and ask for the secret, off-menu drink called The Local, which mixes blackberries, blueberries, ginger, and gin.

And it wouldn’t be a list of Downtown Dallas’ best dining without a mention of the Dallas Farmers Market. Bigger and better than ever, it houses more than a dozen artisanal food vendors and restaurants including Mudhen, Rex’s Seafood, Stocks and Bondy, and Taqueria La Ventana. Of particular note is Scardello, a cut-to-order shop that stocks more than 100 handcrafted cheeses. It also hosts the Extra Credit series, which pairs two wines, six cheeses, and two accompaniments for a meal that’s tasty and informative.

Trey Bowles Appointed to National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship

On Monday, Trey Bowles, CEO and co-founder of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center and Cofounder of the Dallas Innovation Alliance, was appointed to serve on the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

“It is an honor to represent Dallas as an incoming appointee of the NACIE. I look forward to working with my other appointees to suggest effective strategies to support tools, resources, policy and legislation, advocacy and priority around supporting entrepreneurship and innovation in the U.S.,” Bowles told Dallas Innovates.

Bowles is one of 30 private sector, nonprofit, and academic leaders who were selected from a pool of more than 200 accomplished applicants.

“Our charge is to make America second to none by way of innovation, entrepreneurship, job creation, and competitiveness. I plan to be an advocate and voice for early stage entrepreneurs and startups so we can provide ubiquitous opportunity to people all across our country to follow their dreams and build their own successful businesses,” Bowles said.

The council members will offer recommendations for policies and programs designed to make U.S. communities, businesses, and the workforce more globally competitive, according to a news release.

“The members of NACIE provide important counsel to the Department of Commerce on the types of federal policies that will support entrepreneurship, innovation, and job-driven workforce training, all of which are critical to American competitiveness,” said Secretary Pritzker. “As ‘America’s Innovation Agency,’ we value the expertise of our private sector partners and appreciate the opportunity to incorporate their views into our policymaking process.”

Established in 2010, NACIE operates as an independent entity managed through the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which is housed in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.

The Ultimate Dallas Weekend (and Giveaway)!

One of the things we love most about Downtown Dallas is that there is always something exciting to do.

The weekend of September 23-25 is no exception, with three exciting events taking place Downtown. We don’t want you to miss out on the fun, so we’re doing a giveaway for two tickets to all three events for a fun-filled weekend that will be one for the books!

On Friday, September 23, the Tower Club will be hosting its highly-anticipated Charity FB_Cover_Event.pngClassic. Channel your inner Don Draper and dress in your most dapper attire for the event that will feature fabulous eats from the Tower Club’s culinary team, craft cocktails, and live music by Ricki Derek and the Vegas 6 that will keep you groovin’ all evening. The event benefits Make-A-Wish North Texas, Augie’s Quest, and ClubCorp’s Employee Partner Care Foundation.

The next day, Saturday, September 24, join fellow Dallasites Downtown for Smoked Dallas. This event will bring the best barbecue from all over the Lonestar State to the heart of Downtown Dallas!

Starting at 2:30 p.m. at Main Street Garden, enjoy samples of brisket, ribs, pork, sausage, and more from over 15 barbecue joints across Texas. There will also be live music and games to enjoy while endulging in the delicious barbecue! The party will roll into the evening with a concert headlined by Fort Worth’s own The Toadies!

End the weekend on Sunday, September 25, at the Chefs for Farmers Main Event at Arlington
Hall at Lee Park. From 2:00 to 6:00 p.m., enjoy an all-you-can-eat feast featuring local beers, fancy cocktails, and exclusive tastes from the biggest chefs in Texas and beyond.


We hope you can attend these awesome events and get the chance to explore Dallas!

To enter, click here and make sure you’re following us on Instagram @downtown_dallas, as well as @towerclubdallas, @smokeddallas, and @chefsforfarmers.


The Economic Impact of Dallas Entrepreneur Center Tenants and Graduates

The Dallas Entrepreneur Center (DEC), is a nonprofit corporation that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. The DEC offers coworking space, organizes and accommodates numerous startup community events and hosts accelerator and training programs.

In 2015, the DEC surveyed existing tenants and graduates to measure revenue and employment growth and funding raised. The data was updated in 2016. The DEC made this data available to Axianomics to assess the overall economic impact of the DEC and its client firms.

Our analysis included 66 firms in the survey that provided the minimum necessary data. These results do not extrapolate beyond those firms to the larger population of DEC tenants and graduates. We have discussed the survey methods with the DEC and take the data at face value as being adequate to support the results presented below.

The companies in the sample contribute over $130,000,000 to the economic output of the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington Metropolitan area (DFW MSA). This includes their direct operations and the indirect impact they have on other local firms. This is an annual estimate based on their most recently reported revenue and employment. In the same period, gross regional product (GRP) for the DFW MSA was $424,000,000,000 ($424 billion). These firms accounted for about three hundredths of a percent of total GRP.

This activity supports over 1,350 full-time equivalent jobs in the DFW MSA. This includes employment at the surveyed firms (direct employment) and jobs created at other local businesses to support those companies (indirect employment). While a tiny fraction of total local economic activity, a single firm with this employment level would be among the 200 largest companies in DFW according to Census Bureau County Business Patterns data.

Based on the locations of the firms represented, most of this activity is likely concentrated in Downtown Dallas and north along the Central Expressway, LBJ and Dallas North Tollway corridors in northern Dallas county.

Interpretation and Meaning
The bottom-line interpretation is that companies representing a sizable amount of economic activity chose to spend at least part of their critical startup period in the DEC and to participate in its programming. Further, these companies were willing to participate in a follow-up survey and share sensitive information about their operations with the DEC. This is a good indicator of their attitudes toward the DEC as an organization.

It is possible that their DEC experience was a significant contributor to the growth and activities of these firms. Unfortunately, we cannot demonstrate that impact with the current survey data.

At a minimum, the continued participation by startup companies at the DEC demonstrates that these entrepreneurs believe it is worth their funds and their time. Combined with testimonial information from tenants and graduates, this information could make a strong case for the importance of the DEC to the DFW economy.

Economic impact analysis measures the “spin-off” activity from an initial business project. Money spent by a local company is income to other local companies. The initial activity supports additional business and employment beyond itself through these transactions.

This spin-off effect can be measured by economic multipliers. These multipliers are based on administrative data collected by the U.S. Department of Commerce from millions of companies in the U.S. and they trace where funding moves among over 1,200 defined industries.

We calculated the impact of these firms with multipliers created by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Products Division. These multipliers are referred to as RIMS II (Regional Impact Modeling System II). The multipliers represent the entire DFW MSA for the 2013 calendar year. There are numerous assumptions with these multipliers found in the RIMS II User Guide:

We applied a five-step process to calculate these impacts. We:
1. Assigned a North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) industry code to all survey companies
2. Calculated total sales for each company using their reported revenue
3. Calculated the full-time equivalent (FTE) employment of each firm by converting part-time employees into FTE employees based on reported salaries
4. Applied Type I value-added and employment multipliers from RIMS II to the output and employment values from steps 2 and 3
5. Summed firm sales and employment with the multiplier generated results to create total (direct and indirect) value-added (output) and employment

About Axianomics, LLC
Axianomics, LLC is a public finance and economic development firm in Dallas, Texas. We help local leaders nurture their economies through discovery, strategy and implementation. Learn more at:


Downtown Public Safety Community Action Plan – Status Updates 8.24.16

As you know, we hosted a Downtown Public Safety Meeting in January following a series of incidents that heightened concerns about public safety in our community. Coming out of that meeting, we facilitated crafting a Community Action Plan, summarizing the top priorities from residents, businesses owners, and additional stakeholders. We also held a follow-up meeting on February 15th, where the Dallas Police Department (DPD) announced they had caught and arrested the perpetrators from the Davis Building incident, as well as implemented a panhandling initiative aimed at aggressive and repeat quality of life offenders.


1. Residential Property Safety Audits: Downtown Dallas, Inc. (DDI) will reach out to residential property managers over the next 45 days to offer coordination assistance to conduct DPD-led safety audits of their buildings, including parking garages. This will include an emergency access plan for police and fire and recommendations from DPD to improve personal safety of residents.

STATUS: COMPLETE – DDI has reached out to every residential property in the CBD and successfully facilitated completion of the safety audits for 24 residential properties. Safety audit updates and crime watch meetings are scheduled with residential property managers throughout the year.

2. Ongoing Community Collaboration: DDI will coordinate quarterly meetings (more often as needed) to serve as a forum for public safety collaboration. Additional invitees to add to the base of residents at the first meeting will include: DART; The Bridge; Oncor; property owners, managers, and security directors; merchant businesses; and other concerned employers.

STATUS: This process is ongoing. DDI currently provides public safety/crime updates at monthly stakeholder meetings for the Downtown Residents Council (DRC), Downtown Security Directors Association (DSDA), West End Association, Farmers Market Stakeholders, and multiple crime watch meetings. DDI/Downtown Safety Patrol (DSP) has a standing offer to attend and present at any and all resident, neighborhood association, and HOA meetings.

And thanks to Councilmember Adam Medrano, there is now a monthly Crime Watch meeting being held with all relevant parties on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library. DDI actively helps promote the monthly Crime Watch meetings to residents and stakeholders.

3. DART and DPD Communication: Several concerns over the communication between DART and DPD were expressed, including statistical reporting and call response.

STATUS: DDI convened a meeting with DART and DPD in Q1 to facilitate identifying and solving these issues. While statistical reporting continues to be a challenge, a monthly task force meeting has been established that includes DPD, DART Police, DISD Police, El Centro Police, and DSP to facilitate a coordinated effort to address public safety issues Downtown including: K2 use and K2 dealers, aggressive panhandling, and other Quality of Life (QOL) ordinance violations.

“A Real Success Story” (March vs. May 2016) – Greyhound


Other ongoing Initiatives include:
 Top 10 Panhandler initiative
 Quality of Life Task Force – West End/Lamar Corridor
 Impact Offender initiative

Additionally, a partnership has been implemented between the DPD, County Jail, District Attorney, and Criminal Courts to: identify, hold on high bond, prosecute, and issue maximum sentences to remove career criminals from Downtown. In the past, low bonds and plea bargains put career criminals back Downtown within 24 hours. The impact offender list ensures career criminals are held on high bond and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law (no plea bargains).

4. Neighborhood Crime Watch: DDI will host a series of workshops led by the DPD to offer Downtown-area neighborhood groups, building associations, and the overall community the opportunity to develop and establish a neighborhood crime watch program, building off of the success of the established Farmers Market Crime Watch.

STATUS: Again, we are grateful to Councilmember Medrano for his leadership to establish the monthly CBD Neighborhood Crime Watch.

5. Lighting and Sidewalks: Though significant progress has been made to improve lighting and walkability, dark spots and broken sidewalks still exist in Downtown. Short term, DDI will work with residents to identify “quick win” projects that can be implemented swiftly with available resources. DDI will also engage Oncor in the conversation. Longer term, the Greater Downtown Dallas 360 plan is addressing many of these infrastructure issues to assist in setting priorities for future bond funds.

• DSP officers check all Downtown street lights twice per month to note and report any light outages to private owners, Oncor, and City of Dallas. Most outages are fixed within 36 hours.
• DDI has funded an engineering firm to evaluate and map sidewalk conditions for every sidewalk and crosswalk in the CBD. This report should be complete in Q3.
• DDI will have initial design concepts for 8-10 new quick win projects to present for feedback by mid-summer.
• DDI has funded the design and has designated funds to complete the sidewalk on Main Street to connect Main Street District and Deep Ellum. DDI is also exploring ways to partner with Deep Ellum Foundation to incorporate additional lighting under 345. We are awaiting the approvals and/or additional information from TXDOT and City of Dallas on both projects.

6. Merchant Safety Seminars: DPD is visiting with Downtown merchant businesses to provide safety tips for employees, as well as security audits of their establishments. Contact us if you have interest in this program and we will connect you with DPD coordinators.

STATUS: Ongoing. DPD and DSP regularly check in with businesses to offer safety audits and meetings. DSP and DPD have reached out to all businesses in the CBD offering to conduct safety audits and meetings.

7. Reinvigorate No Panhandling Campaign: DDI will reinvigorate its panhandling awareness campaign that is aimed at educating the public as to better ways to give, as well as the no panhandling law. Businesses may request the DDI No Panhandling posters by emailing

STATUS: DDI has distributed over 250 ‘No Panhandling’ posters to businesses and residents since January. The more permanent orange and white no panhandling signs can be ordered directly from Fast Signs (for a nominal fee). Remember to call 911 on panhandlers, especially if aggressive. You can also call DSP at 214.741.1151 who can assist by calling our off-duty officer for assistance in removing/arresting the panhandler. DPD has made 366 panhandling arrests since January.

8. Lasting Solutions to Address Panhandling, Vagrancy, and Homelessness: These are three distinct issues that require a comprehensive approach including regulation, enforcement, and social services. DDI encourages public policy leaders, related agencies, social service providers, and the community to refocus on solution-based planning that looks at the entire city as a whole, understanding the impact of concentration in Downtown.

STATUS: Ongoing. The DSP and DPD Crisis Intervention Team visit small homeless encampments around the perimeter of Downtown on Tuesday and Thursdays. Homeless individuals are identified and offered transportation to shelters for services. Bus tickets home are offered to homeless meeting reunification guidelines; approximately 150 homeless are reunited with family through this program each year.

Mayor Mike Rawlings has assembled a Commission on Homelessness to address the issue from a broad, holistic perspective. With the community, DDI will continue to monitor and engage in the process.

Additional initiatives:

Thanks to research from the Downtown Dallas Neighborhood Association (DDNA), possible opportunities to create an extradition program have been identified. DDI is researching the legality, process, and resources for implementation. Stay tuned for updates at the next Crime Watch meeting.

Also working with the DDNA, DDI has advocated for the continued presence of DPD’s mounted units, which are still deployed in Downtown and making a significant impact!

DDI will fund a homeless encampment cleanup project for a 60-day period (bi-weekly cleanup visits). DPD Crisis Intervention Team member Winford Cross has identified approximately eight small homeless encampments around the perimeter of Downtown Dallas. DSP Sergeant Barry Dyson will monitor the cleanup project with “before and after photos.”
We thank you for taking an active role in making sure our Downtown is safe and inviting for all! We’re all in this together and appreciate your feedback.

Downtown Dallas, Inc. Team