DBU Hosts 9th Annual Lion's Den DFW Conference

Tebow Group CEO Tommy Martin speaking at The Lion's Den DFW on the DBU campus

For nine years, The Lion's Den DFW has been a hub for Kingdom-minded entrepreneurs to share their business ventures, network with other Christ-centered business owners, and compete in a pitch competition. This year's conference featured an emphasis on for-profit solutions to fight against human trafficking. "It was an honor to host the ninth annual event for Lion's Den DFW. This event truly helps our students see a real-life example of using the gifts God has given in the investment world, startups, and business as mission" — Dr. Ross O'Brien, Director of the Center for Business as Mission and Director in the Graduate School of Business.

The event kicked off on Wednesday, April 10, when the attendees worshiped alongside the DBU student body during chapel. The day continued with sessions about Business as Mission around the globe, several networking opportunities, and breakout sessions. 

On the event's final day, Thursday, April 11, the ninth Annual Pitch Competition was held. Healthcare, communication, criminal detection, and agriculture were among the industries represented. Talitha Coffee, founded by Mike Glanz and Jenny Barber, participated in the competition to share about their coffee company designed to consolidate leading coffee roasters while employing women who have been victims of sex trafficking. 

Tim Tebow speaking in Dallas, Texas at Dallas Baptist University

After another networking lunch, the keynote event began. This year's keynote event featured Tommy Martin, CEO of the Tim Tebow Group. Before the lecture, DBU Professor Sandra Crawford Williamson introduced DBU President Dr. Adam C. Wright to the stage to speak on the importance of Christ-centered business. Dr. Wright also brought Tim Tebow onto the stage as a surprise for the attendees. Tim Tebow was on the DBU campus for the DFW Leadership Series event later that evening, but he briefly stopped by The Lion's Den to introduce his CEO and good friend, Tommy Martin. 

Tommy oversees the for-profit sectors of Tim Tebow's business ventures. He told the story of how he and his wife adopted his daughter, Grace, who has severe special needs. They traveled halfway across the world to bring her home. Years later, with three young kids, Tommy struggled with his career. He dug himself into massive amounts of debt, and the entrepreneurial stress caused him to crumble. Tommy wondered if his family would be better off with his life insurance policy funds instead of him. "In God's kindness, he didn't let me suffer alone and turn to worldly things for comfort. My pain was always front and center."

Through this period of suffering, Tommy rededicated his life to the Lord. He lit a ferocious fire and felt called to make an eternal impact through his business ventures. "My business took off like a rocket ship after dedicating everything over to the Lord." He worked in this business for a while, left in his 30s, and began investing in Kingdom-minded businesses. Tim Tebow's work had inspired Tommy for several years, but he didn't want to create a competing business against him; instead, he wanted to work directly with them.

Tommy first became acquainted with Tim Tebow's organization after accidentally infiltrating a private auction selling tickets to the Heisman Awards. The Tim Tebow Group notified him that this auction was just a test, and Tommy was tempted to be upset and provide a snarky response, but instead, he helped the team identify the issue with their software. This accident led to Tommy meeting Tim Tebow and, shortly after, heading up the for-profit side of the business. 

Tommy Martin was fully on board with Tim Tebow's vision after hearing his mission statement, "I want to serve the most vulnerable people around the world because they are the real MVPs. My goal is not to make money but to make money matter." The Tebow Group comprises a multi-family office, talent management firm, creative agency, and technology accelerator. Tommy walked the attendees through their vetting process when deciding which businesses to invest in, with the potential for faith impact being the most crucial aspect.

Tommy provided one example of a company they recently invested in called DejaVuAI. This company developed a cutting-edge image recognition AI. On the surface, it may be difficult to understand how one could use this technology to serve the world's most vulnerable people. Tommy shared a story that one of their colleagues sent a picture of two girls who were about to be sold into trafficking. They had little time to uncover their location and fed this image to DejaVuAI. Within minutes, the AI analyzed the carpet, curtains, and walls of the hotel room and discovered the exact hotel where these girls were being held. Using their technology, they were able to secure their freedom. 

Tommy closed by highlighting how important ROI is for his organization. This is not just a Return on Investment but also a Return on Impact and a Return on Image Bearers. "All of our money is God's. Take whatever is helpful to align your investments to God's purpose for your life and your businesses."

The Lion's Den DFW concluded with a brief panel session featuring Michael Thompson (Turas Group), Wes Lyons (Eagle Venture Fund), Steve Biondo (The Tim Tebow Foundation), Ashley Chapman (Altus Group), Noel Thomas (Zero Trafficking), and Tommy Martin (The Tim Tebow Group). This panel discussed how they bring for-profit and non-profit businesses together to fight against human trafficking.

About Business as Mission

The mission of the Center for Business as Mission at Dallas Baptist University is to educate and equip current and future business leaders to restore lives through effective engagement in the business marketplaces. This is accomplished by integrating God’s biblical call to mission with His vocational call to business.

Written by Cameron Billings

Cameron Billings is the Assistant Director of Written Content in University Communications at Dallas Baptist University.