Austin Can Become Even Better at Startups
One of the cool news items that occurred during my 10-day trip to China was that Austin was (again) tabbed by the Kauffman Foundation as the nation’s top startup city. I love that the city’s bustling ecosystem gained this award — particularly because we are nowhere near our full potential as the Mecca for first-time founders as well as serial entrepreneurs. How can we reach this full potential to become an even better metropolis for both emerging and established tech talent?
- More funding options. For Central Texas entrepreneurs, the Achilles heel has always been funding. This problem became even more acute with the demise of Austin Ventures — although AV’s departure has opened up the door for a host of other players. As the portfolios of these other players grow and develop and mature, we will eventually be better equipped to attract and retain startups that are not wholly bootstrapped. But, the pace for these kinds of changes is much slower than a lot of entrepreneurs would prefer.
- More affordability. Austin still has a strong competitive advantage over the Bay Area in terms of cost of living. But, this advantage isn’t as significant as it was before our current growth phase. Moreover, other cities in the US and around the world are now pushing their affordability versus Austin to gain more traction. To continue to attract young entrepreneurs, we need a lot of cheaper options for renters and buyers. Moreover, cheaper living options are vital to maintaining the Keep Austin Weird vibe that is so central to our culture and way of life.
- More community interaction. Austin’s disastrous ride-sharing vote last May underscored the large-scale dis-connect between the city’s tech / startup sector and those not currently involved in these industries. This dis-connect must be overcome. Recent efforts from the Austin Technology Council are a great first step towards bridging this gap. But for the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to become even more vibrant, it is imperative that other groups and organizations follow ATC’s lead in this effort.
- More direct flights. Transportation within Austin is a big challenge and kudos to Joseph Kopser for his great piece on how the upcoming bond election can help address this problem. But transportation to and from the city is also a concern. Until more VC firms open offices in this city (see point #1), we need to make it easier for these VCs to get here quickly and conveniently. At present, Bergstrom offers only two daily direct flights from Austin to San Jose (both via SWA) — although the four daily non-stops to San Francisco create a little bit of relief.
Also, if you are a startup, then be sure to get involved with the SXSW Accelerator Pitch Competition, ReleaseIt at SXSW, the Interactive Innovation Awards, Startup Spotlight or the SXSW Trade Show. You will also want to take advantage of all the entrepreneurial-focused conference programming that occurs at Startup Village. For March 2017, we’ve expanded this Startup Village programming to run for a whopping seven days — from Friday, March 10 through Thursday, March 16.