Startup Week: What Does Austin Need to Become a Legitimate Tech Hub?
KUT’s Laura Rice put that question to Joshua Baer – the founder and executive director of the tech startup incubator Capital Factory:
Is Austin a Legitimate Tech Hub?
"I meet people every day and every week who are moving here, that picked up and are moving their whole company here from Silicon Valley or from New York or from somewhere else. But these things don't develop overnight. They don't even develop over the course of one or two years. Really, the lifecycle of a tech company is five to ten years. So to get through a few cycles of that, you're talking 20 to 30 years. That's how long it takes to build up a tech community. Silicon Valley? They've had that going for a long time. Austin? We're still a little earlier in that cycle – but we're in that cycle."
What's Austin Missing?
"I would probably focus in on two things … a lot of people here want to do consumer internet companies, they want to do products that are kind of mass marketed for everybody to use. And that takes a particular skill set around marketing those products and around designing those products that I think we don't have a ton of here. That's something Silicon Valley still has the best talent for. And then, I think we've got some great access to capital... but nothing like Silicon Valley. And the more access to capital there is, the more innovation we're going to see."
Can We Train More of Those Marketers?
"This consumer internet marketing talent … the thing that really creates the amazing expertise is experience. Though I guess that's a bit of a truism. We need people who have actually done it, that have been there, that have been part of that company that grew and they saw every step of that process along the way and they know how to do it again. And that's what's really missing. And that's one of those things that takes time to develop. You can't just teach it to somebody, they actually have to do some of it."
So What Does Austin Have to Offer to Tech People?
"It's not hard to get people to move to Austin right now. There's lots of people I find that might be in their late 20s or early 30s, living in Silicon Valley, maybe working at one of those tech startups. They're starting to have a family or thinking about having a family. They realize they're never going to own a home in California anytime soon, that California's really not a great place to raise kids and they look at places like Austin. Because anytime they go look anywhere, we're at the top of the list. And they're looking here and they say, 'Wow, there are great companies to work for, I can do innovative things and achieve my professional goals and at the same time put my kids in a great school and own a house and have a great quality of life and go see music and do stuff outdoors and all these great things that are a lot more cost-effective and reasonable here in Austin."
So Could Austin be Home to the Next Facebook or Google?
"I think that it's not always helpful to compare ourselves to the success that just happened. Because the next thing isn't necessarily going to be like the thing that just happened … [But I think that next big thing] is just as likely to come from Austin, that's totally possible."
Click the player to take an audio tour of tech incubator Capital Factory: