More Momentum on an Austin Startup Space

Scott Francis
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Based on local news story frequency and content, it looks like the concept of a startup district in Austin is gaining momentum. I missed an news story a couple of weeks ago on the KXAN site:
“We’re looking at shared co-working space that entrepreneurs can come into and really rent a desk, so to speak, and sit among their peers and other partners and grow companies such that we are growing that base of our own, as well as recruiting new tech companies in the area and making this whole eco-system stronger,” said Davenport.
It was nice to see them checking out offices we have friends at – Boundless Network (a Lombardi customer), Vast (which has a few Lombardi alumni), and Thinktiv:
Some of those spaces include the offices of Vast , Boundless Network and Thinktiv . All of the offices have high ceilings and open floor plans where employees can discuss their ideas freely. The Chamber wants to have the space downtown because of the creativity it can provide to start-up businesses.
There seems to be a general consensus that the energy and optics of a downtown space are best for attracting talent.  However, I was lured to Austin by a company with an office on the hill and a view of the lake, the 360 bridge, and downtown.  There’s more than one way to attract talent, but downtown has density and diversity going for it, which is more important for this kind of endeavor. One worry I have is the potential negative impact on existing companies that serve the startup community here – the coworking spaces that already exist likely inspired this effort-  I just hope there is still a business model for them that makes sense if this goes through.

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  • Guest

    The notion that access to physical space to work is what constrains innovation and job creation is dubious.  As such this is a questionable use of the public’s money (“public and private partnership” means partially if not wholly tax supported).

    Private markets for real estate function perfectly fine.  If they want to be helpful, they should just maintain a directory of companies willing to sublease space month-to-month or by the desk.  I think thinktiv does that today.  There is no reason for public money to fund creation of a startup incubator.

    • Guest-
      Thanks for your response.  Given your anonymity I assume you have an axe to grind on this one :)

      First – there are private vehicles for this kind of thing.  Startup labs that exchange space and advice for equity.  And there are places like thinktiv (and others) that will sublet in exchange for $.  Austin doesn’t have any of the former (yet).  We do have the latter.  But private markets for real estate really only work for startups and entrepreneurs that are funded.  Pre-funding, there isn’t much out there. 

      I think all the public money would be used for is to help secure space and basic utilities.  In that sense, it is similar to funding public parks and roads.  Potentially sponsors will cover the costs.  But let’s wait and see what the final proposal is before we shoot it down.  Government can be pretty good at funding foundational infrastructure (space, roads) where there is no economic advantage.  Where there is an opportunity for economic advantage, the government should probably get out of the way. 

      So, I worry about the impact on coworking spaces that already exist – they’re businesses, they appear to be viable… Those that are working on the startup district should figure out how they help support those entrepreneurs rather than compete with them. 

      Physical space doesn’t constrain, per se, innovation or job creation.  But it does constrain networking, sharing ideas, and collaborating.  Those things often precede or are necessary backdrop for the innovation and job creation that comes later. 

    • As an example of good public/private partnership, there’s the 1 semester startup class – http://www.1semesterstartup.com/ – which is being driven by capitalists of the first order (Bob Metcalfe and Joshua Baer, as well as a researcher on the subject, John Butler), but clearly this also has the backing of a public institution (the University of Texas).  It bears some resemblance to what Steve Blank is doing at Stanford with the Lean Launchpad (http://steveblank.com/category/lean-launchpad/) .  I’d be curious to see if 1 semester startup is using any of the same tools.