Investing in Austin, Investing in People, Part 2

Scott Francis
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Momentum for Austin startups continues – with news that Austin startup Spredfast has raised a $12Million round of funding.  Rod Favaron, our Lombardi CEO, is running the company:
The company, which launched its service last year, received the funding from InterWest Partners of Menlo Park, Calif., and Austin Ventures. It has raised a total of $16 million. Spredfast’s software lets clients manage campaigns and conversations on social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and blogging platforms. Rather than going to each social site, Spredfast lets users publish and monitor social activity from one central platform. […] “This is a big step for us, and we’re ready for the next stage of growth,” said CEO Rod Favaron, who joined the company in February. Favaron was previously CEO of Lombardi Software Inc., which was acquired in 2010 by IBM Corp. for an undisclosed price.
It is both a vote of confidence in Spredfast, and in Austin.  In 2010 it was common to read about the dearth of funding in Austin, but almost ever since then, we’ve been seeing more news about funding in Austin than I can remember since the ’90s. In a followup to the previous post about recruiting talent to Austin, I think news like the above fundraising does more to recruit industry veterans to Austin than the recruiting trip they recently embarked on.  The coverage on MarketWatch wasn’t flattering:
In fact, I have to report that the Austin group’s recruiting night in San Francisco was something between a bust and a learning experience for the group.
It sounds like the two main events were, basically, a tough learning experience.  But hopefully the CEOs took advantage of the trip to prearrange a bunch of meetings with likely recruits rather than just depending on the group events.  Still, the target and the optics are all wrong.  Instead of getting a story about what a great place Austin is to work, and that people are coming here to work at our high tech companies, we got an article essentially about indifference in the Bay Area and how hard it is to find talent in Austin (which isn’t quite as dire as the article makes it out). Imagine if these same CEOs had gone on a tour of Universities in California (or other states) to recruit talent?  To put the idea out there for college students to think about Austin as a destination.  University is the right place to strike.  The experienced industry veterans don’t need to go to a job fair to find companies in Austin – they’ll leverage their connections to find a job.  Its the college kids who need some help discovering Austin and Austin companies as a place to land. The rest of the article focuses on “solutions”… and here’s one perhaps the 30 tech CEOs could get behind – an Austin-funded scholarship at several universities – giving us some press out there on the coasts. Update:  This article on Austin startups finding funding via Angel List is probably relevant as well.  It just speaks to how the world of fundraising is changing, and there are fewer barriers than ever for Austin entrepreneurs:
Even for Austin startups that aren’t actively raising money, AngelList is becoming a way to get on the radar of potential investors, partners and customers. Bill Boebel, an Austin entrepreneur and angel who has invested in 15 companies, calls it the “LinkedIn for startups.” “It’s a startup’s resume,” he said. “Just like when you’re recruiting an employee and want to learn a little more about that person, it’s a great way to find out more about a company.”
And further, Ravikant says:
“Entrepreneurs inside Silicon Valley already have access to investors here, but it can be harder for a promising startup in Austin to break in,” he said. “We have helped Austin startups get exposure to Silicon Valley and New York investors, and we also give those investors the lay of the land in Austin.”
Has there been a better time to invest in people and talent?
  • good coverage of spredfast’s raise from Austin Startup here: http://austinstartup.com/2011/09/spredfast-lands-12m-series-b/
    ‘ “Every company is wrestling with the challenges of becoming a more social business. This means giving customers more ways to engage with you,” said Doug Pepper, General Partner at InterWest. “Spredfast has really helped shape this market for enterprises – delivering innovative management, analysis and integration capabilities not available anywhere else.  We are excited to be part of the next round of innovation in this market.” ‘