Austin’s Trilogy Effect: OTB

Scott Francis
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Lori Hawkins has written the first article in many years about the many Trilogy Alumni that are circulating in Austin, and in startup circles.  It’s the most in-depth article about Trilogy’s affect on Austin that I’ve seen to-date.  Sometimes referred to as “Trilogy Mafia”, or just Trilogy Alumni.  One of the passages I think captured the essence of what is going on in this group of over-achievers:

“In 2000, when the Internet bubble burst and Trilogy imploded, everybody kind of spread out everywhere,” said John Price, a former Trilogy executive who now heads another startup, Vast.com, an online marketplace company. “Austin has benefited tremendously from that, because Trilogy’s tentacles are everywhere.” According to Liemandt’s count, Trilogy — which was headquartered on West Courtyard Drive in Northwest Austin — brought 900 recruits to Austin over five years, and hundreds stayed and put down roots. Now in their 30s and 40s, a number of them have started their own companies, including Moeller, who is CEO of Broadway Technology, which sells financial trading software. Scores more play key leadership roles in engineering, finance and product marketing at Austin’s new wave of software companies. Austin high-tech recruiter Marc Davis, himself a Trilogy alumnus, counts more than four dozen Austin tech companies that have Trilogy veterans in top leadership roles. Among those where Trilogy veterans populate the upper ranks: HomeAway, Bazaarvoice, WhaleShark Media, Indeed.com, Vast.com and Socialware.

Beyond Austin, Trilogy alumni are also having an impact – much bigger than you might expect (I’m thinking Akamai, SecondMarket, Facebook, Google, ZocDoc, Mozilla, Urban Spoon, and a couple of VCs).

And when you just look at a snapshot in time (now) – you see a lot of people in a lot of important roles for their firms. But if you look over time, many startups in Austin (and elsewhere) that have been sold or merged with other businesses were similarly impacted by Trilogy Alumni.  To name a few: Waveset, Lombardi, Motive, BroadJump, Webify, Initiate Systems, Whisper Wire, Crimson Group, etc.  And many more going concerns could have been mentioned that didn’t make the cut for the article.

As the moderator for an alumni list for Trilogy, I see a lot of what’s going on in our group of colleagues, and I’m constantly impressed by what this group has accomplished.  Last year we got a group of alumni together for an unconference – OTB11.  Let me tell you a little bit about that gathering of 100 alumni. 6 founders, 6 owners, 5 CEOs, 6 Presidents, 1 COO, 2 Managing Directors, 1 GM, 9 CTOs, 11 Directors, 1 Partner, 3 Principals, 9 VPs.  And various other titles and occupations, as you can imagine.

And among the attendees, 39 startups were produced (some people participated in more than one, post-Trilogy).  This is a remarkably driven group of people. I saw people that I hadn’t seen in 10 years – and people who live in Austin that I rarely get to connect with.  It was like putting on an old baseball glove- the group dynamics are so familiar and comfortable.  John Price (CEO of Vast) gave a talk over lunch that had some of us reduced to tears (laughing or crying, depending on the part of his talk).  There’s an emotional bond in this group that runs deep.  Best laugh line from the talk: “So I asked Marc to get me someone like these four guys for a presales role… and Marc was quiet for a minute, and then he says, ‘you just named 3 CEOs and a TV star, you’re going to have to adjust your expectations'”…

The whole conference wouldn’t have happened without an impromptu dinner in NYC organized by one of our most prolific “connectors” in the alumni group.  The original 8 conspirators helped kick this off, but so many people helped with content, ideas, and organization.  It really is no surprise to see this group act quickly on an idea that came out of casual conversation.  I felt this overwhelming sense of gratitude from everyone – just happy to have this occasion to reconnect.  I can only imagine how good the next gathering will be. The other thing that makes Trilogy’s Alumni different – the club is closed.  Trilogy isn’t hiring a bunch of new people to fill out new classes.  The bar has been set, and it is fixed in place at a high level.  We’re doing our best to live up to it.  This is something that makes the Trilogy Alumni group a little different than the alumni groups of many other companies, for better or worse. The alumni group is most apparent when too many startup people gather in one place.  SXSW, I’m talking to you.  But also events like Capital Factory’s Demo Day, and other similar events around the country.  There’s more than one article here to be written.

So who’s next, Austin, to step up the college recruiting game?

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