I Choose Austin

Scott Francis
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For the record, I Choose Austin, too. 

I loved Josh Baer’s response to the recent ATC CEO summit session “Why I Moved My Company to California“.  First he acknowledged the panelists, and their arguments for California:

Nobody was bashing Austin, but everyone on the panel seemed to agree that for tech startups Silicon Valley was almost always a better choice than Austin. Everyone also seemed to agree that Austin shouldn’t try to be a “better Silicon Valley” because that is hopeless. Tom encouraged Austin to figure out what we are good at and focus on that, but he didn’t have any suggestions as to what that might be.

The one thing the founders all missed was the food in Austin.  Well, if Austin can have a better food and music scene than Silicon Valley, odds are we can build a great startup environment as well.  It doesn’t need to be better than Silicon Valley, it just needs to be better than it was last year.  One step at a time, folks.

Josh sums up how I feel about it so well:

They are all really good reasons. It’s hard to argue with them. It’s hard not to walk away thinking that you’d be crazy not to move your tech startup to Silicon Valley.

[…]

There is no right answer. For some people Austin is the right answer and for others its Silicon Valley. For most we’ll never know for sure.

For me, the right answer in Austin.

I’ll excerpt what I wrote in response to his post:

Having been in the “I Choose Austin” camp since 1994, I’m in full agreement with Josh. Look, everything you do in life has tradeoffs. I left Stanford for Austin in ’94 and have had amazing experiences here – at first at work. But over time, the “great experiences” encompassed my neighborhood, my friends, the music scene, ultimate frisbee… And I likely missed out on any dot-com IPOs as a result. But Austin is home, now.

In every community you have people who put down roots and invest in the community. And you have people who float to wherever the jobs are, or wherever the gold (or gold rush) seems to be. For whatever reason, Josh and his family chose to make Austin home – and he didn’t do it halfway- and Austin startups are better for it. Our family made a similar choice- there was a time when we could have gone anywhere – and we elected to stay in Austin. Don’t miss the big picture – it isn’t just about where Austin is at this moment in time – it is about the story arc of Austin – things are on the upswing, and have been for a long time – but not in a crazy bubble way, in what feels like a more sustainable way (time will tell). Austin isn’t for everyone, but for those of us that choose Austin, it is a fantastic place to start (and grow) a business.

Since starting BP3 five years ago, we’ve grown 10x.  We’re a consulting business, decidedly un-sexy in the VC and Silicon Valley circles.  We’re even under the radar in Austin.  As it turns out, the epicenter of BPM is right here in Austin, Texas – not in the Valley.  The folks at BP3, and Lombardi before that, had a lot to do with putting Austin on the map in BPM, so it isn’t just an accident.  I’m sure anyone starting an auto company would be told you need to locate near the epicenter in Detroit – but there’s Elon Musk, growing Tesla in Silicon Valley.  Sometimes the conventional wisdom is wrong for your new business.  Mike Maples, Jr. actually put forth a great thesis for Austin a few years ago, at a Capital Factory Demo Day – when he proposed that what Austin seemed to really excel at was the intersection between social and enterprise software – and then proceeded to give a half-dozen examples, most of which he’d invested in.  It isn’t the only thing we excel at – another area is mixed signal chips, chip design in general.

I love visiting Silicon Valley because almost everyone you talk to is in tech.  Not at a startup necessarily, but in tech.  Stanford is a second home to me.  And as supportive as Austin is of startups, the Valley is more so.  But I can’t afford to raise a family in Silicon Valley. And I like the TexMex and BBQ and music too much to leave.

I’ve been enjoying being a small part of building something new in Austin. I’m in.