Capital Factory, Austin, and Ireland at #SXSW

Scott Francis
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An interesting trend at SXSW interactive over the last few years has been the increasing presence of delegations from other countries.  It starts with their spaces on the Expo floor- increasingly large, welcoming, and showing off startups from home right here in Austin, TX.  A whole aisle was dedicated to Japan, and there were branded contingents from Korea, Sweden, Mexico, Brazil, The UK, and Ireland (and possibly many others I missed in this list).

One of the surprising benefits of Capital Factory in Austin is its draw to international partners as well.  Heads of state and mayors make a point to stop by Capital Factory, looking to get a bit of the magic to rub off on them as well.  And Silicon Hills published a story about a Dublin incubator making connections with Capital Factory at SXSW.

Cian O’Cuilleanain, co-founder of Gravity Centres in Dublin, fell in love with SXSW three years ago when he first attended Interactive.
“Everybody was so welcoming, there were all these opportunities opening, there was the energy of the town. I went back home and started pitching Austin all the time in Europe, saying: ‘Go and experience it, you’ll know what I mean.’ There’s something palpable about Austin; I can’t put it into words.”

SXSW is Austin’s unfair advantage – a giant billboard for what a great city and culture we have in Austin that pulls people into our orbit. And it has to have a lot to do with placing well in articles like this one about Austin ranking Number 1 tech city, over San Francisco…  (full report here from the Wall Street Journal blog).

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I also had the pleasure of meeting with a couple of folks that represent Northern Ireland, and I noticed there was a panel on startups in Portugal.  Added to this backdrop is the convenience of that direct flight from Austin to London – making travel to a number of European destinations much easier.

I missed the announcement in December of another direct flight – to Toronto- that will no doubt increase economic links between our cities. There is already a bit of cross pollination in the music business (I’ve heard that Toronto is Canada’s music capital).  Austin’s new customs facilities are a big plus for pulling in international flights.  It seems that cities with good linkages to Austin are starting to discover the benefits of those direct flight connections.

I’m just really impressed with the way Austin has been able to build brick-by-brick on the benefits of being an “it” city. There’s no doubt at all that Austin’s better connections to faraway places has affected BP3’s business. We’ve been able to consolidate an acquisition in Europe, and connect with team members all over the world thanks to these flights.  It’s a huge advantage to have these faster connections.

Meanwhile, many will say Austin has been ruined by the growth and fame. But I’m bullish on not just Austin’s growth but its character.  For example, this great story about Austin’s very own Antone’s being revived on Fifth Street downtown.  The partners in the effort include two highschool classmates from Austin High: Will Bridges and Gary Clark, Jr. (you might have heard of him):

Principals on the current ownership team are Clark, Bridges, acclaimed scientist and National Geographic explorer Spencer Well, investor Alex Shoghi of Oasis Management Company and Susan Antone, Clifford Antone’s sister.

This is, in a sense, a quintessential Austin institution being resurrected by a quintessential group of Austinites.   I have fond memories of Antone’s on Guadalupe St. and on 5th Street, and I hope to make an appearance at the new location when it opens.