Another Austin Tech Awakening

Scott Francis
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The Austin Tech community has been awakened by a year of setbacks in tech policy, according to the American Genius:

Enter 2016, the year that the tech sector loudly lamented what they felt was a local government that worked against innovation, running off ridesharing giants like Uber and Lyft, while hampering the short term rental sector through over-regulation, impacting large tech companies like Airbnb, and HomeAway (headquartered in Austin).

Benn Rosales says:

“Currently leading the charge is optimistic tech executives seeking to support policies that promote business growth, reduce over-regulation, lower tax rates, and offer initiatives that treat fairly tech employees from startup founder to entry level developer to the C-suite, as part of the Texas tradition of pro-growth.”

I, for one, welcome the Austin tech community getting more involved in the community around them.  The last time involvement increased in Austin, it was partly because the tech bubble bursting sent many tech industry veterans to the sidelines, suddenly finding themselves with enough time to re-engage with the Austin arts and music scene.  Projects like the Magellan International School were born, as well, by tech execs who wanted to create more culturally aware and excellent education in Austin. 

This time around, the economy and the tech economy are humming along just fine, and the tech community has not kept up with the changes in City Council, nor (in my view) have we stayed connected with the community.  Hopefully the changes happening now will yield great results in better aligning tech and the community at large.  But I have a concern about the tech community of which I am a part. 

Mostly what I hear are tech community members upset about ordinances going against their interests.  In other words, we’re starting from a self-centered point of view – we were hurt, we want it to stop, and we’re mobilizing to fight those changes.  You could hear this outrage in the negative campaigns run by Uber and Lyft in recent proposition 1 campaigning.

What I think the tech community needs to do, however, is reconnect with Austin at large, and politicians specifically, as to the benefits that the tech community brings to Austin and Austinites, and how we can benefit the community as a whole. Our patronage of the arts and education is *additive* to Austin as a community.  We hire the children of Austin residents out of college, and we create a scores of economic activity up and down the ladder.

We, as a tech community, also need to embrace what it is about Austin that we fell in love with.  And it wasn’t that Austin was just like Silicon Valley.  We need to embrace the weirdness as well.  The peculiar things about Austin that make us special, but odd. Some of those things will require limits on the shortest path to our commercial interests.  Creating win-win situations requires giving up a little.  But we can preserve this community and culture we’re all proud to be a part of, and help it evolve in a way that we will continue to be proud of, if we bring everyone along with us for the journey, rather than fight over the spoils.

 

  • Johard

    I agree that we should expect it to be tough to find a way to grow and still maintain what made Austin special and appealing 15-20 years ago. Every startup that successfully evolves into an Enterprise has to manage this change, and often you must change leadership to make the jump. I’m waiting to see how the Austinites building city strategy do in the coming years. Uber was a stake in the ground; I’m curious about the tent they’re building.