Austin Chamber of Commerce backing a Startup District

  • July 19, 2011
  • Scott

The Statesman reports that the Austin Chamber of Commerce is exploring getting a startup district going in or near Downtown Austin:

The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce is launching an effort to create Austin Live, a downtown work space that could serve as a home base for entrepreneurs and very early stage startups.

A search is under way for 10,000 square feet of space for the initiative, said Gene Austin , CEO of Convio Inc. and chairman of the chamber’s Greater Austin Technology Partnership, which is overseeing the project.

Austin Live would feature an open floor plan and a coffeehouse environment, and it would provide a place for people to plug in their laptops and exchange ideas.

“The idea is to give entrepreneurs a better runway to get out of the tough stages of going from an idea to a real business,” Austin said. “It’s hard to make connections when you’re working from your garage. We’d like this to become a magnet for funding. Hopefully, it will become a centerpiece for a much stronger tech ecosystem.”

Many in and outside of Austin will complain that the government should not be involved in the effort (“If some government entity is involved in running or controlling it, it will never work.” – Austin Startup says).  Concerns about control are legitimate, but I’d point out that the government has already been involved in many of the foundational conditions that allow startups to thrive in Austin, and they haven’t screwed it up (too much) yet – University of Texas, Austin Convention Center, and lobbying important organizations and corporations to locate here (a list too long to repeat here), not to mention major transportation changes that changed Austin:  360, the 360 bridge, Mopac… Many of the tech companies are out on 360 or along Mopac.  Downtown might be the right place for the startup district but don’t be surprised when they migrate out of the core business district for less expensive real estate.

Whoever is responsible for the startup district, it should be about facilitating, collaborating, and enabling – not about controlling or running.  If the startup district becomes a reality, it will be an interesting an important step for Austin.


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