Bob Metcalfe, Internet hero, on Austin Startups

  • March 28, 2015
  • Scott

Loved this SiliconHills article on Bob Metcalfe and his goals for Austin.   Right down to the picture of him holding forth in a UT classroom, presumably, where he is mentoring University of Texas undergrads and professors on the art of Starting a business.

This guy has been busy:

For the past four years, Metcalfe has served as the Professor of Innovation, Murchison Fellow of Free Enterprise at the University of Texas at Austin. He has taught an undergraduate course on entrepreneurship with Joshua Baer, founder of Capital Factory and Ben Dyer, Entrepreneur in Residence at UT, called Longhorn Startup. It has spawned dozens of startups.
Metcalfe also runs the Innovation Center in the Cockrell School of Engineering at UT with Louise Epstein and Dyer. They’ve focused on nurturing UT faculty- run startups through the Longhorn StARTup Studio. Each month, Metcalfe and the Austin Chamber of Commerce host “The stARTup Studio,” an informal gathering to bring the faculty run companies in front of investors, entrepreneurs and other community members to talk about their newest products and inventions. The goal of the studio is to teach faculty the art of technology commercialization, Metcalfe said.

And he’s having a real effect – most of which won’t be obvious for years to come as his students graduate, work on and start companies.

And like many Austin residents, it all happened nearly by accident – incidental meetings with National Instruments (thankyou!) and Garza, who was president of the UT Alumni Association.  And he wants Austin wired:

In fact, one of Metcalfe’s goals is to make Austin and the surrounding area of which he includes San Antonio, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, into a better Silicon Valley. He doesn’t want to keep Austin weird, a movement he associates with a left wing and anti-corporate faction, he said. Instead, he has adopted the new slogan of “Keep Austin Wired.”

This passage gave me pause, but only slightly:

I love that Bob is here- huge benefit to Austin and so much to be thankful for. I do think it is a shame he doesn’t appreciate Keep Austin Weird – it is a “local business” movement, not a lefty or anti-corporate movement. Our weird businesses (buying pc’s from a dorm? organic groceries? a bookstore that cares? shoe store that runs? trashy tacos?) may go to the fortune 500 or a small regional force or single store or fail, but the fact that Austin cares about and nurtures these startups is a good thing. I’m talking about Dell, Whole Foods, Bookpeople, Runtex, Torchy’s, Chuys).

Yes, I’m calling stores and restaurants and groceries startups. Is there any better place than Austin for a startup like Sparefoot or uShip to call home? We’re just weird enough for weird business ideas to kill it. Including SXSW, and it’s satellites. It’s the weird that made all this possible.  It is the weird that reminds us that we can go our own way. 

Having said all that, man I hope Austin gets more Wired too!

Thanks Bob, Austin loves you!

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