Okay, to be completely honest I never thought in a million years we would be thinking about moving our startup to Austin, TX. I was born in the Bay Area, Berkeley to be exact, and growing-up when I thought of Texas I thought of three things, guns, overweight people and country music.
First, please remember I’m reflecting on what I was told about Texas while growing up in Berkeley, CA, this is not what I think of Texas today. A week ago we packed our bags (and cat) and moved to Austin, Texas to be a part of one of the top startup accelerators in the world – Techstars. I’ll save why we choose Techstars for another post but I will tell you that it had a lot to do with Jason Seats (founder of SliceHost – sold to Rackspace), the Managing Director over here and possibly one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs we’ve had a chance to cross-paths with in our life.
1,500 companies applied to be part of the Techstars Austin program and 11 were selected. Two companies in the program are from Austin, the rest of us hail from all over the place, New York City, Ireland, San Diego, etc. While not all of us will stay in Austin we are very seriously considering it, and here’s why:
- The startup scene is on-fire in Austin – and it’s not just because it’s literally so hot that sometimes it feels like you could actually burst-into flames. While we’ve only been here for two weeks we feel incredibly welcome as a startup into a community that is going through what I think is safe to say is a “Tech Renaissance” with innovators and creators just about everywhere you go. There are multiple startup events every week and some pretty cool success stories like HomeAway, RetailMeNot, WPEngine and many more helping to put Austin on the map in a major way.
- The cost of living is low, really low – coming from Los Angeles it has been easy to spot all of the cost savings. You can actually afford to buy a house, beer costs less than $5 in a bar and gas is under $4 a gallon. Office space is cheaper, hiring employees is cheaper, you get the picture, it’s a lot less expensive to live and run a business here than SF, LA or NYC.
- One of the largest Universities in the country is here – I think the University of Texas might actually be the largest but I wasn’t 100% sure so thought it was definitely safe to say “one of the largest.” One thing startups need is to hire great people and Universities are one of the best places to find these folks. With 50,000 students there’s a pretty amazing group of inspired young minds to pull from.
- It’s called the live music capital of the world for a reason – when we first moved to LA we thought there would be live music everywhere we went. Boy were we wrong. While there are some cool places to see music in LA, you’ll find yourself driving long distances between each, waiting in line, paying a cover, and then spending a small fortune on drinks. Austin calls itself the live music capital of the world and honestly this is 100% spot-on. Walk down 6th street on a Monday night and you can literally watch live music at just about every place you go. Oh and some of my friends thought it would just be country music (another TX stereotype). Since we’ve been here I actually haven’t heard any country music, this town has a lot of rock and roll and indy rock along with just about every other genre of music you could imagine.
- Joshua Baer – Obama may be the President of the United States but Joshua Baer is the President of the Ausin startup community. A fellow CMU alum (bonus points!) and the founder of three successful email startups, Joshua is an angel investor and the founder/operator of the Capital Factory a co-working space and incubator that serves as the hub of the startup community in Austin. We haven’t met Joshua yet but I am hoping that we get along (fingers crossed) as he runs the startup scene here and is really pushing for startups to move to Austin.
Now back to all those things people told me about Texas while I was growing up. First, the gun thing. I’m not a huge gun fan and neither is Austin from what I can tell. Every bar and restaurant I’ve been to has a very clear no-gun policy and while I’m still new here it doesn’t seem like Austin has the “gun fever” that Texas is often tagged with.
Next the overweight people thing. Austin is one healthy city with people jogging and biking everywhere, a beautiful river and lake all walking distance from downtown, and on that note, everything walking distance from just about everywhere. Whole Foods is headquartered here and has their flagship store is in Austin (actually two blocks from our place). There is honestly more organic food and smoothie places than Berkeley has.
Last but not least, country music. I have no problem with country music but can tell you that all of my friends told me that if I was moving to Austin, expect to hear country music everywhere. That must have come from friends that have never been to Austin because I honestly can’t even find where to listen to country music. I’ve walked by probably 50 different bars playing live music and most have been some form of rock and roll, I’m sure there’s country music somewhere but it’s definitely not the focus.
We have an apartment here for six-months and will be going through Techstars for the next three months. As usual I will be sharing my experiences here on my blog, good or bad, you guys know me, I won’t hold back. In the end we’ll find-out if we move back to LA or choose to call Austin,TX home, right now we’re absolutely loving it here but it’s only been a couple of weeks.
I look forward to sharing in this adventure together!