Reflections on moving our startup from Los Angeles to Austin

In May we got some very exciting news, we had been accepted into Techstars Austin. Given that Techstars has a lower acceptance rate than Harvard we were incredibly honored, packed our bags, and headed to Austin for the three month program. Our plan, like most companies going through the program was to return to Los Angeles at the end of the summer but after our first couple of months in Austin we realized this might just be the perfect place to move our startup.

Fast-forward to present day and we have now officially moved ourselves and our company to Austin. I never thought in a million years I would live in Texas (no offense to Texas!) and I quickly learned that many of the stereotypes I had heard about Texas were pretty far from the truth. It’s weird how assumptions work and I’ve already dealt with comments from friends with things like “so do you love country music now?” or “how many guns do you own?” which for anyone who has been to Austin knows really isn’t in the ethos of this city.

Still there are pro’s and cons of living here so I thought now that we’ve been here for about six months now would be a good time to share them. I’m a positive guy so I’ll start with the pros.

Three things I love about living in Austin:

  1. The startup community is amazing – we’ve traveled between LA, SF and NYC quite a bit over the last two years and have had a great chance to really dive into all of these communities. Austin has an incredibly inspiring and vibrant startup community and the one thing that stuck out right-away is how much everyone in the community wants to help everyone else. We felt welcomed from day one and are proud to be friends with some truly amazing people who have helped us and many other startups immensely.
  2. The music scene is the best of the best – I absolutely love live music and Austin has been dubbed the live music capital of the world for a reason. There is live music everywhere every single night of the week. I’ve seen more incredibly talented musicians play their heart out in the last six months than I have in my previous 33 years outside of Austin.
  3. The cost of living is significantly lower – we spend less money across the board. From office space to lunch to our apartment, everything is significantly cheaper and as a startup that means our money goes further, a lot further.

Three things I don’t love about living in Austin:

  1. Low quality of healthcare – this is definitely the biggest con for me. In LA we had UCLA Medical Center, Cedars-Sinai and a ton of great medical talent. Texas was ranked the worst in the country for quality of healthcare and everyone I’ve spoken to in Austin who has lived here for a while agrees this city is still far behind LA, SF and NYC when it comes to healthcare. On the plus-side, UT is building a hospital but it’s going to be 3-5 years until we really start to see an improvement.
  2. It’s a lot harder to get direct flights – whether we are flying to SF, LA or NYC there is a massive premium on direct flights. So far every single flight we’ve taken has at least one connection which eats up a lot of time. Sure there are direct flights that leave from Austin but you have to book pretty far in advance if you want to get a reasonable deal. In LA we could book flights to SF and NYC on very short notice and still get direct flights at a good price. Austin does have a beautiful airport but it’s tiny compared to LAX, SFO or either of the two NYC-based airports.
  3. The weather – the summer is insanely hot, so hot in August that you really can’t jog which was disappointing for me as I’m used to jogging year-round. The last few weeks have been bitterly cold and I’m told we’ve got a few more months of chilly weather ahead. It looks like Austin has about 3-4 months a year with beautiful weather like LA and then the rest of the year it’s either really hot or so cold you need to wear a hat and gloves.

At the end of the day I couldn’t be more proud to call Austin our new home. It’s an amazing city and we think it is going to be a great place to grow our startup. Like most things in life you have to balance the pros and cons and for us the pros far outweigh the cons.

{ 17 comments… add one }

  • Brian Fryer November 20, 2014, 8:02 am

    So glad to have you in Austin, Morgan!

    Reply
    • Morgan November 21, 2014, 7:13 am

      Thanks for all the great comments everyone!

      Reply
  • albert November 20, 2014, 8:22 am

    Mortan, I have met you a couple of times and to say the least, you are one of the nicest human being that I have ever had the pleasure of speaking to.
    It looks like the weather tax (sort of speak) has claimed another asset to another state.
    I don’t blame you for moving as I have been contemplating this for a long time myself.
    Good Luck to both of you and and your business.

    Reply
  • Joe November 20, 2014, 9:22 am

    Always changing city have their differences of each other, this is a matter of getting used to cold does or heat and disadvantages you find and exceeding this way have picked you both in this life, for me that success be with you always for sun hat for cover from texas film is typical to see west.

    For the rest everything is starting later and you have done very well.
    Farewell friend

    http://youtu.be/NQRy28XCnuI

    Reply
  • John November 20, 2014, 9:55 am

    No way on the Hats & Gloves
    When i lived in San Antonio in the late 90s it was all Heat and like you say 4 great months
    Summers are Long and Brutal and I imagine a slightly less Hot than Arizona

    Reply
  • james November 20, 2014, 10:16 am

    Hi Morgan & Daina,
    Welcome to Austin, Texas! I enjoyed reading your post about Austin. There is lots to love about being here… especially the people.
    Have a fantastic day!
    James

    Reply
  • chris November 20, 2014, 10:20 am

    did you move alone? if i remember correctly you only have va’s helping you?

    Reply
    • Morgan November 21, 2014, 7:14 am

      @chris – my wife and I moved together. We did not have any virtual assistants, we have hired two people full-time here in Austin and are hiring three more so we’ll be a team of 7 full time in our Austin office by about Feb.

      Reply
  • Domenclature.com November 20, 2014, 10:40 am

    “Like most things in life you have to balance the pros and cons and for us the pros far outweigh the cons.” — Linton

    A man is entitled to make the call you’ve made here. It’s up to you to decide which city is better for your Start-up, and lifestyle.

    However, you’ve provided the data that you relied on, what you’ve eloquently labeled the “pros” and “cons”; therefore, we are entitled to judge your decision based on the above data.

    You have written, in a synopsis, that the pros in favor of Austin (Texas), are: a welcoming, friendly Start-up community, a galore of live music scene, and I forgot the third, oh low cost of living!
    But on the cons, you decried the healthcare, the air transportation, and the weather. Look, the magnitude may be 3 on each side but I submit that Los Angeles, even judged by your own standards, metrics, and rubric, far outclasses your Austin. Live Music is good. But on many nights, when I couldn’t find a good gig in LA, I simply drive to SLS las Vegas, or the Rooftop Nightclub – Drai’s Beach Club, party all night, drive back…

    I get to choose from dozens of Rock stars to sample between SF and LV every time. So, Live Music is no excuse to risk my health somewhere in the middle of nowhere, without ability to fly out, while I’m either burning up, of freezing out, no ability to jog, wearing a 50 gallon hat, dodging strangers strapped with unlicensed guns in bars…that’s no excuse!

    Come back home.

    Reply
  • DonnyM November 20, 2014, 11:55 am

    Cool place. Go hit mozarts coffee house right on the colorado river.
    austin blvd

    DonnyM

    Reply
  • Joe November 20, 2014, 5:43 pm

    In the comment @ Domenclature.com express a phrase with which to finish your comment.

    The coincidence is that this phrase is used for an advertising campaign nougat each year on TV in Spain, so they say ::

    Come back home for Christmas.

    Reply
  • PoorUncle December 27, 2014, 7:14 pm

    Congratulation Morgan. How can I invest some money in your startup?

    Reply
  • Damon Clinkscales January 1, 2015, 9:34 am

    Hey Morgan,

    Just came across this on Medium. Glad to have you here!

    One thing to keep in mind about property taxes is that there is no state income tax. Only 7 states in the country offer this.

    Happy New Year

    Reply
    • Morgan January 2, 2015, 7:07 am

      Thanks @Damon and good point re: no state income tax. Are you here in Austin?

      Reply
      • Damon Clinkscales January 2, 2015, 1:02 pm

        Yep. I’m a Techstars mentor. 🙂

        Reply
        • Morgan January 3, 2015, 11:32 am

          @Damon – I thought your name rang a bell! 🙂

          Reply
  • Louise September 1, 2015, 11:02 am

    This segment on Nightly Business Report made me think of you – how’s it going?

    Top city for startups
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtmEtGopc6o

    Reply

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