Why Austin? At #SXSW

BY SUSAN LAHEY
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
DSC05805-1The Austin Startup session on Why Austin skewed aspirational Saturday morning as Bijoy Goswami of Bootstrap Austin and Kevin Koym of Tech Ranch explained that Austin is the city where you can “be yourself,” where people “look you in the eye and smile at you” and where the culture invites diversity of ideas and interests.
To make that last point, Koym discussed different technologies being explored in Austin from Arduino to Wiki Weapon to E-nose which detects and analyzes the chemical makeup of an odor to self monitoring devices.
“There are so many ideas that you wouldn’t see in Silicon Valley because it’s so expensive there you can’t take the risk,” Koym said. “Someone comes up with great idea and you have five teams doing the same thing. What a waste of effort.”
Goswami pointed out that, in Austin, there are myriad experiences to sample and, “if you like it, you hold onto it. If you go to the Continental Club and try two-stepping and you like it, the next time you go back you have a community.”
The session wasn’t entirely aspirational. Susan Davenport of the Chamber of Commerce and Jim Butler, manager at the City of Austin shared all the statistics so often quoted about the strength of the local economy and the growing resources for the entrepreneurial community.
One attendee expressed interest in moving his 12-person company to Austin and asked what first steps would be. Davenport explained that the Chamber can walk new businesses through all the steps from getting registered with the state, looking for office space and real estate for employees as well as introducing business owners to the community, which includes 75 organizations to support entrepreneurship.
“We find out what your needs are and come up with a strategy to meet those needs,” she said. Butler added that part of the city’s job was to help entrepreneurs with information about mentoring and financial resources.
Another question was posed by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur inspired to possibly move to Austin but wondering about VC opportunities and recruiting of talent. Davenport talked about the chamber’s effort to recruit talent and the fact that 72 countries attend SXSW and “we’re taking resumes all through the conference.”
Koym pointed out that Austin is six hours from Monterrey Mexico where development help can be found for $10 an hour and, from his experience, “Mexican developers kick ass.”
The VC question received a more fudged answer.
“We don’t have as strong a picture in the VC class,” Koym said. “I do believe we have more millionaires here per capita than almost anyplace else…if you’re looking for angel investment you can find that. It’s not necessarily in a formalized group…but you can find the guys who say ‘I’m going to take the risk with you.’”

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