Q &A with Claire England on Her New Role Promoting Startups at Tech Ranch Austin

Claire England earlier this year at RISE Austin, photo by Laura Lorek.

Claire England earlier this year at RISE Austin, photo by Laura Lorek.

Claire England, former executive director RISE Austin, has joined Tech Ranch Austin.
While England has resigned the full-time executive director role at RISE Austin, she will continue to work with the organization in an advisory role and is leading the planning of next year’s conference.
In her new role at Tech Ranch Austin, England will serve as managing director of global expansion and new initiatives. She will also be working with South by Southwest Interactive on engaging international startups for SXSW Interactive 2014.
In addition, England has also volunteered as the Austin Chair for Startup America, a position formerly held by the late Scott Robinson.
She will also volunteer to join the advisory board for the new Austin Global Shapers Hub, a program of the World Economic Forum. James Bilodeau is the founding curator.
“I’m VERY excited about all of this and looking forward to having an even bigger impact on our entrepreneur ecosystem!,” England wrote in an email announcing her new roles.
Upon hearing the news, Silicon Hills News jotted down a few questions to ask England via email about the Austin entrepreneurial ecosystem which she has had an active role in promoting.

Q. Why did you decide to join Tech Ranch Austin?

A. Every organization experiences growth and internal strengthening; Tech Ranch is poised for significant growth and has been strengthening and expanding its core programs to serve entrepreneurs and startups at every level. Now we are developing strong relationships with startup communities in Asia and South America, resulting in new impact on Austin’s startup community. Founder Kevin Koym created a great vision for the future of entrepreneurial activities at Tech Ranch, and he has complemented his skills by adding Managing Partner Sandeep Kumar earlier this year. Sandeep’s strengths as a serial entrepreneur with a focus on strategy and execution are helping accelerate Tech Ranch, as great co-founders and co-leaders do. I joined Tech Ranch because I see the huge potential for what the organization can help startups accomplish, and I bring another set of skills to the organization that complements the existing leadership.

Q. What are Austin’s greatest strengths when it comes to entrepreneurship?

A. I strongly believe our greatest strength with regards to entrepreneurship is our collaborative community. Further, the focus in Austin is not on valuation but on value. The pressure is a little different here than in more “go-go” markets, which means entrepreneurs have more time to explore ideas and market viability fully. Nevertheless, once a company is formed, speed of plan implementation and customer acceptance remain crucial. Austin and Central Texas offer all the core resources that a new company needs, from talented people to test markets for prototypes, products, services, etc; to affordable work space options; to programs that support their work.

Q. What problems do you see that need to be fixed?

A. Investment needs to be expanded — early and later stage options — both in terms of sheer numbers, but also helping investors become more comfortable investing in a wider variety of markets, so that significant investments aren’t focused on just a few sectors. And this isn’t limited to growing our community’s investment capacity; it’s also important that we position Austin’s startups as attractive for outside investment.
Our startups continue to need top developer talent and opportunities for partnership. The more our business and civic communities can do to support startups, the better it is for Austin as a whole. Startups and small business are driving the new economy, and they need our help.
Conversely, our startups should get involved in helping make Austin great, as much as they can. From helping solve our transportation challenges to initiating creative solutions for our wicked world problems by investing time and energy in social innovation and our nonprofit community, there is plenty to be done.

Q. How is Austin viewed in the global economy?

A. Austin is predominantly defined internationally by music and SXSW (and increasingly Formula 1), which means it’s seen as a creative, talented, and fun city. Of course, Austin consistently ranks high on most national and international top 10 lists, but we cannot rest on our laurels. For Austin to be truly great and to really compete in the global economy, we have to take our business community and our infrastructure to the next level. That will require a great deal of collaboration and hard work, but it will absolutely be worth it.
For example, Tech Ranch already has partnerships in Singapore and in Chile, and SXSW brings in startups from all over the world. Both organizations have the opportunity to create significant impact in Austin through their international relationships, and I’m thrilled to be working in this arena. Austin is also poised to be a technology gateway to Latin America, and startup partnerships are beginning to emerge between the two regions.

Q. Anything else you would like to add or make a point of that we haven’t asked you about?

A. My predecessor with Startup Texas/Startup America, Scott Robinson, had a huge vision for Austin, as big as his heart and his strength of personality. He was a dear friend to me and many in the startup and tech communities and is sorely missed. We have a lot of work to do to carry on his vision. My personal goal in all of my work and volunteer commitments is to help make Austin both the best city and the best entrepreneur ecosystem in the world. We need everyone in our community contributing and collaborating to help make that possible.

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