Why I Chose Austin

A certain article has been making its way around the Austin twittersphere as of late, highlighting pros and cons of austin as a startup/tech hub.  I actually don’t have much to comment on Trevor’s thoughts on our city, other than that his portrayal of the angel scene is perhaps a bit exaggerated, although not entirely off mark.  Obviously in comparison to Silicon Valley there aren’t that many value-add angels walking around Austin, but I’d argue that, at least at the seed stage, capital and advice/mentoring don’t necessarily need to be linked. There are tons of highly knowledgeable mentors and advisors here, even if they aren’t the people writing checks.

On a personal level, my wife and I didn’t have to think twice about moving to Austin after spending 3 years in Massachusetts for law school.  The east coast was simply out of the question – neither of us can stand 6 months of painfully cold weather.  And to all the Bostonians out there, spare me the comments about our heat. Walk outside at 7am or 7pm on the hottest day of the year, and it’s gorgeous.  In the Boston winter, it sucks ALL DAY.

My wife grew up in Southern California, I’m Texan, and I knew that I (i) didn’t want to work for billion-dollar multi-national companies, and (ii) wanted to work as closely with tech startups and entrepreneurs as I could.  I’ve never had the classic “lawyer personality,” and to be honest, I don’t like working with them much either – though my co-workers are awesome. I prefer people who are always looking for ways to tinker with things or build new ones, and who aren’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers about it.

So Austin and Silicon Valley were really our only options. Since we both went to UT for undergrad, knew about Austin’s growing tech scene, and that you didn’t have to be a millionaire to live in something larger than a cardboard box, ATX was a no-brainer.  The legal market is small and hard to crack, particularly because every lawyer and his mother in TX wants to work here, but thankfully Andrews Kurth gave me an offer.

Best decision of my professional life… so far.  If I had to argue for Austin as an excellent startup/tech hub, here’s what I’d say:

  • No need to argue for Quality of Life – just look at how we rank on all those annoying lists that magazines/journals pump out all the time
  • UT is starting to see itself more and more as a source for pumping out entrepreneurial talent, as reflected by the growing number of startup-focused programs
  • There’s an enormous sense of community among people involved in startups.  Call yourself a startup founder, and someone will start plugging you in.
  • Bootstrapping and forming businesses that aren’t necessarily targeted at world domination gets you much more respect than in the valley. There isn’t nearly as much of a sense of urgency to slap a VC brand on your LinkedIn page.
  • Growing diversity of capital – sure, we could use more big-named local VCs, but in my own practice I’ve seen enough east and west coast money flowing in to know that we are on everyone’s radar.
  • Growing diversity of companies – I’ve seen a growing number of biotech and consumer-focused startups coming up in Austin, notwithstanding our enterprise-heavy funding environment.
  • The city itself feels like a startup.  Ask someone in Austin how they feel about the city, and you’ll often see a glimmer in their eye.  People feel invested and connected in this town, not as if they’re just one more developer or founder in a sea of others fighting for the prize.

I love it here. I get calls all the time from recruiters offering jobs in other cities, including Silicon Valley, and my response is always the same: if you hear about something interesting in Austin, let me know. Otherwise, I’m not going anywhere.