Austin always ranks high on “Top 10 Places to Live” lists. Among its more recent accolades: Kiplinger’s Personal Finance ranked it as the best U.S. city to live in for the next 10 years. It’s not just because the city is home to a great live-music scene, the Texas Longhorns, and the upcoming SXSW fest. It’s also because Austin is the best place in America to start, run, and grow a small business.
Start with a dozen community programs and a dozen more venture-capital funds that form a neural network of business brainpower to help entrepreneurs. Add multiple business associations, incubators, educational programs, and networking events, not to mention SXSW. Mix in Austin’s classless society and its motto of “Keep Austin Weird,” and you’ve got an ideal breeding ground for startups.
“Austin is a community-driven place, and social capital plays a big role here,” says Biljoy Goswani, founder of Bootstrap Austin, one of the city’s biggest entrepreneurship groups. “Business transactions are grounded in human exchange, and helping people out.’”
As a mover and shaker in Austin’s small business community, Goswani knows where entrepreneurs should go for education, advice, partners, and funding (check out his great slide listing all the players in Austin’s entrepreneurship scene). Here are some of his top picks for entrepreneurs to check out in order to hit the ground running when they land in Austin.
RISE Austin is an annual SXSW for entrepreneurs, and happens the week before SXSW kicks off (March 7-11). Entrepreneurs teach free sessions about what they’ve learned to other entrepreneurs (Goswani organizes a “Bootstrap Track” for that conference). If you’re in town the night before SXSW, great networking opportunities can be found at the CoHabitat party and Startup Crawl (March 10).
Entrepreneurs who want to progress from inspiration to finished products or services can get advice and feedback from Austin’s various workshops and boot camps, such as Austin Inventors and Entrepreneurs Association‘s weekly meetings, Startup Weekend, a 10-week summer program by Capital Factory for tech startups, and ProductCamp‘s “unconferences” for product managers and marketers.
For those who want inexpensive office space that is not at home or the corner Starbucks, Austin offers plenty of co-working spaces around town, from Conjunctured, Austin’s first co-working “home,” to actual office-building space provided by Cospace, Link Coworking, and Perch Coworking. They all offer business support and host various events.
Raising capital is not as tech-specific here as it is in Silicon Valley, says Goswani. “There’s funding for food, fitness, arts, all types of entrepreneurial ventures.” Receptive firms offering seed capital include nonprofits like PeopleFund, BIG Austin, and Central Texas Angel Network, to Texas-focused venture capital firms like Accent Capital and Triton Ventures.
“Austin has multiple support groups for all types of communities,” says Goswani. “Just tap into the local scene you like, and you’ll find your group.” These range from major organizations like Goswani’s Bootstrap Austin and Austin Entrepreneur Group, to niche groups ranging from Better Bites of Austin for foodies to On Techies for the wired crowd.