Austin, Texas: Social Business Capital of the World

Three years ago, I had lunch with Jeff Dachis to discuss an idea he had for a new type of business. At the time I was living in Boston and had just completed construction on a new house, a cul-de-sac met by the ocean at the street’s end. As we started construction on a new project, Dachis Group, it became obvious to me that it was necessary to leave that house and relocate to Austin, the social business capital of the world.

Why do I use that specific phrase to describe Austin, Texas or ATX? Because of the concentration of people and their companies that focus on social business. San Francisco has social technology. New York has social media. Austin has all of that and more.

Austin Ventures supports a portfolio of leading social businesses including Bazaarvoice, Spredfast, Spiceworks, and Dachis Group. Other service providers include frog design, Fleishman-Hillard, Ogilvy, WCG, Ants Eye View, Ipsos, and T3. Industry leaders operate here including IBM and Dell. The Social Media Business Council is headquartered here. And of course Austin hosts the largest social/digital annual industry event in the world, South By Southwest Interactive.

It’s people that make the companies special, of course. The Austin social business community is large and welcoming. I’d like to share some perspectives from our local leaders on why Austin is such a great place to work and live:

  • [Aaron Strout] There’s something unusual going on the universe. I’m not sure what force is behind it but about 3-4 years ago, a new set of “railroad” tracks of sorts — that of the virtual variety — were laid down coming from locales north, east and northeast to a little old town in Texas called Austin. Well, Austin’s actually not that little. And it happens to be the capitol of Texas. But that’s besides the point. The key here is that some of the smartest social business minds in the country are flocking in droves to the live music capital of the world. 
  • [Spike Jones] Like a lot of us on this post, I get asked a lot about what it’s like to live in Austin. Where do I begin? I think my favorite thing is the vibe here. You can walk into just about any establishment and witness a cross-culture of individuals who just accept one another. Seriously. Go to the corner restaurant and you’ll see people completely covered ink sitting next to a few guys in suits over next to a young family wearing shorts and flip-flops with their kids running around the table. It just feels like everyone that’s here BELONGS here. No judgment. No snarky comments about non-native Texas (as they say, the only thing wrong with Austin is that it’s surrounded by Texas). No BS.
  • [Greg Matthews] Whatever the reason, it’s clear that there has been a steady-and-growing influx of people (and companies) who thrive on innovation, creativity and technology – into Austin. There’s something about the city that’s at once edgy but unpretentious; passionate but relaxed; reflective but action-oriented. And it’s incredibly exciting to be a part of its ascendancy as a destination for innovators and entrepreneurs – the kind of people who create energy.
  • [Virginia Miracle] Ogilvy doesn’t have a current physical office here and yet, you could say the whole city is our office. We hold meetings at Shady Grove, Texas Honey Ham, learn about new companies at Dominican Joe’s and I can learn more about what is cracking in town at a barbecue or a shopping trip than I could in a month of conference calls. Beyond the individuals who work for your company alone, we are part of a thriving community of like-minded social professionals who have chosen for one of a host of reasons to make Austin home.
  • [Kat Mandelstein] The people of Austin are amazingly open, friendly and welcoming regardless of economic stature or age. Over the last several years a strong community has sprung up here around Social Media and that is now my extended family. In fact, the Austin chapter of Social Media Club is the second largest chapter only behind the founding chapter in San Francisco. Social Media Breakfasts, Twestivals, and Tweetups galore happen on a regular basis too. There is never a shortage of things to do or people to do them with. Many of us have started using the hashtag #whyaustin on twitter to explain why we are so in love with this place we now call home. It’s hard to explain until you have experienced it first hand.
  • [Kate Niederhoffer] Quality of life in Austin is simply higher than in the more fast-paced, cut-throat, nail-biting enclaves of the US. Austin is the perfect mix of intellect, athleticism, family-friendliness, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit. And like attracts like: this unique combination makes us the most ripe breeding ground for social business – thinkers and doers. You won’t believe the people you run into at Whole Foods headquarters… People often dream of moving to NYC. Living in today’s Austin makes me wonder whether people will soon dream of someday making it in Austin with the same tenacity.

Our town will soon welcome 15,000+ visitors for SXSWi. You might be one of them. If so, while you’re here I encourage you to think about the nice people, great weather, low cost of living, live music, nationally recognized public schools, BBQ and breakfast tacos, and the growing community of your peers that call this town home. I know all of the people on this post are seeking great talent to join their firms and you might want to drop an inquiry or two while you’re here. (Click here for Dachis Group’s open positions.)

I have no regrets about leaving that brand new house behind in Boston, because we’re building the social business capital of the world.

Any interest in joining us?

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  1. And slightly to the south… there is San Antonio. A great social community, home of Rackspace, and many more emerging start-ups. But if you REALLY want to look at the future, study the census when you can deep dive into it. Demographically, San Antonio IS the future of the US population. There’s lot of undiscovered clues here. Follow our social media Mayor, Julian Castro, watch for our social media club, the BMPR group, the social media breakfast and study what the Air Force is doing is cybersecurity. Oh – and home to great Mexican food, much lower housing prices, an airport that is in the center of town, and much more.

  2. Peter, I found my way over here from @katenieder’s blog, where I commented on her related post. I’m a recent ATX arrival, and have found the tech climate here in Austin to be very invigorating. I was long aware of hardware firms like Dell, AMD, etc., but didn’t realize until I got here that there was such a huge concentration of Web/social-oriented biz here. Working from a home office, I really appreciate the various meetups & groups where people know what an online community is, have heard of SEO, etc. (As good as social media and other virtual tools are for staying in touch and meeting like-minded people, sometimes it’s nice to actually get together in person!)

    I’ve met quite a few recent transplants to Austin, and they all end up being ATX boosters!


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