Keeping Austin Innovative: A Guide to the City's Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Keeping Austin Innovative: A Guide to the City’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Austin has long been known for its live music, mouth-watering barbecue, and vibrant culture. More recently, it has gained recognition for being a bustling hub for startups and innovation. With its business-friendly policies, a talented pool of tech-savvy professionals, and an unbeatable quality of life, Austin’s startup scene offers unique opportunities for budding entrepreneurs and investors alike.

As a “California Transplant” who moved to Austin in 2016, I have witnessed the city’s growing popularity among investors and entrepreneurs. Many of my contacts from my West Coast and East Coast networks have since made the move to the Texas capital, and I have happily introduced them to the local ecosystem.

To save some time, I have put together this guide as an introductory tour of the Austin entrepreneurial ecosystem. Please feel free to contribute to these lists through your comments, and I will be sure to update this article regularly with new information.

Incubators, Accelerators, Innovation Centers, and Venture Studios

Austin boasts a growing list of organizations that nurture early-stage startups, providing resources, mentorship, and funding. While they differ in their focus, program types, selection criteria, and services, there is something for everyone here!

  • Capital Factory – Led by Joshua Baer and known as the “center of gravity for entrepreneurs in Texas,” Capital Factory provides entrepreneurs with co-working space, a supportive environment, and access to mentors, investors, and other resources.
  • Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) – Led by Mitch Jacobson, ATI is part of the University of Texas at Austin and has a deep history of supporting tech and science startups since 1989.
  • Techstars Austin – Led by Amos Schwartzfarb, as part of the global Techstars network, Techstars Austin offers a three-month mentorship-driven accelerator program.
  • International Accelerator (IA) – Led by Angelos Angelou, IA works exclusively with foreign-born entrepreneurs to help them launch their companies in the United States.
  • TechRanch – Led by Kevin Koym, TechRanch is an incubator/accelerator offering three programs: a one-day workshop, an 8-week boot camp, and a 26-week program.
  • SKU – Focused on early-stage consumer packaged goods (CPG) startups, SKU is a startup accelerator offering a 14-week program.
  • UT Texas Innovation Center – Led by Van Truskett the center provides commercialization support, co-working space, wet lab facilities, and connections to incubators, accelerators, mentors, and investors to UT Austin startups.
  • Rex Tech Ventures – A venture studio that focuses on launching PropTech, InsureTech, and FinTech companies with applications in the real estate market.
  • Unknown Ventures – Founded by Briggs Mitchell, Unknown Ventures is a venture studio that provides funding and operational support to startups in the live entertainment, technology, and real estate industries.
  • Mediatech Ventures – Led by Paul O’Brien, Mediatech Ventures is a global venture development group for the media and technology industries, employing a proprietary framework of global partnerships, connecting capital and people advancing opportunities in modern media.
  • Sputnik ATX – Led by Oksana Malysheva, Sputnik ATX is an Austin-based accelerator that funds future category-defining companies from infancy to product market fit.
  • Quake Capital Partners – Founded in 2016 and multiple accelerator programs across the US, including in Austin, where Jason Fernandez is the Managing Director.

Angels and Angel Networks

Austin has a vibrant community of active angel investors who can be found attending many local mixers and events. Additionally, entrepreneurs can tap into the Central Texas Angel Network, an active angel network with over 110 members who have invested $125M into over 200 startups since its launch in 2006.

Venture Capital Firms

The VC landscape in Austin has undergone significant changes over the last decade, with several new local funds being raised and some VCs expanding or moving to Austin from Silicon Valley. Here is a list of the largest and most active VCs in the city:

  • LiveOak Venture Partners – Led by Krishna Srinivasan and Venu Shamapant, LiveOaks Venture Partners is a venture capital firm investing in early-stage Texas-based companies.
  • Silverton Partners – Led by Morgan Flager, Silverton is one of Austin’s most active early-stage investment firms.
  • S3 Ventures – Led by Brian Smith, S3 Ventures specializes in early, expansion, and growth-stage investments in business technology, digital experiences, and healthcare technology.
  • Santé Ventures – Led by Kevin Lalande, Santé Ventures invests in innovative, early-stage healthcare companies across biotech, medtech, and healthtech industries.
  • Moonshots Capital – Led by Kelly Perdew, Moonshots Capital is a seed-stage venture capital firm that invests in companies founded or run by military veterans.
  • Sapphire Ventures – Led by Nino Marakovic, Sapphire is a leading growth-stage global technology-focused venture capital firm.
  • True Wealth Ventures – Led by Sara Brand, True Wealth Ventures invests in smart female entrepreneurs, from consumer health innovators to sustainable product pioneers.
  • Breyer Capital – Led by Jim Breyer, Breyer Capital has recently relocated to Austin Texas. Jim has been invested in over 40 consumer internet/tech companies that have completed successful IPOs or mergers. He is currently interested in companies at the intersection of life sciences and AI.
  • 8VC – Led by Joe Lonsdale 8VC is a technology and life sciences investment firm that builds and invests in the world’s most ambitious companies.
  • Next Coast Ventures – Led by Michael Smerklo, Next Coast Ventures provides early-stage capital to high-growth startups in ‘Next Coast’ markets, using macro trends and themes to guide their investment strategy.
  • ATX Venture Partners – Founded by Chris ShonkBrad Bentz, and Danielle Weiss Allen, ATX Ventures is an early-stage VC in Texas investing in technology companies across in fintech, insurrect, AI, future of work, manufacturing, and supply chain logistics.
  • Scout Ventures – Led by Brad Harrison, Scout Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm that invests in frontier and dual-use technologies built by veterans, intelligence leaders, and premier research labs.
  • Multicoin Capital – Led by Kyle Samani, Multicoin Capital is a thesis-driven crypto fund that invests long-term in tokens that reshape entire sectors of the global economy.

Events, Conferences, Meetups, and Organizations

Austin is brimming with opportunities to connect, learn, and get inspired. Here are some must-attend events and meetups:

  • SXSW (South by Southwest) – SXSW is a major annual event featuring conferences, festivals, and exhibitions in music, film, and interactive media. It’s a great place to meet industry leaders, innovators, and investors from across the globe.
  • Austin Startup Week – Celebrating Austin’s startup culture, this five-day event offers networking sessions, mentor hours, workshops, and more. It’s a fantastic opportunity for startups to learn and connect.
  • Texas Venture Crawl – This simultaneous event across 10+ Texas cities highlights the greater venture community supporting the Texas startup ecosystem— it’s like a Startup Crawl, but with VCs.
  • Austin Tech Happy Hour – A monthly meetup where Austin’s tech professionals can network in a relaxed setting. It’s held every month and is a great place to connect with Austin’s tech community.
  • Texas-Squared Startup Newsletter – The Texas-Squared Startup Newsletter is a weekly email digest that hand-selects relevant news to the Texas startup ecosystem. Launched in August of 2015, Texas-Squared comprehensively covers news, events, and opinions about startups across Texas.
  • Texas Venture Alliance – Co-Founded by CS Freeland, the Texas Venture Alliance is a non-profit focused on amplifying the venture community across the state and advocating for startups and investors at the Texas Capitol.
  • F.I.E.S.T.A. – Short for Founders, Investors, Entrepreneurs, Startups, Techies, and Austin Newcomers and organized by Cherie Werner, FIESTA is one of the fastest-growing startup meetups in Austin.

Activities and Events

While Austin offers a wealth of opportunities for networking, finding mentors, connecting with entrepreneurs, and becoming part of the ecosystem, let’s not forget that many of us moved here for the fun activities that Austin has to offer. Before I wrap up this post, here are my go-to resources to make the most of life in Austin:

  • Do512 – This is my go-to website to check out the latest events in Austin, from live music to food events, sporting events, concerts, and more. The sister website, Do512-Family is a great place to find the latest family-friendly events in the city.
  • Visit Austin – While mostly targeting visitors, this is a great resource for locals as well who are looking to find out what’s happening in Austin, especially their events calendar.
  • Eater Austin – A great resource to read about the latest restaurants and hot spots in Austin. Their articles and recommendations are well-written and spot-on.

So, there you have it! This should be a good start for entrepreneurs and investors making the move to the Texas capital. I am sure that you will be delighted by the energy, the ever-present southern hospitality, and the collaborative spirit of the community.

Welcome to Texas, y’all!