Zooming out of the Third Coast
Anyone who spends time around the Austin tech community knows we are a proud people who enjoy drinking our Silicon Hills Kool-Aid. And there’s nothing wrong with that; we should be proud of what we have built over the last several years. However, it’s always good to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. While Austin gets a lot of things right, we still have some room to do better.
Ye olde “Innovation that Matters” report
The United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation, 1776, and Free Enterprise released their annual “Innovation That Matters” Report, which “examines and ranks 25 cities’ readiness to capitalize on the inevitable shift to a digital economy.”
The city of Boston ranked first, ahead of the Bay Area. According to the report, while the Silicon Valley still reigns supreme across certain categories, “its rankings in ecosystem connectivity suggests that the competitive nature of the region may be reducing collaboration” between startups and other civic entities. They still succeeded in several areas, such as total number of startups.
So, where did we land?
Austin placed sixth in the rankings, beating out urban centers like New York, DC, Portland and Seattle.
We excelled in areas of talent, ecosystem connectivity and culture.
Because of Austin’s population growth, especially with the educated millennial crowd, Austin continues to grow a strong force of workers ready to take on present and future tech jobs.
Additionally, the tech community continues to establish strong connections with other community stakeholders, such as universities, investors, veteran corporations, and civic institutions, just to name a few.
Finally, when it comes to quality of life, Austin earned strong marks for its openness to new ideas and general quality of life. Frankly, since queso is basically happiness in a jar, this comes as no surprise to those who live here.
Our weaknesses, and where we can go from here
Still, our city isn’t without its struggles when it comes to our tech ecosystem; we still have a ways to go when it comes to capital generation. According to the report, we generated north of $3 billion in general capital last year. A nice sum to be sure, but we still have a ways to go to hit the $101 billion generated by the Bay Area in that same time frame. Even top-ranked Boston generated over $19 billion. We also had fewer acquisitions than some of the top cities; while Boston had 401, Austin had 141.
Our city also fell behind in the industry specialization department. According to the report, as digital technology continues to permeate into new industries, cities and companies need certain resources to make that change. The scoring here looks at the number of startups in emerging tech industries, such as education, energy and healthcare. They also looked at the number of legacy businesses in these sectors, as these companies can support the next generation of startups bringing new technology into the sector.