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An honest look at business in Austin

#WhyAustin is a special ongoing series featuring interviews with business leaders, politicians, and even outsiders. We’re taking a meaningful look at what makes Austin great while honestly examining the challenges our business and startup culture has.

Instead of talking about how Austin graces nearly every desirable Top 10 list ever published, we’re asking some of the most relevant names in business to opine. We’re interviewing company founders, politicians, startup investors, programmers, artists, musicians, and we’ve even interviewed leaders outside of Austin for their perspective. That is how you get honest feedback, folks.

#WhyAustin interview with Amy Simmons of Amy’s Ice Cream

In the video above, we chat with Amy Simmons, founder of the famous Amy’s Ice Cream. When we met, I was slightly fangirlish, given that Amy’s is so much a part of any Austinite’s life. My first date was at an Amy’s, the first place we went after college graduation was an Amy’s, many a 1:00am trip is still made to our nearest Amy’s. It’s the go-to for locals for special occasions (and just daily “I’m craving Amy’s”) and has always reflected the “Keep Austin Weird” vibe at every turn.

But for Amy it’s about so much more than ice cream, she’s churning out the next generation of entrepreneurs and getting her hands dirty.

Because the above video is a snippet of our interview, we’ve included the full transcript below. It’s chock full of business insight and honestly, inspiration. It’s one of the most honest perspectives we’ve heard to date, and there is no sugar coating here:

When did you move to Austin, what attracted you?

I moved to Austin in 1984 to start Amy’s Ice Creams. We had started a business plan, but we were looking at London. We went to London and the economy was flat, the weather was bad, and they really didn’t have great ice cream over there. The most popular ice cream was an animal fat-based ice cream. You had to also buy your lease up front.

We kind of came back from England with our tail between our legs saying, “This idea of opening an ice cream store, we’re going to have to go to med school,” or something horrible like that [if ice cream doesn’t work out]. We read an article in The Economist on the high-tech growth in Austin. We never had been here, we came down, and fell in love in two days.

Where did you guys move from?

Most recently I was in Coconut Grove, Florida but I’m originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I went to school in Boston, then I opened an ice cream shop in New York City for somebody else, then down in Florida. So directly here from Florida.

What’s the most attractive part to doing business in Austin?

The most attractive part, hands down, is the creativity and the people. It’s much like my hometown of Ann Arbor is a very liberal city in a very conservative state, Michigan. And here, Austin is a very liberal city in a very conservative state, Texas. All the cool, interesting people move here, and we get to work with that and serve them as customers. The spunk, the diversity, there’s just so much energy. I have kind of an eclectic, sarcastic sense of humor and it’s fine here. The biggest change in Austin in the 32 years that Amy’s has been open is the concentrated growth. It was very purposeful growth. The Chamber of Commerce identified it as one of their goals, is to grow population and grow jobs.

Austin has really, really, really expanded and created a lot of traffic. When you have a lot of people moving into the city all at once, there’s the people that have adapted to the culture of Austin, and then the people who come from somewhere else and bring their culture. I think it’s less distinct of a culture than it was when I moved here in 84.

What’s unique about Austin when it comes to expanding?

Having grown a company in many other cities, we have a shop in Houston, we had a shop in Dallas, and we’re in San Antonio. Of that subset of experience, Austin’s the most difficult. Not when we opened 32 years ago, but now. [There is a] tremendous amount of regulation. It was all passed very purposefully, but it seems like there’s a lot of unintended consequences.

The thing about Austin when I came down to visit and decide whether or not this is a good place to start a company, is that I’ve been all over the US. My mother was afraid of flying so we drove everywhere. We were in every state. Texas, and Austin in particular, has so many home-grown businesses. When I came down here to visit, Chewy’s had just opened, and so had Texas French Bread, there’s just no other city within the city limits that had so many unique, locally owned businesses.

My worry in the future is that the cost of development is really going to prohibit small business from opening. It really disproportionately favors the nationals. They come in and what they really want is a position in a cool city.

You think about South Congress, now we have Warby Parker, and American Apparel, and those are great companies. But what is South Congress? It’s the locals. And they’re tearing down the building that has Parks and Rec. I’m really worried about the future of small business, and that’s a big part of our unique culture.

What are the challenges when hiring talent in Austin?

We don’t have any challenges. We have such an incredible job and such an incredible culture within the organization that’s been built over those 32 years by every single person that’s ever worked for us; the ones who tell us who we’re not and the ones who tell us who we are. I think really Amy’s is a giant magnet.

We actually say you have to reach escape velocity to leave because there’s so much magnetic pull to stay there. We really value creativity, and individuality, and contribution.

We try not to have hierarchy. The whole environment draws really creative, intelligent people in.

How do you prioritize when pricing?

We certainly have the limitation of how much can you charge for an ice cream cone. We always consider our stake holders; we have four stake holders.

Our customers – we don’t want to charge them too much for the ice cream. It’s really horrible when you have a family of four and the parents have to cringe to pay for the kids’ ice cream, just have a day out with the family.

Our employees, paying them enough, paying them a living wage as the economy swells in Austin and the cost of living is prohibitive.

Then our share holders – when Amy’s was founded, I didn’t have any money. We wrote a business plan and we raised money from share holders. They’ve been with us for 32 years and they need a reasonable return on their investment or they’re not going to invest in our employees when they go out to open their own companies.

Then, the fourth is our suppliers. If you don’t pay them well then we’re not going to have dairy for making the ice cream next year. Wage is a really difficult part of, we want to pay a lot more, but we practice something called the great game of business and we’re zealots.

What is the great game of business?

It was a book from a guy named Jack Stack in Missouri in the very non-sexy business of major farm equipment remanufacturing. But what he did is really open his business up to all his employees. They’re blue collar, a lot of them with just high school education, and really believing in people and their ability to understand problem solving.

He taught finance to people who we might traditionally say “well, they wouldn’t understand it.” Their engagement was phenomenal, and that company has done incredibly over the years. He’s our mentor for our organization. We like to say “Amy’s, it’s a front.” It’s really a front for educating primarily young people in business, and finance, and decision making, and problem solving so they can go out in the world and be really successful themselves.

What businesses has that led to?

The first one was Ozone Bikes. It was a guy named Andrew Digas. I love Andrew, and it was right across the street from here! He would go to garage sales and buy bikes. He would clean them up and sell them for more. He ended up opening a great bike shop that ended up being Moto Cross Riders that were incredibly talented. Still many of them work for us occasionally, seasonally, today. That was the first business.

A Little City was a chain of coffee shops that really brought back Congress. That was four ex-Amy’s employees. Mrs Pea’s Electric Pot, that was an Amy’s employee.

Sweet Ritual [was founded] Valerie Ward who opened a vegan ice cream company called Sweet Ritual. Michael Hartman who worked for us from 1985 to 1988 went to New York City and opened a PR company that became the number one PR company that handled Broadway shows in New York City. He came back to be our CEO. He was very successful in New York. Really we have identified that as a goal of ours and we’re going to start really measuring it in the next two years. We have a lot of people on the platform ready to dive.

Is it true that Austinites are the most generous with their contacts?

Incredibly well put. Austin, networking is such a nasty word because it implies that your motive is personal gain. Austin does it in a real way, which is real relationships, really caring for one another, really supporting one another.

Instead of the scarcity model, Austin is really the abundance model. It’s not taking money out of your pocket by helping somebody even in a competitive industry. There’s enough for everybody in Austin. I guess that’s one way the growth is really positive.

Even in the ice cream industry, the sweets industry, lots of groups get together and support one another, and give best practices. When I first came down here I talked to Mike Young at Chewy’s, and I talked to Texas French Bread, Judy. It’s one of the things that made me move here, they were so forthcoming with information. Don’t pick a location on Sixth Street or across from the University. It might look obvious but you’re going to have a limited market over there. People were really, really, real advise. I agree, Austin’s networking is relationships, true relationships.

Which is the brightest – Austin’s past, present, or future?

I want to be optimistic about the future but I’m a little worried. I can’t help but say the past. There’s a lot that I really miss. A little bit more than 10 years ago, we identified what was going on with Austin’s growth and the worry for the small business market. We started purchasing property and developing it. There’s a number of other people who do this; Daryl Kunick who has Ace Taylors and is involved at UT, Peter Barlin, there’s some great folk in town doing this.

We purchase properties, mostly architecturally with some history, this was Now’s Grocery Store, Now’s drug store. We know the past.

We develop it inexpensively and then we lease way below market. We only lease to Austin businesses so we coined them Austin-villes. That’s been wonderful for us and for the businesses we’ve partnered with.

We’re also developing kind of an Austin-ville in Smithville, Texas which is about an hour from here. It’s this incredible small town. It’s this great downtown with fabulous old Texas buildings on either side. All of them were kind of boarded up. Because the cost of living in Austin has increased a lot, we’ve gotten a lot of really wonderful creatives to move down to Smithville and open businesses.

I think that’s one thing that’s a great byproduct is that maybe we help smaller economies that surround us. When we opened, we opened up north. When we first drove and looked at the land I was like, “It’s frozen wasteland.” There’s no architecture, there’s no sense of community, there’s no personality to this area that a lot of people were moving. We were able to create a meeting place by building an Austin-ville.

What does Austin need to do to attract more talent in businesses?

Don’t get me on my soap box. I think our society has become somewhat punitive. I don’t now about you, but when I’m driving down the street if a cop’s behind me I’m like, “Is my registration current? Am I driving 30 miles an hour, I want to go 31.” I feel like I’m a really honest citizen. I’m a non-rule breaker, but I still feel guilty.

I think code enforcement is really growing. [The department] started with two people 15 years ago and now, I don’t know, it’s 50.

You hear all these stories about code enforcement. We had been broken into, we had an 18-year-old employee who was really nervous and scared. We got on the scene and the code enforcement guy’s writing her a ticket for having a sandwich sign on the sidewalk. It wasn’t where handicapped people would go by. And if you go down to City Hall and you go around there I promise you there’ll be 10 sandwich signs there, so it’s inconsistently enforced. It’s a true story, but it shows, it’s an exaggerated example of what we shouldn’t do in this city.

We should partner with our businesses. And that doesn’t mean that you say yes more often. We have rules for a reason, but we’re partners. Some of the things Steve Adler has done as Mayor, I really appreciate. He really listens. Even city answering a telephone and saying, “How can I help you today?” Or from Chick-Fil-A, “My pleasure.”

Sometimes it’s just language and understanding that the city and the city government serves the population. I feel like that kind of effort, really small things like our language and recognizing we’re a community can really, really help.

And understanding local small businesses are valuable.

I think that one of the biggest things are development cost, real estate cost, and then our ability to get employees that can make a decent wage so we’re not charging incredible amounts for one cup of ice cream, but we can still pay the people who serve it so that they can live in this city. I think the great game of business, which we practice, really ends up giving you better margins in your business because everybody’s involved and everybody’s smarter than just one person. We’ve been able to increase our margins and get more money to our employees. That type of thing is a way that can really keep small business alive in Austin for a while.

Is Austin’s level of innovation ahead of the curve?

We are way ahead of the curve! Austinites really are limit testers, and we attract limit testers. It’s a wonderful thing. You think about Boston being a community with all those schools, well Austin’s really come up.

ACC is a great community college. When I couldn’t understand accounting at Amy’s early on I took accounting classes from ACC and really got engaged with it, and still have relationships with my professors from way back then. But also the University of Texas – we have a lot of students doing projects and internships. Then St. Edwards has come up – they might be even beating UT in terms of their student body and their presence in the community. Acton School of Business is a phenomenal, went way up on Princeton review. I think it’s number one in three categories, that’s a very innovative business school.

Then the people we attract, all the best companies are in Austin. I’m inspired. I can go any evening, I can go to some event where I’m learning something new.

How do you feel about Austin being on every single “Best Of” list?

I think it’s indicative of accomplishment and achievement. When I first moved here there was a magazine called Third Coast, but look at Chronicle and Lewis Black and what he’s done. Look at the tiny building it’s still housed in and the huge things that he does. South by Southwest, and how it’s expanded into education and film, it’s interactive.

I think it’s indicative of everything that’s happening here. ACL, Charles Attel, and Amy Corbin, they were little club owners and they did this huge thing. Now it’s all across the country, festivals have grown because of their model.

I think the attention we get is because of the innovation and accomplishment. Is it good or bad? You want people who are limit testers and creative to get attention so yeah, I love them getting attention. They deserve it.

What is Austin’s biggest business culture challenge?

In our business culture, I don’t know. I would love to get in there and help problem solve. I’m a big fan of [Austin Mayor] Steve Adler, he’s a really bright guy, puts a tremendous amount of energy in. I think it’s really frustrating because in business you could have one or two, or a team of leaders, they could make change and change the direction of an organization pretty quickly. The city government structure of Austin prohibits that from happening. It moves very, very slowly.

I had Billy Clayton who used to be the Speaker of the House, I went to graduate school with him. I’m like, “Billy, the government moves so slow.” He’s like, “It was designed that way.” You don’t want it as different.

I kind of get this low isn’t so bad, but how do we deal with our traffic problems? How do we deal with the homeless problems? How do we deal with the fact that all of our homeless services and charitable serves are clustered downtown which is where our tourism is, a lot of small businesses, a lot of the music industry is? We really want to help the music industry. It’s who we are, we’re the third coast. How are we going to do that?

We want solutions to these problems but the government isn’t built so that one person can steer it quickly. I think it will help to get a new city manager in. I hope we get a really wonderful city manager that has a great vision. I happen to love our police chief. Regardless of if you agree with him, he’s so forthcoming with information and he’s out there quickly and in a candid manager. I would love that in a city manager. I would love to feel like we’re all together in this and we can all make a change.

But something else, I think I really love the food trucks because that’s a lot of people to kind of test an idea. They’re not really sustainable. If you work in a food truck, you’re not going to make enough money to want to do that for 5 to 10 years. It is a wonderful way to test a concept and it can move into a brick and mortar.

What advice do you have for businesses hoping to open in Austin?

I would say the best advice is to find a local landlord. The local landlords often times are aligned in their values with the city and with you as a small business owner.

My first landlord is still a wonderful friend of mine. I didn’t have any credit, I wrote a hot check. He still tells the story today and feels pride in helping me get started, and then the impact that we’ve been able to have as a company on the city.

I think if you find a local landlord the chances are they’re going to ally with you. Like we’ve talked about, people really care about you and your success. Go to local businesses, similar businesses, don’t be afraid to ask the questions, ask the pitfalls, ask for help, and then definitely plan.

We talk about writing a business plan and it’s to get the money, you think you write the business plan to get the money, but you write the business plan so that by the end of writing it you don’t talk yourself out of that then maybe it’s a good idea. But your job is to talk yourself out of it, or mitigate all the risk points. As you’re writing it, they’ll all come to the surface and you get a chance to lop them off before they become a problem.

More leaders on #WhyAustin:

Below are some of the other locals we’ve chatted with. Want more? Subscribe, and you’ll get nothing but new interviews delivered to your inbox!


#WhyAustin with Patrick Terry, Founder of P. Terry’s:

#WhyAustin with Chris Hyams, President of


texas senator kirk watson


q manning #whyaustin

collin slattery #WhyAustin

bronko box brooke cox

chris treadaway

Huge thanks to StoryCraft

Special thanks to our partners at StoryCraft for their phenomenal videography skills!


Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Why Austin

P. Terry’s founder on the booming economy in Austin #WhyAustin

P. Terry’s founder, Patrick Terry sits down with us to honestly assess the business environment and living conditions in Austin – why it is booming, and what challenges are holding the city back. WhyAustin.



whyaustin sxsw

An honest look at doing biz in Austin

#WhyAustin is a special ongoing series featuring interviews with business leaders, politicians, and even outsiders. We’re taking a meaningful look at what makes Austin great while honestly examining the challenges our business and startup culture has.

Instead of talking about how Austin graces nearly every desirable Top 10 list ever published, we’re asking some of the most relevant names in business to opine. We’re interviewing company founders, politicians, startup investors, programmers, artists, musicians, and we’ve even interviewed leaders outside of Austin for their perspective. That is how you get honest feedback, folks.

#WhyAustin interview with P. Terry himself

In the video above, we chat with beloved local burger company P. Terry’s Owner, Patrick Terry who has a unique view on doing business in Austin. Below is the full transcript:

When did you move to Austin? What brought you here?

I went to school here as a University of Texas student. I started here in 1976 and graduated in 1980. I left for Dallas for five years wanting to come back. Back in those days, it was very hard to find a job in Austin. There was government or University of Texas and not much else.

I got an opportunity to move back in 1985, actually, with a state government position as the director of the Texas Sesquicentennial Commission, celebrating our 150th anniversary. That got me back to Austin. That was in August of ’85, and I’ve been here ever since.

Why was P. Terry’s founded in Austin?

Everything is timing. There’s no doubt that Austin had a big part to do with the creation of the concept and the fact that we opened it here. No question about that. It’s a very educated city and very conscious of what they eat.

It’s not a coincidence that Whole Foods started in and grew success out of Austin.

In a way, we mirrored that with the quality that we set. There’s no question that this -my concept- using all natural beef, hormone free, vegetarian fed, antibiotic-free meat doesn’t play in all the world. There’s plenty of places that it isn’t, I think. In Austin, it is. That definitely had something to do with opening in Austin.

What is the most attractive part about doing business in Austin?

I think it’s the population. I don’t think there’s any doubt that when you deal with people conscious of their surroundings and a good sense of what they’re about, it makes it easy to work with, too.

How does Austin’s quality of life compare to other cities?

I think that when you look at it, the quality of life in Austin is exceptional. If you look at the Hill Country, the Lake, the environment that surrounds it, the physical topography, it’s very unique.
It’s, in many ways, an oasis.

I think that has a way of transcending itself into everyone’s day to day life. It attracts a certain individual as a result.

I think everyone kind of “gets it.” Again, when you understand that, you’re able to market your concept to that, it’s a nice partnership.

How does Austin’s business culture differ?

To be honest, this is a tough town [due to] regulations. The city has an idea of what it wants to look like, and there are proper zoning laws. This is not Houston where anything goes. As a result, it’s different. I think that’s an issue, and you have be aware of that. It’s not going to change. Does it improve the overall environment of the city, and the way things are? You are going to get two different perspectives.

We [the population of Austin] are very successful. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I think the people who come here combined with the environment that’s here, I think everyone recognizes what they have to deal with.

How many current and future locations do you have?

Right now, P. Terry’s has 12 locations. Two are under construction. One’s opening up pretty soon. They’re both opening up at the end of 2016. We have two more in the works for next year.

You know, it’s another interesting thing about the city. If you go through the city, you’re really able to grow with it.

I think there’s a really good chance that we continue adding on just in Austin and the central Texas area. We’re growing. And as the population grows, we have an opportunity to grow with it. Maybe not later this quarter but in a few years.

Is Austin as small business friendly as polls proclaim?

I think there’s no question that it is small business friendly, certainly to a degree. The fact that there are several small businesses that have started here and have grown is just proof that that exists.

It happens everyday. Somebody opens up a trailer and is selling something and it goes to brick and mortar. Then, all of sudden it’s featured in a national publication. From there, there’s a three hour wait outside its door. That’s happened more than once in this town.

I think there is a sense of gold rush. A lot of people come here with high expectations, and a lot of places are opening up. It’s accelerated as a result.

What are the challenges to finding and retaining talent

The challenge is that we have very low unemployment. It’s easy to get a job here. Employees at every level can be picky.

We have a policy here of no politics. We don’t play games. If you come on here, we feel like you get a very fair shot. If you have a problem with your boss or your boss’ boss, you can call me. Everybody has my phone number. You can call me.

We start with a level playing field. From there, we try and take care of our employees. We pay way above the minimum wage. We’ve never paid below, never once. We give people birthday cake on their birthday. We offer non-interest loans if you’re in trouble.

If we have a good employee, the last thing we want to do is lose that employee. We go to great pains to keep our employee with us. We also offer Christmas bonuses to everyone. I think we paid almost $70,000 to our staff and employees, not including me.

You have to go to great lengths, but that’s part of our culture. We were doing that when we started. It helps us that that’s always been the way that we are because as the city has gotten more popular and unemployment has gone down, it was nice to have that already plugged in.

Which is brightest – Austin’s past, present, or future?

I don’t think there’s any question that it’s brighter today than it was yesterday. I can’t imagine it would not be brighter tomorrow.

When you live in Austin as long as I have and you’ve seen the economic ups and downs of the city, the country, the world through the first tech bust in the late 90’s. You’ve watched Austin fully recover just a couple of years later. It was astounding.

Then, in 2008, to watch Austin just bounce back ahead of everyone else in the country and places in the world, it’s very hard to knock this animal down.

It’s very hard. My assumption would be that [Austin’s future is] brighter today than yesterday and brighter tomorrow than today.

What does Austin need to do to attract more talent and business?

To be honest with you, I don’t think we have to do very much. I think the town, the city, speaks for itself. I don’t think anyone’s going to slow it down or that anyone’s going to stop it. I really don’t.

The diversity of the city now makes it pretty much bulletproof. You look at who really started this, the tech group, and the transplants from California who started coming here. Now, it comes from so many different angles.

Just imagine a beautiful three days of Austin City Limits and 80,000 people leaving Austin, that there is a percentage that are coming right back as soon as they can pack their bags. South by Southwest, the same thing.

From the technology, from the entertainment aspect, the music industry, there are just too many different angles to slow this thing down.

Does having so many colleges in town impact the Austin business ecosystem?

Absolutely. It has a huge effect. We’ve been fortunate to hire students while still at UT and keep some of them on, maybe not for the rest of their careers but certainly for several years.

The sources with the colleges here, Austin Community College especially, is huge. St. Edwards, University of Texas, even Texas State in San Marcos – these are all the lifeblood of the city, I think.

How do you feel about Austin being on every “best of” list?

I think being on the “best of” lists, there [are] pros and cons. There are a lot of people moving here, and there are times when, frankly, you wish we’d just take a breath. Just take a breath to maybe get our roads a little more square, all of our construction done to make transportation a little smoother. I honestly wouldn’t swap it.

What’s the biggest challenge to living here?

Traffic. It’s the single biggest change in Austin. Even in the last three months. You have to adjust your life to the time of day that you’re driving.

Is enough being done to improve public transportation?

I don’t think you’re ever going to be on track, but I’m not sure it’s [the city’s] fault. I don’t know where you add a lane on some of these streets, some of these roads. It kind of is what it is.

I’m also not quite sure that everyone’s going to ride a bicycle or jog in Austin. It is Texas. We like our cars.

How do you feel about Austin being dubbed “The San Francisco of the South”?

I think it’s becoming closer and closer to that everyday. I don’t think there’s any doubt that the venture capitalists that have started in Austin 30 years ago-I think that they’ve planted a lot of seeds in the tech community and a lot of stuff is getting done here without the expense of living in California.

Any advice for someone wanting to relocate their business to, or start their business in Austin?

I think you can’t be fooled by where you go. I don’t think that it is as simple as just planting a seed in this city. I think you had better know the city pretty well to understand the nooks and crannies.

It’s not all one blanket, and I would say learn the city first and know where you are and where you want to be. South is different than northeast. I’d be aware of that.

Do you call yourself a native Austinite?

I don’t. I’m from west Texas. Those are my roots, where I grew up. I feel like I’ve been here long enough to consider myself an Austinite, but since ’85, how many years is that?

What has changed since you moved here in ‘76?

6th street was just – there was just nothing else but 6th street. It was pretty small. It was pretty small. I remember standing on South Congress looking at the Capital from around where Hotel San Jose used to be, and none of that was there. Those were all ripped down hotels, literally. That’s not why I was there.

I remember seeing the Capital and thinking, “This makes no sense that I can stand here and see the Capital.” This is here. This is crazy. This is incredibly valuable.

Of course, over time, that’s what happens. It catches up, and just to see all the different changes? It’s amazing.

I think at some point, you can only tear something down and rebuild it so often. At some point, I would assume, it starts to slow down. I can see where people would come here and say, “Wow, the traffic is really bad. I don’t want to live here.” I don’t think it just continues. Maybe it does.

I know that it will continue to grow. I just can’t imagine it will continue to grow at the pace it’s growing. It’s crazy.

If we weren’t in 100 here three months out of the year, no one could afford to live here. We’d be San Francisco on steroids.

Any final words for anyone about “Why Austin”?

There is a perfect storm that has brewed over Austin for the last few years. It’s not a coincidence that this city has boomed.

Look at the natural environment and the resources that are available here, the schools, the tech industry that continues to thrive, and the entertainment industry.

When you look at everything that’s happened here at the same time, that’s just been building up, it’s not a shock. Yeah, traffic’s an issue here, but none of the other things that I mentioned are going to change. They’re just going to continue to grow and they’re going to grow better.

That’s going to bring a higher quality of individual into the city. It will fuel upon itself. It will not stop.

Do you intend on retiring in Austin?

I’m in an unusual circumstance. I’m 58 and I have an eight- and a five-year old. We’re not going anywhere. I’ll probably die here.

More leaders on Austin:

Here are some of the other locals we’ve chatted with:


Want more? Subscribe, and you’ll get nothing but new interviews delivered to your inbox!


texas senator kirk watson


q manning #whyaustin

collin slattery #WhyAustin

bronko box brooke cox

chris treadaway

Special thanks to our friends at StoryCraft for their phenomenal videography skills!


Continue Reading


Indeed President, Chris Hyams tells us #WhyAustin [video]

(BUSINESS NEWS) As part of an ongoing series discussing the advantages and challenges of doing business in Austin, we chat with Indeed President, Chris Hyams.



whyaustin sxsw
videography by StoryCraft

An honest look at doing biz in Austin

#WhyAustin is a special ongoing series featuring interviews with business leaders, politicians, and even outsiders. We’re taking a meaningful look at what makes Austin great while honestly examining the challenges our business and startup culture has.

Instead of talking about how Austin graces nearly every desirable Top 10 list ever published, we’re asking some of the most relevant names in business to opine. We’re interviewing company founders, politicians, startup investors, programmers, artists, musicians, and we’ve even interviewed leaders outside of Austin for their perspective. That is how you get honest feedback, folks.

VIDEO: #WhyAustin interview with Chris Hyams

In the video above, we chat with Indeed President, Chris Hyams, who opens up about what makes Austin great while realistically addressing the challenges:

More leaders on Austin:

Here are some of the other locals we’ve chatted with:


texas senator kirk watson


q manning #whyaustin

collin slattery #WhyAustin

bronko box brooke cox

chris treadaway

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Special thanks to our friends at StoryCraft for their phenomenal videography skills!


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#WhyAustin: Bazaarvoice CEO, Gene Austin touts the attractiveness, challenges of the city

Our #WhyAustin series takes an honest, uncensored look into the Austin business environment and culture, today talking to the CEO of tech giant, Bazaarvoice about the challenges and rewards of business in Austin.



Taking a deeper look at the business environment of our hometown.

Let’s talk about #WhyAustin is great, and how it can improve

As part of an ongoing series, we’re exploring the business culture and environment in Austin. Everyone knows that over 100 people move to the city every day. Every single friggin’ day. So, rather than patting ourselves on the back about how Austin graces nearly every desirable Top 10 list ever published, we’re asking some of the most relevant names in business to opine.

Instead of crunching numbers, we’re taking an honest pulse of what makes Austin great, but what some of the challenges are. To do that, we’ve interviewed company founders, politicians, startup investors, programmers, artists, musicians, and so many more.

Introducing Gene Austin on Austin

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Gene Austin, CEO at Bazaarvoice. He’s a well known tech executive that has lived all over the map, but like most people that move to Austin, he’s dedicated to the city and plans to retire here. He has over 30 years of experience leading high-growth tech companies, and has several IPOs under his belt (first at, then Convio).

Bazaarvoice is headquartered in Austin with offices in Chicago, London, Munich, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Singapore, and Sydney, and is a network that connects brands and retailers to the authentic voices of people where they shop. Every month, over 700 million people share authentic opinions, questions, and experiences about tens of millions of products in the Bazaarvoice network, and their platform amplifies these voices into the places that influence purchase decisions. Their analytics help marketers and advertisers to provide more engaging experiences that drive brand awareness, consideration, sales and loyalty.

In the video above, we get an overview of Gene Austin’s perspective on the city, and below is the full interview in his own words. He opens up about what’s attractive about Austin and is frank about the city’s infrastructure challenges.

This kick ass video was shot and produced by our highly skilled partners at StoryCraft, who we are having a blast working with on many more #WhyAustin videos to come!


The following is the full transcript of our interview:

What keeps you, personally, in Austin?

I have lived in the Bay Area, I’m a technology veteran and executive, so I’ve lived in all of the high tech centers, but Austin is unique as a city, as a culture. The people, the business climate, the “can-do” attitude; all of that continues to reinforce why i’m here to stay.

What is Bazaarvoice headquartered in Austin?

I’m fortunate to be the CEO of Bazaarvoice – we’re a homegrown Austin success story and the company I had before Bazaarvoice [Convio] was a homegrown Austin success story, and what I mean by that is both were started in Austin, fueled in Austin, hired and grew in Austin,and went public in Austin.

We are here because the people that we want are still readily available in Austin, quality of life is fantastic for our employees, readiness of capital from the venture capital community, because Austin is now a city that’s accessible to all parts of the U.S. for business, and we even have a new non-stop flight to London on British Airways.

All of that makes living and having a corporate headquarters in Austin a great decision.

How is Austin’s business environment different than other cities?

When you look at Austin and business, I think the most important aspect of it is attitude and approach.

The attitude in Austin is one of “can do,” and “I’m here to help you,” and there are countless times when others in the tech industry have been a partner to me for networking and connecting, and I try to reach out and do the same thing.

There’s a “we’re in it together, we want our city to thrive” kind of attitude, which I think is very helpful. But there’s also a casual approach to business. Austin is a casual city.

That’s one of my favorite parts about Austin – is almost any business meeting, any conference, any dinner, I can wear anything I want, frankly. And the dress is one thing, but it’s a casual place to do business and we try not to be formal in any way, we really try to work together.

The whole friendliness of Austin that people see is very much a part of the business community.

Would Bazaarvoice ever relocate its headquarters?

We have never ever thought of relocating any business that I’ve been a part of here in Austin.

We have opened offices on the coasts, but that’s because we have a lot of customers out there and we have a good need to have people located close by, but we’ve never seriously considered leaving Austin at all. In fact, it’s never even come up.

Is Austin as small business friendly as polls proclaim?

I think Austin is very small business friendly. You know, it’s changed, the friendliness approach has changed. I think what we have now is one of the best angel networks for funding small businesses in the U.S. which I think is a huge boon for Austin.

Ten years ago, if you were a tech startup, we had Austin Ventures and other Venture Capitalists fueling it. Now, Austin Ventures has moved on, and the angel network has strengthened, we now have new venture capital folks; so when I think of small businesses, the number one need they need to have is capital and people, and despite the things that changed over time in the venture capital arena, we still have a thriving community.

We have so many startups that are expected to do well, and it’s fueled by both the new inventions around angel funding and our strength around angel funding, as well as the people.

What are the biggest challenges when hiring talent in Austin?

I think the biggest challenge when hiring talent in Austin is the competitiveness. Specifically, again, in my arena which is technology, software developers are very tough because they have a lot of options.

We’re spurring innovation in gaming, health sciences, software, e-commerce, and a variety of different arenas, and there’s a lot of opportunity.

I think we’re overcoming that with a lot of initiatives in the arena, again, the pull-together atmosphere of Austin in beefing up our educational programs so that we’re producing more people with technology backgrounds, and I think that’s really helping in that area as well.

I’d say the second challenge with any hiring is our traffic and transportation needs. We’re a little bit behind where we’d like to be, frankly, it’s not horrible, but it’s certainly something we need to keep an eye on.

And right now, I feel like we finally have the focus on expanding our roads and our mobility solutions, both infrastructure building, but also being smart as leaders in the tech community about mobility, what we require of employees, being more flexible with hours, being more flexible with telecommuting. It’s going to balance all of that out.

How does Bazaarvoice reflect that culture?

We take mobility very seriously. I mean we’re here just a few miles north of downtown Austin, we’re in a great tech community, but we have people from the south and far north that need to get here.

We’re very serious about flex hours. We have an unwritten rule that we’d like you here between 9 and 3 for meetings and important engagements, but if you’re a 7 to 4 person or a 9 to 6 person, that’s fine.

We do have telecommuting privileges, and we’re looking consistently at other ways of moving single occupancy vehicles off of the road. That’s great for the environment, but that’s also great for the employees.

Which is brightest: Austin’s past, present, or future?

I’ve seen Austin go through so much in the almost 17 years I’ve been here – it’s gone from a quiet capital city with some really cool innovations in tech to now a thriving city and the area’s now two million people.

And through all that, I never thought I would sit here and say that our future is even brighter than our past because it’s been such a good run, but our future is absolutely brighter than our past.

Because we all are smart about the fact that we have a lot of work to do still, we’re not arrogant about who we are as a city, we’re humble, and we’re thankful for what’s happened in the past.

But our future with our government, business community, and education community all pulling together around the needs, again, shows us that we have a bright future for many more new great companies like a Bazaarvoice in the future to come.

What does Austin need to do to attract more businesses?

I think to attract more businesses, Austin needs to be cognizant of the fact that investment in our city, in our infrastructure is fundamental. So the two areas that I think continue to be the most important are mobility and transportation.

There are a number of great initiatives underway now that we can be proud of. Aligning education and business so that the education community is producing the type of raw talent that businesses can consume, I think is really important as well.

We still have a great quality of life, we still have a strong economic engine, our cost of living (while higher than it was 10 years ago) is still in the affordable area for most people, so generally speaking, it’s primarily infrastructure.

Austin’s level of innovation: ahead of, or behind the curve?

I think our innovation in Austin is ahead of the curve, I don’t think there’s any question about it.

And I think it’s because we have so many great initiatives for the emerging business to latch on to. I talked earlier about the strength of our angel funding network, but you have resources like Capital Factory and others that are fertile ground for emerging businesses to get started.

If you have fertile ground for emerging businesses, you are absolutely asking for innovations to take charge. I continue to see it every day.

How do you feel about being on every “Best Of” list?

I love all of the lists of “Best Of,” I think it’s great for us, but I also remind people all the time that we can’t get arrogant, we can’t sit still, we have to continue to innovate, we have to continue to really listen to the community about how to change, and in the business community especially, how to change to make sure we have a great culture.

Unfortunately, one of the “Best Of” lists we’ve had was “commute times,” and we were at the top of that, and that’s just one type of example of the type of lists we don’t want to be on, so we have to continue to be vigilant about our future.

How can Austin improve its business culture?

My biggest concern about what could happen in the business climate other than mobility is the fact that recent success of Austin has bred an air of complacency in certain segments of the city.

I think government, to some degree, has been less forthcoming with things like economic incentives that make a ton of sense.

We don’t do very many of these, but in recent headlines, there has been a lot of “why are we giving tax breaks to Apple?” or others. But when you think about it, the amount of jobs and economic opportunity we’re developing with an Apple for example, or Oracle who’s moving to town and will hire thousands of people, dwarfs any kinds of tax breaks we may give.

And we’re not doing these sort of things for everyone, just for a select few. But just for example, with these economic incentives, people are starting to push back more and I think that kind of complacency (that they’re going to come anyway) is a dangerous view. We need to be very careful about that.

That’s not the kind of attitude and approach that got us to this point, and as leaders in the community (government or business), we need to be very cognizant of the fact that we can do things that will slow down business growth. We’re not given this gift of such a successful city, we worked at it and worked to get it, and we have to continue to do so.

How do you feel about Austin being compared to Silicon Valley?

I’ve lived in Silicon Valley, it’s been a while, but there’s no comparison of the two in my opinion.

We [in Austin] have so much more of a “in it together” approach, a stronger network of business, government, and education pulling together to really benefit our community. Silicon Valley to me is much more “eat or be eaten.” I love the weather, it’s phenomenal, and there are some great attractions, but the business community has a very different feel to it than what we have here in Austin.

Do you plan to retire in Austin?

There’s no question where I’ll be retiring. Truth be told, I might spend some of the hot months in a mountain area, but I’m going to be here 10 months out of the year. I love Austin.


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