Austin: Social Business Capital of the World
In the summer of 1998, I left the only place I’d ever lived – the East Coast – to start a life in Austin, TX. The recruiting pitch for Austin (memorialized in the Fast Company article Insanity, Inc) offered the opportunity to be part of an exciting company doing unprecedented things in an unexpected place. Austin was going to become “Silicon Hills”. A place where talent would be attracted for the high quality lifestyle and low cost of living, and venture capital would fall like rain. And did I mention it was 70 degrees in January and the company had a fleet of speedboats? None of that hurt, either.
The promise of Austin turning into Silicon Hills seemed optimistic even to a gullible college graduate, but I have to admit, it has pretty much come true exactly that way. Stalwart tech hardware employers like Dell, AMD & Freescale spawned many of the entrepreneurs who went on to found & fund here in Austin launching companies like Bazaarvoice, HomeAway, & Spredfast to name a few. And this success only attracted more like minds to the city.
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 our 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.
In the words of Kate Neiderhoffer, 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.
The part that no one would could have predicted was the fact that beyond “tech”, Austin would attract and develop a huge amount of social business talent (maybe Silicon Hills was meant to become Social Hills). I am proud to be part of the next phase of Austin’s growth and development into the World Social Business hub. And I’m especially excited for the coming week – when the rest of the social practitioners from around the world join us for margaritas, inspiration, and a slice of the Austin experience at SXSW. On behalf of all of us who have gone “all in” on social & Austin, Welcome Home.
This post part of a blog ring of social business leaders from around town, check the links below for the takes of:
Kathy Mandelstein, of IBM and Austin’s Social Media Club
Peter Kim, Dachis Group via Forrester
Aaron Strout, head of location based marketing for WCG and the “stroutmeister”
Greg “Chimoose” Matthews of WCG
“Turbo” Todd Watson of IBM
And brother Spike Jones, of Fleishman-Hillard