Where to Be an Entrepreneur

Austin, Texas

The Cross-Pollinator: Austin, Texas

"What you have to realize about Austin is that it's a city of scenes," explains Bijoy Goswami, founder of the in-person and online community Bootstrap Austin, and Austin's entrepreneurial culture guru. "We have a music scene, a food scene, a film scene, a tech scene. Recently we've gotten to critical mass with an entrepreneur scene, and there are a lot of things going on." What's happening is a commingling of creatives facilitated by events like High Tech Happy Hour where participants share their new ideas, Rise Austin seminars where experienced entrepreneurs share their journeys, and the popular South by Southwest Interactive conference. All of that is bolstered by a strong slate of resources like the Tech Ranch and Capital Factory incubators, as well as traditional and boutique VC firms and angel networks. "Theoretically, people here are competing, but the opposite is happening," Goswami says. "Part of that Texas ethos has percolated into the entrepreneur scene: People in Austin just treat each other well."

Clayton Christopher

Clayton Christopher,

Sweet Leaf Tea
Back in 1998, when Sweet Leaf Tea co-founder Clayton Christopher started bottling tea based on his grandmother's recipe, he didn't realize a big part of what he was selling in each drink was his hometown. "There's a cachet attached to Austin. It's the live-music capital of the world; it has good Texas values," he says. "Having Austin on our bottles has been a huge benefit." Living and working in Austin hasn't been too bad either. Being part of an emerging artisanal and local food and beverage scene that has sprung up around the Whole Foods headquarters in town has led to distribution and networking opportunities. It's a benefit that helped lead Christopher to a recent $15.6 million investment and a distribution deal with Nestlé that will likely increase sales by 100 percent and make Sweet Leaf a household name. But hitting the jackpot won't change things at headquarters, where employees wear shorts and flip-flops and people bring their dogs to work. "We have an extremely strong culture at Sweet Leaf, and it's part of the Austin culture," Christopher says. "We're devoted to our passion and not chasing the dollar. That's something that resonates with Austinites."

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Jason Daley lives and writes in Madison, Wisconsin. His work regularly appears in Popular Science, Outside and other magazines.

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This article was originally published in the August 2009 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Where to Be an Entrepreneur.

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