Start It Up
At Austin Startup Week, money and a good idea may mean the next big thing in tech
Start-up businesses got bullied in the public eye of the late Nineties as the boom faded into a bust. The prevailing notion was one of snot-nosed kids with too much money riding Segways around their "thinkspaces" (what the rest of us call offices). The very notion of venture capital might seem antithetical to today's chilly economic climate, but there remain individuals and organizations looking to get on at the bottom floor of a business that – fingers crossed – may be about to make a rapid ascent. But where does one find these rough diamonds? From Sept. 6 to 10, many of them will be right here for the inaugural Austin Startup Week.
Inspired largely by a similar event in Boulder, Colo., Startup Week (www.atxstartupweek.com) isn't a conference so much as a loose grouping of parties, pitches, networking sessions, and panel discussions. Its dual purpose is to connect good ideas with the money to make them realities and to draw small companies to our fair, if excessively balmy, city.
Startup Week is built around the already established, annual Capital Factory Demo Day. Over the course of 10 weeks, Capitol Factory participants polish business plans and perfect elevator pitches under the tute0 practice ends and it's time to show a roomful of people that you can be trusted with investment money. Don't think you can just bring your half-baked idea to the table; this event is invite-only.
If you need something a bit more blatantly local, there's the rather obviously named panel Why Austin Rules! taking place at City Hall. Eve Richter, Austin's emerging technologies coordinator (who knew we had one of those?), and Robert Reeves, a director of Austin Technology Incubator at the University of Texas, will have a few good things to say about the ATX before passing the microphone to three start-ups that moved to town: BlackLocus, MapMyFitness, and Wawadoo. We imagine they moved here because of the low cost of living and high quality of breakfast tacos. Creator and founder of Austin Startup Week Jacqueline Hughes concurs: "If I'm in Cleveland, Ohio, it might be a lot harder to procure investment dollars. And you have San Francisco, which is great, but you don't want to move out there because it's so expensive. There are these other cities that are popping up: Seattle, Boulder, and Austin are three cities that I hear of a lot."
If nothing else, come out and learn about the current and next generation of hot sites and apps. Local companies such as Hurricane Party (a social media aggregate for facilitating spontaneous parties), Keepstream (a Twitter organizer), and SpareFoot (like Priceline for self-storage units) will be showing off their success since they were hatched from local start-up incubators. The shells of the next batch will hopefully be cracking as Austin Startup Week proceeds.