Erika Rich for the Rivard Report
AUSTIN – Venture capitalists and other investors from firms around the world will visit San Antonio in June, along with Austin, Dallas, and Houston, as part of a three-day road trip to showcase the major Texas metropolises’ startup scenes.
Capital Factory, an Austin accelerator and coworking space, is organizing the trip as part of its Texas Startup Manifesto, a mission to speed up the growth of the state’s tech economy by creating better relationships among the four big Texas cities.
Joshua Baer, Capital Factory’s founder and CEO, moderated a panel discussion Saturday at the South by Southwest Conference & Festivals in which he and representatives from the startup communities in Dallas and Houston elucidated the aims of the manifesto.
Access to venture capital is an issue for Texas startups, but it’s an issue for any startup not located in Silicon Valley, Baer said. In that regard, he said, Texas ranks favorably compared to other regions of the country.
“But we know it could be a lot better with the amount of people, startups, activity, and opportunity that’s here,” he said. “As much as we think it is going to keep growing, we think we can help make it grow faster.”
Some national reports indicate the flow of venture capital to San Antonio companies has slowed in recent years. Last year, deals failed to reach a $30 million threshold the city has hit every year since 2013, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers MoneyTree report. However, the terms of many venture capital deals often go undisclosed, leaving many of these reports incomplete.
Baer highlighted the Army Futures Command, which Austin was awarded last year and will focus on modernizing the military through advanced technologies. The Army chose Austin because of its proximity to San Antonio, Baer said, in addition to Austin’s elite tech economy and talent pool. He anticipates the collaboration between the two cities deepening in years to come with the Futures Command leaning on the Military City’s large population of active duty service people and its various national defense facilities.
“Part of what it makes [locating the Futures Command in Austin] work is that it’s so close to San Antonio,” he said. “We can get real soldiers and airmen and other people exposed to the startup community, and we can get exposed to them.”
Capital Factory launched a Dallas office, its first expansion from its downtown Austin home, last year with an aim to stimulate that city’s startup scene. The entity also organizes regular road trips from Austin to Houston and San Antonio. During visits to San Antonio, the organization brings investors, mentors, and other interested people on a chartered bus from Austin to Geekdom, where they have lunch, hold office hours, and later have happy hour drinks.
Increased connectivity between Texas’ main cities will improve the state’s stature in the global economy, where it would already rank among the top countries in gross domestic product (if it were a country).
“There’s really nowhere else where you have four cities that are this big and this dynamic that are all within a day’s drive of each other,” Baer said. “But also they have a common identity they have something that ties them together. That I think is really our big opportunity.”