Entrepreneurship and innovation come in many different forms, and so entrepreneur communities are diverse and varied. Seth Godin once likened an entrepreneur community to a tribal society. The participants find their tribe of like-minded people and then rarely wander far from it. The Austin entrepreneur community is often referred to as one entity but in fact it consists of twelve tribes and perhaps more. Each one has their own unique version of entrepreneurship with their own de facto leaders, groups, and mantras. Here’s a list of those groups to help you find your tribe.
This is one of the largest tribes in Austin. They believe cutting edge technology provides the opportunity for innovation and entrepreneurship. There are many groups and leaders within the technology tribe. They include Julie Huls leads the Austin Technology Council, Josh Baer leads the Capital Factory and Kevin Koym leads Tech Ranch . Their mantra is technology is a great disruptive force which brings entrepreneurial opportunity.
Consumer Package Goods
The presence of Whole Foods and HEB, in Central Texas has fostered this tribe which focuses on bringing innovative packaged goods to the consumer. This includes food and beverage, health and wellness, and more. Clayton Christopher is the de factor leader of this tribe. Shari Wynne of the Incubation Station is another leader for this group. Their mantra is all natural, organic, and healthy products provide opportunity for entrepreneurs.
Whether it is supporting the making of entertainment vehicles such as film and music, or building better tools for the industry, this tribe focuses on using their entrepreneurial skills to create a better, richer industry for filmmakers and musicians. Leaders in this tribe include Greg Vendetti of GV Music Enterprises and Colin Kendrick of the Austin Music Foundation. The AMA was created ten years ago to help artists build businesses and create a sustainable living. The music industry has been transformed by the digital media world providing entrepreneurial opportunities for artists who are trying to find innovative ways to make money with their art. Other groups include the blackfret.org providing grants to new artists. The tribe’s mantra is to capitalize on the rapid change in the way music and film are captured and distributed.
The local independent business is the foundation of the economy. Those who seek to start their own business find a passion in owning their own business and serving the local community. Leaders of this tribe include Rebecca Melancon of the Austin Independent Business Alliance . In short, their mantra is – Be local, buy local, and sell local.
The Foodies (Slow Money and Food Trailers)
The Slow Money movement focuses on building businesses that foster sustainable living as it directly impacts the quality of our livelihoods. Leaders in this tribe include Wayne LaChapelle, Jarred Maxwell, and Scott Price. Their mantra is sustainable living is the driving force behind entrepreneurship. Also in this group are the food trailer entrepreneurs. There are over 1200 food trailers in Central Texas providing innovative foods and drinks.
The Bootstrappers are entrepreneurs who seek to identify their core expertise and then build a business around it without outside investment. Bootstrap Austin led by Bijoy Goswami champions this approach to starting your own business. Their mantra is know yourself, find your passion, then start your business.
Social entrepreneurship is alive and well in Austin. This group is led by de facto leader Susi Soza and John Mackey. One of the main events for this tribe is the Dell Social Innovation Challenge which seeks to identify and support promising young social innovators who dedicate themselves to solving the world's most pressing problems with transformative ideas. Their mantra is triple bottom line businesses not only make money but improve the world.
University of Texas Austin
The University of Texas in Austin sees hundreds of students each year with ideas for starting and growing companies. Since many students will find their first job in the business they start rather than in working for someone else, UT has created a system for fostering and nurturing those ideas. Leaders in this tribe include Rob Adams of Texas Venture Labs, Bob Metcalfe who leads the One Semester Startup, Cam Houser who leads the 3 Day Startup, and Idea to IP class) and Kyle Cox and Sriram Vishwanath who organize the Idea to IP class. Their mantra is the next great idea comes from the next generation and the university teaching them.
The Entrepreneurs Organization or EO as it is called is a global organization but it has a strong local chapter. Companies with $1M in revenue are invited to join EO which highlights successful entrepreneurs and fosters mentoring through a networking program in which each entrepreneur shares their experience with others. Leaders in this tribe are numerous but to name a few would include Eric Hennenhoefer, Alan Blake, and Corey Bell. Their mantra for business is let’s come together to learn from one another.
Life science is the number one funded segment in the state of Texas and includes both healthcare and biotechnology. This group fosters the development of medical devices, healthcare IT, and biotech solutions. De facto leaders here include Matt Winkler of Asuragen, Jack Hart who leads the Texas Medical Device Alliance and Cindy Walker Peach who leads the life science initiative at the Austin Technology Incubator. With the creation of a medical school, this tribe will certainly grow in the coming years. Their mantra is this is the age of Healthcare and Biotechnology which brings many entrepreneurial opportunities.
Opportunity for new solutions lies in the exploding world of technology and those who understand and master it are in a prime position to take advantage of the next big thing. The leaders of this tribe are Lynn Bender of Geek Austin and Matt Genovese of Door64 . Their mantra is that new computer languages, platforms, and information technology drive innovation.
Austin is the third largest gaming community in the country. Most of the major studios hold a presence in Austin and continue to invest in the gaming community. Gaming (not the gambling kind) generates more annual revenue than movies. The de facto leader of this tribe is Richard Garriott. The International Game Developers Association is the main group here. Their mantra is gaming provides technologies and talent that will drive innovation in many industries for the next generation.
There are numerous groups that provide access to these communities through umbrella events catering to several tribes at once. These groups include RISE run by Claire England. The SxSWStartup Village run by Chris Valentine and Austin Startup Week run by Jacqueline Hughes. No matter what your entrepreneurial passion, there’s probably a tribe in Austin that fits you.