“What does Austin Technology Council do?”
Whenever I meet with prospective members I am inevitably asked this question. The conversation goes into our history as the oldest and largest tech association in Texas. Since we launched in 1992, we have been a little bit of everything to our members. I like to joke that we are the bartender/priest for our tech partners and sincerely do whatever we can to support and promote the growth of our member businesses.
But let’s go back
ATC has done so much in the last 27 years. When we first launched out of Austin Technology Incubator, our founding team, led by Laura Kilcrease and Pike Powers, had a vision of growing software as a major contender in the identity of the Austin workforce back in a time when hardware was king in our town. The group that formed the Austin Software Council worked tirelessly to help this fledgling community of software innovators get their feet on the ground and their names known not just locally, but globally.
In the early 2000’s the tech bus hit Austin, and our organization took on the name Austin Technology Council to fully encompass both software and hardware companies. The goal was to pull together as a community to lift each other up and weather the recession that gripped our city.
It was through this collaborative spirit that our members survived and went on to create the talented ecosystem that thrives today. And it is in the spirit of grit and tenacity that ATC created the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) to help grow 10 Austin based tech companies to $1B in valuation and another 100 to $100M in revenue in 10 years’ time.
Austin is fortunate to have great collaborators in our tech ecosystem that work with idea-stage companies, so ATC’s focus can be set entirely on companies in the Startup to Global Enterprise space.
Currently, in our ecosystem, we have four main areas of focus: idea-stage, startups, mid-size, and global enterprise.
Idea-stage: this is often referred to as “two people and a co-working desk.” These entrepreneurs are taking the first leap; they have written some code, developed a business plan, or just simply discovered a passion project has the potential to be more. They are pre-revenue, not yet funded at the seed stage, and may still be working that full-time job with benefits while they work tirelessly in the evenings to launch their own company.
Startups: here are your post product companies. They have a product on the market, they have employees, and more importantly, they have revenue based on customer acquisition. They could be in their first-year post product launch or several years down the road. These companies are actively scaling, have either bootstrapped to significant revenue or taken on investment that is helping them reach their objectives. They are well on their way of positioning themselves for that next level.
Mid-size: this is the most robust sector of Austin’s ecosystem, and yet gets the least amount of glory. There are not as many major announcements for this group, but that doesn’t mean these businesses aren’t doing groundbreaking work. These companies are still in active growth mode, but now have more luxury in strategic growth and customer acquisition. Mid-size companies have over 1000 employees, are already working at a global scale, make up the largest portion of our tech workforce, and live out our greatest success stories throughout the last 10 years. These companies create stability in our community and the opportunity for our citizens.
Global enterprise: this group keeps our city at the top of every list that “keeps Austin growing.” The attraction of working for these big-name companies, along with the opportunity for people to learn how global enterprises work and build teams is integral to our tech community. These companies also support our Austin headquartered companies through building business relationships that help all companies succeed.
From thought leadership panels to mentor opportunities to the launch of the Scaling Series, ATC is working to provide value-based programming geared towards our members’ expansion. Our focus is on the five areas of discipline that are key to growth: Executive Leadership, Finance & Accounting, HR & Recruiting, Sales & Marketing, and Engineering & Product Development.
Once a year, we host the CEO Summit. This fall event brings together 150+ C-Suite executives for an afternoon of panel discussion and learning, culminating in a dinner for networking with their peers. This customized event is designed for our members and the needs they have as they prepare for the next wave of their growth.
We also make sure we celebrate our community and put them on a larger stage in the tech ecosystem. In the spring, we host our Gateway Party the night before SXSW Interactive begins. This member party is where you can meet the best of our local Austin executives and is the premier place to kick off SXSW.
And in 2020 we will be bringing back a member favorite, Battle of the Tech Bands with a tech awards twist.
In looking to the future, the opportunities to support our members are limitless. The question we will ask ourselves as we plan to launch any new initiative is “Does this benefit the growth of tech in Austin?” Which brings us back to the ATC BHAG. As our member companies grow they are in turn uplifting Austinites through employment, professional development, affordable and accessible tech tools, and direct philanthropy. Tech continues to expand into every arena of our economy and lives and is positively influencing the success of Central Texas comprehensively.
Another question I am frequently asked in conversations is “Why are you so passionate about this work?” That one is easy to answer. I am a Michigander by birth. I was raised in and spent many years working in a state that has a history of moving slowly towards progress. What started out as a state that prided itself on innovation became a state that struggled to stay on top of that innovation outside of the base industries that continue to support it today. So I became a Texan by choice and an Austinite with a purpose – to do everything I can to prevent the devastation that recessions bring to our businesses and our people. I firmly believe that innovation protects us, it advances us, and it brings us valuable ideas that are birthed from boundless imaginations. I am proud of this community and what we have accomplished and will accomplish. We are unique. We are collaborative. We are innovators.
Austin Technology Council