My love letter (and goodbye?) to Austin

Joah: I’m sorry I don’t know you because I count many of the same people that you mentioned as friends and colleagues. I wish I knew more about your business and your story than what you’ve written. The country, not just Austin, needs more women- and black-led startup leaders, like yourself, and it would be a shame to lose you.

But, don’t blame Austin for the roadblock(s) you seem to have hit. If you have to move or at the very least live out of a suitcase in Silicon Valley for the next 2 years, then do it.

More than 25 years ago, we started our company in the “tech hothouse” of Houston, not Austin, because we knew it was a place more likely to offer what we needed in the way of a robust set of customers and skilled, affordable labor pool. We only relocated to Austin (even though we had gone to college and/or wanted to live here sooner) after 8 years, when the company had expanded to multiple offices in the US and Europe.

Then, as now, the City council and others here got hotly criticized for being closed-minded and against progress by developers. Back then, it was Real Estate developers; now, they seem to have been replaced by more recently transplanted Startup Tech developers (of which, I too, am one).

Personally, I like that there is a strong core of Austin that resists change, distrusts disruptive business models, and is willing to sacrifice progress for green space and nearly invisible salamanders. I like that we have the Ann Kitchens’s, Bill Bunchs, and Brigid Sheas of the world. (And, I love that we have a mayor who will play a world-class game of political twister to try to strike a deal where everyone wins, although it couldn’t get the votes.)

This city is just as much theirs, as it is ours. I think many people mistakenly think that Keep Austin “Weird” is synonymous with “Cool.” They forget that weird can also mean unpredictable, un-hip, and undesirable by the popular.

So, do what you have to do. But, don’t blame Austin; continue to love Austin, as I can tell you genuinely do. And, return, as soon as you can afford to, so you can be a role model and guide for other, future black startup founders in the community.

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