The most widely shared Lucky7 post that I wrote last month was on the state of the tech entrepreneurship scene in Austin. But I realize now I was missing an important mention.
Back when Debra and I lived in San Francisco, there was a very famous place off the beaten path named Buck's of Woodside. It is a hook-up spot for investors and entrepreneurs. Many large businesses you know today credit Buck's to being one of the conduits to their founding or initial fundraising and Board of Directors formation. I won't give away the tales, but I encourage you to buy the founder's, Jamis MacNiven's, book, Breakfast at Buck's: Tales from the Pancake Guy. It is a fun romp through a slice of insider Silicon Valley history. Jamis is a regular TED attendee andhis blog is fun too. He's seen a lot over the years.
We have our own history in Austin, of course. And now we have our own hook-up spot - Lola Savannah for breakfast and coffee and it's sister restaurant right next door, The Grove, for lunch and pre-dinner drinks. On any given day when I walk in, it often surprises me who is there. These surprises are happening more and more. Yesterday was no disappointment. I walk in for a quick coffee - in my gym clothes, expecting to quickly buy and leave - and to my delight, I see Josh McClure, co-founder and CEO of new startup Real Massive, and Mike Svatek, co-founder and CEO, and Greg Brown, CRO, of another new startup - Together Mobile. I've been helping Josh raise money for Real Massive as I think his business may meet my five critical ingredients test by connecting him to angel investors, especially in the commercial real estate industry, and I'm likely to personally invest as well. And I've been advising Mike and Greg as they were early executives at Bazaarvoice, are good friends, and now have an exciting business on their hands. Like Compare Metrics, which I wrote about earlier this week and which I'm proud to be the Chairman of the Board of, both companies are in stealth mode. I wrote about the benefits of being in stealth mode in this Lucky7 post.
So, we all get to talking and the manager of Lola and my favorite barista are also there. Some of the owners of the joint serendipitously walk in. Next thing you know I'm having another barista snap this photo. From left to right you have:
- Beth Lasita, Owner/Operator
- Reed Clemons, Owner/Operator
- Me, in the Bazaarvoice baseball cap, of course
- Chris Warrez, my favorite barrista
- Katy Bounds, Manager of Lola
- Josh McClure, CEO of Real Massive
- Greg Brown, CRO of Together Mobile
- Mike Svatek, CEO of Together Mobile
Mike and I have an ad hoc meeting about strategy, and then I was off to go back home.
In the afternoon, I was on my way back to Lola but this time to it's sister restaurant, The Grove, for lunch with Laura Kilcrease, a well-known venture capitalist in town and the current Entrepreneur-in-Residence at U.T. We had a great discussion as always, and I was on her panel last week for RISE (I wrote about the value of RISE week in this Lucky7 post). While I was CEO of Bazaarvoice, Laura had me in as a speaker for her EIR speaker series and I was proud to take our daughter to see it. Here is that talk and if you watch for long enough you'll see the part where our daughter falls asleep in the front row - ah, classic! Yes, I call this out to the audience and we all have a good laugh.
You can see in this photo of me and Laura, taken by Reed, that I was in a little more "formal VC dress code attire" (complete with the rolled-up sleeves) for our lunch meeting:
Laura and I got into a conversation with Reed about his founding of Lola. It was fascinating to me as he has been a restauranteur in Austin since 1984 and the part I'll never forget is how he realized he needed to pick a location that would lend itself to the communual environment he wanted to build. He contrasted this to downtown locations, where people are more fleeting in their choices of where to hang out. That is definitely true as there are so many options - it is both overkill and overload. Communual is a brilliant way to describe what Lola Savannah and the Grove have become, just like what Buck's of Woodside is to the Silicon Valley crowd. Like Lola, Buck's is off the beaten path (i.e., not in a downtown location) and near where many tech investors and entrepreneurs live to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the "sister locales" if you will (sisters in the sense that both locations are where tech folks live and play). I remember when Josh Baer, founder of Capital Factory (where the President and CTO of the United States recently visited, as I wrote about in this Lucky7 post), used to hold office hours at Lola prior to him taking over the top floor of the Omni Hotel downtown as the Capital Factory space, where he spends most of his time now. Josh has built a real communual space at Capital Factory too, and, not surprisingly, he is one of Reed's first investors in The Grove and Lola. In part (perhaps a large part), Josh helped create a communual environment at Lola.
I asked Reed to write a paragraph about the founding of Lola and The Grove, and here is what he had to say:
Developing The Grove concept, we wanted to create a neighborhood spot for west Austin that would be the center of gravity for the area. When we opened in 1997, the economy was not very strong, so we created a menu that was high quality but price reasonably. We wanted to make a clear statement in the design that this is a serious wine venue. We placed the bar right in the front of the space and had wine displayed everywhere. We wanted to make sure this was not a kid romper room. With the Grove of oaks as the theme for the restaurant, we open the space with windows to the grove and ended up naming the restaurant The Grove! We opened Lola Savannah a year after we opened The Grove. It took about a year for Lola to catch traction...and now..WOW!!!
And this morning, I was on my way to Lola Savannah for more meetings. This time to meet with one of our newest Bazaarvoice executives about our evolving Total Available Market (TAM) analysis. And then one of our longest-term Bazaarvoice leaders about the progress of Bazaarvoice Connections among other topics. I spend a lot of my time helping Bazaarvoice as our Vice Chairman of the Board. Bazaarvoice will always be my first career love, as long as it is independent.
If you have read this far, then head on over to The Grove or Lola Savannah, for goodness sake! You won't be disappointed - Lola has the best coffee in town. And The Grove has a good lunch (the ahi tuna burger is my favorite, with sauteed spinach on the side instead of the homemade potato chips as it is a healthier choice). In the afternoon at The Grove, you can enjoy good weather outside, in "the grove of oaks" as Reed would say, and a nice glass of wine over great conversation. More importantly - as least to me given my focus on tech entrepreneurship - it has become an important part of our scene here. Lola Savannah is the Buck's of Woodside here in beautiful Austin.