Well, what a week it has been. Speaking of my last Lucky7 post on entrepreneurship being all about the journey, this week has been a one giant leap for Austin mankind (and womenkind, of course).
First, the week started out with an amazing Austin City Limits taping with the band Phoenix playing. Debra and I are annual donors to KLRU and attend these tapings regularly. Debra was out of town for this one, though, and I took Garrett Eastham, co-founder and CEO of Compare Metrics, a company that I proudly serve as their independent Chairman of the Board of Directors. You'll be hearing a lot about this company soon (it is currently in mostly stealth mode, taking a page out of my book - see my Lucky7 post on the weighing whether to be stealthy or not), and I'm having a blast working with them. Here is a photo of Garrett and I at the show. Phoenix was one of the best tapings I've seen - right up there with Pearl Jam, Arcade Fire, and The Lumineers.
Second, on Wednesday, the Austin Technology Council hosted their third annual CEO Summit. And I was back at the awesome Moody theater, where the Phoenix taping was held (and all ACL tapings are held). The content was particularly good at this Summit, and I feel for any tech CEO in town that missed it. It was a very inspirational day, and I was proud to be one of the speakers on building a business for the long-term. Bob Metcalfe, who founded 3Com and I spoke of in my Lucky7 post on the state of tech entrepreneurship in Austin, and John Arrow, co-founder and CEO of Mutual Mobile, were my co-panelists and the always cool Mark McClain, founder and CEO of SailPoint, moderated. We had a lot of fun with it and this is a pretty good news reportof what we said (although many important details are left out).
The first highlight of the day was seeing Mike Maples, Jr., one of our early investors at Bazaarvoice, speaking very passionately about Austin needing to have a goal to create a company worth $100 billion in the next 10 years. It is a big stretch goal for the city, no doubt. And it is true that Austin hasn't had a $10 billion plus type of outcome since the rise of Dell as a public company. However, as I pointed out in my post on the state of tech entrepreneurship in Austin, if you compare Austin to Austin, this is certainly the best time in our history. But I do love Mike Maples, Jr. think big call-to-action. Here he is speaking about the power law, the fact that the outsize companies create more value than all of the others combined.
The second highlight of the day was seeing our new President at Bazaarvoice, Gene Austin, speak passionately about the need for more focus on STEM education. I've wanted to work with Gene for a long time and I couldn't be more proud that such a soulful leader is now our President at Bazaarvoice. I'll never forget that Gene won the #1 large company to work for in Austin while he was head of Convio the year before we won the #1 large company to work for in Austin the year after while I was CEO. Gene and I were always gunning for each other on winning the best talent that Austin had to offer, or that we could convince to move here.
Third, and arguably the most important milestone for Austin, was the CTO of the United States, Todd Park, and President Obama visiting Austin. To warm up for their visit, Todd Park released this one-minute long video about how much Austin rocks. (This is the part of my Lucky7 blog post where I'm having a hard time containing myself!) As an Austin native, to see Mr. Park speak this passionately about Austin, the city that I have grown to love more and more as it changes, was a milestone that is hard for me to explain in words. It puts a tear in my eye to write this post, honestly.
I was fortunate enough to know and have helped Josh Baer, the founder of Capital Factory, where Mr. Park and President Obama decided to visit. Josh invited me to attend and represent Bazaarvoice, which has created around 800 jobs, as well as my new role as an angel investor, venture capital investor, and entrepreneurial catalyst. I've enjoyed mentoring at Capital Factory, including last Friday, where I met a 21-year old, Alex Smith, that absolutely blew me away with his work ethic and intelligence. He is the founder of Lantern CRM.
Josh placed me at the head of the table, where I could shake the President's hand, and also be front and center for the three lucky companies who would demo their solutions to the president. Ross Buhrdorf, CTO of HomeAway, and Rony Kahan, co-founder of Indeed, were right there with me at the table. Between the three of our companies, we've created thousands of jobs and dozens of startups from those that gained the knowhow and capital to begin their own ventures. There were also other notable entrepreneurs at the table, such as Josh Kerr, co-founder and CEO of Written.io, and Andrew Busey, co-founder of Pluck (now owned by Demand Media) and Challenge Games (now owned by Zynga).
The President and Mr. Park arrived and it was a breathtaking experience. I've never seen President Obama speak up close like that, and he is more charismatic and has an even more powerful presence in person. I was impressed with his demeanor towards all of us, and the entrepreneurs presenting. I was smiling as I was thinking about my Lucky7 post on how deeply embedded the entrepreneurial spirit is in our country ever since 1776. The President and Mr. Park embodied this spirit, and no matter what your politics are I believe you would have agreed with me had you been there to hear him first hand. Bill Boebel, Partner to Josh at Capital Factory, talked about how much Bazaarvoice, HomeAway, and Indeed have done for the Austin entrepreneurial ecosystem. I've always spoken about ripple effects, and here it was in action, right in front of our President. The President went around the table and shook our hands, and it was an honor I'll never forget. If you are politically divisive and reading this, all I can say is that I'm an Independent voter (I vote for who I think is the best candidate) and that our President has the hardest job in the world. So get over it and realize that this is the most powerful man in the world, and be proud that he decided to visit Austin and highlight how many jobs we have created in manufacturing and technology.
I'm sitting at the table in the blue button-up shirt (sleeves rolled up, of course!), right next to Ross from HomeAway. Thanks to Cindy Lo, founder of Red Velvet Events, who we proudly worked with for many years at Bazaarvoice for our Summits, for taking this photo.
Behind the President while he was speaking about how much impact startups create on the economy were the company logos of Austin's entrepreneurial ecosystem. Bazaarvoice was right under the middle circle.
The three companies that demoed did such an incredible job. There wasn't a single hiccup that the media could capture. They literally aced each demo.
The first presenter was Lynx Laboratories, which has created a real-time, 3D modeling highly portable camera. The President asked several good questions, and there was no doubt that he is very sharp at quickly assessing the commercial viability of a business.
The second presenter was Correlated Magnetics Research, which has created programmable magnetics with so many potential commercial applications. The biggest problem for the business will be focus as you could disrupt several billion-dollar industries. One applications is frictionless magnetic gears, which you could use in Navy warships, for example.
The third presenter was Kenguru, which created the first automobile specifically designed for people in wheelchairs. The cost to the consumer will be $20,000 and it will go to production in two months. The President very quickly realized that you could also rent these cars in cities, similar to the ZipCar model.
These three founders deserve a tremendous amount of credit for their bravery and flawless execution in presenting. It was very inspirational, and they are all chasing big business ideas, as I write about in my Lucky7 post on the five critical ingredients to build a large company.
What a day it was. I'll never forget it. Thank you, Bill and Josh, for making Capital Factory a positive force in Austin. And thank you, Mr. President and Mr. Park, for recognizing Austin for the awesome place it has become. The next ten years will be even better than the last ten.
Update on 5/13: Josh Baer wrote this brilliant letter to President Obama after the visit. It does a really good job of summing up how we need the federal government to support startup efforts, which create so many jobs and economic ripples.