I recently had the pleasure of meeting Melissa Lombard at Gary Hoover's open house for the iSchool (U.T. Austin's Information School, a top-ranked program for it's kind in the nation). Gary is one of my favorite people in Austin, and he is generously serving as Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the iSchool after doing so a few years ago for McCombs (U.T. Austin's Business School). He invited "friends of Gary" to attend and Melissa was there with her husband. Melissa told me about her 5-year project to have coffee with 260 strangers and live this mantra:
SXSW has long come and gone in this beautiful city - that was, like, weeks ago! Like years past, it reached more epic heights this year and companies and investors were spending more on gaining attention than ever before. And with SXSW, the typical, "how is Austin doing at tech entrepreneurship?" question was asked again and again. But out of all of the articles written, the one that I personally heard the most about was this one by PandoDaily: "Will the Austin startup ecosystem ever live up to its promise?"". It stirred me up to read it, no doubt. And it lead me to write this post to share my own thoughts - as an insider - on the state of tech entrepreneurship in Austin.
On January 29, Marc Andreessen predicted the death of retail in favor of disruptive, pure-play etailers, such as Fab.com. A choice quote from the PandoDaily article:
“Retail chains are a fundamentally implausible economic structure if there’s a viable alternative,” he says. “You combine the fixed cost of real estate with inventory, and it puts every retailer in a highly leveraged position. Few can survive a decline of 20 to 30 percent in revenues. It just doesn’t make any sense for all this stuff to sit on shelves. There is fundamentally a better model.”
I've been studying retail ever since I can remember. My parents were retail entrepreneurs from the time I was born, as I wrote about in this Lucky7 post. I've been programming since I was seven-years old, as I wrote about in why I named this blog Lucky7 - in tribute to my mother. I leveraged these two experiences to start my own etailer in 1998 - programmed on an eCommerce platform that I created. And I've founded two large companies to help retailers - Bazaarvoice and Coremetrics. I've also served on the Board of Shop.org for three consecutive terms. So to say I've been thinking about this for awhile is an understatement.