UT tech entrepreneurs: ‘Austin breaks the rules’

Kevin Dural

Austin was ranked the 19th best city in the United States for tech jobs, according to an analysis by Student Loan Hero. The findings were based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The study also found that among the top 20 cities, Austin tech workers have an average real income (salary adjusted for cost of living) that ranks second at $122,530. Austin offers a cost of living that is right on par with the national average, according to the study.

UT alumni, who lead many of Austin’s tech startups, attribute the city’s ranking to style, cost of living and Longhorn talent.

Kenneth Cho, CEO and co-founder of People Pattern, a company that analyzes public perception, said a broad range of factors contributes to the success of Austin. These factors include an environment fostering business growth — partially Texas’ light taxes and regulation — combined with Austin’s wide base of young talent.

“You factor in Austin’s reputation as a cool, hip, accepting city with an authentic lifestyle quotient … this attracts progressive, young, college-educated people,” he said.

Ed Hemphill, UT alumnus and CEO of WigWag, a home automation company, said Austin possesses ideas, not just numbers. He said Austin’s innovative attitude is unique to a select few cities and has created an environment that fosters tech development.

“We see the effects of this (attitude) in an abundance of Austin startups, and in just how often Austin was a first market for a product,” he said. “Why is Austin usually one of these first markets? They’re trendsetters.”

Robert Reeves, UT alumnus and CTO of Datical, a provider of automated software solutions, said Alamo Drafthouse is the perfect example of that trailblazing mentality. Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League’s radically simple idea — that beer goes well with movies — eventually grew into an empire of 35 theaters, he said.

Austin’s tech mentality, Reeves said, enables it to push boundaries, solve real problems and party — all at the same time.

Hemphill added that Austin’s successes partially derive from UT consistently pushing out well-qualified candidates.

He added that cost of living significantly helps entrepreneurs, particularly young individuals, start companies.

“Cost of living is a huge factor,” Hemphill added. “If you have talent, you need to pay them. Due to Austin’s cost of living, every dollar pays further.”

Deven Hariyani, former Longhorn and CEO of Kwaddle, a platform for parents to find activities for their children, said Austin is a more affordable tech city than others in California, his home-state. He said the interview for his Austin tech job even included an affordable house listing.

“I already knew you could easily pay 10 times those prices for a home in Austin than in another major tech city … so that pretty much sold it to me,” Hariyani said.

Austin’s tech scene will continue to thrive due not only to relative affordability, but revolutionary thinking and talent, Reeves said.

“Austin breaks the rules … we don’t care about tradition,” he said.  “We don’t look at the crowd, we look at the market, and fill it.”