Is Austin still tech-friendly?
“Austin has spent decades building a reputation as an innovative city, but our new City Council’s confusion about (the) issue is destroying our reputation and driving away investment capital,” according to Capital Factory Executive Director Joshua Baer.
In the Medium post, Baer is reacting to recent actions by Council placing occupancy limits on short-term rentals, voting to phase out non-owner occupied STRs and deciding on a phased-in approach to getting more transportation network company drivers fingerprinted.
Certainly, some who work in local tech disagree with Baer’s reading of Council’s actions. Josh Jones-Dilworth, CEO of Jones-Dilworth Inc., critiqued Baer’s analysis, writing on his blog: “I am super duper worried that we so eagerly worship at the altar of disruption that we have altogether stopped actually trying to understand why some people don’t agree with us.” (Jones-Dilworth collaborated with Mayor Steve Adler to create Thumbs Up!, a badge program designed to delineate TNC drivers who have undergone fingerprint-based background checks from those who have not.)
The influx into Austin of tech entrepreneurs during South by Southwest’s Interactive Festival seemed like a great opportunity to gather opinions on Council’s actions from those living outside of Austin:
Mike Moorhead moved from Austin to Southern California roughly four months ago. He now works for Cylance, a cybersecurity company. He said he sees the Council regulations as an attempt to ebb growth.
Roeland Stekelenburg is from Amsterdam, and he is in Austin for his 10th South by Southwest. When asked if Council’s actions are hurting Austin’s tech growth, Stekelenburg disagreed.
Adena Lewis is the director of the Tourism and Economic Development Department for neighboring Bastrop County. Although she did not take a stand on Council’s actions, she said she is always watching the growth of tech industries in Austin – hoping that some of that will soon spread to Bastrop County.
Yuval Yarden works for Philly Startup Leaders, where she consults with founders on how to make real their startup ideas. She said she has seen businesspeople she works with end up moving to Austin. So, in her mind, the city’s image outside of Austin has not suffered. But, she said, government regulations (be they taxes, laws or incentives) are never the first items on the menu of topics her consultancy covers.
This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.
Photo: Yuval Yarden works for Philly Startup Leaders. She said when working with entrepreneurs, talk of local government regulations is last on people’s minds.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.
Mayor Steve Adler: Mayor of the city of Austin, elected in November 2014
short term rentals: Properties rented for fewer than 30 days.
SXSW: Organizers of the massive annual festival that takes over the City of Austin each March. SXSW has donated to the Capital of Texas Media Foundation.
Transportation Network Companies: Companies that provide transportation services through applications such as Uber or Lyft.