AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Chamber of Commerce reports dozens of businesses relocating or expanding in Austin just this year. Many of them are startups from other states, as reported by KXAN’s media partners at Austin Business Journal.
Markaaz is one of them.
“Markaaz is the world’s first and only community for small and medium businesses to connect with with each other to find everything they need to grow, run and manage their business,” said Hany Fam, founder and CEO.
A vision Fam first brought to life in California in January 2020.
“If someone had said to me 10 years ago, ‘Austin,’ I would have said, ‘Austin?! Austin?!’ And now it’s like, ‘oh yes, of course!’” he said.
Fam said the city has become the obvious choice to move his headquarters.
Friendly business climate
Fam said the business process was easier here, and people were simply, nice.
“We found just such a warm welcome from the chamber here and from so many other bodies that were just so pro-business and so willing to lean in and help us get established very quickly,” said Fam, who has business registrations in both California and New York. “This was by far and away the easiest and most pleasant experience of all of them.”
University of Texas at Austin professor John Sibley Butler said that culture sets the city apart from other hubs, like California’s Silicon Valley.
“In my research, it shows that there are certain things that are important. Austin is a little friendlier,” Butler said.
Butler’s expertise includes new ventures and entrepreneurship. He’s also published research called “Austin, Boston, Silicon Valley, and New York: Case Studies in the Location Choices of Entrepreneurs in Maintaining the Technopolis.”
Opportunities to shape the business landscape
He said startups and relocations in Austin have surged in the last three years.
Although Austin’s tech world isn’t as developed or established as some other locations, Butler said that’s a positive for many companies — like Markaaz — who want to be part of shaping the business climate.
“If you were to look at places like California or other states, and say, ‘are these states going to course correct for business in the next 12, 24 months?’ We just didn’t see that,” Fam said. “Whereas here in Austin was an opportunity to shape that trajectory in very, very positive way.”
Fam said 20 people are moving from their headquarters in California to Austin, and they hope to hire locally, expanding to 500 people in the next couple years.
Butler said it’s a similar phenomena that lead to the growth of Silicon Valley, with workers from Boston.
“Boston got to a point, to be a part of the ecosystem you had to go to the right school, you had to belong to the right clubs, the right organization. And Silicon Valley [said], ‘hey you guys come out here,’” Butler explained.
Promising source of skilled workers
Both Fam and Butler said local universities — particularly UT — offer a promising source of skilled workers.
That’s despite a projected skilled worker shortage for Austin’s tech industry over the next five years.
“We have a lot of hope in the university and the universities, plural, here in Austin, particularly UT, very large campus here, that we will see more of that skew towards specialized skills in the tech sector, particularly around AI, particularly around natural language, particularly around cloud-based services, etcetera,” Fam said.
“A university that’s pumping out smart people — there’s no doubt that Tesla came here because of our engineering department,” Butler said.
Attracting like-minded people
Finally, as both new and established companies relocate for all the above reasons, it creates a domino effect.
“This is the new tech central, candidly,” Fam said. “We thought long and hard about what the trajectory would look like here, and we take great comfort actually in that migration happening from other locations.”
“They’re coming because of the cluster theory; they want to be around each other,” said Butler.
Butler said the challenge now will be for Austin to remain a friendly hub for business enterprise and maintain its startup culture.
“We don’t want to be the next Silicon Valley — we want to be Austin, Texas,” he said.