Amid unprecedented population, housing, real estate, and startup growth, Austin is in an exciting time for early stage venture capital. Old firms are hemorrhaging. New firms are being founded. From dozens of conversations over the last few years, here are my picks for the people that will redefine this industry by 2020. No question each of these awesome people will help make Austin the best city in which to build a startup.
Josh Baer (@joshbaer) & Bill Boebel (@billboebel) : I group this dynamic duo together as cofounders of Capital Factory, the definitive end all and be all of co-working, collaboration, and startup communities in Austin. It is the go-to space for events, startups, and (increasingly) angel investors. Josh and Bill are both successful serial entrepreneurs, angel investors, and some of the most generous guys in town. Few things will happen in this town without the involvement and support of these guys.
Brian Smith (LinkedIn)- UT finance grad who navigated the elite echelons of private equity at the legendary Greenhill and Tiger investment fund. He jumped to join Bazaar Voice two years ago for what everyone knows was quite the ride. For his age, Brian has done more corporate finance work than anyone else I know in Austin—with higher stakes and more ups and downs. His experience prepares him to lead (or invest in) the fasting growing tech companies in town.
Walt Roloson (@wroloson / LinkedIn) - UT grad who navigated the elite echelons of private equity at the legendary Greenhill and Tiger. Wait, is this Brian? Nope, his alter ego and CS major Walt Roloson. After Tiger, Walt helped lead business operations at LinkedIn in San Francisco. Now back in Austin at Impossible Labs working on a stealth venture with a well financed and very smart team. Walt is a rare breed of a developer with great product savvy who does DCFs in his sleep - for fun.
Evan Loomis (LinkedIn) - a native Austinite, Evan logged years on Wall Street and later as cofounder of TreeHouse, the Whole Foods version of Home Depot, understanding and growing businesses of all sizes. After building a nationwide angel investing network, he’s recently invested deeply in helping build the investor base in Austin. With a deep network of family offices around the country, Evan’s able to bridge traditional investors to exciting, early stage deals. Like no one else I’ve met, Evan is truly in it for long term relationships—and that depth of authenticity is there from your first encounter.
Jeff Harbach (@jeffharbach / LinkedIn) - on first meeting, it’s hard to know if you’d prefer Jeff to be your cofounder, school teacher to your kids, tennis coach, or board member. His generosity is only matched by his curiosity—making a great combo. Jeff is deeply embedded in the Austin tech ecosystem, a McCombs MBA and former head of the Central Texas Angel Network. He’s at the forefront of new fund formation in town and has everything needed to nail it.
Eric Garcia (LinkedIn) - Eric is another just great guy: incredibly generous of spirit, very savvy in advising companies, and just the kind of guy you want to spent time with. Eric remains rather low profile in Austin, from which he runs Harvest Growth Capital, after a stint at Austin Ventures. His thoughtfulness and generosity earns his way into many high growth, pre-IPO companies in San Francisco and New York. As more high growth, Series B and later companies emerge in Austin, Eric has the LP’s to fund them.
Josh Jones Dilworth (@joshdilworth / LinkedIn) - From slick digs above Houndstooth coffee and Uchico, Josh and his team craft and share compelling narratives for some of the most important companies in the country. Josh is the ultimate curator of things that matter in Austin—stories worth telling. With the hustle of a Baltimore youth, urbanity of an NYU grad, glasses of a film producer, and savvy of the best of Madison Ave, Josh makes things matter.
Pat Noonan (@lpnoonan / LinkedIn) - a Harvard College and Stanford MBA finance guy bottled up in quantified-self meets teddy bear. This guy is awesome. Approaching nearly a decade of investing experience, Pat brings the experience of a big fund wit the hustle of the investor everyone wants to work with. With deep ties to Stanford, San Francisco, and Boston, extensive deal experience, and a network to boot, Pat is well poised to launch his own fund.
Blair Silverberg (LinkedIn) - Austin’s own Westlake High School grad Blair Silverberg is currently at historic VC fund Draper Fisher Jurvetson in San Francisco. He’s a Stanford engineer, holds a patent on telescoping snow shoes, and founded his own consumer internet startup. He’s learning “how the big boys do it” but my bet is that he’ll return to Austin--bringing some Sand Hill Road magic back with him.
John Komkov (LinkedIn) - it is rumored that John has the intellectual output of 10 Stanford grads - and I think it’s true. An Austin native, John was Stanford college, in town at Austin Ventures, and is now back at Stanford for an MBA. This town should start a movement to draft John back. Especially refreshing about John is his long term view on Austin’s strategic assets as a city and ecosystem; it’s not about bringing Silicon Valley here, it’s about capitalizing (literally) our strengths. I may actually use John’s return to mark my official declaration that “Austin has made it.”
Who would you add to this list?
About the author: Evan Baehr would be a VC but spent his money on Torchy's tacos and diapers for his 18 month old. Recently he opened people's mail at Outbox and is currently working on a stealth venture. He's currently writing a book (with Evan Loomis) about early stage startups, story telling, and raising venture capital. Learn more here.