Last week, thousands of people descended upon Austin, Texas for the renowned South by Southwest event. SXSW is highly regarded for its conference and festivals uniting tech, film, music, education, and culture.

Among many themes from the week, one stands out: the story of the host city itself. Over the years, Austin has made headlines as an emerging tech hub, especially since the pandemic with dozens of companies and thousands of tech workers making their moves to the Lone Star State. It brings up important questions for other future-focused cities. For example, how can a city reinvent itself as a tech hub? How can cities lean into their strengths and create an identity that attracts the likes of big companies and knowledge workers?

Austin’s growth and success can be viewed through the lens of SXSW. Over the years, the event has become essential for startups and innovators, tech leadership, politicians, and more. This steady advancement is truly a symbol of innovation, tech success, and the growth of a tech hub outside the coasts. Plus, it continues to offer Austin a glimpse of what it’s like to play in the “big city” sandbox and test solutions for accommodating rapid growth.

While there is no guaranteed formula for other cities to experience the same growth, fast-growing tech hubs can learn by Austin’s example in a few key ways:

  • Don’t just focus on attracting companies. Attract talent by improving quality of life in the area – ensure proper housing stock, invest in greenspaces.
  • Begin with the end in mind by preparing for success. It’s important to enact policies that will support growth before things like lack of housing or old infrastructure cause bigger challenges down the road.
  • Think about the secret advantages of your city and how you can leverage them. Austin used its previous fame as a hub for live music to entice the innovation economy. What can you offer that no one else can?

Read more about SXSW’s impact on Austin, and why other non-coastal tech hubs are poised to emulate that success.

Inside this issue

  • Patrick McKenna on the Expansion of Tech Hubs
  • SXSW Marks Return to New Normal
  • New Jobs Spring Up Far from Silicon Valley
  • Michael Dell Expects Austin Tech Scene to Keep Surging
  • Check out FinTechtris Weekly for the Latest in Fintech & Banking

The tech hub is no longer the domain of northern California, according to Patrick McKenna, founder of One America Works, which connects high-growth employers to talent. WorkingNation sat down with McKenna at SXSW EDU in Austin. He explains, “One America Works is focused on addressing the economic divide, but from a geographic perspective. Our insight is that there’s a tremendous amount of talent all across the country, but that talent isn’t well distributed.” He says the pandemic led to a significant migration from large cities to smaller, less costly communities. And it’s not just companies. Talent is moving, too. Read More

The conference marked the first large-scale industry event to take place without big restrictions in the COVID era, and hardly anyone wore masks. While vaccination was required to enter official SXSW panels, most exhibitors and venues didn’t have any serious COVID protocols. A significantly reduced footprint suggests people are choosier about their travels than they used to be. SXSW’s return represented a new normal for conferences and major events, where COVID measures are mostly ignored, but the lingering effect of the pandemic still impacts attendance. Read More

Where to find new jobs in tech? Increasingly, the answer is far outside Silicon Valley. Smaller cities like Virginia Beach, Va., Madison, Wis., and Durham, N.C., have marked strong growth in new tech jobs while cities traditionally considered tech strongholds have seen their growth rates slip, according to a Brookings Institution report. Plenty of tech jobs are being created in hubs like San Francisco and San Jose, but the sector’s growth has slowed since 2019. Gaining in job creation are several Sunbelt cities, college towns and vacation destinations. Nashville, Tenn., added more than 1,100 new tech jobs, while Phoenix increased its tech roles by more than 1,400. Read More

Michael Dell has watched — and played a key role — as Austin has grown over the last three decades into one of the nation’s leading technology hubs. With a seemingly constant stream of major technology companies moving to Austin or expanding their operations in the metro area, there is every reason to believe the Central Texas technology sector will keep booming, Dell said during a South by Southwest session in Austin on Monday. “You’ve got all the elements that make Austin’s future very bright,” said Dell, the billionaire founder, chairman and CEO of Round Rock-based tech giant Dell Technologies. “You get a bit of a hub effect, network effect for tech companies. We have companies that have been here since the 1960s and we have a blossoming ecosystem with new companies.” Read More

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