Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Austin - Social Business Capital of the World

When I first came to Austin, one of my friends (and now colleagues - Aaron Strout) held an informal little gathering to welcome me and several other social media folks to Austin. It was pretty amazing to see all of the smart people who had decided - all at once - to make Austin their new home base. I think that we all sensed that something special was happening here, but it was Peter Kim who first put a specific purpose around it for us, and identified our call to action. Austin is becoming the social media capital of the world.

As the South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SxSWi) begins, a few of us agreed to go public with the message ... in addition to my personal missive below, you can also link to several sister-posts all linked at the bottom.

Ever since moving to Chicago after college, I've found myself in a love affair with cities. After living there for the better part of 17 years, my wife and I have been moving steadily south ... first to Louisville, Kentucky (another great town, where I worked for Health Benefits company Humana) and in the middle of 2010 to Austin. Part of that has been climate-related ... I have a family that likes doing outdoor stuff, and it is a LOT more pleasant to be outdoors when it's in the 60s and 70s for fall, winter and spring. Part of that is urban-related; Austin is a city that's very easy to live in, even for families with kids. But it's also been, to a large degree, job-related. As a part of the Innovation team at Humana, I was privileged to come to the South by Southwest (SxSW) interactive festival twice (in 2009 and 2010). And even though SxSW is hardly "the real Austin," the character of the city can't help but shine through. And the fact of the matter is that I met a lot of really smart people in my business (social media and communications) who were either living in Austin or moving there.

The concept of geographic "talent centers" is one that intrigues me. Richard Florida wrote about it in his 2008 book, "Who's Your City?" The book advances the theory that certain kinds of talent - particularly what Florida calls (rather pretentiously) the "Creative Class" - tend to identify with the cultural vibe of certain cities or areas. Florida's conclusions may be controversial, but I think that there is at least a nugget of truth in their underlying premise ... that there is something about cities like Austin that is particularly appealing for people who are into creativity and innovation ... a couple of factors that are clearly driving the "consumer revolution" or the "collaboration economy" or [choose your macroeconomic buzzword]. The irony is that this principle seems directly opposed to the conventional wisdom about social media and its association with Thomas Friedman's theories about the decreasing importance of place.

Whatever the reason, it's clear that there has been a steady-and-growing influx of people (and companies) who thrive on innovation, creativity and technology - into Austin. There's something about the city that's at once edgy but unpretentious; passionate but relaxed; reflective but action-oriented. And it's incredibly exciting to be a part of its ascendancy as a destination for innovators and entrepreneurs - the kind of people who create energy.

Peter Kim's post is here.
Virginia Miracle's post is here.
Kathy Mandelstein's post is here.
Aaron Strout's post is here.
Spike Jones' post is here.
Kate Niederhoffer's post is here.

Peter said it best in his closing:
"Our town will soon welcome 15,000+ visitors for SXSWi. You might be one of them. If so, while you're here I encourage you to think about the nice people, great weather, low cost of living, live music, nationally recognized public schools, BBQ and breakfast tacos, and the growing community of your peers that call this town home."
My company, WCG, grew by 37% last year, and 2011 is off to an amazing start. If you'd like to be a part of what we're building, read more about us and tell us about yourself at WCG World and and the WCG World's Common Sense Blog.

Come join us in Austin - the social media capital of the world.

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