AUSTIN (KXAN) — Jim Breyer, CEO of venture capital and private equity investor Breyer Capital, announced in August 2020 that Breyer Capital would be opening a second office in Austin. While Breyer Capital’s original office and interest in Silicon Valley remain, Breyer himself has also moved to Austin and is investing in what he sees as the city’s potential as an emerging tech hub.
On Tuesday for an online session at SXSW, Breyer shared his thoughts about Austin with Nancy Fechnay, the co-lead at Towview Ventures & Partner at Flight Ventures Capital Factory. Fechnay is also a recent transplant to Austin.
Breyer explained he had been visiting Austin and making investments there since the 1990s. His friend Michael Dell asked him to join Dell’s board in 2008, prompting Breyer to visit Austin quarterly for board meetings where he “fell in love with the city.”
“I love the live music, the Austin vibe, the different neighborhoods, the weirdness as well as entrepreneurial opportunities, everything from food trucks, to food entrepreneurs, to the Texas Hill Country,” Breyer told Fechnay.
He also commended the academic work being done at the University of Texas at Austin and the “welcoming spirit” he has found in Austin.
A growing trend
Over the past few years, many Silicon Valley-based companies have added a presence in Austin with some relocating to Austin entirely.
Apple is building a second campus in the city. Facebook opened Austin offices in 2010 and now has more than 1,000 employees in the city. Google already has one office building in Austin, which has affixed the company’s logo to the Austin skyline. A second Google building is under construction downtown and a third is in progress at Plaza Saltillo just east of downtown. In December 2020, Oracle announced it would be moving its corporate headquarters from Silicon Valley to Austin.
Over the last year, Elon Musk set down roots for many of his ventures in Austin. Musk confirmed he moved to Texas in 2020 and is believed to have relocated his personal residence to Austin specifically. Tesla has announced plans to build a Gigafactory for manufacturing electric vehicles in Travis County, SpaceX revealed plans to open an Austin office, Boring Company is hiring for jobs in the Austin area and Musk’s private foundation relocated from California to Austin.
It’s not just companies that are moving, Austin’s real estate market has seen unprecedented growth during the pandemic, with many realtors reporting increased interest from Californians looking to relocate.
Learning from Silicon Valley
Fechnay and Breyer spoke about the chances Austin has to “get right” what Silicon Valley — and other venture capital hubs — have “gotten wrong.”
“When we look at building Silicon Valley culture, we did not get right building female leadership and mentorship early,” Breyer noted.
“I really do think we have the ability to make women leaders, female leaders, and directors and minority leaders part of this next generation, true leadership within the Austin community — and broadly within tech,” he added.
Additionally, Breyer said he believes Austin has a better culture of encouraging work-life balance than Silicon Valley does, which is something he believes will bode well for entrepreneur mental health over the long-term.
“I’m just a really big fan of trying to maintain what is great about Austin but also just trying to understand the nature of entrepreneurship, and the potential great opportunities in the Austin area and Texas in general over the next couple of years,” he said.
‘Silicon Valley is not going away anytime soon’
Breyer noted he came to the “very quick conclusion” several years ago that Austin should be the site of Breyer Capital’s second location. But his company is keeping its California location too, because he believes Silicon Valley will continue to have global relevance in the tech and venture capital worlds.
“Silicon Valley is not going away anytime soon, despite what we might read,” he said.
“Silicon Valley is unique in so many ways, and there’s innovation, there’s experimentation, and of course you have a couple of the great universities, Stanford and Berkeley, that have fueled so much of it,” Breyer continued. “So there’s no place in the world in my opinion from a startup standpoint, from an entrepreneur standpoint like Silicon Valley. But within certain markets and disciplines, it’s just really exciting to see what Austin is becoming. “