Keep Austin Weird: A Boothie’s Take on Life & VC in Austin

Austin, TX, affectionately nicknamed Silicon Hills due to many of the biggest tech companies calling it home, is a hotbed for technology and innovation. In fact, the motto “Keep Austin Weird” is intended to promote small business and entrepreneurship in the city. Austin has been voted the No. 1 Best Place to Live in America by U.S. News for three years in a row—based on affordability, job prospects, and quality of life. After spending last summer in the Bay Area through Booth’s Pre-MBA Startup Summer program and wanting to try something different, these were three critical factors that attracted me to this city.

My internship search has always been hyper-focused on Austin. I was determined to do venture capital in Austin; so much so that I didn’t participate in any other recruiting circuits, such as tech or consulting. While all my classmates were receiving their amazing job offers, I didn’t receive my offer until a month before the Spring quarter was to end. 

Through the generosity of Chicago Booth’s Venture Capital Fund, which makes traditionally low-paying specialized career paths more accessible for students, I was able to make my dream come true of securing a coveted internship as a Venture Associate at Quake Capital, an early-stage venture capital fund and accelerator which brings on 30 companies per year, invests $150K in each one in exchange for ~4.8% equity, and provides curriculum, mentorship, and access to the Austin startup ecosystem.

WORK HARD

My time at Quake was a really interesting one and I learned so much about the challenges and potential pitfalls of running a startup accelerator. My biggest takeaway is that cash is oxygen for a business. Without it, you can’t breathe or focus on anything else. Proper planning and cash flow forecasting are major keys and can make or break your business before it even gets off the ground. 

I also learned how important it was to be dependable and able to jump in and help wherever needed, especially when working on a team with a flat hierarchy where the roles and responsibilities for launching a new cohort could be a little blurry. 

As a Venture Associate, I was a sort of generalist, so it’s hard to describe what my day-to-day looked like, but here’s a brief rundown of what I worked on this summer:

  • Performed due diligence of startups entering the accelerator program
  • Built out cohort curriculum (leveraged what I learned in Lindsey Lyman’s Building the New Venture class)
  • Assessed the quality of startups for potential investment
  • Facilitated Pitch Day between founders and a family office investor
  • Attended Monday morning all-hands meetings and participated in valuation negotiations, brainstorming sessions, and strategy discussions
  • Helped companies think through pricing strategies, customer acquisition, messaging, and positioning within the market
  • Secured local partnerships and managed general office operations
Quake ATX Team enjoying the beautiful Austin weather after a tasty lunch.

PLAY HARD

I was able to squeeze in a little fun while I was in Austin as well. I consider ATX to be an Urban Oasis. You get the great city feel with delicious food (most notably breakfast tacos & Texas BBQ) and bars/nightlife (6th Street, Rainey Street, The Domain). But you also get the great outdoors with fun adventures like Barton Springs, Sculpture Falls, hiking trails, water activities on Lady Bird Lake, and lots of murals. 

The city is all about urban mobility as well—it’s a driveable city (most places are within 15 mins) and there are LOTS of scooters scattered all around the city (the most prevalent being Bird and Lime). With Austin, you get the Bay Area vibes without the Bay Area prices.

Mosaic Awards at the Google office featuring Arlan Hamilton, Founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Capital (pictured middle right).

While I was in Austin, I was able to meet and spend time with a ton of cool people who made the city feel like home. I got to hang out with my fellow Booth classmates Shining Li (interned at Frog Design), and Ross Hutchason (Pimco). I also got the opportunity to visit/get an inside look at a handful of companies in the city including Google, Facebook, Frog Design, JDI Consulting, Capital Factory, Vista Equity, Indeed, and Dell Technologies.

And because Austin is in close proximity to several other major cities in Texas, it was really easy to take day trips to Houston (met with Dean Stacey Kole and Associate Dean Jessica Jaggers for Intern Dinner/happy hour), San Antonio, and New Braunfels.

One of the many fun & interactive installations at Facebook’s Austin office.

As I reflect on my summer, I can’t help but marvel at the transformative experience I had here filled with growth, adventure, and introspection. Austin is such a great city with a low cost of living, yet high quality of life. The city is growing rapidly with tech and entrepreneurship, which means the pie is expanding for more diverse founders and investors to enter the fray. 

People here are extremely entrepreneurial and care about living a good life above all else. As I look towards kicking off my second year at Booth and graduating in June 2020, I seek happiness in my life and career, and Austin seems like the perfect place to start.

Leave a Reply