Austin venture capital funding stabilizing after dropoff, panelists say

South by Southwest Conference & Festivals sessions Tuesday highlighted Austin's startup scene and entrepreneurship.

South by Southwest Conference & Festivals sessions Tuesday highlighted Austin's startup scene and entrepreneurship.

Austin’s venture capital scene is now healthy after a slowdown the past few years, panelists said Tuesday during a South by Southwest Conference & Festivals session on the subject.

The city started to turn a corner in the amount of money being funneled into local startups in 2012, when startup accelerators Techstars and Capital Factory launched, panelists said. Two years later, Austin startups hauled in more than $1 billion in venture capital investment, a historical high.

But venture capital in Austin, around the state and throughout the U.S. slumped in 2016. Austin has been in a two-year decline, according to data from local economist Angelos Angelou.

Speaking to an audience of entrepreneurs, the panel included Aziz Gilani, a venture capitalist at Mercury Fund; Rob Taylor, co-founder and CEO of Austin company Convey Inc.; Jean Anne Booth, serial entrepreneur and founder of UnaliWear—a wearable device that provides support for falls and medication reminders; and Brent Wistrom, an Austin Inno journalist who moderated the panel.

The panelists touched on series funding, or rounds of venture capital fundraising, and how entrepreneurs in Austin should expect to fly out of state to secure funding past Series A, the earliest stage of venture capital funding and typically the smallest dollar amount.

“You’re seeing a very healthy ecosystem among these Series A players,” Gilani said of the Austin venture capital firms.

“When it’s time to raise that $10 million-$15 million check, you probably need to buy a plane ticket and you probably need to go to the coasts,” he said.

Taylor said there is a difference between now and when he first arrived in Austin about five years ago in the amount of experience among local entrepreneurs who have been through the funding cycle. He encouraged first-time entrepreneurs to seek out experienced entrepreneurs. When first-time entrepreneurs have experienced entrepreneurs attached to their project, Taylor said it helps during the fundraising process.


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