Is Austin the new Silicon Valley?

Everyone knows that Silicon Valley is located in California. Historically, the concentration of universities, a pleasant climate and a large amount of substances attracted not only hippies to the region, but also a large number of talented people.

Such success haunts many not only outside, but in America itself, and some states, including Texas, have decided: we, too, are warm and have universities. We may not have substances, but we have banned abortion, and we have a lot of cowboys, barbecues and low taxes. Isn't it a paradise for IT?

And so in Texas, Austin, a city on the Colorado River, was chosen for the cluster. The main reason for choosing this location was the University of Texas, one of the largest in the USA, and the University of Texas at San Marcos nearby. In general, there are a lot of students nearby, just like in Silicon Valley.

In general, it’s a sound idea (I’m not talking about banning abortion), but let’s see what came of it.

I didn’t live here that long, only six months. But this was enough for me – Austin is not a big city and is quite colorful, and it won’t take much time to understand whether it’s right for you or not.

So, Texas is a Republican state, with many consequences that follow: conservative, religious, armed, and pro-Trump billboards everywhere. It already sounds very attractive and almost like the promised land.

However, it's not that simple; Austin is a blue city in a red state. The population here supports the Democrats and this affects the city and its vibe. Yes, there are a lot of weapons here, but they are not carried openly here. There are not many cowboys and pickup trucks on the street, and in the bars they play not country but reggaeton and R&B. Austin is a strange mixture of California, Texas and Florida (due to the large Latino population).

The city has several things in common with Texas:

  1. Food – the ubiquitous food trucks here are elevated to a separate form of art. Food trucks here replace going to a restaurant and the price is quite comparable to going to a restaurant. Entire food courts are built around groups of food trucks, and some are so popular that you have to stand in line for several hours. They eat mostly meat – barbecue, steaks, burgers, burritos, fajitas, etc. This is no place for vegans.

    To be honest, the kitchen is the weak point of the state. A lot of meat and Mexican food, everything is quite monotonous and expensive (surprisingly).

    And Mexican food here is in its own way – TexMex. The Americans took Mexican fast food (tacos, burritos), simplified it, replaced the ingredients with GMOs and added ketchup. It turned out, in my humble opinion, complete garbage, but people like it.

    There are, of course, exceptions, I was especially struck by the JuiceLand chain – the most delicious smoothies I have ever seen. But in general, everything is quite monotonous for people spoiled by our restaurants.

  2. Large population of people of color, like the rest of Texas. The diversity of races and nationalities here is greater than in Seattle. And I would say that tolerance towards each other is higher here (possibly due to the presence of a large number of weapons in the population).

  3. Texas is Texas, so you will find a specific heat in the summer, with temperatures of forty-five degrees, melting asphalt under your feet and shocking doses of radiation. In summer, it is not recommended to walk outside and always apply sunscreen, or your skin will age at the rate of fake Chinese Adidas. The air here is dry and the heat is not so noticeable, but at 40+ degrees this does not help much. But in spring and winter it’s wonderful here.

  4. Nature is specific. Low and thorny vegetation predominates, but there is still a lot of prairie and wasteland here. Austin is not a green city like Miami or Seattle. The city has the Colorado River and that helps. However, the river is not that big and water and ocean lovers will find it uncomfortable here. Poisonous snakes and scorpions are present, so high boots are not a luxury but a means of transportation through tall grass. One of my friends had a dog (Rottweiler) bitten by a snake and was barely pumped out. If the dog had been smaller, it most likely would not have been saved.

  5. In general, the population is not spoiled. Texas is not New York with its high fashion or Frisco with its smoothies and hippies. A food truck instead of a restaurant, a grilled piece of meat instead of a deaf joint, a bar in a hangar instead of a craft beer bar, and locals wearing cowboy boots over sweatpants. They don't really sweat the small stuff here. And in a bar, if you strongly disagree with you, no one will apologize – most likely they will punch you in the face.

  6. Taxes and prices: there is no state tax, so living here is more profitable than in, say, California and prices are generally much lower. Housing costs orders of magnitude cheaper, although recently, due to the influx of people from the Valley, the situation has changed a lot.

  7. Texans stick to Texans. If some businessman from Austin doesn't know your grandfather's grandfather, he won't trust you and won't do business with you. The parochial and tribal mentality here is no joke and very serious. This can be a serious barrier to building local businesses or raising investment. However, if someone from the locals can vouch for you, this radically changes things.

  8. The people here are good-natured, but not soft like in the Valley or Seattle. They can and do like to get punched in the face, get drunk, or shoot with a gun. Local redneck teenagers and frat-bros, two meters tall and with babyfaces, are classic Texas. Lots of dope and little brain involved. It is not recommended to get involved in fights. If you behave wisely, it's safer here than in San Francisco.

  9. A lot of people support Republicans and Trump, and a lot of people have conservative views. For example, I don’t mind, but if you suddenly have religious democracy in your brain, don’t rely on the understanding of others, but rather read the paragraph above. Tolerance here can be explained not only with kind words but also with deeds.

View of the center

View of the center

6th street during the day

6th street during the day

6th street at night

6th street at night

Typical suburb

Typical suburb

Barton Springs where everyone goes swimming

Barton Springs where everyone goes swimming

Austin, by the way, considers itself the music capital of the USA, but I don’t know where they got that from. Miami and Los Angeles are much more interesting in this regard.

Otherwise, Austin is a rather atypical city for Texas. There are a lot of liberals and hippies here and lately there has been an influx of people from other states, which is greatly diluting the local population.

People are fleeing California, where radical liberals have seized power, to Texas in search of the promised land, but the problem is that they are bringing California to Texas with them. Prices are rising, as is the number of homeless people, hippies are multiplying, smoothies are now in bars instead of whiskey, and subjects such as gender studies have seeped into schools. This causes the local population to burn quite badly (that’s not what their grandfathers fought for). But for a technology center this is inevitable – technocrats are basically liberals at their core and of course they will bring their beliefs with them.

Austin worked for a long time to become another IT center in the USA and it succeeded, for which great respect goes to the local authorities. In general, apart from cities that were already centers due to their historical position, like New York and Boston, this is the only case in the USA when I can say without exaggeration that they succeeded. Many cities are just at the beginning of this path (Miami, for example), and Austin is one of the largest IT centers in the USA at the moment, with a strong IT community. The city has representative offices of all major IT companies and many local startups. Of course, this is not the Valley, the ecosystem here is much smaller, but it is there, and in general, Austin is a good option for an IT specialist if all the other features of the city suit him.

There are already VCs here and it’s quite possible to raise money for a startup, but for a startup the Valley will still be better (Musk, by the way, tried to transfer Tesla’s R&D here but returned to California, which indicates a shortage of specialists). The cost of living is orders of magnitude lower than in California.

My main impression of Austin is the following: it is a large village (in comparison with which even Yaroslavl is a metropolis). There is a village vibe and mentality here, which has its pros and cons. The people are quite friendly, but not pushy. Many people know each other, and the buildings are mostly low-rise. The downtown with skyscrapers is compact and generally not particularly dangerous. There is a street with bars where everyone gets drunk with local whiskey and has a blast on the weekends listening to reggaeton or riding a mechanical bull. The people are quite relaxed and slow, the pace of life is very measured and no one is in a hurry. Everything is done quite simply and without frills, but well – just like in a village. The traffic in the city is specific – I found it a bit boring there. But you get used to it. If you live with your family in the suburbs, this is a pretty good option.

In general, Austin is normal for an Aishnik, but it’s a village. Of the warm states, in reality, an IT specialist now has a choice only between California and Austin (and, at a stretch, North Carolina). Communist post-apocalypse or rural area? For those who like the village, it will be fine here. I don't recommend it to others.

I am a co-founder of an AI integrator Raft.

Sharing my experience in TG-channel.

All the best and positive mood!

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