Keep Austin Wired: Why the Texas Capital Is the Innovation Destination
This is an unbiased opinion, I swear. Yes, I live in Austin. Yes, my company (Rocksauce Studios) is headquartered in the capital of Texas. We’re a proud bunch, we Austinites, and our congregation is growing fast. In 2000, the metro area had about 1.2 million residents. Today, that number has ballooned 34% to just shy of 2.2 million. Roughly 100 people move to the metro area every day.
That explosive growth mirrors the trajectory for a lot of Texas cities, with several municipalities growing faster than construction crews can lay the roads or build the neighborhoods. Austin is a petri dish for all things innovation, from the ways in which it’s adapted amid rapid growth to the events it hosts on a regular cadence.
Because of its reputation as a hotbed for cutting-edge research, Austin was recently chosen to be the new home of the U.S. Army’s Futures Command, which is housed at the Center for Defense Innovation at Capital Factory. That kind of massive investment from the public sector is sure to spur even more growth and keep even more of Austin’s best minds in the city.
The private sector isn’t slowing down, either. Nearly every big name in tech has operations in the “Silicon Hills,” which attracts the most future-focused entrepreneurs and employees from around the country. And it’s not all global conglomerates — Austin also has a robust community of small independent companies and startups.
I’m certainly lucky to live in such close proximity to an endless stream of conferences and events focused on innovation. My company specializes in digital transformation, which encompasses just about every industry out there. From marketing to military, central Texas is where the biggest stars come to shine brightly. We take advantage by attending as many of these as the schedule allows.
If you lead a team of people and are always seeking new ways to innovate, I strongly suggest a company trip to Austin. Plenty of noteworthy events have happened in 2019 — SXSW takes over each March, most notably — but several more are on the docket and worth your attention.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an innovative chief executive, the following events shouldn’t be missed:
Equity-Centered Design Thinking and Innovative Mindsets | Gather Venues | May 29-31
Innovative education is so important for our nation’s children and future, and this three-day conference “will immerse participants in the process of equity-centered design thinking and take attendees on a deep dive into how empathy can lead to more impactful, equitable, and innovative solutions to real-world problems.”
The event aims to help teachers, administrators, and other industry professionals foster creative spaces, remove unconscious biases, and generate more innovative problem-solving skills for students.
Peace Corps Connect 2019: Innovation for Good | Etter-Harbin Alumni Center | June 20-22
Networking, community content sessions, and workshops highlight this festive early summer event, as returned Peace Corps volunteers from across the country congregate to rub elbows with fellow change makers and learn about making real, sustainable impacts in their communities.
Attendees learn what innovations and ideas are being implemented around the world, and an entrepreneurship pitch competition recognizes new ideas that could change the world through social innovation.
Data Center Austin Conference | Brazos Hall | Sept. 24-25
Organizers tout this event — now in its fifth year — as the SXSW for the data center industry. The goal is to collect the brightest thought leaders in one place to “collaborate, innovate, and motivate.”
Participants study what industry pioneers like Microsoft and Uber are working toward and investing in so they can get ahead of future technological demands. They also discuss how their own endeavors and initiatives are aiming to change the world.
InnoTech Austin | Austin Convention Center | Nov. 19
A truly Austin-focused conference, InnoTech invites business and technology executives to convene each fall. The conference is an opportunity to highlight the region’s innovation and technology development by showcasing pioneering products and services.
InnoTech is a great opportunity for small business leaders to take in expertise and connect with potential mentors. Or they can apply to speak themselves and start to establish themselves as thought leaders in the community.
Each of these events has its own unique vibe. You’re more likely to see starched uniforms at the Center for Defense Innovation, sundresses and sunglasses at SXSW, and suits at InnoTech, but all offer opportunities to grow businesses, learn about innovation, and make connections.
No matter which event you choose, make sure to listen and learn as much as you can, enjoy the energy, and be open to spontaneous conversations. You never know what breakthrough might be awaiting.
Written by Michael Manning.
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