Attend Austin’s Tech Town Hall on Aug 24

The Forrest Four-Cast: August 20, 2017

More than any other mayor in the history of Austin, Steve Adler has courted and created strong ties with the city’s tech and startup community. These ties proved to be an important pillar of his successful election bid in the spring of 2014. These ties have been re-affirmed by his ongoing efforts to bring dozens of big city US mayors to Austin for SXSW.

Learn more about Adler’s vision of Austin’s tech community at the “Tech Town Hall” at 5:30 pm on Thursday, August 24 at Capital Factory. This session will cover the mayor’s approach to tackling the “Downtown Puzzle” made up of homelessness, the Austin Convention Center, Waller Creek Linear Park, downtown mobility, and other community issues. Sponsored by the Austin Tech Alliance and the Downtown Austin Alliance, this August 24 event will also tackle challenges facing the city and how the city’s tech community can best engage on neighborhood and policy issues.

Additionally, attendees at the “Tech Town Hall” will have a chance to ask their own questions to Mayor Adler. Register now to reserve your spot for this event — tickets are free.

Another notable this week is the “Capital Factory Women in Tech Summit 2017” on Wednesday, August 23. Speakers at this day-long event include Dr. Colette Burnette (Huston-Tillottson University), Arian Hamilton (Backstage Capital), Andrea Kalmans (Contra Ventures), Mellie Price (Dell Medical Schoo), Kerry Rupp (True Wealth Partners), Jan Ryan (Women@Austin) and many others. The “Capital Factory Women in Tech Summit 2017” is free to attend — sign up here.

Other events for week of August 21:
August 21: Austin Blockchain for Business Meet Up
August 21: Austin Startup Meet Up
August 21: Blogging 101: How to Create a Successful Blog
August 21: Feminist Hack ATX Power Hour
August 21: Open Gov & Civic Tech Meet Up
August 22: Data Analytics Info Session
August 22: Data Science Meet Up
August 22: How to Navigate the Capital Factory Experience
August 23: Capital Factory Women in Tech Summit
August 23: Ladies Night — Intro to HTML & CSS
August 23: Health Tech Austin Monthly Meeting
August 23: LGBTQ+ in Tech Meet Up
August 23: Conde Nast on Security, Stability and Performance
August 24: Ember Meet Up
August 24: Venture Forth Info Session
August 25: Tech Talk at IBM Design
August 26: User Experience Design Bootcamp

More upcoming events:
September 5: Austin Forum: “Technologies Transforming Manufacturing”
September 8: SXSW Art Program deadline
September 8: SXSW Early Bird Savings Registration Deadline
September 14–16: Creatives Meet Business
September 21–28: Fantastic Fest
October 4: 50 on Fire
October 6–8: ACL Fest, Weekend #1
October 9–13: Austin Startup Week
October 12–12: Star Wars: A New Hope
October 13–15: ACL Fest, Weekend #2
October 16: SXSW 2018 content announcement
October 21: ContentATX
November 6–10: Austin Design Week
November 10: SXSW Accelerator deadline
November 10: SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards deadline
November 10–12: Sound on Sound Fest
March 9–18: SXSW 2018

Stay tuned to this space as we review more creativity-focused events for the coming weeks. If you have an event that you would like considered for listing in this space, contact me at hugh at sxsw dot com.

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.

Attend Austin’s Tech Town Hall on Aug 24 was originally published in Austin Startups on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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New investment fund led by Rackspace co-founder raises $13 million with focus on tech startups

This new venture capital fund based in Austin wants to invest in promising technology startups — especially those involved in software and led by founders. The three partners behind Active Capital have extensive tech and finance backgrounds of their own.

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Texas’ economic outlook is bright, but nation’s less so, Dallas Fed chief says

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President and CEO Robert Kaplan says Texas will be fine. It’s the rest of the country he’s worried about.

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Here’s What “White Silence” Sounds Like

A Guide for Responding to White Supremacist-Sympathizers

*Sigh* Hey folks, in the wake of the tragic events that have taken place recently, I’m going to give you a guide for responding to those important (or not so important) people in your life.

Before that, however, let’s make a couple of things clear. Racism — especially inciting hatred and oppression — is neither dead, nor new. Racism is unacceptable, period.

Publicly gathering to express that any person(s) should in any way be judged by something other than the content of their individual character incites hatred, oppression.

Isn’t making someone out to be less than human the most blatant example of fighting words? Isn’t inciting hatred and oppression necessarily an attempt to incite violence? Isn’t advocating the subjugation of people creating a clear and present danger?

Hate is not an opinion. Hate is not “free speech”.

Unfortunately, there’s a litany of rhetoric that white supremacist-sympathizers reflexively spout in tragic situations like Charlottesville, VA.

Here’s a guide on the various forms of white supremacist-sympathizers and how to counter these toxic beliefs:

Are YOU a Slave Though?

This is a rare exception where I’ll use a word I consider highly offensive to illustrate a point. Dear white supremacist-sympathizers, simply because I’m a free nigger (and I use the term free loosely) doesn’t mean there isn’t a systemic oppression of black people. Read The New Jim Crow.

Racism Has Gotten a Lot Better!

Like I said, read at least the first chapter of The New Jim Crow. Or watch 13th or Dear White People if you don’t have the attention span.

70s — Tuskegee Experiments Exposed
80s — Ronald Reagan Elected President
90s — Rodney King Beating
00s — Take Your Pick of These…
10s — Last US State Abolished Slavery

2017 — Unpermissable Racial Gerrymandering

Tell me more about how racism has gotten a lot better. #ReportHate

Eh, It’s Free Speech…

“Guess you have to take the good with the bad, it’s what our country was founded on,” this is often found alongside a casual shrug.

Was it? Let’s fact-check that.

The American republic was founded on a set of beliefs that were tested during the Revolutionary War. Among them was the idea that all people are created equal, whether European, Native American, or African American, and that these people have fundamental rights — Library of Congress

The First Amendment doesn’t give anyone a right to free speech, in fact it doesn’t even stop government from interfering in free speech. “Congress shall make no law…”

That’s right, everything you’ve held to be protected under the First Amendment is simply a restriction on law-making. This is why the courts are so influential in constitutional matters.

MLK Was Better than Malcolm X

It’s embarrassing how widespread this one is. You’ll even find people of color debating this one. Could slavery have been abolished in the absence of violence? Peaceful non-violence alone is as futile as violence alone; and even together they were both assassinated.

What About Racism Against Whites?

This could also come in the forms of BlueLivesMatter, AllLivesMatter, or especially WhiteLivesMatter and arguments about “reverse racism”. Here I will provide a caveat that this is predominately racism via ignorance.

Anyone can be racist, yes. However, reverse racism/reverse discrimination is a misnomer. I don’t care if you went to an all black school and were singled out.

Think of it this way, lets say all black people and all white people hated each other equally, the difference is that a white person (77% of America) may stumble into a room filled with black people (12% of America) and feel threatened, but a black person can’t avoid entering a room where they feel threatened.

This isn’t even taking into account that the vast majority of civic, financial, economic, educational, and even charitable institutions are owned and operated by white people.

These People Are a Minority

Again, I wish this were true. I’m not disputing this because it brings me pleasure, but because it is dangerously false. Unlike Donald Trump supports (see this article) It’s not unreasonable to assume that their is a white supremacist for every non-jailed black person in America, while at the same time, the average white person may have never even encountered a white supremacist.

There are as 917 groups across the country. Click the link to see a map.

Edit: Washington and Jefferson Owned Slaves!

This is so problematic. The problems with the confederacy — you know, that treasonous collective that pit brother against brother to preserve slavery among other things?

These problems are different from those of reparations. If you want to talk about reparations, there are voluminous tomes on that subject at your local library.

I’m Not Racist, There Are Just Some Racists In My Party

If you hold someone down while someone else rapes them are you a rapist? How would you feel about that? If you still defend the racist…you ARE the racist. People don’t call me tall because their feelings are hurt, they call me tall because I am tall. It is time to cast aside delicacy with the alt-right snowflakes who erupt when called racist. News flash, I wish you WEREN’T racist, and no person of color would call you one unless it were true.

Retaliation to non-violence with non-violence, and to violence with self-defense is justified under the vast majority of legal and ethical laws. Speaking personally, I’ve seen the look of fear, shame, or indifference on those who see something and do nothing.

Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.
-Malcolm X

Here’s What “White Silence” Sounds Like was originally published in Austin Startups on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Venture Capital Economics With Public Market Liquidity

By Tushar Jain

Traditional venture capital firms typically invest in the equity of young, fast-growing, technology startups. Each individual investment is risky: 75% of venture-backed companies fail to return invested capital to their investors. Venture capitalists rely on the fact that the winning investments will return enough to cover the losses from the losing investments and more.

A venture fund might make 20 investments. 15 of them will probably return nothing. 3 or 4 may return 5–10x. And 1 or 2 may return 20–30x. This hypothetical fund will return 2–4x despite the fact that 75% of investments returned 0x.

This strategy of portfolio composition is known as “venture capital economics”. Big returns on a few investments in the portfolio drive the returns for the whole portfolio.

This model has other problems. By far the largest is illiquidity. Once a venture investment is made, the fund will not realize a return until the company sells or IPOs. Limited partners, who commit capital to venture funds, have to commit for 7–13 years. Few investors can afford to think on that time-scale.

A venture fund cannot change its mind about an investment once it’s been made due to the same illiquidity constraints. There is no way for a venture fund to liquidate or reduce their their investment even if presented with new information.

Typically venture funds won’t invest in direct competitors to a portfolio company to avoid conflicts of interest (this decouples at the latest stages of private investment, but not series A/B/C). This means that venture firms will invest in only one company within a competitive space, even if the space is big enough for multiple successful companies. Venture investors must choose either Uber or Lyft. Facebook or Linkedin. Pandora or Spotify. Postmates or Doordash. This is risky in that it doesn’t accommodate diversification as a way of hedging risk.

Generally speaking, Multicoin Capital gets the best of both worlds: venture capital economics but with public market liquidity. We experience venture capital economics as we invest in promising protocols while they are young and aim for outsized returns on every investment. But all the assets Multicoin Capital invests in are liquid. This means that we reserve the right to change our minds about a given investment.

If we thought an investment could be 10x, and we discover while we’re up 2x that upside is capped at 2.5x, we can take our profits and move on. On the other hand, if an investment is down 50%, we can sell and get half our invested capital back. Many venture funds attempt to do this by salvaging the companies, but this is usually a laborious process. When we choose to cut our losses, we can do so overnight with minimal headache.

Most importantly, Multicoin Capital can invest in competing protocols rather than having to pick a single winner in a competitive space. This significantly lowers risk for investors. It is generally easier to spot trends than it is to pick specific winners. For example, there are many smart contract platforms today: Ethereum, NEO, Stratis, Lisk, Aeternity, Tezos, WAVES, and more. Although Ethereum is the market leader today, there are strong cases to be made that smart contract platforms will not be winner-take-all platforms. So there is real opportunity in investing in smaller platforms at 1/100th the price of Ethereum’s $30B network value.

Historically, investing in technology trends meant investing in illiquid assets. This creates risk because capital is locked up as the technology evolves and the market changes. Cryptoassets offer a unique and novel investment profile, one that combines venture-style upside potential, but with lower risk and shorter commitment due to asset liquidity. Or in other words, venture capital economics with public market liquidity.

Venture Capital Economics With Public Market Liquidity was originally published in Austin Startups on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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The Engineer’s Dilemma

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

One of my earliest memories in life, around 2 or 3 years old, is about putting together a Lego set, a big pirate ship, lined with cannons on the sides and decked in pirate flags. I haven’t stop building things since then. I wholeheartedly believe that I didn’t choose to be an engineer, “it” chose me. I can’t even tell if it was nurture or nature since my mother, my step-father, my step-brother and his wife, are also engineers. My best friend from high school ended up being an engineer too. I grew up in an environment that fostered my desire to build and create all sort of things. Lego sets were just the beginning; I quickly moved onto helping with some basic carpentry, drawing, cooking, playing music, and as I reached my teens, electronics, and simple computer programs to manage all my video games. However, one thing was always tacitly present in my mind whenever I made something:

If my creation was good enough, others would recognize it.

I didn’t realize it then, but while the pleasure of building didn’t depend on the external praise, my perceived quality on the end result did. Nevertheless, because I grew up surrounded by like-minded people, the recognition was there. And while for most going through college expands their horizons, I ended up with more engineers around me, tasked with making engineering solutions and being graded on it. The assumption that the quality of my creations depended on others immediately recognizing it was even further cemented as I was being handed my degree. My graduation project was a one-of-a-kind design for a high-fidelity vacuum tube amplifier. This tube amp (which now sits proudly in my living room) was the epitome and the most accurate physical manifestation of my implicit thought. All I had to do was turn it on and the quality spoke for itself. It ended up being awarded the prize for best graduation project without having to open my mouth to “sell it”.

I don’t believe there was anything wrong with thinking like this, had I stayed an engineer. This philosophy led me to file my first patent at 22 years old, and was the fuel for becoming technical team lead of my IBM team before I left. And that’s when, for the first time in my life, I veered away from the engineering path. My then friend, now also business partner, convinced me that I could stop giving my creations to others and for me to reap their benefits. She convinced me that I could be an entrepreneur. Yet, neither her nor me, were prepared for the uncomfortable truth we quickly learned:

Nobody cares how great your creation is.

I found myself in a world where terrible products were praised and phenomenal inventions overlooked. Notoriety no longer depended solely on quality, but on buzz. Salesmanship, publicity, marketing, virality, and particularly reputation, were now more important. I had only considered the reputation of a creation to be a by-product of its quality. My philosophy of quality speaking for itself was no more, and in its place a new understanding of something I have failed to concentrate on my entire life, building clout. In hindsight, I should’ve seen this coming. I was able to partner up with 2 out of my 3 current co-founders because I had built a reputation with them before hand. We are over halfway through our fundraising and for every single one of our investors it was the reputation built with them that was the key to their interest. Suddenly, I was aware of this new commodity. The success of a creation as a tandem collaboration with the reputation of the creator.

For most engineers/creators/inventors/artists I’ve met, the desire is for the product to speak for itself, and if it doesn’t, it means they did something wrong. I know now that is not the case. Many might remember the 2007 Washington Post experiment with Joshua Bell, one of the most famous classical musicians in the world. He stood at an arcade outside of L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station in Washington D.C. and played some of the most elegant music with one of the most expensive instruments for 43 minutes. The result? Nobody cared. The writer of the article floats the following question to its readers:

“If a great musician plays great music but no one hears… Was he really any good?”

Maybe in an idealist world, but the harsh truth is that with the ridiculous excess of options we have nowadays, we are relying of superficial things to filter out content.

I’m doing something about it and working on building my presence because my product is not going to do it for me. In fact, if I want my startup to be worth paying attention to, I better become somebody worth listening to. So, whether you are “a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker”, don’t wait for your creation to speak for you. Build your name with as much decisiveness as you do your product and don’t wait until the last minute it like I did.

The Engineer’s Dilemma was originally published in Austin Startups on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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How Austin’s tech sector helped kill the “bathroom bill”

Commitment to diversity and inclusion prompted speaking out

This week, the Texas Legislature formally gaveled out of the special session called earlier this summer by Gov. Greg Abbott. Of the twenty items placed on the call — i.e., issues eligible for consideration during the 30-day session — nine passed.

But one of the most contentious and hotly debated topics, the so-called “bathroom bill,” did not.

The bathroom bill was an attempt to restrict where transgender Texans can use the bathroom and weaken existing non-discrimination protections in Austin and other cities across Texas.

Business, including Austin’s tech sector, played a key role in the bill’s defeat. They didn’t want to follow the path set by North Carolina, which saw billions of dollars exit the state from lost tourism and corporate investment after their legislature passed a bathroom bill. Business and tech also knew that passage of a divisive bathroom bill would only set Texas back in the ongoing recruitment battle for talented employees.

That’s why you saw some of the world’s biggest companies stand up and publicly oppose the bathroom bill, including 3M, Amazon, AMD, Apple, Cisco, Dell, Facebook, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Samsung.

ATA actively opposed the bathroom bill by:

  • hosting an event in November with TechNet about the importance and potential negative impact of the bathroom bills;
  • speaking out in January in opposition to the bill by arguing that:

The bathroom bill will undermine the technology community’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and negatively affect the Austin tech sector’s ability to recruit the world’s brightest and most talented individuals;

  • organizing a tech community letter in opposition to the bathroom bill, which garnered 433 signatures and was delivered in person to Gov. Abbott, Speaker Joe Straus, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick;
  • walking the halls of the Capitol, speaking with legislators and staff about the importance of opposing discriminatory legislation;
  • breaking down how Austin’s tech sector could testify against the bathroom bill in three easy steps; and
  • regular updates to ATA professional members about the progress of the legislation during the regular and special sessions.

The bill’s defeat offers some lessons moving forward.

Coalition building

Whenever possible, it’s important to work in a broad-based coalition with others who share your goals.

Thanks to excellent organizing efforts by Keep Texas Open for Business, Texas Competes, Equality Texas, TechNet, and others, those opposed to discriminatory legislation were able to amplify their impact by communicating a unified message with a unified voice.

These coalitions provided up-to-the-minute information sharing, allowing strategic decision making around where to allocate limited time and effort during the 30-day special session sprint. They also helped to organize large scale visits to the Capitol where folks representing their companies could blanket the building and speak to the press all in the same day.

Your voice matters

Individual efforts — from calling and writing your legislators to showing up at the Capitol to testify — add up and make an impact. How you choose to get involved is up to you, but there are opportunities for you to make your voice heard using as little as two minutes of your time (calling your elected officials) to as much as the better part of a day (signing up to testify in person).

Regardless of what amount of time and effort you can invest, speaking up is essential. You may not be convinced that your individual voice can make a dent in the legislative process, but facts prove otherwise: the collective voice of thousands of people just like you is what helped to stop the bathroom bill.

Stay engaged

Again, the bathroom bill didn’t die on its own — it took concerted efforts from thousands across the state.

But just because the bill failed to pass once doesn’t mean it’s dead forever. Supporters have promised that the issue will come back up either in a subsequent special session that could be called by Gov. Abbott or the next regular session beginning in January 2019.

So this topic is not going away. It’s crucial for the grassroots of Austin’s tech sector to stay engaged on this and other policy issues that are key to our community’s long-term success and growth.

Austin Tech Alliance is a member-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting civic engagement in Austin’s tech sector. We focus on:

  • Educating the tech grassroots on issues that impact them
  • Advocating for tech-forward solutions to community challenges
  • Activating the tech community to speak up, participate, and vote

Learn more about becoming an ATA member.

How Austin’s tech sector helped kill the “bathroom bill” was originally published in Austin Startups on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Energy consultants file million-dollar lawsuit against The Backyard redevelopment in Bee Cave

An Austin energy consultancy has filed suit against developer Chris Milam, alleging he took their trade secrets and then fired them. Meanwhile, the controversial entertainment venue project at The Backyard in in limbo.

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Austin investor buys apartments in San Antonio’s urban core

The 202-unit apartment complex in Northeast San Antonio is 90 percent occupied.

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Boy Scouts selling longtime campgrounds for nearly $25M; Neighbors rally to buy slice of Hill Country

Driving west of San Marcos, travelers encounter the peaks and valleys of raw and beautiful Texas Hill Country. A large swath of it, encompassing a portion of the Blanco River as well as the Devil’s Backbone, is now up for sale. The 2,382-acre property has attracted the interest of a "diverse buyer pool," according to one of the listing agents, while a nonprofit group is being formed to try to raise funds to preserve the land.

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