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The eCommerce Game Goes to Austin
Leave it to me to spend 14 hours in Dallas on the very day that 3 of my favorite industries crush capital…
Though, I’m glad that I did. The morning, spent with the incredible group of entrepreneurs fostering #bigDOCC (Big “D” Open Coffee Club – Dallas that is), was focused on not just what it means to be a startup in Dallas, but Texas, and the role that industry plays therein. The afternoon, with Tech WIldcatters‘ Gabriella Draney and a handful of still-stealth eCommerce ventures, solidified that the industry of commerce is in Texas.
I talk a lot about the role of industry; the culture of an ecosystem is as great a determiner of your success as an entrepreneur (or investor), as is the culture of your startup.
Drucker, who famously said, “Culture trumps strategy,” I believe, was alluding not just to the characteristics of a business, but of the economic development of a city, a state, and a country.
The idea is hard to refute; The United States is the economic powerhouse that it is because of a culture of innovation, entrepreneurs, and the “can do” attitude that makes it so distinct. While we entertain startup strategies such as being lean or agile, it’s impossible to ignore that, for example, LA has a culture of entertainment, Nashville that of music, New York, a culture of finance and fashion, and Silicon Valley, indeed, a culture of disruptive innovation. Such cultures, those industries, are what drives investment, talent, and success to those locations, as the entire ecosystem is designed to foster growth therein that very culture.
Outside of cattle, boots, and oil, are Texas’ industries readily apparent?
The eCommerce Game Goes to Austin
- Comparison Shopping innovators Tuffwerx, Bidaway, Equipboard, and HomeAway
- Deal leader Offers.com
- Coupon King RetailMeNot
- Two of the top 5, perhaps the top 3(?0, eCommerce platforms: Volusion and BigCommerce (which raised $40M last year with Steve Case)
- Home of the review Bazaarvoice
- Retail pricing intelligence provider Blacklocus; who was picked up by Home Depot, making ATX the home of their innovation center
- Offline engagement platform EyeQ
- Natural language merchandiser Compare Metrics
- One of Austin’s fastest growing companies, product video producer Invodo
- Web based shipping service Ordoro
- Community merchandise provider Amplifier
- And leading provider of end-to-end merchandising optimization, Revionics, just moved here!
And, while granted, I’m no Shawn Collins, founder of the Affiliate Summit, within a matter of months of his moving here (so, yes, add eCommerce’s affiliate industry to the list), I left my own history with Yahoo! Shopping, hpshopping, and eBay to call Austin home. The industry of eCommerce is in Austin, TX.
This foundation, eCommerce, which is not eTail if you will (the likes on which Dell was established – truly transacting online rather than the infrastructure, technology, and webs services to drive such commerce), but eCommerce, will drive the entirety of the consumer web to follow.
Texas and eTail
It’s as subtle, yet important, as the distinction between “social marketing” and “social media.” eCommerce is the foundation of eTail which is where Retail bleeds online; and that’s not the tip of the iceberg but what lies beneath the water when it comes to the consumer internet.
In my mind, having spent years working with Yahoo Shopping and hpshopping before launching several commerce ventures as a CMO and advisor, Austin is the home of eCommerce. The talent, technology, investment, and entrepreneurs who want to build the future of commerce online, will come to and from Austin.
Josh Baer, Austin angel investor and founder of Capital Factory, has put a stake in the ground, having supported dozens of consumer internet startups.
“More Consumer Internet investors are coming. Every week people move to Austin from Silicon Valley, New York City and other locations where there have been many Consumer Internet successes,” Baer asserts. “They will be more open to consumer businesses than our traditional B2B base. DreamIt Ventures and Techstars Austin both had a significant percentage of Consumer Internet startups in their recent batches.”
Granted, Comparison Shopping, the industry in which Tuffwerx, Equipboard, and Bidaway arguably exist, is spreadout throughout the country as though a shotgun blasted entrepreneurs at a map of the United States – and yes, the same can be said of deal sites which continue to pop up as fast as someone can put up a website. But Baer’s reference to “consumer internet,” is validated through this foundation of the consumer internet: eCommerce is here.
What’s incredible about Austin’s role in eCommerce is that the combined economic significance of the cities within 3 hours of Austin, Texas, comprises the bulk of the retail industry and as such, eTail, the next layer of the consumer internet.
I can think of few arguments to refute this… eBay, Amazon (granted)… Minneapolis with Best Buy and Target… Bentonville, Arkansas and Walmart?
Given the significance of the Texas economy and the strength of the Texas Triangle (Dallas, Houston, and Austin), as well as the corridor (San Antonio, Austin, Dallas), Texas is home to a staggering roster of direct to consumer brands:
- JC Penney
- Southwest, Continental, and American Airlines
- Mary Kay
- Men’s Warehouse
- The Container Store
- Pier 1 Imports
- Whole Foods Market
- Zale Corporation
And that’s not counting indirect consumer brands such as AT&T, Dean Foods, Kimberly-Clark and the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Bordon Milk Products, Frito-Lay, Haggar Clothing, Rolex, Brach’s, and Dickies… No, by no means all of the major brands and yet their support, their innovation, on top of the eCommerce infrastructure, simply adds layers to the cake.
And the icing on the cake? Addison, Texas is home of The open source eCommerce framework Broadleaf. Move Square or Paypal to Texas and the entire commerce stack will be in the Lone Star State… wait, isn’t that what Visa is doing here?
Larrisa Faw and I, in Forbes last year, discussed the fact that as those loosely distinct, yet related, industries support one another, as major brands, retailers, and eCommerce providers, work together, industries excel. The consumer web will continue to blend into one through the foundation in eCommerce in Austin, and Texas is where the global economy will turn for commerce.