As Big Tech doubles down on Austin, startups are moving to its cooler neighbor. Take a look at how one startup is bringing Silicon Valley style to East Austin.
- The Zebra, an insurance startup backed by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Accel, moved to trendy East Austin in October when it outgrew its downtown office space.
- High rents for office space in downtown Austin have pushed startups like The Zebra to look for larger spaces in up and coming neighborhoods like East Austin.
- Accel led The Zebra's $40 million Series B in 2017, which valued the startup at $96 million, according to Pitchbook. Several Austin-based investors also participated.
- Cofounder and COO Josh Dziabiak told Business Insider that he chose to move The Zebra to Austin after a visit to the city during its annual music and arts festival Austin City Limits.
- See their new office in one of Austin's fastest growing neighborhoods for startups.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
When you step inside The Zebra's massive new office, you think you've been teleported more than 1,700 miles northwest to Silicon Valley.The buzzy car insurance startup is headquartered in East Austin - a trendy, fast-growing neighborhood outside the Texas capitol. As Apple, Google, Facebook, and other tech titans start putting down deeper roots in the city, it's increasingly forcing startups like The Zebra to leave the city center and go to areas where real estate is cheaper and more plentiful.Advertisement
"When we moved here, Austin was really still at the early stages of kind of being this buzzy, trendy, startup destination place," The Zebra cofounder and COO Josh Dziabiak told Business Insider.
The new office itself is stocked with perks that mirror the best of Silicon Valley. There is an in-house barista seated in the lobby with an array of milk and milk-alternative beverage options. The open floor plan features mounted monitors displaying real-time data about the company. There is a bike room for employees that choose to cycle to work - after all, it's a tougher commute for many employees than it used to be.There are the other Silicon Valley must-haves like kombucha on tap, a ping pong table, and a fun conference room naming theme. But there are also features that you would likely never see at a Californian tech company, like the three massive siloes filled with rainwater outside. The decision to set up in Austin at all was an easy one, said Dziabiak. The Zebra was originally founded in Pittsburgh, but Austin felt like a more natural home for the company: the South by Southwest tech and media conference, the pool of talent, and Austin's famously easygoing culture all made for an appealing confluence of factors.Advertisement
"All these signals just kind of pointed to, if we had to place a bet on where this growth is going to happen, it was going to be Austin," Dziabiak.
But it wasn't easy to recruit talent to a young startup in Austin, Dziabiak said. In fact, the company decided to change the name from Insurance Zebra to The Zebra because being associated with a "stodgy" industry was turning off would-be employees. Now, the growing team hails from all over the country, in what Dziabiak credits to a more generally pleasant lifestyle."Anecdotally, it feels like we moved a lot of people here from California," Dziabiak said. "A lot of it has to do with the cost of living."Advertisement