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Does ambition die in Austin? These tech workers don't think so.

Jordan Pandy   

Does ambition die in Austin? These tech workers don't think so.
  • Some workers called Austin a failed tech hub, but others are standing up for the growing scene.
  • They said there's no "toxic ambition" like in San Francisco or New York, allowing work-life balance.

Austin is "where ambition goes to die" — or is it?

Insider previously reported that many tech employees have flocked to the Texas capital in recent years, only to be let down by the realities of living among its burgeoning tech scene: Few well-paying jobs, stifling heat, and a fake scene because of the rush of newcomers, they claimed.

But loads of people weighed in on social media to rebut those takes. They say the city is where you go to not just work, but also have a thriving social life.

Over 137,000 people relocated there during the pandemic, according to the Austin Chamber, a nonprofit that advocates for the interests of businesses in Austin. Many of those people were looking to take advantage of Texas's no personal income tax, elbow room, and lower cost of living. And many of the tech workers who arrived found merit in the work-life balance and opportunities.

"People don't take themselves too seriously, they have a good time, AND they have big ambitions," Hailey Eustace, head of comms and partnerships at BIOS Health Limited and an angel investor who lived in Austin until 2014, wrote on LinkedIn.

Evan Baehr, the Austin-based managing partner of Learn Capital, also weighed in on the platform. "Personally I'm excited that we don't have to be just like New York banking (90 hour weeks, terrible health, crazy stress), nor just like San Francisco (long hours, long commutes, terrible environment for kids … )."

The people have spoken: There's another side to the story.

Five people who currently and formerly lived there and worked in the tech scene told Insider the opportunities are endless, and the social scene others complained of is crucial to the work-life balance that they said Austin has mastered.

There's plenty of talent and ambition, and a lot more on the way

One of the main gripes coming from people who moved to Austin for the growing tech scene was the lack of talent and ambition in the city.

Alicia Teagle, the co-founder of UK-based tech and digital recruitment firm SR2, couldn't disagree more.

Her company has offices in the UK, Germany, and is soon opening its first US office, in Austin — mainly because of the breadth of talent.

"We could have chosen anywhere," Teagle told Insider. "A lot of companies choose San Francisco or Miami, and Austin has sort of been left behind a little bit. Now it's in the fastest growing state in the US, so it's got so much opportunity."

She added, "Tesla, Apple, and Google have all opened additional offices in Austin to utilize the talent, and I think they've really thrived."

John Andrew Entwistle, the CEO and founder of Austin-based vacation-rental company Wander, said talent's coming to town, but it's a more recent happening linked to Tesla's December 2021 arrival in Austin.

He also mentioned that, because there are so many companies coming to Austin — 139 have moved their headquarters to Texas since February 2020, according to Texas Standard — talent is coming with them.

"Now it seems like there's a ton of really, really impressive people," Entwistle told Insider in July.

"Texans have huge ambitions," Eustace told Insider. "But toxic ambition" like Baehr called out in New York and San Francisco, "is not the culture in Austin, and I think that's healthy."

The hierarchy of values is arranged differently in the Lone Star State. Austinites still feel connected to the tech scene, but aren't ruled by it.

"People don't take themselves too seriously — they get to know you as a human being first, and I think it's so refreshing," Eustace said. "I'm friends with people from San Francisco who've moved to Texas and now they have more of a work-life balance. When you're in your thirties or older, you realize the value in that. "

Austin wasn't oversold. For many, it immediately felt like home.

When some tech industry transplants arrived in Austin, they found a city that they said was oversold, a "watered-down" version of other, more well-established tech hubs. On top of that, the traffic was horrible, it was overcrowded, the weather was miserably hot in the summer, and the food and music scene was middling, they said.

But other tech workers who arrived in town saw its merits: more elbow room, access to outdoor activities, and a chiller vibe.

Texas native Savannah White, who works for a customer engagement software company, lived in New York City with her husband before moving to Austin. They wanted more space, and wanted to "have a car and things like that that we couldn't have in New York City, or not as easily," she told Insider.

"We visited Austin before we moved and just loved the city," she said. "It has a lot of opportunities for jobs, it's a place where there's a lot going on, and it has a younger crowd to it," White said.

Sarah Hollingsworth moved to Austin from San Antonio to take advantage of the job opportunities. Although she said finding a home in the competitive housing market was "defeating," she doesn't hold it against her new home base. She focuses on the positives.

"One of the things that we were so grateful for is access to outdoor activities," she told Insider. "We can walk down our neighborhood and go jump in Lake Austin." In San Antonio, there was "not a ton to do outside — it's not anything like Austin."

Robert Johnson, a tech entrepreneur, made a home base in Austin in 2022 after traveling the world. He chose the state capital after spending eight months living in a van.

"Austin was one of the last places towards the end of my time traveling around that I had visited," he told Insider. "I was here for five weeks and I just kind of fell in love with it."

He added, "There isn't this work-yourself-to-the-bone-all-night kind of ambition, and to be honest, I love that."

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