Money matters

New nonprofit launches to boost Austin's booming venture capital sector

New nonprofit launches to boost Austin's booming venture capital scene

Austin skyline
Austin-area startups raised $4.9 billion in venture capital in 2021. Photo courtesy of Unsplash/Abodo

Venture capital fuels the rapidly growing startup scene in Austin. Now, a new nonprofit seeks to nurture and elevate the VC segment of the local economy.

The Austin Venture Association focuses on VC firms, business accelerators, startup incubators, private equity firms, and other organizations that contribute to the VC economy. Among the association’s goals is to promote job opportunities, mentorship, thought leadership, events, and other aspects of the VC ecosystem.

Formation of the nonprofit comes on the heels of several high-profile VC firms setting up shop in Austin in recent years and of Austin collecting a record amount of venture capital in 2021. Last year, startups in the Austin area raised $4.9 billion in venture capital, compared with $2.3 billion in 2020, according to data compiled by PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association.

Founders of the Austin Venture Association are entrepreneur CS Freeland, the group’s executive director; Chris Shonk, co-founder and partner at VC firm ATX Venture Partners; Carl Grant, executive vice president of global business development at the Cooley law firm; and Ari Salafia, founder and CEO of Austin startup TaxTaker.

Early backers of the association include Brex, TriNet, Cooley, Early Growth, Cherry Bekaert, CBRE, Silicon Valley Bank, Astrella, and SR Group.

In a news release, Freeland notes that only two years ago, roughly 20 VC firms were based in Austin. Now, that number is closer to 70.

“After spending over 15 years in Austin and having seen many of the changes happen firsthand in both the startup and venture [capital] worlds, the explosion of growth in just the past year has proven a challenge for anyone to keep up with,” Freeland says in explaining the birth of the association.

Shonk says the quality and quantity of startup founders here rivals any U.S. tech market except for the San Francisco Bay Area.

“The growing startup clout of Texas, and Austin in particular, comes as the cost of living and doing business in the state is on the rise,” according to Crunchbase, an online platform that monitors the startup sector. “This isn’t a new observation. But it’s noteworthy in that Austin has long held appeal as a cheaper alternative to coastal tech hubs.”