Sept. 13, 2022

Return to the Austin Mortar with Thom Singer, CEO of the Austin Technology Council

A lot of things have changed since we last had Thom Singer on the podcast. We talk about Thom's new role, what the networking environment looks like now, and how that impacts the creative collisions between the foundations of Austin.

Networking is What's next Austin?


Notable Links

Episode Highlights

  • Since our last conversation with Thom, he became CEO of the Austin Technology Council, a 30-year-old industry organization that was founded to help bring together the community of technology.
  • A challenge in Austin is the physical and mental spread of the region. 30 years ago, every Thursday night all the power players could be found at the Four Seasons bar, now they are everywhere.
  • While small curated events can provide more direct value than the chaos of the 100-person happy hours, they can exacerbate the bubbles and silos.
  • Individuals primarily see the networking groups solely through a first order perspective (I have, I need, I give, I take) vs a second order perspective (if the Austin innovation ecosystem thrives then I will thrive)
  • We are likely to see new partnerships, consolations, and new networking organizations formed to solve the oversaturation and fill gaps; as long as they have distinct missions and purposes.
  • What’s next Austin, “I'm I am bullish on Austin. I'm worried about that golden goose. I think that Austin is a story that will be written about for generations, what we did in a 30-year time period, as a community, not just the tech community, but as the whole community.”

Podcast Production Services by EveryWord Media

Our music is “Tech Talk” by Kevin MacLeod. Licensed under Creative Commons 4.0 License 

Transcript

 

ANP050

Thu, 9/8 11:57AM • 34:23

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

austin, people, community, organizations, groups, events, grassroots, happy, big, atc, technology, years, company, curated, part, digital, world, conversations, tech companies, sharing

SPEAKERS

Jason Scharf, Thom Singer, Michael Scharf

 

Michael Scharf  00:00

Austin is the new innovation powerhouse not the next Silicon Valley, but the first Austin. We are adapting to the future in real time.

 

Jason Scharf  00:07

I'm Jason Scharf, a biotech executive and early stage investor.

 

Michael Scharf  00:11

And I'm Michael Scharf, advisor and board member for multiple private companies.

 

Jason Scharf  00:15

You can call us optimists, abundance minded, up wing and even solutionist we see a bright future ahead to can be achieved through innovation and entrepreneurship.

 

Michael Scharf  00:24

In this podcast, we explore Austin superpowers, the people in companies driving our growth, and the macro and micro trends that come together to create Austin today.

 

Jason Scharf  00:33

This is Austin next.

 

Michael Scharf  00:41

A lot of things have changed since we last had Thom Singer on the podcast. And a lot has changed about the networking environment here in Austin. Today, we're going to talk about what that new environment looks like, and how that impacts the creative collisions. That is part of our culture, and a big part of what makes Austin thrive. Thom, welcome back to the Austin next podcast.

 

Thom Singer  01:07

Hey, it's exciting to be back. Is it true? I'm your first repeat guest?

 

Michael Scharf  01:11

Yes, you are episode 50 and one repeat guest. That's a good number. I like that. So lots have changed. Tell us about what's going on?

 

Thom Singer  01:20

Well, since I was last here, I took on the role as the CEO at the Austin Technology Council. And the Austin Technology Council is a 30 year old industry organization that was founded to help bring together the community of technology. I mean, it was a very different scene 30 years ago, you can imagine and bring it together and help put technology on the map as the economic driver of the Austin area. Well, check, obviously, that that has happened. Nobody, nobody doesn't know about that. And so in some ways, ATC is like a 30 year old startup where we're trying to change some things up and move forward for the next decade or next three decades.

 

Jason Scharf  01:56

In the past 30 years. Right. Some things have changed the challenges to networking groups, community groups, that could be good question of what how we phrase what we use those terms differently. You know, some of the macro trends are really causing some different changes. So I wanted to kind of throw a couple out there. But I think one of the biggest issues that we face is a couple of challenges that all lead to in the end siloed networks. So one of the things that you said on our you know, the Austin mortor episode was, we used to have a three name tag day, right? You could go to all these different events, you know, a coffee or lunch dinner. And so one of the things that I see why you can't do that so much anymore, is and it's amazing how just in the year since we last talked about this is the geographic spread, right? It is not all downtown. Now we're talking about movie studios in Bastrop. In San Marcos, we've got factories up in Georgetown, Samsung coming to Taylor, it's spreading. And that doesn't even count the growth of ASA.

 

Thom Singer  02:53

So it is true 30 years ago, if you were in the Arboretum, you could be downtown in 15 minutes, if you were downtown, you could be you know, on wherever else on the west side, you could go out to Barton Creek Country Club in 15 or 20 minutes. It wasn't geographically as spread out and there weren't as many people so you weren't fighting all of the traffic issues that are involved. So there's a couple things that have come in. One is the changes to Austin are obviously a big influence in the way we network and the way we connect and where we can be and what time of day, we can have events. But the other thing is the world has changed the way we connect with people, you know, the digital world of LinkedIn, and Twitter and Facebook and mobile phones, those things didn't exist 30 years ago. So you have the macro and the micro changes that have really impacted everything. So yeah, the world is different. But that doesn't mean that the need to connect has gone away. We just have to find new fresh ways to do that.

 

Jason Scharf  03:48

Yeah, it was on top of not only do we have the physical spread, but then we have I'd say the sector and nature of work spread as well. So one of the great superpowers of Austin is we're a really diverse sector base. We have electric vehicles, life science, crypto, b2b, SaaS, rockets, you name it. And so people obviously want to network within those organizations, those sectors, but then you want to see kind of cross sector pollination, I think some of the best creative collisions happen that way. And the last is that we also have remote work. There are lots of people who live in Austin, but the nature of what they do is outside of it. And probably when they're thinking about networking, a lot of times they're gonna be thinking outside of it. So that digital component you're saying also cuts against what we're doing.

 

Thom Singer  04:35

Sure, absolutely. And you bring up a really interesting point. The Austin Technology Council was founded 30 years ago as the Austin software Council. Because while at the time 30 years ago, we did have some big semiconductor fabs, and we did have Dell and some other you know, hardware companies. The real growth of our industry came out of this software world. So we started with that vertical, but now software is just one company in it of what comes out, you named all many of the verticals. And there's that many more again, that exist. So that is a very true thing. And within many of those verticals, we now have different groups that exist to serve those groups. And that's awesome. You know, my idea about the future of the Austin Technology Council is, you know, we're not in competition with a, you know, a biotech group, or any type of thing that you could think of as a medical device group, we're not in competition with them, we're in collaboration with them. And so you're right, the the whole landscape has changed. And because of that, it's time that we move forward in different ways. The other thing is, is that we don't need another happy hour, there's plenty of that that goes on through meet up and through different things. But what we really need is ways to bring people together to have community collaboration and conversations. And that means a lot of things wrapped under those three words. But that's really what we need for this community.

 

Jason Scharf  05:58

Let's, let's unpack that. Then we talk about the nature of networking groups, we talked about whether we would call it community groups. Why is it that we want to be bringing people besides the obvious kind of social aspects and you know, people knowing each other's better? But you know, what is the driving force behind creating these types of groups and bringing people together?

 

Thom Singer  06:18

Well, even in a world where we are, we are fascinated and drawn to all of these digital connections, right, likes, links, shares and follows for the last 10 or 12 years has been what everybody has thought was that was their network, we have moved to this digital world. And don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of all of the social and the digital tools that we use to communicate. I mean, imagine if the pandemic had happened in 1997. If we go back in time to 1997, we barely had cell phones. I mean, we had them, but not everybody had them. They certainly weren't the smartphone. And not everybody was actively using the internet, it was pervasive, but it wasn't fully pervasive with everybody. If the pandemic had happened, we would have had no communication or very little communication.

 

Michael Scharf  07:02

What can you imagine all those things were metered by time, right? Every minute you were on a cell phone, click, every minute you were on the internet on AOL, or CompuServe, click and the ability to download the you know, I mean, imagine how much would have heard if the pandemic had happened back then.

 

Thom Singer  07:15

So we were fortunate that these communication tools existed the way they exist for what we've just been through. However, we can't discredit the fact that people are sort of our human nature hasn't changed. And while some people don't need to have that social connection, and that shared collaboration in person over a cup of coffee, a beer a meal, the truth is, is that many people still do and people that we've proven, are hungry for that. So we need these groups from that social standpoint that you miss mentioned. But also when you get together face to face, you have a different relationship than if you're over zoom, or you're over some social media platform. I've met both of you for tacos at Taco deli several times, that seems to be like our breakfast meeting place. But if we had only had that one interview, and maybe a couple of texts back and forth, we wouldn't have the same, the same feeling that I'm having doing this interview right now, as we have because several times we've sat down and had breakfast tacos. So sharing experiences are not only how we build relationships, but it's how we build that vibe that becomes that sense of community. So I think that we still have a need for physical meetings, but they don't all just have to be get together at a happy hour. There's lots of ways we can bring people together in person and online for learning and shared community.

 

Michael Scharf  08:42

And now you've spilled our secret taco deli breakfast. That's how we meet people. Yeah. Okay.

 

Jason Scharf  08:48

But I think it's an important thing you're unpacking there with the digital experiences and tools that we've had and the want for physical in person. And I can speak look, I can speak for me only in this case, my bar has been raised for the in person, right? It is the experience, it is the connection. And in many ways that 100 person happy hour, I'm not saying I'm 100% Don't go to them anymore. But it takes a lot to kind of get me in many ways. When I go to them, it's more of supporting people behind them than necessarily getting something out of it. Because a huge fan of Lunch Club, which is basically for people who don't know, blind date networking, right. And I've met an amazing number of people in Austin, that way, and it's one on one communication, right? And as you said, we've sat down for tacos. And that's that experience that communication, when you have a whether it's the coffee the or the happy hour and that you can't hear and you're hoping for that type of serendipity. And so, when I look at what I want to be a part of and what the nature of the events or the are the connections are, I know my bar has been raised. I've been I've also been to like a 25 person highly curated happy hour, that was probably one of the best events I've gone to since being here.

 

Thom Singer  10:05

Well, and there's a time and a place for big, open events. And there's a time and a place for small curated events. But, you know, I think we have to be careful because if everything is a small curated event, we end up inside a bubble once again, right? And diversity. And I mean, diversity in the ways that we talk about it in society of race, and gender, and of age, but also diversity of thought and diversity of experience brings a lot of things to the table. And so if everything is small and curated, sometimes we miss out on some of that. And you know, that I get worried about sort of everything being siloed, in the fact that people go, Oh, isn't this great? We're here with our people. But it's sometimes it's, it's those people you didn't expect to have a conversation with, where you're like, Oh, my God, you know, they're super awesome. And so I think there needs to be new ways to do some of these, I think we need to do it. And I don't have the answers yet. And in fact, one of the things I'm doing is I'm reaching out to people in the community, saying, How can we at the Austin Technology Council do things differently, our big signature event is coming up in October, and it's called the CEO Summit, we've been doing it for 20 years. And it is where we bring together C suite executives. And if they're not in the C suite, maybe they're a director, because it's a national company. It's the people who lead the office, it's not for salespeople. It's not for just anyone in the company. It's for people who are in a leadership role in Austin. And there's panel discussions, there's discussions at the tables. And then there's a fascinating keynote this year, we have Sarah Jones Simmer, who is the CEO of Found and was one of the people who helped take Bumble public, and she has an amazing story. So her keynote is going to be, you know, worth the price of admission, because she's fascinating, and super smart, and is really moving mountains with what she's doing now. But I say that in the fact that there's more than just going and hearing a speaker and having happy hour, there's going to be actual discussions about topics around, you know, innovation, around, you know, different things that are important to the C level executives. So that's a different type of event. It's pseudo curated, because you have to be at that certain level, but at the same time, it's open to anybody, and you just don't know who you're gonna sit with. And so that serendipity of being with some people also adds that level where that Aha comes together, especially when you have people from those different verticals, those different sectors coming together and sharing what we are as the Austin technology community. But that event takes place once a year. And so I want to have two or three other events that are that are different and unique, that aren't just a happy hour. And so I'm looking to the community for what's a different way to do this.

 

Jason Scharf  12:36

Well, and it's funny, before we got on air, you know, Mike and I were chatting, and it's funny that on that exact thing is was struggling with, okay, the rant, not the random happy hour, that happens on a Thursday that this event going like, it's not really working for me. But you putting that exact happy hour in the context of something like SXSW, and suddenly it does work that and part of that may be you know, when you get into the event structure, right? Like we were saying, okay, so if I meet, if I do have that serendipity out of happy hour, I'm like, Oh, um, well, I'll take your business card, and maybe we'll follow up down the road, versus when you have these more conferences, events, and so forth, the likelihood that your second meeting is still at that event is probably pretty high. And so what can you know, what can we take from the digital space? What can we take from these conference spaces and start bringing them in to create more high value events that says, Yes, I want to go to that, because it's something different, injured. Interesting.

 

Thom Singer  13:34

Well, I think I think you're right, it's if it's just, you know, oh, you have to go 10 or 12 times to an event before people know that you exist. And there's no follow up. But that that comes down to the individual. I had a meeting. In fact, I saw you at the Austin venture Association. And I had a meeting with somebody, and we had a follow up. And they very well might be joining the Austin Technology Council and maybe somebody from their senior team interested in joining our board, because they're very focused on community issues, and how can we grow the community and we just had this meeting of the minds. Now, I don't know that they're going to join, I don't know that there'll be selected for the board. But it was that excitement that they want to be part of something that's at the grassroots. And that's really where I think the Austin Technology Council in its current form as we're trying to reiterate it. That's what we have to do. We have to get back to that basics of how it started 30 years ago, of being a grassroots group of people who care about what are we doing tomorrow? You know, there's six or 7000 tech companies in Austin. I don't expect all of them to join. I know that they all won't. Not everybody cares. Not everybody has the time. Not everybody has the bandwidth, and it's certainly not everybody's cup of tea. But if I had three or 400, grassroots oriented companies, with leaders and not just the CEO, I mean people throughout their leadership, who say, You know what we care about where Austin's going in the next 30 years, and they were to come together and meet other people who had that same drive for where are we going in the future? Amazing things can happen. I mean, I look back at the past of just the origin of nation I work for we go back to George Kozmetsky and Pike Powers and Laura Kilcrease and Carol Thompson. I mean, there could be 40 names that we throw out there of these people who 30 years ago, said, You know, if we work together, we lay the groundwork and we think long term, Austin could become this huge tech center. And I think the idea all along in Austin wasn't to be Silicon Valley Jr. But as you guys say, on your show, you know, to be Austin, you know what? And so as we move forward, it's it goes back to the name of your show. What's next for Austin? And how do we do it intentionally, that what we have, this wasn't an accident. This was a curated plan by some community leaders who said, we can be more than we were in the past, we can have a diverse technology, community and ecosystem, if you will, that really allows us to weather those ups and downs that happen in any one sector. That didn't happen by accident. That was a thought out plan. And so here we are today, driving to some, you know, in most extents, how you look at it, but I worry that if we don't pay attention to where are we in 10 years, if we don't kill the golden goose, we could injure the golden goose. And I think we need to cultivate that future.

 

Jason Scharf  16:12

And I think it comes down to the culture of these events, community organizations, networks, we're going to call them matches what you said, right? Because what I found a lot of times that I don't care if it's digital, and say a Slack channel or, or physical happy hour, whatever, it's very transactional. And then that's a bad thing. It's I have I give I take, but it's always that very first order, I'm there for a very specific goal, versus the way you described, which is, let's take the second order effect. If the Austin innovation ecosystem is thriving, I will thrive, I don't have to necessarily so I can just build to build it. And you know, the other pieces will come versus the purely transactional nature of some of these conversations. I mean, that was always the worst I use a little harshly networking events are the ones are like everybody who you talk to, if you're a person who wants to build and help help, and everybody you talk to is I'm looking for money, I want to sell you something or I'm looking for a job. You're then next step. And usually as I don't know if I want to come back to that, right, because it's just, it's just too much.

 

Thom Singer  17:24

So my background was previous I worked for myself for a long time as a speaker and a trainer for company and association meetings. But before that, I was in business development roles, not inside tech companies, I don't have a technology background. However, I worked for a law firm of two law firms, a bank and a consulting firm who all worked within the tech community. And so if you go back 15 years, I went to all these events, I was a participant, but as a business development officer, I knew that the event itself was not the place to be like, hey, you know, by my law firm, or come to our bank, or this consulting firm will be the one that helps you. I knew that it was to be part of the community. And that was always the first goal. And because that was the first goal, I was pretty successful in those roles. You know, people knew who I was, they also knew that I wasn't going to shove something down their throat, and I became a connector where it was like, Oh, you need to know Bobby, or you need to know Suzanne. And if I made an introduction, people knew it wasn't just a whim that I had thought it out. And I think that's what the people who are trying to sell things need to remember is, it's like dating, you wouldn't ask someone to marry you on the first date. Now, I've said this on like big stages with like, 2000 people. And there's often someone who comes up and says, Well, my cousin did that. They met someone and they got they got married the next day. Well, we have a bad habit in our society. And that is we look to the outliers and love to tell those stories. Well, that's an outlier. The truth is, is that when you go to a networking event, whether it's a happy hour, that's just a one off, or whether it's a monthly happy hour, whether it's a luncheon with a speaker, or whether it's something like the Austin Technology Council CEO Summit, or it's one of these curated things that's taking place at Perry Steakhouse, whatever it is, if you go in and realize that this is tonight isn't about me, there's a time and a place to make the sale. But if you go in and say, tonight's about who am I going to meet? How interesting are they going to be? And how can I unpack what we have in common? And how can we share this experience, if you do that enough times, you're going to find your funding, you're going to make your sales, etc. It's all going to come to you. And that's really my core belief is that if you're part of the community, if you believe in collaboration, and if you're having conversations over the long run, you're going to win.

 

Michael Scharf  19:33

And that's kind of a threat. I want to pull on for a second. You started naming some people and you said yeah, I can think of 40 people at the beginning of etc. And we did this and we did that or they did this and they did that. I can say the same thing about San Diego. I can say the same thing about Orange County. I'm sure the folks in Atlanta can say the same thing and the folks in Houston and Dallas and everybody else. It always looks at those small whole group of people in the community who are willing to get together, leave the egos and the politics and the self needs at the door and say, We need to get this done. And that takes a certain amount of selflessness. It takes a lot of long term thinking. And then there's that other L Word, you know, leadership kind of thing. So, okay, you've come into ATC, you're working through this new set of programs with your board and your staff, and you're going to come up with something amazing. Do you have those 40 people? Do they? Are they here? Do you have them? Can you call on them?

 

Thom Singer  20:41

So I don't know that we have everybody in place. One of the things that happens as you have a maturity and a community and you're right, you can say this about all these all these different cities and things like that, when you get to a maturity of it, it's harder to find people who say, hey, let's build something because it because it's already built. The other thing, if you go back 30 years, you could find the community leaders, because they all were having drinks on Thursday night at the Four Seasons. Now, because we become so diverse. And you've got people in Taylor, and you got people in the domain, you got people in Buda, and you have people in South Austin, you have people over on the east side. Because people don't go to one location anymore. It's not like you're going to see all of those community leaders. So you need to get back to sort of that grassroots feel. And that's what I'm trying to do right now is, you know, I may not have 40 or or 200 of them. But there's a lot of people who are involved in the organization that I'm with and a lot of these other organizations who do care. And so it's a matter of sort of uncovering the rocks and finding those those right people. And yet, if you look to cities like Nashville, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, they have groups that are super active and have hundreds of members and people are, you know, diving from the tech companies to get involved with these different tech organizations. And when I ask why, the answer is they want what we have. So the growing communities tend to be the ones where everybody comes together and says, let's do that, because they're looking forward. And I think that's what you know, we need to do now is we need to realize we're not done growing, the best days of Austin are still ahead, which means we need to have those people and they're out there. And you know, they're there. So yes, I have some of them. And I I've been you know, I haven't been super involved in the community for the last decade, because I have this business that took me out of town a lot. So I don't necessarily know all of them. But they exist, they're there. And what we have to do is provide a series of platforms, because my organization is not going to be the right fit for everybody. And not everybody can, you know, if you got 6000 people, you're gonna have a lot of noise. But there's a lot of these organizations. And that's why I think if these organizations instead of being competitive, say let's partner, how can we help drive people to your event? How can we support your cause. And then we do that reciprocally, all of a sudden, everybody finds their own home, when people feel they have a home, in this ecosystem of organizations where they can be heard, and they can make an impact, if you find if everybody can find their own home. And those different organizations can work together. Because we all have different causes. You know, Capital Factory is a great organization, but it's very different than ATC our charges are different, what we do is different, what we want to do is different. So why we don't compete with them, we are a partner with them, and then with us, and so you know, whoever it is Austin women in technology, great organization. What Why should we be competing with them? Instead? Let's tell our membership, Hey, there's this great organization, you know, that is doing this, this Austin women and technology meet up, you know, celebrating their 20th anniversary, we promote that. And some people would say, Well, why would a TC promote that that's a competition? No, it's not, because Austin has now an ecosystem. And when you have a real honest to god ecosystem, we all thrive when everybody thrives. We all fail when everybody fails. So we have to I think, as a community, get behind that idea that I don't have to belong to everything. I don't have to network at everything. But if each of these groups supports each other, the right people will find their spots. And all of a sudden, 10 years from now, people will be like, I want what Austin has at a new level.

 

Michael Scharf  24:05

Let me ask you a question. Because now that you're on the inside of one of these groups, I have a sneaking suspicion, there's a tension between the business model you just described, and the financial model for the group.

 

Thom Singer  24:21

I don't know that it's a tension. I mean, the reality is, in order to support these groups, there have to be companies that pay dues and sponsor things, you know, and again, I'm open to new business models. That's one of the things you know, I've been doing since I started I call it sort of a listening tour. And that is I'm meeting with members, former members, people who've never been members, and I'm saying what can we do differently? Now, most people don't have an idea or an answer. Some people call me two weeks later and go I thought of you on my drive today. I have an idea. Sometimes it's a good idea. Sometimes it's like, yeah, that's not going to work. But I don't think it's a tension. But I think it's one of those things that we have to realize that if we want this ecosystem to thrive If there's gotta be some people who support it and say, You know what we'll put in our time, or our money, or be evangelists for these groups, so that they can grow and thrive. I mean, not everybody has the budget to support every single group that's out there. Great. But you know, every company should be supporting something.

 

Jason Scharf  25:19

So we're at an inflection point, as I like to say, in Austin, the inflection is probably the sixth of the last, you know, 20-30 years and 30 if you go back to the  founding, that's the one thing that we can definitely say is a consistent theme of Austin is change. Do you see and I look at this, and I see organizations people stepping up and maturing or kind of falling off, I did the example I like to give a lot like, you know, we've had a whole ton of big name, venture capitalists move here, bringing in lots of dollars, and lots of, you know, name, name and brand recognition. So what did all of our local VCs, do? They all raise their biggest funds ever. So like, they're stepping up and say, Yeah, we're gonna be part of this and so forth. Right? I asked the same question kind of on this the networking and community organizations. I mean, do you see this as a moment of consolidation? Do you see new things coming up? Do you see some of the, you know, mainstays going where I'm not asking the city to name names, but just seeing like, what do you see that dynamic occurring in this space?

 

Thom Singer  26:17

Well, I mean, whether it's a company or whether it's a nonprofit, you know, change happens. I mean, you can go back and, you know, you can look at companies that led the fortune 500 15 years ago that are out of business, you know, so in the for profit world, things rise and things fall, same thing is true in this sort of nonprofit and organizational world. And not everybody, not every sort of one of these, and I'm using air quotes, groups has the same setup. So we're all very different. If you look at the ecosystem of associations, or, or networking groups, or whatever you want to call it, they're all very different in the way they're set up. So it's not apples to apples, but the pandemic, and some of the changes that have happened because of it, and alongside of it hasn't necessarily been kind to membership organizations, budgets have been slashed. The need for in person vanished for two years. Now, of course, it's back. But you know, that impacted, people will pay dues, there weren't things to be sponsored. So a lot of organizations have waned, some have thrived and grown. So I just think that's a natural part of business is certain things are gonna rise, certain things are gonna go away. But I think that, again, if we're not competitive, but we're collaborative, I think there's room for some consolidation, I think there's some of these groups that could bolt themselves together and say, you know, we did this, and you did that? What if one group comes and does these things together? You know, I think that's a strong model. I mean, it's obviously a model that happens in the business world. So maybe it's true for these networking groups, I don't think every single thing needs to be banded together, you know, and continue. But at the same time, if there's a grassroots group of people who care deeply about the mission of that organization, then yeah, it should keep going.

 

Jason Scharf  27:56

We're talking a lot about kind of Fostering Connections community, you know, the grassroots terms used a lot. One of the other main functions of these types of groups is professional development and knowledge sharing, obviously, not doing knowledge sharing, at 100 person happy or professional Tobin, how do you see that part of the equation evolving?

 

Thom Singer  28:13

Well, I think that's a huge part of it. Right? It's professional development. It's what can we do to help educate your your your staff? How can we add some things that are interesting. So one of the things we did and I don't know if we'll keep it forever, but when I came in to ATC, one of the things we did is we added a webinar series. And what it was was I'm I have contact because of my background, being a professional speaker, I have contact with some people who would be really expensive to bring in to speak, and would be really expensive to hire to do a webinar, but they're my personal friends. And so the first one we did was with a woman named Eliz Green and she does stress training for engineers at NASA. Now, we couldn't afford to bring her in. But she's a very good friend of mine. I said, Would you do this webinar. And you know, our first attempt at a webinar, we had 70 people show up and like 40, some odd, you know, sign up, and then 40 some odd come. I mean, that's not huge numbers. But the people who came, it was like, Wow, it's really good. Look at stress. That's something that's important. And we reached out to our member companies and said, This is open to everybody. You don't even have to be a member. But this is important to anyone at any level inside a company. The next one we did was with a guy named Todd compone, who has a best selling book called The transparency sale. And so he was talking about sales. And again, we had even more people come to that one. This month in September. We have the guy from NASA who actually know through my friend who trains at NASA, who runs NASA's Lessons Learned program. And what they've done is they've looked at the problems that they've had right there was the Apollo fire. Apollo one, there was the fire. There was Columbia, there was challenger. And instead of burying those problems over the years, they've realized that if we learn from our mistakes and talk about them publicly, we're going to be stronger tomorrow. So they started this whole department called the lessons learned program, and he's going to come and do a webinar for us in a few weeks. That is about, you know how companies can learn from their past to make their future stronger. And that's going to be our biggest attended one ever. So, you know, it's it's finding new ways to bring value that's not just to the CEO or the CFO, but anyone in the community. And again, we're opening these up, you don't have to be a member to send your people. We call it ATC unplugged for the webinar series, so that it's open to everybody, because we want to provide value that maybe you couldn't get everywhere else. And I think that that's a thing is that we have to be providing as a as an organization, we have to be providing things not just for the CEOs to be able to network together. I mean, that's great, but an offering that our members and members of our community can share outwardly. So, you know, that's a big part of what we have to do. And you have to get creative and bring in people who aren't the regular people who we see, and all of the same events around town. And that's why, you know, a webinar was the more effective way, financially for me to be able to do that.

 

Jason Scharf  30:56

So Thom, we always ask the same question as we wrap up, and you've answered before, but I'm gonna actually make it a two parter here first, and we'll start off with what's next ATC?

 

Thom Singer  31:05

You know, I wish I knew all those answers. I'm still involved. I've only been there a couple of months, I'm still involved with trying to get those grassroots people to come out and say, Hey, here's an idea. I'm still looking for what we can do to reshape sort of part of it. I mean, it's not going to be a drastic change. But I'm looking for ideas. And we're in a community that has visionary thought leaders, so we should be able to get a lot of ideas. So I don't know that I know what's next. I do know that we want to support the growth of technology companies in Austin, and we want to be a conduit that helps bring that community together, or what I've said before, and that is community, collaboration and conversation. So I think it's just more of that.

 

Jason Scharf  31:48

So with ATC, building more of that. What's next Austin?

 

Thom Singer  31:52

You know, I'm I am bullish on Austin. I'm worried about that golden goose. I think that Austin is a story that will be written about for generations, what we did in a 30 year time period, as a community, not just the tech community, but as the whole community. And a lot of this credit has to go to the Chamber of Commerce, you know, they recruited these big employers, the Samsung's going back to Texas Instruments, you know, going back 30 years, you know, they have worked to bring big employers here so that we could have the infrastructure that would be there to anchor this ecosystem that has grown out. So, you know, I think that we need we we've accomplished that. But we can't get complacent. i The only thing that makes me sad, is when I talk to an entrepreneur, who doesn't care, who says, you know, if if Austin goes down, I'll just move somewhere else. And I've talked to a few of those people. That makes me sad, because when I moved here, there were PhDs waiting tables at Z Tay Haas, because there was no way they were going to leave Austin, I moved here 31 years ago, and there were people who you know, Austinites and I may have said this the first time you interviewed me Austinites have an unnatural love affair with Austin. I love that, quote, they're going to stay, and they're going to build and they're going to do it. And so when I meet people who don't have that, and there's been plenty people have come and gone for 150 years on Austin. It makes me sad, because I think that what builds Austin next is those people who are like, I'm rolling up my sleeves and finding a way to make my company work here, make my career work here, make my family work here. And when people have that unnatural love affair with this place as their home. That's where I think we get to go farther and farther and farther. So the good news is most people that I talked to, at least on some level have that. So I think that's that's where we go is I think, I think the best days are ahead. Are we going to have some problems? Oh, yeah. I mean, there's, you know, we obviously have, you know, the cost of living. We obviously have transportation issues. There's a whole bunch of things that we have to address. But it goes back to we got to be having conversations about it if you want to solve those problems.

 

Jason Scharf  33:50

Thom singer, now president of Austin Technology Council, and our good friend, thanks for being on the show. Thank you. So what's next, Austin, we're glad you've joined us on this journey. Please subscribe in your favorite podcast catcher. Leave us a review and let your colleagues know about us. This will help us grow the podcast and continue bringing you unique interviews and insights. Thanks again for listening. We'll see you soon.