Bryan Menell is the Director of the Collaboratory for the Dachis Group. He has 20 years of experience in technology services, having founded Exact Systems (1991), Perficient (1997), and Fusion Learning Systems (2001).
Bryan is active in Austin’s technology scene, and is a co-founder and Managing Director of Capital Factory, a seed-stage mentoring program for technology companies. He is the publisher of AustinStartup, which highlights emerging technology companies in Austin, and he serves as an advisor to a select group of companies such as Socialware. He also serves on the board of the Austin chapter of Texchange.
Bryan began his career in the San Francisco office of Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). He earned a bachelors degree in Business/MIS at California State University at Chico. He was a finalist for Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year, and recipient of an Austin Under 40 Award.
HOW DID YOU WIND UP IN AUSTIN?
I've lived in L.A. and grew up there. Spent some time in the San Francisco Bay Area, back before tech was really, I guess, super big, and I did some work at big technology companies, like Apple and NeXT and things like that, and then found my way here to Austin when I had sold a company in Minneapolis to a company that was headquartered here, and they asked me to move here.
And I'd been coming here for meetings and things like that for years, so I pretty well knew what Austin was about. I was pretty happy to make my way back to a southwestern, warm-weather climate for a change. And so I feel like I've sampled -- in between business travel -- I feel like I've sampled tons of cities around the country, and I just can't think of any place I'd rather live, raise my family, and grow a business than Austin.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU HAVE TO CHANGE COURSE AT A STARTUP?
Trying to figure out when a company is just not going to work is actually very difficult, because it's sort of in most entrepreneurs' DNA to say that you never give up, right? No matter what. We're going to do it or die trying. But you come to this realization sometimes that you're actually dying trying.
And you know, really, these days, with companies that are trying to be very lean and nimble and iterate their business plans very quickly, it almost says that perhaps you failed to iterate, you failed to pivot, you failed to find where that area was, because everybody pivots, everybody changes the plan and maneuvers to meet the market demand.
But sometimes, like, I think it's, now it's a, must be sort of an admission of failure to pivot and find that sort of thing. And even sometimes, the same elements will come together into something else that will be successful. You just never know sometimes.
DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH CAPITAL FACTORY...
Capital Factory and mentoring the companies that come through the program is probably one of the funnest things you can do, because you see so many people that come through with fresh ideas.
Sometimes you see so many things, you think to yourself, at least when you're involved with young companies, "I've seen about every idea that's out there. I've seen so many things, all the same. They all look alike. I've seen so many mobile social networks, and so many like, whatever..."
But then, you see all these applicants in the program and you see these people, and they have fresh ideas and angles and things that you never thought about, ways to turn industries on their head. And, you know, it's that sort of freshness that sort of makes you realize, "Wow, there are tons of great ideas out there in the marketplace. They just need a little bit of help to be successful."
ANY ADVICE TO NEW ENTREPRENEURS?
In terms of trying to give an up-and-coming tech entrepreneur some advice, I would say to take advantage of all the things in our ecosystem here in Austin that are available today that were not available even five years ago. There's a huge list of them, between things like Capital Factory and Bootstrap Austin and all the social technology people, the GeekAustin meet-ups. I mean, there is something for everybody that is looking to get involved.
TALK ABOUT YOUR BLOG...
Probably five or six years ago I started a blog called AustinStartup.com, and the whole reason I started it actually was because I felt like technology companies in Austin were not getting as much promotion as they should.
I would occasionally bump into people that had a technology company or were starting a technology company and were doing really, really cool and awesome things, and I had never heard of them. They were not getting covered in the local paper or anywhere, or any place around town. And so the whole reason I started was just to help give them some visibility in what was going on, and it just sort of took off.
We get a lot of people that read the blog, not just in Austin, but a lot of West Coast and East Coast folks. We get a lot of venture investors, angel investors that just want to know and keep tapped into what's going on in Austin, and luckily they use the blog to do that and to figure out what's going on, like what's the vibe, who's growing, who's hiring, who's getting funding, and who's doing things.
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL SOMEONE WHO IS THINKING ABOUT COMING TO AUSTIN?
For anybody that's considering moving to Austin, I would say unabashedly just get here as fast as you can. On a serious note, though, Austin does have an incredible lifestyle. People who enjoy the outdoors, especially people who are in the tech community at all that want to be in a place that's a technology hub, but also enjoy everything that the city has to offer.
It's really the lifestyle. It's the things that are here, the pace, the tech people that tend to come to Austin. I think the city doesn't fall in those "Top 5" lists for no reason. I think there's a reason why Austin consistently gets named as one of the best places to live or work or be, or be in technology.
WHY WE ARE_AUSTIN TECH?
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