A new list from news website Business Insider should be a very loud wake-up call for the Texas high-tech business community.
Business Insider just ranked the world’s 100 most valuable Internet startups, and not one of the companies is based in Texas. Not Austin. Not Houston. Not Dallas. Not Fort Worth. Not San Antonio. Not even Marfa (OK, that one’s a stretch).
Sure, some of the companies appearing on the list do have offices in Texas, such as Facebook, Zynga, Indeed and LegalZoom. But there’s more cachet to having a company on the list with headquarters in Texas rather than one with a satellite office in Texas.
For all of the hand-wringing over the anemic California economy, more than one-third of the startups on the Business Insider list are based in the Golden State. Given that California is the country’s most populated state and is home to Silicon Valley, it’s no shocker that California holds the top spot among all states with companies on the list.
But c’mon, Texas. Even two much smaller states have companies on the list. The eyes of Texas should be upon this list — and should be shedding a few tears about it. In the Business Insider ranking, Texas is a business outsider.
In April, Texas Gov. Rick Perry made the case for the Lone Star State to be the next hub for innovation, collaboration and competition in tech development and manufacturing. Unfortunately, the Business Insider list underscores the work remaining for this goal to become a reality.
Texas does boast plenty of prominent tech employers (large and small alike) and loads of tech talent. But to not have a single startup on the Business Insider list is quite surprising and a little embarrassing.
What can and should be done to ensure a Texas startup makes the Business Insider list next year? Perhaps Perry gave the answer back in April during the Governor’s Technology and Economic Development Forum. Among the attendees were Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas System; Fred Heldenfels, chairman of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; Thomas Gilligan, dean of UT’s McCombs School of Business; and Gregory Fenves, dean of UT’s School of Engineering.
Perry said at the forum: “Making Texas the nation’s next high-tech hub will require the teamwork and dedication of professors, researchers, administrators and legislators along with the private sector working together toward a common goal. I believe it can happen, and if we make the right choices, it will.”
What are some of those right choices? From my perspective, they include:
- Maintaining and improving Texas’ system for granting incentives to companies that want to move or expand in the state.
- Ensuring Texas bolsters business and tech education at the state’s colleges and universities. Tight state finances have forced some painful decisions, but higher education must be fortified so that Internet startups like the ones on the Business Insider list can tap Texas-trained talent.
- Making sure Texas-born Internet startups have access to venture capital and other funding, such as money from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund.
It’s my hope that at least one Texas startup will pop up on the Business Insider list next year. Everything’s supposed to be bigger in Texas, right? Why shouldn’t the state’s Internet startups be some of the world’s biggest players?