Recently ranked Number 1 in CNBC Metro 20: America’s Best Places to Start a Business report, Austin, Texas is truly a place of opportunity. Aside from their healthy economic ecosystem and community support for local, homegrown businesses, the city itself easily has a dozen or so resources available for all Austin-based inventors and entrepreneurs.
If you’re an inventor or innovator in Austin, you’re definitely in luck. The environment is conducive for small businesses and fresh startups to rapidly grow and develop. One glance at all the local resources can tell you why:
COMMUNITY PROGRAMS & RESOURCES
Science and Engineering students of The University of Texas at Austin’s Inventors Program are challenged to tackle true-to-life problems through inventive and innovative thinking. Undergraduates team up with their fellow STEM learners to design creative, out-of-the-box solutions for both real and imagined scenarios.
Partially modeled after UT’s award-winning Freshman Research Initiative, UT Austin’s Inventor Program prepares students for the real world by connecting them to actual problems that the community is facing. Each semester, UT Austin partners with local industries, community organizations, and UT alumni to create problem proposals for the program students to solve. The participants are then pushed to come up with smart, practical inventions to address the given situation. They must draft a solution, build and test a prototype, conduct market research, and outline procedure/policy change recommendations—among other things.
Aside from team discovery and industry research, students will also get to know relevant community stakeholders and mentors as they learn how to turn their disruptive, world-changing concepts into reality. Throughout the course of this immersive experience, students in the Inventors Program also get the chance to meet and build connections with the local industry and community partners.
The City of Austin’s Small Business Program is honestly one of the first resources any aspiring entrepreneur or business owner should check. It’s a viable starting point that can jumpstart any new enterprise and help them achieve exponential growth. No membership or account needed; simply visit their page to find business training, classes and educational events, small business coaching, networking opportunities, and more. They also provide helpful outlines and templates for business plans, as well as a handful of comprehensive checklists you can use to ensure your business has everything it needs.
The program’s mission is to nurture the growth of new and existing businesses—consequently fostering job creation—by equipping industry leaders and managers with the tools, information, and resources they need to succeed. Notable sections worth checking out? The ever-helpful Get Help page, the Start a Business guide, and the Funding information tab.
Public libraries remain, to this day, a valuable source of information. The Austin Public Library is no different. While they may not have too many resources focused on the more specific elements of invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship, they do have great sources on the more general aspects. You’ll find books, lists, and guides on business plans, financial requirements, legal patent requirements, necessary paperwork, marketing tools, and other similar literary media.
You can also find some pretty interesting statistics, company investment information, and interactive metrics related to your industry. This can help greatly with your market research.
COMMUNITIES & ONLINE INITIATIVES
For the small startups with big dreams, BiGAUSTIN (Business Investment Growth) is a great initiative worth visiting. Driven to empower the “under-served Texans” who are inventive, innovative, and ready to launch their entrepreneurial career, BiGAUSTIN offers education, counseling, and capital to accelerate their growth. As a self-sustainable small business development organization, they strive to be the go-to center for small business owners and startups looking to gain momentum in their chosen market.
One of their driving principles (among many others) is to make quality education affordable and accessible. They believe that a lack thereof is one of the biggest reasons why businesses fail. In staying true to their mission, BiG continues to make the resources available for startup owners, inventors, and entrepreneurs who are looking to fast track their business success. They deliver seminars, workshops, and intensive business training through a multi-modal approach. Some topics they cover include:
- Business Planning 101—“the number one key to success”
- Consultant’s Corner—“speak up and ask what you want”
- Intellectual Property—“know how to protect your ideas”
- Quickbooks—“organize your records and financial statements”
- Business Law Basics—“know the law!”
For the past 25 years, BiG has witnessed—and played part in—a fundamental transformation in the Austin and Central Texas economy. With their Consulting, Lending, Education, and Disaster Loan Assistance programs, BiG has positioned itself as an industry leader for the local entrepreneurial scene. It hopes to retain its role at the heart of economic growth and small business development in Central Texas.
An especially valuable resource for inventors and entrepreneurs needing capital, PeopleFund is a Community Development Financial Institute (CDFI) that operates as a non-profit initiative dedicated to serving all of Texas.
For small businesses and startups, they have two programs perfectly suited for providing financial assistance and education. If your enterprise lacks the necessary funds to get off the ground, you can choose to apply for their Small Business and Nonprofit Lending program. If you are an innovator or entrepreneur in need of information, education, or legal advice regarding your new startup, their Business Assistance & Education program provides clients with access to workshops, mentorships, and similar helpful events.
Since 1994, PeopleFund has helped create thousands of jobs and improve employment rates by supporting the growth of local businesses. To this day, they continue to serve local Texan communities by opening paths to financial stability and independence.
As a community formed, founded, and led by inventors and entrepreneurs, Inventopreneurs is a safe-haven for innovative movers and shakers in Austin, Texas. With over 50,000 current members and counting, they tirelessly work to provide passionate inventors with genuine business knowledge that comes through experience—the kind of information veteran innovators and successful business owners wish they knew when they started out.
This group was formed as a response to the realization that budding entrepreneurs don’t have a lot of avenues where they can ask for and receive sound advice. By organizing networking opportunities, learning events, and proper information dissemination, Inventopreneurs hopes to help local business owners and inventors succeed.
If you’re an inventor/innovator looking to join a community of creative, like-minded individuals, Inventopreneurs is an open group with no fees and no overly complicated rules. Members are simply encouraged to regularly attend interviews, participate in speaker events, and join in-person or online discussions whenever they can. Community meetings usually happen on the first Monday of every month, but attendance is not mandatory.
Why “Inventopreneurs”? Because they believe every inventor also needs to be an entrepreneur.
The Austin Inventors Syndicate strives to “foster entrepreneurs and nurture startups” through the so-called “Win-Win Concept.” Inspired by the realization that like-minded individuals working together can accomplish incredible feats of innovation and ingenuity, the AIS utilizes this Win-Win Concept to assist inventors through the early stages of their growth and development. They do this by connecting them with individuals that possess the knowledge and experience of developing and expanding new inventions.
Aside from providing a safe, secure environment conducive to growth, the Austin Inventors Syndicate has a database of professional marketers, developers, and business advisers. Members can access this database to assemble a team that can take their project from concept to completion.
Looking for a more casual—but no less supportive—community? The Austin Inventors and Entrepreneurs Association (AIEA) is a volunteer, nonprofit organization that has served Central Texas for over 10 years now. Dedicated to helping individual inventors and new entrepreneurs turn their ideas into marketable realities, AIEA is a member-lead community that provides a safe space for inventors to ask questions, share their experience, and seek aid from their fellow innovators. The resources that they have to offer center largely on speaker training and community events that cover important topics concerning inventing and entrepreneurship. Some previous events include:
- DISRUPTEXAS – a pitch competition
- Branding and Marketing Expert for Startups – speaker training on branding and marketing
- Collaboration and Connection – community networking and discussion event
- Patents for Inventors and Entrepreneurs – speaker training regarding filing patents
- Media Exposure – speaker training on gaining media exposure
RESOURCES FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS
For female entrepreneurs and inventors in Austin looking to learn software development skills—or polish existing ones—Girl Develop It (GDI) has an Austin chapter that you can check out (and a Meetup group you can join). This nonprofit organization seeks to create a welcoming, supportive environment for “women and non-binary adults” who want to dive into the world of programming to supplement their startup or skillset.
By offering classes, projects, and community events, GDI aims to help their students develop their confidence and creativity through coding. Their vision is of a world without borders, united through tech. They believe that all people should be “included and empowered in developing the future of technology.”
Girl Develop It hosts both free and paid events for their members. Examples of previous events include Code and Coffee, Intro to React, Tech Happy Hour, Better Web Debugging, and Algorithms 101. They’re always happy to receive members and, on occasion, new chapter leaders in Austin.
Women@Austin’s mission is to help women entrepreneurs achieve exponential growth and expansion for their business. Their headline boldly states that the woman entrepreneur “is the center of our story.”
Founded in 2014 by serial entrepreneur Jan Ryan, Women@Austin is an online resource, support group, and initiative specifically driven to empower women in business. In 2018, they joined Notley’s social impact ecosystem to improve the knowledge, capital, and collaboration opportunities they could offer Austin-based female entrepreneurs.
By nurturing the attitude of success in all their clients, the four pillars that Women@Austin stands behind today were defined: Knowledge, Connection, Capital, and Mindset.
Their most popular programs include Roundtables, Venture Dinners, Office Hours with Purpose, and their Fundraising Bootcamp. If you want in, you can apply for their different membership tiers or simply sign up for their free newsletter!
“Connect. Learn. Grow. Lead.” This Austin-based organization is committed to providing professional assistance and networking opportunities for women in technology. Chartered in 2000 by bona fide trailblazers, these women were the first female managers, executives, and board members in their respective companies. AWT continues to pay homage to their legacy by building a solid support system for women in Austin who aren’t afraid to push their own boundaries in innovation and entrepreneurship.
As a nonprofit, Austin Women in Technology aims to be a visible, open community for like-minded women to support each other in their tech-driven journey to inevitable success. They offer a wide range of programs covering a wide range of topics, from general leadership to specific community-driven concerns.
AWT has two membership tiers; General (for $60 USD a year) and Student ($30 USD a year). Both tiers come with substantial benefits that aspiring movers and shakers will definitely find helpful during the startup and expansion phase of their enterprise.
If you’re looking for specific legal support regarding protecting your ideas, copyrighting your inventions, or securing a patent, there’s no better resource than Bold Patents Austin. This organization is driven to helping inventors and innovators protect their ideas by providing legal advice, guidance, and referrals regarding patents and intellectual property concerns. They serve investors, entrepreneurs, and scientists that are constantly pushing the limits and disrupting the industry.
If you don’t know the first thing about filing patents or copyright claims, Bold Patents offers legal counsel and referrals. They’ll help you connect with experienced patent attorneys passionate about helping innovative individuals in Austin secure ownership of their inventions.
One of the often overlooked (but no less important) aspects of starting a new business in Austin, Texas, is the legality of your business. Whether you’re an inventor, a business owner, or an entrepreneur, it’s important that everything you do is in accordance with the law. But it can be tough finding information about the legal requirements for starting a business—never mind understanding it.
That’s why the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas is a surefire go-to resource for inventors and entrepreneurs looking for legal advice. It’s extremely simple to use and will prove incredibly useful in the long run. Simply let the database know what you need; you can be as specific or as general as needed. In a matter of minutes, the referral counselors will recommend the best lawyers or legal counsel to address your concerns. There are four avenues you can choose, depending on what you’re looking for:
- Seek Lawyer—if you already know what you need and are simply looking for a lawyer to fulfill
- Types of Law—if you want to know which area (or areas) of the law apply to your situation
- Support Program—if you need legal backing or community support for your project
- Resources—additional resources that can help you build your case
The referral counselors can also answer general legal questions before sending you off in the right direction. And, as a bonus; your first referral is free.
Capital Factory’s mission is to be the “center of gravity for entrepreneurship in Texas.” They are, to put it simply, a bridge for aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators to meet and connect with potential investors, employees, mentors, and even customers. As a coworking space, they offer over 81,000 square feet of productive working environment, 900 tech-focused events, and access to over 150 of the top tech mentors in Texas. Named the most active investor in Texas since 2013 by Pitchbook, Capital Factory seeks to function as a safe haven for entrepreneurs to build their network. They aren’t just a coworking hub; they’re an organization dedicated to growing local businesses through the power of connections, communication, and community.
Marketed as a “vibrant community of entrepreneurs + changemakers,” Impact Hub’s Austin branch is a coworking space that is catered towards creative, passionate innovators looking to disrupt the industry. The space itself is conducive for out-of-the-box energy and inventive synergy. It’s designed to make inventors and industry leaders feel safe amongst like-minded individuals.
Amenities include state-of-the-art office supplies, spacious meeting rooms, free coffee, and a fully-stocked kitchen. Member perks include invites to frequent community events, networking opportunities, and relationship-building meetups.
Aside from the productive environment, Impact Hub provides its members with access to a global network of active entrepreneurs.
So there you have it; 15 essential resources for Austin-based inventors and entrepreneurs:
- The University of Texas at Austin Inventors Program
- City of Austin’s Small Business Program
- Austin Public Library
- Austin Inventors Syndicate
- Austin Inventors and Entrepreneurs Association
- Girl Develop It Austin
- Austin Women in Technology
- Bold Patents Austin
- Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas
- Capital Factory
- Impact Hub Austin
Know of any groups, initiatives, communities, or coworking spaces that we might have missed? Let us know!