Austin VCs Say There’s Room For Peter Thiel In Texas

Peter Thiel’s Mithril Capital Management is relocating its home base from San Francisco to Austin, Texas.

The news is significant for the Texas capital, which is a growing hub for startups but has struggled to be taken very seriously in the Silicon Valley-driven world of venture capital. There is no doubt that Austin has grown a reputation of being an increasingly popular alternative for startups due to its growing tech ecosystem (Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon all have significant operations in the city), lower cost of doing business, and lack of state income tax.

Young entrepreneurs, in particular, appear to be drawn to the city’s relaxed, hip environment.

But the fact that a venture capital firm of Mithril’s magnitude—the firm operates an $850 million fund—is choosing to call the city its home base is serious validation.

I reached out to several members of the Mithril team and got no response. But I did connect with well-known local VCs to get their thoughts on what this means for the city.

Obviously, they all had good things to say about the move.

Morgan Flager, general partner of Silverton Partners, told me he’d met with some of the Mithril folks a couple of months back and they were in the final stages of preparing to be in Austin at that time.

The move is good news for Austin, he believes.

“While they are planning to invest nationally and don’t intend to focus on Austin or Texas specifically, having more quality capital sources available locally is a win for Austin entrepreneurs and early-stage investors,” he told Crunchbase News.  “I also think we’ll see more of this kind of move happening.”

Krishna Srinivasan

Krishna Srinivasan, co-founder and general partner of Austin-based LiveOak Venture Partners, thinks Mithril’s decision to move to Austin is great for the city and indicative of Austin being more relevant in the overall investing landscape.

“This is consistent with other sources of capital moving headquarters to Austin such as Vista Equity and Dimensional Fund and also with the exodus, we are seeing, of highly accomplished operating executives who are increasingly choosing to make this migration to Austin, particularly from Northern California,” he said.

Mike Smerklo, co-founder and managing director of Next Coast Ventures, who moved from the Bay Area himself in 2015, can see why Mithril would be attracted to Austin.

“It feels like every day we are reading a story about firms moving from the Bay Area to innovation hubs outside the West Coast, so it’s no surprise to see another great firm make the jump,” he said.

Next Coast chose Austin for its headquarters because it believes some of the best founders are actually coming from outside the coasts, according to Smerklo.

“We’ve seen in practice that Austin has the innovation and investment ecosystem to support them. The growing access to sophisticated capital, company building resources and amazing quality of life are hard to beat,” he said. “We believe this transition from the Bay Area to strong innovation hubs like Austin is part of a mega trend that won’t go away anytime soon. The rise of the rest is real, and we’re glad to see another great resource for Austin startups join the movement.”

Indeed, the Austin venture scene has picked up a number of new players over the past 18 months.

In June, Trust Ventures chose Austin for its new headquarters and announced that it had raised $35 million for its first fund with a goal of bringing in up to $50 million via a rolling close. Sacramento-based early-stage VC firm Moneta Ventures in May opened an Austin office with plans to invest about $20 million into Texas-based tech startups. And in July of last year, March Capital Partners out of Santa Monica opened a downtown Austin office. The firm—which is an investor in Austin-based Vast—closed on a $240 million debut fund in 2016 focused on both early and late-stage investments.

As someone who has lived in both Silicon Valley and Austin, I can certainly see the similarities—cultural and otherwise—between the two regions. My humble opinion is that Austin has much to offer both startups and investors, and migration to this city will continue to grow.

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