Capital Factory + 1776 = Connecting Austin to the Global Entrepreneurship Community through Union

Capital Factory is the first member of the 1776 Startup Federation to sign up for Union — a global mentoring platform and curated educational curriculum for entrepreneurs. Union is a technology platform and network that connects Austin’s entrepreneurs to resources all over the world, while connecting Austin’s mentors with opportunities to maximize their impact regardless of geography.

Austin, Texas has been one of the fastest growing cities for the past few years and is now the 11th largest in the U.S. Austin is home to the University of Texas, one of the largest universities with top ranked computer science and engineering schools and a new medical school that just opened. Events like Austin City Limits, South by Southwest (SXSW) and Formula 1 draw international crowds each year and maintain global connectivity. CNBC just ranked Austin the number 1 startup metro in the U.S.

Capital Factory is the center of gravity for entrepreneurs in Austin. This year more than 50,000 entrepreneurs, programmers and designers will gather day and night for meetups, classes and coworking. We meet the best entrepreneurs in Austin and introduce them to their first investors, employees and customers. We have a matching fund so that a startup can convince two of our mentors to invest personally it can unlock additional matching funds

Austin has a strong mentor pool with more than 150 local founders and executives who volunteer their time to help first-time entrepreneurs at Capital Factory alone. Austin also has a robust angel investor community led by the Central Texas Angel Network, one of the largest and most active angel groups in the country.

How does a local entrepreneur navigate it all? How does she connect with the right mentors and other resources to help her business grow?

A Technology Platform for Scale

Capital Factory started in 2009 with 20 mentors and the same number of entrepreneurs. We had a group meeting once a week and each company had 2 lead mentors who met one-on-one each week. It didn’t take any centralized coordination other than sending out a calendar invite.

Over the next few years we scaled up and now are on track to have 200 mentors and 1,000 entrepreneurs in our network by the end of the year. Scheduling everything on a Google Calendar doesn’t cut it anymore. We looked around at all of the scheduling tools out there and couldn’t find anything off-the-shelf that could fulfill our requirements.

Then I found out what Donna Harris, Evan Burfield and their team have been working on with Union and saw that it is exactly what we were looking for.

Each startup has a profile, including what stage of company they are, what industry, and more. The mentors do the same thing and we even categorize our events and classes too. Then each startup gets a “feed” of recommended mentors, events, and classes for them based on what stage they are and what they need right now.

I often explain to new mentors that it’s not that helpful to point out what’s wrong with a startup, because at the beginning you are starting from scratch and everything is wrong.

The hardest thing for startups is identifying what is important to focus on when there are many, many problems and opportunities begging for your attention. Union helps entrepreneurs figure out what to focus on now and not get overloaded by all of the resources available to them.

Access to Specialized Expertise

Austin is one of the top startup ecosystems in the U.S. but still there are many skills, talent and experience that we lack. Just as significant is connectivity to big companies and global institutions who can be incredible resources for startups. Capital Factory joining Union provides a channel for Austin entrepreneurs to connect with mentors, investors and government officials in every geographic and market sector.

Through Capital Factory and Union, an Austin startup can get useful introductions to important resources and experts from around the world who can help leverage market expansion and customer support opportunities in places where early adoption could potentially find faster traction — and revenue — than here in the U.S.

Access to Global Connections

In recent years, Austin has grown to be a global city full of international businesses and embassies. Visitors enjoy direct flights to Frankfurt, Mexico City, London, Toronto and other international destinations. In recent years, Austin has become a top destination for Eisenhower Fellows, Mandela Washington Fellows, U.S. State Department International Leaders and others visiting the U.S. from other countries to learn about entrepreneurship and innovation.

In turn, the entrepreneurs shaping their businesses through Capital Factory have begun to see their successes move into other areas around the globe. Investment dollars are starting to move into Austin, and we’re seeing multi-million-dollar customer contracts with international businesses pop up as these startups expand their own global reach.

Every Internet and SaaS business is global from day 1 — your market is the entire world and that’s also your competition. — Fred Schmidt, Director of International at Capital Factory

With access to Union, Austin startups now have connectivity to some of the biggest companies in the world as well as a passport to receive free coworking benefits at other Startup Federation hubs in other cities.

Mentors Maximize their Impact

Some people are focused on mentoring for their local community. Some are focused on a particular affiliation such as their university, fraternity or faith-based organization.

Austin has a lot of startups and lot of mentors, but if you have highly specialized expertise you might only be able to find one or two startups in Austin focused on that area. Through Union, mentors can find the best entrepreneurs in the world across any topic or specialty and make sure that the time they are investing has the greatest possible impact.

Through reciprocation programs across the Startup Federation network, our mentors who travel across the U.S. or across the world can drop in for office hours with local startups. Austin mentors can do virtual office hours with entrepreneurs anywhere using Skype. The Union system helps do the matching but the mentor is always in control.

Recently I was in D.C. and went by 1776’s campus for office hours with 3 entrepreneurs. It was easy to schedule and a lot of fun! I’m excited to see more cross pollination between the Capital Factory mentor network in Austin and tech hubs in other cities that they travel to.

The Rise of the Rest

I’m a big fan of Steve Case, founder of America Online, and his Rise of the Rest philosophy that areas outside of Silicon Valley will be the source of more innovation and disruption than in the past. He travels around the country visiting different startup communities, investing his own money there, and creating connectivity between the nodes.

The Union platform is an incredible resource for entrepreneurs all over the globe — but especially for those that don’t live in major technology hubs. Anyone can become a virtual member of Union and access educational content, mentors and classes remotely from anywhere, especially those who don’t live in major tech hubs. With Union, anyone can become a virtual member and access all of its resources remotely, so they can be successful anywhere.