Over the past five years, the landscape of the Austin tech startup scene has changed. Some would argue the change has been for the better. But if we look closely, we can still see many opportunities for growth. You have probably heard about Austin being the number one city for startups, beating out Silicon Valley for a couple of years now. We are definitely the next boomtown, and yet we are also still the most economically segregated community in our country. These two stats get thrown around a lot, but what do real entrepreneurs think about the direction of Austin and its tech scene? Well, it depends on whom you ask.
In a recent conversation with my black entrepreneur friends and colleagues, there was a sense of hopelessness and a lack of attachment. Some feel that if they did not have other ties to the city they simply would not have chosen to start a business here. I asked why they feel this way, and their response was that Austin simply lacks the environment, vibe and opportunities they feel they need to be upwardly mobile. More importantly, they find it hard to imagine themselves in roles of privilege of power because it’s not an image that is commonly portrayed here.\
All of that depresses me — and not because I can deny its truth. As a Latinx male, I understand that this is an ongoing crisis. And yet some people simply don’t see it as a concern. If they do acknowledge this crisis, it’s in their peripheral view and not a priority. No one is blatantly keeping the black community out of Austin, or the tech scene for that matter. But all of us are complicit in what is happening. We as a community have not done enough in either fostering a pipeline of talent to step into leadership roles or in making this place welcoming to black people researching Austin as a place to settle. When they see Austin, they see the statistics and the ongoing story (which lies in truth, but still hurts) that Austin has one of the fastest-dwindling black communities.
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