Billionaire mogul Elon Musk and Fortune 500 companies Oracle and Hewlett Packard have made big waves by relocating to Texas in recent months, but it might matter even more to the state’s tech industry that Amy Sun has moved here. The former product manager for Uber and Facebook, and former partner at Silicon Valley venture firm Sequoia Capital, came to Austin in the second half of 2020 with plans to start a company. She picked the city after a pandemic-era summer spent slowly driving cross-country with her husband, visiting a number of places after their small wedding with family on the East Coast.
Austin had long seemed appealing, she says, because of the relentlessly positive word of mouth that built up over the years as Bay Area colleagues visited for South by Southwest or transferred to Facebook’s Austin office. Then, during the pandemic, a new attraction arose: space for working from home. “The cost of living in the Bay Area was getting pretty crazy—just really hard to afford even a very modest house or apartment there, especially because we’re spending more time at home,” Sun says. “It’s so nice to be able to have a house with more than one room.”
The past year has run roughshod over millions of Americans, yet the tech industry in Texas is seemingly riding higher than ever. Austin has tended to hog the hype, thanks to announcements such as plans for new high-tech factories (Samsung semiconductors, SpaceX antennae, Tesla trucks), but it was Dallas that placed first in the U.S. in tech investment growth rate in 2020, and Houston and San Antonio are trending up too. Mike Smerklo, cofounder of Austin-based Next Coast Ventures, says that while the well-known names grab the attention, newcomers like Sun may make an even greater impact.