Five Questions For … Joshua Baer, Founder of Austin’s Capital Factory
Austin—Joshua Baer has become one of Austin’s most high-profile evangelists.
Baer founded Capital Factory in 2009 as a combination startup accelerator program and co-working space in the city’s downtown, and it quickly became a key epicenter of innovation in the city. (Capital Factory hosted nearly 1,000 startup-related events this past year.) During the South By Southwest festival, the 16th floor of the Omni Hotel highrise becomes the remote office for many of the visiting entrepreneurs and investors.
Baer’s own entrepreneurial journey started during his undergraduate years at Carnegie Mellon University in the mid-1990s when he founded Skylist, an e-mail marketing company. He continued to seek and sell innovations related to e-mail and marketing but now largely spends his time with Capital Factory and investing in startups.
In this week’s “Five Questions For … ,” we speak to Baer about his entrepreneurial origins, the best time to plant a tree, and the pleasure of an organized office. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.
Xconomy: What leadership lessons did you get from your parents?
Joshua Baer: When I look back, my family is just completely surrounded by entrepreneurship: my parents, both their parents, my aunts and uncles, cousins. They were not tech entrepreneurs. They were not creating “the biggest companies in the world,” but everywhere that I look, there was entrepreneurship. My father was an independent photographer; he worked for himself, worked out of our house. My mom was a schoolteacher, who ran a business on side selling wedding invitations for all my dad’s clients. My grandparents on my mother’s side owned a family business, a local toy store. My father’s parents had a retail women’s clothing store. Everywhere that I look, people worked for themselves. I had so many role models.
I was aware of it at the time, but I appreciate it much more now, how unique it was.
X: What career advice do you give to new college graduates?
J.B.: I started my first company when I was in college. Now, I teach at [the University of Texas at Austin], and there are new batches of students every semester. One of the first pieces of advice I give is that there will never be a better time. There’s a Chinese proverb I quote: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” The same thing is true in starting a company. Just get started on doing it. If you want to do a company, you’ll never be in a better situation than when you’re … Next Page »