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From One Start-up to Another

The following blog post was written by R.G. ‘Jerry’ Converse

Having been a start-up itself and thriving for more than 35 years, the Austin office of Norton Rose Fulbright congratulates Austin Technology Incubator in celebrating its 25th Anniversary and thanks ATI for the enormous value and benefit that it has given Austin and Central Texas.  Your track record of helping young companies get funded through intense and concentrated application of strategic counseling, operational guidance and company-infrastructure support is replete with great successes.

ATI is the cornerstone of the final component of the overall IC2 mission:  accelerate the transfer of innovative products and services to the marketplace and society.  With its emphasis on “getting you funded,” ATI has performed well and is positioned to continue its growth and success, all to the benefit of Austin and Central Texas.  You need look no further than our clients that are current ATI member companies or among its alumnae for evidence of that success.  Companies like Venti Energy and Xeris Pharmaceuticals to name just two.   The success from being an ATI member company is also evidenced by such ATI alumnae as Haystack Labs, Evity, Webify, and Phurnace Software.

ATI is a wonderful testament to its founder, George Kozmetsky, and his vision:  create a “think tank/do tank” (to borrow from the chronicle of Dr. Kozmetsky’s life authored by Dr. Kenneth D. Walters).  As a co-founder of Teledyne Technologies in the 1960’s, start-up was not a language unfamiliar to Dr. Kozmetsky.  Having achieved a great business success with that company, Dr. Kozmetsky left Teledyne, according to his son Greg, to cause a convergence:  the corporate world and government through the glue that academe can provide.  So, in 1966, Dr. Kozmetsky became the new Dean of the University of Texas Business School (now known as the McCombs School of Business) and started making the dust fly.

Dr. Walters’ chronicle reminds us that the technology powerhouse that is Austin-Central Texas can likely be traced back to Dr. Kozmetsky who is credited with enticing IBM in 1967 to locate a Selectric typewriter manufacturing plant in Austin.  Then in 1968 came the Texas Instruments plant; and then the list goes viral.  Some of the leading edge research being conducted by IBM is occurring today in Austin on Burnet Road.

In addition to fostering the development of companies around innovation, Dr. Kozmetsky also innovated people.  The Austin Office of Norton Rose Fulbright has been fortunate that one of those innovated people, Pike Powers, was the head of our Austin office for many years.  During the 80’s and 90’s, hardly a week went by without Pike reporting that he had Cornflakes and orange juice with Dr. Kozmetsky at 4:30 AM that morning to discuss his ideas and plans for pursing the making of the great technology powerhouse and what the community leaders must do to make it happen.  One day in 1989, Pike reported that George had recruited Lee Cooke, then Mayor of Austin, to get the City, the County and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce each to contribute $30,000 a year for three years and that Dr. Kozmetsky also personally would contribute the same, all to fund the start-up of ATI.  For Lee Cooke, in 1989 in Austin, Texas, that was quite a feat; but  nonetheless done.  No doubt the “Father of the Technology Industry in Central Texas” was educating and priming Cooke and Powers, who has become Austin’s “Godfather of Economic Development,” as well as others like John Sibley Butler, to carry on his principal teaching as reported by Dr. Walters:  The World is driven by two forces – technology and ideology and regions have a choice of getting smaller, getting poorer, or getting smarter.  More should be remembered about Dr. Kozmetsky and the others that made ATI the success that it is, like Laura Kilcrease, Jamin Patrick, John Sibley Butler; and hopefully others will come forward with their accounts and stories to publish on this amazing organization.

For us, we again thank Austin Technology Incubator for what it has done to help Central Texas remain smarter and commit to do our part to make it so for the future generations of Central Texans.  HAPPY 25TH ATI!