Austin vs Bay Area

I am the type of person who needs a mountain to climb.

When I reflect on my 10 plus years at Jivaro Professional Headhunters, I am amazed at how quickly I moved up the ranks. In a relatively short time I went from a Junior Headhunter, to managing a team, to managing one of our regional offices to Vice President where I had multiple teams of very talented headhunters who were running like a well-oiled machine. I had built some fantastic relationships with my San Francisco Bay area clients and really enjoyed helping them build their companies. Life was good. I could have relaxed and taken a breath. But, as I established, “I needed a mountain to climb.” I needed a new challenge.

So, I made what some would describe as a “crazy choice.” I decided to open a new market for Jivaro in Austin, Texas. I was fortunate to bring some very talented Senior Headhunters with me that made it easier, but essentially, I walked away from all of the relationships I had built over 10 years, packed up my family a moved to start over from scratch!

We have been working the Austin market for a year, and now I am able to look back and do some comparing and contrasting of the San Francisco Bay area markets. As everyone knows the technology market is extremely dynamic and ever changing, so I may have a different outlook if you ask me another year from now. But this is how as see it today:

In many ways, the San Francisco Bay area and Austin, Texas markets are similar. There is a giant battle for talent, extremely innovative companies are popping up all the time, VC money is flowing, salaries are increasing exponentially, commutes are daunting, and both places offer some amazing attractions from a personal standpoint.

However, there are some interesting differences between the two markets/places which some people, including myself, find very appealing:

Community feel

Austin is a very tight knit community. I grew up in the San Francisco bay area and it used to have the same feel, but I think the growth in the Bay area has changed this. For a relatively small city, Austin offers so much to technology individuals. There are tech meetups, tech happy hours, and other similar events literally every day, which people love attending. I remember when having one single relationship in the bay area could open so many doors. In Austin this is absolutely true. One relationship in Austin can lead to so many other relationships that could lead to business. In order to take advantage of this, you have to get involved in the events, meetings, lunches, and drinking events. 😉

Growth in Austin is incredible! The bay area still has great growth, but per capita Austin’s technology growth is off the charts. I am not sure of the exact numbers today, but at one point 170 people were moving to Austin every day! Many of these are coming to Austin for the high tech job market.

Big players like Amazon, Apple, Box, Salesforce, Google, and many other bay area juggernauts are joining the likes of Dell, VMware, IBM, and HP whom have been solidified in Austin for some time. When you add the exploding startup scene, this it is a very attractive job market for tech workers.

Home Grown Talent

The University of Texas puts out some very talented folks with entrepreneurial minds and many of them want to stay in Austin and build their startups here. This coupled with SXSW, VC investment, and all the other technology interaction helps to create the innovative nature in Austin.

Cost of Living / Quality of life
The cost of living in Austin is so much lower than the bay area that it doesn’t even compare. In my opinion, the cost of living when coupled with the average salaries for tech jobs in Austin provides a much better quality of life.
A Senior Software Engineer in Austin can easily make $120 to $130k base salary and buy a comfortable 4 bed, 3 bath home for $250k. That same engineer may be able to demand a salary of $150k to $180k in the bay area, but when a decent 4 bed 3 bath home in Palo Alto will cost them north of $1M, it is tough to feel like they are getting ahead.

Sense of Urgency

The realization of the lack of talent in the Austin market is hitting companies hard. When we first arrived in Austin, it didn’t seem that our clients had the same sense of urgency when trying to hire as Jivaro’s bay area clients. In just the last year, we have seen this change dramatically. Our clients are quickly catching on to the fact that good candidates are scarce and moving quickly is paramount to getting the best talent in their doors.

All in all, the move has been challenging and fun. I am excited to see what is ahead here in Austin. Some say it is the new Silicon Valley. I believe Austinites plan on making a whole new name for this technology robust city.

Nic Bingham, Vice President
Jivaro Professional Headhunters

One Comment on “Austin vs Bay Area”

  1. I’m curious about the growth trend. Would you give a date for a reference point? Also if this was added sometime ago, could you give an a quick update? Thanks for your time, Nic.

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