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Carol Thompson

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Tech Trailblazer Carol Thompson shares five ways the tech industry has changed the Austin landscape.

By Kat Barclay, Photo by Courtney Runn

There’s a little voice inside Carol Thompson’s head each time she sits in Austin traffic that says, “You started this.” As a member of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce team that helped bring 25 new offices to Austin in 1988, Thompson has been influential in making Austin the booming, tech-friendly city it is today.

As the founder of business-development and consulting firm The Thompson Group, she has been recognized throughout the years for her achievements in the tech world, named one of the most powerful women in Austin by The Central Texas Press and one of Austin’s top 25 tech players to know by the Austin-American Statesman. After living in Austin for more than 20 years, Thompson has seen the city transform in a number of ways.

Type of Economy 

“It was all gas, oil and real estate in 1985, and now it’s tech, but it’s not like it fell out of the sky. In the ’90s, Stanford Research Institute did a study on what it would take to make it a technology community and we followed that plan: compete nationally and globally, continue to attract creatives, provide opportunities for local residents, accommodate urban growth and expand and protect water supplies. In some ways, I would say that we are homegrown but worked with a variety of models.”

Cost of Living

“The size [of Austin]and the housing market are obviously a big thing. Just to give you a reference, in 2000, there were only a handful of homes in Austin worth $1 million. Now, you know, there’s a lot more than that. 2000 seems like a long time ago, but it’s really not.”

Traffic

“Traffic, traffic, traffic! For some of these people who’ve moved from places that have a ton of traffic, it’s no big deal. For people like me, who’ve been here, we’re not used to it and so, we think it’s a lot. Now I plan my days strategically around traffic.”

Startups

“I think it’s both easy and hard to start a business here. It’s easier if you’re looking to expand because usually you touch base with a few key people here before you move. But if you’re here and just starting a business, I don’t know this for a fact, but I think it could be harder because you’re just so immersed in your business. There are so many specialized groups and meetups to assist you that it’s difficult to choose which one.”

Shifting Creative Culture

“We had hippies way back then and they were the creatives. Now there are creative things in the tech industry, like the engineering research building at the University of Texas. They are printing 3-D heart valves, among other things. That’s creative at a different level.”

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