Tech Startups in Austin
Nestled in the Texas hill country, Austin draws music lovers, foodies, and festival junkies. The thriving economy and population makes it one of the fastest growing cities in America.
But Austin is booming in more than just its arts and life culture. Forbes listed Austin as the top growing city for tech industry employment growth from 2011 to 2013. Tech companies are finding the Texas capitol an increasingly attractive location for building their business. Breaking into the industry seems more feasible when compared to the astronomical prices of office spaces in Silicon Valley.
It was only nine years ago that the social media giant Twitter had its premiere debut at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival -- winning the SXSW Web Award. During the festival this year, many other young companies were competing for the same, coveted title.
It is this setting that insurance agencies are finding a niche market for their services; in particular, Steve Dimarco and Jason McKinley from MRD Insurance.
Steve Dimarco - Partner & Tech Insurance Expert
As partner with MRD Insurance, Steve is constantly keeping up with the latest news in the tech industry. Working with a couple specialists in downtown Austin, which Steve says are two of about fifty of their kind in the nation, he is able to stay aware of any changes in the market.
Steve is an entrepreneur who moved to Austin with his brother to start a restaurant chain. After selling their venture, Steve met Jason who encouraged him to apply his entrepreneurial experience to insurance. What you notice about Steve when you meet him is he has a restless energy and intense curiosity. This is evidenced by the growth of his client base and the diversity of businesses he works with.
"We stay current on all the new coverages that are constantly coming out throughout the year to change with the times," Steve said. But it is not always a matter of staying aware of new types of coverages. By going to seminars and sales classes across the country, Steve stays up to date on limit increases, and how the tech industry is changing as a whole.
With Google paving the way for how tech businesses behave, many startups follow suit.
"With tech companies, their kind of culture is [to provide] great benefits for the employee," Steve said, which is why MRD Insurance also specializes in group benefits.
Steve shares his clients' optimism about what is possible. "We are so lucky to be in Austin, Texas right now. It's unbelievable what's going on here," Steve said. "And when you get in a circle, you are constantly getting referred."
Come SXSW next year, you might see Steve plowing through the crowd to see one of his client's presentations, or finding a young company to try to get them on their feet.
Jason McKinley – President
The other half of the leadership team is MRD Insurance President Jason McKinley. A collegiate athlete and former coach, Jason has a playbook for his agency that sees how a young Austin appeals to a dynamic and forward thinking agent. When he visits his clients' offices, he loves seeing how they reward their employees by the work environment.
"In Austin, it's cool to go to these places. You go into their boardroom and these guys have shorts on, and flip flops," Jason said, adding that some bring their dogs to work, while others play Ping-Pong on their break. This buttoned down culture encourages creativity and a new level of engagement -- a different set of risks his clients need to be aware of.
As Jason pointed out, newer businesses come with newer claims. An example has been the increase in cyber and data breaches. The small businesses owners are often targeted because their firewall and security may not be as comprehensive as larger corporations. Jason says the majority of these hacks are done for identity theft.
"We are moving into a world where there's going to be less claims on physical items, and more claims on things that are not necessarily tangible, but can be compromised through the cloud," Jason said.
This change and the newness is big. Sometimes big to the point that it is difficult to keep up with.
"Honestly, I'm 38 years old, which I consider relatively young, and I find that the younger people in my office, and even my four kids have a better grasp of technology and the new up and coming change than I do," Jason said.
Rather than be daunted by the market, Jason takes it as an opportunity to learn and help pioneer the future for technologies. He also attends the seminars and meets with specialists with his partner, Steve Dimarco.
"I think we are on the frontier of this new cutting edge insurance product that happens to meet the needs of all these new tech companies," Jason said.
Jason considers himself thrifty -- almost necessarily so because of his four children. He understands why new businesses are keen to want the most economical coverage.
"We want to be that trusted advisor that understands their business, and makes sure that when they lay down at night, they are protected properly and they are protected at the best value we can find for them," Jason said.