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*OPINION: Austin Conducive For Millennials

Vince Vitale, business development manager, Aspire Food Group

OCSN: How long were you in OC for?

Vince: I was in OC for four years. I worked for a plethora of startups as a consultant in a range of different industries. Over 50 companies in Southern California as a whole. Working with Ash Kumra and Youngry was an amazing experience, because you can see how fast a startup can catch fire and grow. (Youngry is a digital platform with mentorship content that also hosts community events and operates an agency to help brand and influencers connect with the global Millennial & Gen Z audiences.)

I got to work with one of my best friends, Justin Klein, on the Talking Ventures podcast which aired on Laguna Beach radio, KX 93.5. We got to interview and learn a lot about how entrepreneurs got to where they are today. I even founded a startup with the best roommate anyone could ever ask for, Evan Leong, called Fount, which connected entrepreneurs by the skill they were looking for, for their own startup. Sort of liked LinkedIn but for startup skills instead of jobs.

OCSN: What were your thoughts on the OC startup ecosystem during that time?

Vince: The OC ecosystem was amazing. I think the great thing about the way the OC ecosystem is setup is you know who to turn to for what you’re looking for. For instance, when it comes to THE Meetup to attend for startups and entrepreneurship, you know it’s the OC Tech Happy Hour run by Lee Decker. When it comes to co-working spaces and events, you know Taylor is the person to talk to over at the Eureka (co-working) building, which is the hub. The people who run both of these are very personable, and involved.

OCSN: Where did you live in OC and how much did you pay in rent?

Vince: I cut my teeth in Irvine with my roommate, Evan, for about two years, and then ultimately moved to Laguna Beach with my fiancee, where I was paying $2500+ per month. But you can’t beat living in Laguna Beach. Just ask Justin Klein.

OCSN: Why did you move to Austin?

Vince: I was inspired by Austin for a variety of reasons. 1) I had never lived in Texas and Austin is definitely the city to live in if you’re going to make the move, 2) Austin is really emerging as not only a tech city, but also a huge “CPG” city, as in consumer packaged goods. Every day, alcohol brands, cold- brew companies and cool innovative food startups are popping up left and right and 3) I wanted to go someplace a bit younger and more lively.

OCSN: What are you doing in Austin?

Vince: I’m currently managing business development for the incredible Aspire Food Group, a company that farms crickets and turns them into delicious protein products.

OCSN: What are your thoughts on Austin’s startup ecosystem?

Vince: Austin is similar to OC in a few ways, but very different in others. I’d say there is so much going on in Austin that it’s hard to know what to go to. In OC, you knew the events you simply couldn’t miss. In Austin, it’s easy to miss an event because you know there will be 200 more just like it. Austin is also unique because of the South by Southwest conference (SXSW), which just wrapped up its annual conference –  the largest tech conference in the country. So that entire week is madness from the tech portion, and then the music festival starts right after!

OCSN: Any other comments on the two ecosystems and how they compare/contrast?

Vince: That is a great question. I think if you’re starting off, OC is actually better because roles, places, events, and people are clearly defined. You know what to do, and what not to do because things are on a much smaller scale. I couldn’t imagine starting my startup life in Austin. Way too much going on. In terms of advancing and growing as a millennial entrepreneur, I think Austin is a better place. There are tons of startups that are not only popping up, but are also receiving funding, especially in the food space. I myself had startup ventures in my earlier days as an entrepreneur, but that pales in comparison compared to what I’ve learned and experienced in a little over a year at Aspire Food Group. Big fish//small pond vs. small fish/big pond.

OCSN: Where do you live in Austin and how much is the rent?

Vince: I lived in downtown Austin for my first year and the rent was $2,600 a month. With that being said, I was in THE high-rise, rooftop pool, resident happy hours, restaurants on the bottom floor, etc. I recently rented a house in Zilker Park for $1,750 per month. My fiancee and I got a beautiful Husky named Capri and she needed some space to run around.

Austin and OC are similar in some ways. Both are filled with transplants and both have amazing weather when it comes to desired working conditions, although Austin summers are no joke. Way too hot. I think the biggest difference between Austin and OC is the difference in cultures. Austin is quite a bit younger than OC. People are surprisingly more active and there are dogs everywhere. OC, I’d say is still quite traditional and conservative. Austin’s mantra is to “Keep Austin weird” – there really isn’t anything else like it. I mean I’m selling crickets to people to eat! Also, the state of Texas doesn’t have state income tax, so that is also a big plus!

At the end of the day, Austin is the ultimate work hard/play hard city. By day, the startups are working away; at night the town turns into the ultimate happy hour city and music fills the air. On the weekends, best believe you’re going out for brunch, and spending time at Zilker Park!

For millennial entrepreneurs I’d say move to Austin. But I bet you, I end up living in Laguna Beach again.

About The Author

Deirdre Newman is a veteran journalist, who's covered OC startups for two-plus years.

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