Austin Still Pinning Its Hopes on Hardware Startups

Back during the first technology boom, Austin was a force when it came to silicon and enterprise software startups, but the escalating cost of the plants where chips were manufactured and the SaaS-ification of enterprise software hit Austin’s key sectors hard. Other than cursing (s CRM) and semiconductor foundries,  Austin has tried to make a tech comeback with wireless, clean energy and even a few consumer web startups, but the city is in the midst of an identity crisis, and its startups are lagging those built in Silicon Valley.

Austin has Gowalla, which is trailing behind Foursquare in location-based services, and Heliovolt, which is trailing Valley startup Solyndra in the race to develop better solar technology. But Bart Bohn, a director at the Austin Technology Incubator is hoping to resurrect Austin’s hardware past with a collection of data center infrastructure and wireless startups  in the University of Texas-backed incubation program. Given the emphasis on cloud computing and wireless innovation, ATI’s bet may pay off.

In the video below Bohn talks about how infrastructure startups are raising money in Texas, and names some of the exciting companies at ATI, from Smooth-Stone, which is building servers with ARM (s ARMH) chips to Savara, a biomed startup that has developed a method for delivering drugs via an inhaler. Maybe, with a newly active ATI, plus a new hardware-focused venture fund in Austin, the city can regain some of its former glory.

Thumbnail courtesy of Flickr user turtlemom4bacon’s