Former Rackspace execs launch Austin VC firm

Three former Rackspace Hosting Inc. executives have quietly launched a venture capital firm in Austin.

Lanham Napier, the San Antonio company’s former CEO, founded BuildGroup Management LLC in June with former Rackspace General Counsel Alan Schoenbaum and former Rackspace General Manager Jim Curry, according to their online profiles. Schoenbaum and Curry could not immediately be reached for comment.

Firm spokesman Josh Jones-Dilworth said federal regulations prevent BuildGroup Management officials from publicly commenting on any firm activities.

BuildGroup, which operates a bare-bones website, describes itself as a “growth outfitter that equips entrepreneurs for the long haul.” The website doesn’t list any investment information, fund sizes or portfolio companies.

Commune-like facility opens for Austin technologists

An Austin entrepreneur is establishing a commune-like residence with space for 30 technology workers. He expects it will be the first of five in Austin.

Martin Wallner, the CEO of Macro House LLC, said he’s getting 20 applications per week for the so-called “co-living” space at Guadalupe Street and Nelray Boulevard, which is just north of downtown. The first 10 residents began moving into the one-story building last week. It was once a senior housing complex.

Messaging company pivots away from disasters

Alert Media Inc. has tweaked its business model after finding its messaging delivery system is needed for more than emergencies.

The Austin company discovered that its mass-notification service is used by all types of customers with dispersed workers. As such, Alert Media is now marketing its service as a streamlined day-to-day communication tool instead just in times of disaster, CEO Brian Cruver said.

WeWork execs go silent on local expansion plans

WeWork Companies Inc., the co-working space operator eager to promote its opening of a downtown office in February, has gone mute amid speculation that it’s planning a major expansion in Austin.

Executives at other tech companies looking for office space said they have learned that WeWork is planning a major expansion of its downtown office space just blocks from the Capitol and in the heart of downtown.

The New York company isn’t providing any details about a possible expansion and its local manager couldn’t be reached on Friday. A front-desk worker at the Congress Avenue WeWork office said the manager was too busy to take questions from a reporter.

WeWork spokeswoman Karen Germ hasn’t answered any questions about the possibility of local expansion. Sarah Allen, the company’s community engagement manager, referred questions to other WeWork officials.

In February, WeWork opened a space taking up the 14th floor of 600 Congress Ave. that was projected to serve about 500 members. Use of a dedicated desk was expected to cost $400 per month, a company executive said at the time.

WeWork, which was founded in 2010 by CEO Adam Neumann, enables members to lease common area spaces, labs or offices. The cost of leases depend on locations.

The company employs 300 workers. Fidelity Management & Research Co. and others have invested $400 million in WeWork and it is now reportedly worth $10 billion.

Neumann has told the Wall Street Journal he plans to expand WeWork to 60 locations.

About 15 co-working spaces already operate in Austin. Most are independently owned businesses that partner with other service providers on a smaller scale.

Dell pays $75K to group that awarded its CEO

Dell Inc. is now listed as a donor to a 62-year-old environmental group that honored CEO Michael Dell six months ago.

Round Rock-based Dell was added to Keep America Beautiful Inc.’s roster of “corporate sponsors” contributing $50,000 to $99,999.

In December, Michael Dell accepted the Connecticut-based group’s “Vision for America” award at a luncheon event in which Dell paid $75,000 to sponsor tables for customers, partners and employees.

Keep America Beautiful has been operating since 1953. The group’s spokesman, Larry Kaufman, said in December that Dell had previously only contributed to the group’s local affiliate instead of the national organization.

 The award was in recognition of Dell’s sustainability initiatives in communities nationally, according to a Dell news release.

Robin Schneider, executive director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment, said the pay-for-play arrangement is not unusual for such awards.

“Honorees are expected to give or find people to give when they’re being honored,” she said. “I don’t think that it’s ever stated, but it’s everyone’s assumption. It doesn’t smell good that’s for sure.”

Dell, the No. 3 computer maker in the world, employs 14,000 workers in Central Texas.

In late 2013, Michael Dell led an investor group that completed a $24.9 billion leveraged buyout of shareholders in an effort to enable the company to transition beyond personal computers to the higher profit margins provided by software, services and other networking tools.

Venture capital firms: Women need not apply

As a venture capitalist, Lauren Chauret can work in two areas that she’s most interested in: business and health care.

The Dallas native is partner and director of operations at PTV Healthcare Capital, an Austin VC firm investing in expansion- and late-stage companies. It’s a position that provides Chauret with what she considers “the perfect combination” of her business interests. So she was naturally disappointed — and a bit surprised — when during a recent career fair at the University of Texas only 20 percent of the applicants to her firm were female.

Cover story: Austin venture capital firms fill the capital gap

Entrepreneurs and investors often speak of the so-called capital gap.

They’re typically referring to the challenge that exists for a startup between the arrival of seed funding and more substantial institutional investment designed to take a company beyond concept to the customer.

In Austin, there’s also a perception gap

Google manages state and local officials

In November, Austin police blocked off the ends of Bedford Street running through the Booker T. Washington Terrace, a federal housing development in East Austin.

There was no emergency. This was yet another in a series of highly-orchestrated media events Google Inc. has conducted to promote its ultra-high-speed Internet service known as Google Fiber.

The rollout is one of the biggest business endeavors to hit this booming city this century, and it took a ton of political prowess to pull off.

Michael Dell goes public after going private

Michael Dell has been more public since taking his company private.

The CEO of Round Rock-based Dell Inc. has ramped up his media interviews and public appearances during the first year after completing a leverage buyout of its shareholders. He has been active on Twitter, made the keynote speech at the company’s users conference, penned a piece for the Wall Street Journal, spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, and met with an assortment of print and broadcast reporters.