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Erik Trautman

“Everything you can imagine is real.”
-- Pablo Picasso

City Search 2012: Two Perfect?

The final four cities are, frankly, all places that I really want to live in. At this point it is less about finding reasons to not move there as it is finding reasons why it’s better to live in a different city on the list. The following two towns round out my list of three “Places I’ve Never Heard Anything Really Bad About” list. They are awesome, they’re beautiful, there’s almost no downside but”¦ they just aren’t quite the right place for me right now.

Austin, TX

Texas is awesome. I’m going to write a post about how much fun it is to live in Texas. The hub of that awesomeness is Austin. There’s an active and fervent university culture mixed with a strong focus on music and the arts. Living in Austin is affordable and culturally diverse. Nestled at the corner of Hill Country, there are phenomenal opportunities for everything from lake sports to horseback riding to biking to motorcycling. It’s got youth and energy.

I wrote about my experience at the Austin Startup Weekend and it touched upon the entrepreneurial community there. Austin has become a global hub of entrepreneurship, which is centered on the SXSW week/month in early March. The conference has exploded since it became the launch platform for some of the hottest (former) startups like Twitter and Foursquare. Hotels book up almost a year in advance now and the Interactive events are packed full of power players/networkers and the parties continue well into the night. Once the furor from SXSW dies down, the community powers on in numerous coworking spaces, incubators, and even dorm rooms.

There are just a few things that give me pause about living in Austin. Its entrepreneurial community is fast growing and has a lot of local resources but there still seems to be a need for more early-stage startup funding in relation to the others on this list. Maybe it’s part of the gritty, almost hippy-esque culture of Austin but bootstrapping seems to be by far the most common approach. The other issue is that although Austin has a vibrant and exciting arts-and-outdoors culture, I worry that it doesn’t have quite the full spectrum breadth that I will ultimately need to be happy for many years.

San Diego, CA

Since I first crested the surrounding mountains on my motorcycle and coasted down I-8 into the city basin, I’ve had as soft spot in my heart for San Diego. Each time I visited it came closer to love. San Diego is almost perfect. It’s like a small town and a big city had a sunny love child and sent it to the beach to play. Okay, stressed analogy but you get the point.

The climate is unbeatable, the ocean is gorgeous and accessible, and the downtown is active but clean. They don’t even use stop lights in much of the city center”¦ it’s done with stop signs. There’s a great blend of low-key surfer culture in the beach towns mixed with an active nightlife and upscale activities in town. The restaurants are world class and the city supports a vibrant music and art scene as well.

It is very, VERY hard to find a reason not to pick up immediately and leave for SD. In the end, it comes down to the comparison. From a lifestyle perspective, I’m not sure that I can justify placing any other city higher on the list. There is an upscale side, a low-key side, and a healthy dose of outdoor adventure right nearby. In terms of breadth of cultural experience, San Diego has a lot to offer”¦ though I’m not sure that it can quite match the offerings of its colder neighbors to the north and on the opposite coast.

Professionally, though, it’s got some ground to make up. Prior to last year, San Diego accounted for as much venture investment as the state of Texas but it still is multiples away from NY and SF. It obviously has a flourishing community and access to talent but it’s just not quite on the same level as the final contenders. Someday”¦