Our Oh-So-Close Encounter With President Obama

By    May 9, 2013

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If you’ve never heard of Capital Factory, here’s the scoop: It’s the Austin business incubator program that essentially reared us. Capital Factory is one of the reasons why SpareFoot exists today, which is why we were pretty stoked to hear that President Obama would be dropping by our first real “home” (across the street from our current office) during his stop in Austin. (We weren’t so stoked about the closed streets and massive police presence, though).

During the Capital Factory pop-in, some SpareFeet got a glimpse of the president from the sidewalk outside our office, from the lobby of our office building or (barely) from our third-floor office. He even waved as his motorcade whisked past. (If we exited the building while the president was inside the Omni, we weren’t allow to re-enter. And we were shooed away from the parking garage that overlooks the hotel.) A few of us even got stare-you-up-and-downs from the Secret Service, and not in a “Hey, you’re cute and just my type” way. It was more like, “Hey, are you a threat to the safety of the leader of the free world?”

One of our co-founders, Mario, scored an invite to Capital Factory, complete with all of the security hassles that go along with a presidential visit. We’re bummed that Mr. Obama was running late for his appearance at Applied Materials, causing Mario to miss his opportunity to chat with the leader of the free world. Sadly, there wasn’t even a photo op. Mario did spot him, though.

All right, so Mario didn’t get to shake Mr. Obama’s hand. But at least the White House touted Mario and others in the Capital Factory crowd as “technology entrepreneurs who are creating the tools and products that will drive America’s long-term economic growth.”

The president’s first stop on the debut leg of his “Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity” tour was Manor New Technology High School in the Austin suburb of Manor. The school offers cutting-edge education in science, technology, engineering and math.

Mr. Obama told the Manor audience that he chose our area to launch the tour because he loves Austin “but also because there are some terrific things going on in this area, in communities like Manor.”

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“Now, there are three things that we’ve got to focus on to create more jobs and opportunity for the middle class,” the president said in Manor. “First of all, we’ve got to make America a magnet for good jobs. Second, we’ve got to help people earn the education and develop the skills they need to do those jobs. And number three, we’ve got to make sure that people who are working hard are able to achieve a decent living.”

Programs like Capital Factory and companies like SpareFoot are helping make those things happen.

“So folks around here are doing something right,” Mr. Obama said at the high school, “and I think the rest of the country can learn from what you’re doing—because I’ve always believed that the best ideas usually don’t start in Washington, they trickle up to Washington. So I’ve come to listen and learn and highlight some of the good work that’s being done.”

If you want to come back to listen and learn some more, Mr. President, Capital Factory has invited you to apply for a spot in the incubator program when you leave office in 2017. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Mr. Obama praised Capital Factory, directed by Josh Baer, as “a model for a lot of cities around the country.”

As for Mario and the rest of us at SpareFoot, we’d love to share our thoughts with you—and maybe even treat you to lunch—the next time you’re here, Mr. Obama. Oh, and Mario wants to challenge you to a game of foosball. Come prepared, Mr. President. Sure, you know your way around a basketball court, but can you conquer a foosball table?

Images courtesy of twitter.com/BaldMan and twitter.com/mattwensing

John is editor of The SpareFoot Blog. He first moved to Austin in 1999, when downtown Austin wasn't nearly as lively as it is today. John's loves include pizza, University of Kansas basketball and puns.

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