It’s Weird How Weird Makes Money

John Warner, a.k.a. The Swamp Fox, is a Greenville, SC-based venture capitalist. On his blog, he writes about the Greenville Chamber’s recent visit to Austin, TX–a city that has emerged as an entrepreneurial haven with the third-most venture capital investment in the country. In other words, the money is flowing in Austin. Warner asks why and considers what his own vibrant upstate community can do to share in some of Austin’s success.

People really enjoy living in Austin and are dedicated to preserving and celebrating their distinctiveness. Their attitude is captured in a bumper sticker: Keep Austin Weird. The distinctiveness of a city starts with its local, independent businesses, so Austin fosters the growth and development of local companies and doesn’t subsidize the mega chains that are making America look homogenized.
Austin nurtures folks — students, managers with new ideas and immigrants — who don’t fit into the power structures that exist in the community. On the plane ride to Austin, I sat next to a woman who had lived in Greenville only a year and told me how difficult it had been to get plugged into the leadership of our community. Now, if this was the only time I had heard this about Greenville, it would have been easy to write it off as an isolated case. But I hear it frequently, in particular from African Americans trying to become part of the leadership.
Leaders in Greenville don’t perceive that it is a tight, closed system. We think of ourselves as enlightened and open to new ideas and people. So where does the disconnect come from? It’s not uncommon to find major companies and other organizations in Greenville where almost all of the senior leadership has been in place 20 or 30 years. These leaders have deep relationships going back decades, and like anyone would, they tend to rely on people they have known and trusted for a long time.

Asheville, NC is another city that seeks to remain weird. I know not whether Greenville was ever weird for starters, but I welcome the fact that a Greenville VC with the power to back the weird is interested in doing so.
For more on Austin, see this 2003 report on SXSW. Perhaps, Greenville would like to consider launching SXSE.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. “Perhaps, Greenville would like to consider launching SXSE.” Now your talking! I’m trekking from Greenville to Chattanooga in a week and a half for CRE824 and I’m very curious to see what Chattanooga has that Greenville doesn’t (and vice versa). Though not exactly SXSE or CRE824, we did just launch phase 1 of the website for InnoVenture 2006. So maybe, we could all put our heads together and hold something SXSE-ish here in G-ville. I’ll handle the website 🙂
    As for keeping things weird, a similar discussion popped up a couple weeks ago over on Swamp Fox. It appears that several other cities have adopted this slogan (Boulder and Santa Cruz). How do you steal another city’s slogan? That totally defeats the purpose–especially when it’s regarding “weirdness” which implies some originality. On top of that, a slogan like “Keep _____ Weird” just promotes weirdness for weirdness’ sake. You get artificial shtick. That said, I might be able to support “Keep weirdness authentic.”

  2. Evan,
    CRE824 and InnoVenture both look to be spectacular events. Thanks for the heads up.
    I don’t think we can use the “hometown” word, given that we’re both Yankee interlopers. Other than that, I love the localisms. Thanks.

  3. Remember one thing: Weird is in the eye of the beholder. Greenville is the home of Bob Jones University and I think that place is pretty weird.

  4. Paul Todorovich says:

    SXSE (South by Southeast) is a charitable, non-profit group founded in 2003 that I am proud to be a member of that supports music education in the schools.
    We have been producing shows in Myrtle Beach, SC (currently at the renovated Train Depot). Please visit our website ( and try to join us for a show. Our next one features Scott Miller on 1-5-08.
    If you need help coming up with an original name for a similar venture we’d be happy to assist.