Austin: Entrepreneurial Breeding Ground?
With every new year comes a Forbes tradition: the “30 Under 30” list. Launched in 2011, the list includes a variety of entrepreneurs across a range of industries who are innovating and becoming successful in their respective fields. Since its inception, the list has become something of a staple for the magazine. This year’s list includes entrepreneurs in industries ranging from consumer tech to venture capital. Of the 600 total honorees, 1 percent all come from the same place: Austin, Texas. It’s no secret that the U.S. is home to some of the world’s largest contributors to innovative ideas and inventions, with Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and New York City all famous for their entrepreneurial activity. Could Austin be another such city?
Below I provide an overview of these year’s honorees from Austin:
Joshua Dziabiak, 29 & Adam Lyons, 29
Two young entrepreneurs included in Forbes’ list under the consumer tech category. They are both the co-founders of The Zebra, a search engine for auto insurance quotes. The duo’s company is turning heads and has attracted an astounding $23 million in venture funding. The Zebra is definitely a welcome application to anybody who has ever purchased car insurance before. The application allows users to instantly compare insurance quotes from over 200 insurance companies. With 50 employees, a large amount of funding and their names in the spotlight, these two are destined for great success.
Whitney Wolfe, 27
The second innovator from Austin is Whitney Wolfe. The founder and CEO of Bumble, Wolfe has created a dating network with a twist. Users can enter relevant information, such as their name, area, photo and interests, and view other users in an effort to make a connection. Although the application supports both men and women, only women can initiate contact. In an effort to give women the advantage of the situation, male users are not allowed to contact female counterparts. This is done to provide women with a safer environment within which to network and socialize. If the application sounds similar to Tinder, that’s because Ms. Wolfe was a co-founder of the insanely popular dating application and worked to market the app. As of this year, Bumble has 11 million registered users. Wolfe clearly has a knack for creating social networking applications that catch on.
Alex Schwartz, 29
Currently gaming is highest grossing sub-sector of the entertainment industry. From hardware and software sales to online multiplayer services to large gaming expos around the world, video games are no doubt a popular part of today’s world. And, as an ever-changing industry that is still fairly new (compared to other industries), one of gaming’s latest trends is virtual reality. It seems as if every major company involved in the industry is attempting to make their mark in VR, from Sony to HTC to the Valve Corporation. And at least one young Austin resident has his finger on the pulse and is making a name for himself. Alex Schwartz is CEO of Owlchemy Labs, a video game development company specializing in virtual reality video games. They achieved critical acclaim and notoriety with their first game Job Simulator. According to Forbes, Schwartz’s team is currently working on Rick and Morty VR, a virtual reality game based on the popular animated sitcom.
Miguel Garza, 29
Siete Family Foods
Miguel’s story is extremely personal and inspiring. Due to an autoimmune disease, Miguel’s sister is not able to eat grain, which prevented the family from eating any tortillas. Because of this, she was determined to find a way to devise a tasty tortilla that was grain-free. After some testing, Miguel’s sister, Veronica, found the perfect combination in an almond flour tortilla. After realizing the potential, Miguel began to market the new tortilla to a variety of grocery stores. Miguel is now the CEO of Siete Family Foods. Currently, the company makes over $1 million in revenue and has plans to roll out a line of grain-free tortilla chips at Whole Foods stores early this year.
Dominik Stein, 29
VERTS Mediterranean Grill
Not an Austin native, but a current resident, Dominik is the cofounder of VERTS Mediterranean Grill, which specializes in bringing European dishes to the United States. Originally from Germany, Dominik came to Austin to study abroad. After some time in America, he began to miss his favorite native dishes. And from that simple bit of homesickness, he built an incredibly successful restaurant chain. VERTS currently has 36 chains nationwide and a whopping $36 million in investment capital.
Six of America’s finest and most unique entrepreneurs of the year all stem from the same area. While Austin is no stranger to successful citizens, the fact that it is home to so many rising stars is proof alone that the city has the ability to produce talented individuals who are setting the bar for their respective industries.
For the full “30 Under 30” list, click here.