What's Your Why?

Albert Swatner

I started Sway water because I think that food and beverage companies generally use sugar to get children and adults alike addicted to their products.  They are not made with real ingredients or made to be healthy.  Thats where what we are doing is different, this has no sugar and is made straight from the earth.  The recipe is healthy and simple.  We are trying to prove that we can make something healthy and simple and still have a profitable and successful company without taking shortcuts and compromising on quality.

Founder: Albert Swatner
Company: Swaywater

Press Releases

BLNDED Media, Listed As One of The 150 Finalists for 50 on Fire!

Austin is a dynamic city with a business culture that is always drawing comparisons to the coasts, whether we want them or not. Here’s the thing — the fact that Austin, a metro area of 2 million, is drawing these comparisons goes to show how robust and capable our ecosystem truly is. We have one of the nation’s most innovative universities, incredible entrepreneurs and of course a quality of life that everyone is envious of that make our innovation ecosystem the top in the country.

And that’s why we host 50 on Fire.

50 on Fire is our annual awards show where we celebrate all those people who are truly instrumental to Austin’s top billing as a place to live and do business. We’re celebrating the founders who have created multiple companies, the marketers who are bringing our companies to the masses, the technologists and engineers whose knowledge base is elevating the skills and abilities of future generations of developers. We’re celebrating the people whose incubators have churned out high-caliber companies and the people who are drawing national attention and dollars to Austin. We’re celebrating the people and companies who are on fire.

Below are the 150 finalists for this year’s event, broken down into 8 categories: B2B Tech, Consumer Tech, Hardware, Health & Life Sciences, Marketing & Advertising, Lifestyle, Social Impact and Supporters (Investors, Incubators, Mentors & More). We had some incredible nominations and it was a challenge to narrow it down to 150.

Finally, here’s what happens next with 50 on Fire. Next week, we’ll host a 3-day photo shoot with every finalist. We then send a complete judging packet to a group of influencers and thought-leaders to select their top third in each category. We’ll be announcing the judges, along with a November ‘Meet the Judges’ meetup. Then, over the next month, we cut together a 15-minute video of the winners that’s revealed LIVE at 50 on Fire. (Early Bird tickets are on sale; grab them now!)

Press Releases

Our Founder/CEO Featured in Diverse Entrepreneurs to Watch in Austin

Austin has won countless accolades for its fast-moving startup scene, ballooning tech sector and chart-topping population boom. But there’s another story happening. The percentage of African Americans in Austin has decreased over the past two decades as the flow of predominately white tech workers has helped fuel the growth of the tech sector and driven up the cost of living.

Austin’s entrepreneurial spirit — and the addition of big offices for companies like Apple and Oracle — create a lot of opportunities for people of all races. But major questions remain, for both the global tech community and the city of Austin.

Naji H. Kelley, founder of BLNDED Media: Launching in October 2016, BLNDED Media is a platform where underrepresented entrepreneurs can tell their story to inspire, educate and inform other underrepresented entrepreneurs.

Check out the complete story over at Austin Inno.

What's Your Why?

Brandon Miller

“When I was twelve years old – I vividly remember walking my neighbors dog in the hot sun, going to a family friend’s house to pull weeds, or pushing my dad’s lawnmower around the block cutting grass – all for my self-made business “Let B Do The Job.” I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset and always loved the idea of “being the boss” and marching to the beat of my own drum. Growing up witnessing my dad’s leadership and business acumen mixed with my mom’s creativity, as well as her entrepreneurial spirit is honestly what lead me to becoming an entrepreneur.

When I officially started my first business, I simultaneously was also studying biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech. This is where I realized how passionate my peers and I were about our side-hustles. We discussed the books we were reading and workshops we attended to better our businesses, and struggled with the fact that many of these resources featured business men and women that looked nothing like us. My co-founders and I then knew it was time for an organization to cultivate black businesses that supported the challenges we face and to promote the positivity and genius my fellow entrepreneurs possessed.

The Black Burdell, Inc. was then born in Atlanta, the Mecca of Black Business, with the purpose of nurturing the many seeds of black-owned businesses and cultivating young, black entrepreneurs. Our goal is to build a supportive community where we all can help one another, similarly to Black Wall Street in the 1920s. We aim to crowdsource the knowledge of fellow entrepreneurs; not only to teach entrepreneurs how to turn their passion into a paycheck, but also how to be a support resource for one another.”

Founder: Brandon Miller
Company: The Black Burnell

What's Your Why?

Ruben Cantu

“In 2007, I realized that while so many people were gaining access to create media, the mainstream’s focus was still on content that had no solid and profound impact. The majority of their focus centered on stories that had a short term reward but had no actionable positive message. When questioned about why they decided on producing these projects, their reply was, “because it is what the audience wants” without truly considering the audience as a whole. I was at a crossroads in my career, and contemplating on starting from the bottom all over again. I had to make a decision on whether to create content that was easily sellable or create content that could actually make a difference in our world.

I decided to take a risk and start telling stories that focused on the human condition, not just on the surface, but actually pushing beyond in hopes to connect with each viewer’s heart and mind.

Unwilling to settle for the status quo, and taking my lessons from my first company I was forced to reconsider my career that I had built up to this point. The very culture that helped me get to this point was now conflicting with my core values. I could either ignore it or decide to start all over. Determined that a new way path lie ahead, I had a deep reflection where I came to grips on what really mattered in life. This is where CORE was conceived. Its goals are to touch people’s hearts and minds. We aim to provide stories that help our society reflect on its condition as citizens/humans/meaningful souls in order to spur progress in our society. We want to celebrate the unheard voices that have truly made a difference in their world, one in which we are all connected.”

Founder: Ruben Cantu
Company: Core Media Strategies

What's Your Why?

Roxana Castro

“working four years in the private industry, I learned a lot of process, indicators and how to be an “effective employee”, but the frustration and limitations of not having the liberty to make the final decisions, and involving in different areas at the same time, it made me feel incomplete. I felt I had the ability to do something bigger to bring a positive impact to my community but the leading reason was to live in a country where violence happens daily, poverty exceeds more than 50% of the population, and economic instability: It was impossible not thinking about the situation living in one of the most dangerous States in Mexico. So last year during my return to my hometown of Tamaulipas I meet Benjamin and Anahí, a couple of artisans of Guerrero unable to sell their products in days and unable to feed their families I took action to start a venture called Akumal Shop with the hopes to help the most vulnerable communities in Mexico and Latin America to alleviate poverty.”
Founder: Roxana Castro
Company: Akumal Shop
What's Your Why?

Alejandra Rodriguez Boughton

“During my career in the finance industry working in investment banking I felt something was missing in my life. So I decided to go back to school and earn an MBA to help me transition into a new career. But when faced with the question: would you rather work 40 hours for a paycheck or 80 for something you care about, I choose the latter. Clueless on what to do next, I gravitated towards something I love: authentic Mexican food. I was having issues sourcing the ingredients I needed, so I started growing these rare ingredients in containers and a DIY­-hydroponic setup. One day in the shower, it hit me: there’s probably a better business opportunity fulfilling sourcing gaps of rare ingredients for local restaurants than starting another food joint and La Flaca was born.”

Alejandra Rodriguez Bou
Company: La Flaca

What's Your Why?

Lan Chu

“Growing up, I never thought “I’m gonna be an entrepreneur,” but I knew that I wanted to make a difference. Raised in Vietnam, I was brought up in an entrepreneur environment. Now when I visit my birth place, I realized all my family members are entrepreneurs. They wake up early and hustle their way through life by working hard. I’ve always known that somewhere deep down, business is instilled in my blood, so now I’m leading my life with it.

I worked with Vi on projects 3 years prior to when she asked me to hop on to cofound “Homads.” I said yes immediately because I knew we both worked well in the past together, but I didn’t realize it was more than just starting a company. I went in with minimal experience of what a startup should be, and didn’t realize that I was going to be in a “startup.” It’s been over a year since we started Homads and I am very blessed to have a wonderful cofounder. We have grown up so much as individuals and collectively as business partners. Life with Homads is extremely fast pace, but it’s been a wonderful journey. There is so much I want to do in my existence, and Homads is where I will start this journey, but it will definitely not be the end of my venture to help others.”

Co-founder: Lan Chu
Company: Homads

What's Your Why?

Vi Nguyen

“I went to UT and double majored in sociology and documentary film. I was accepted into the UT School of Public Health in Houston and had planned to attend but my mom told me to try business for right now. She said if you aren’t happy or can’t survive working first, then think about getting your masters. This really changed how I thought since I was always pushed to prioritize education at such a young age.
My mom has always been a hustler and started her own alterations and dry cleaning business when I was young. She did not have a lot of support but still did it on her own. Now she is voted as one of the best tailors in DFW. She’s definitely the tough love type but has been very supportive of me as an entrepreneur. I come from a family of strong women so I don’t think it was a far fetch idea that I would strive to start my own business.
Lastly, from the last year I’ve been working with Homads, I’ve come to realize how much change you can create with startups. It’s an extremely empowering thing to realize and I’m super stoked to work in the startup scene.”
Founder: Vi Nguyen
Company: Homads
What's Your Why?

Joah Spearman

“Growing up poor and underprivileged, I learned that the thing that drives me the most is getting access to experiences and opportunities. Through entrepreneurship and through leading Localeur, I’ve been able to tap into a wellspring of unique experiences and opportunities that have opened up my own world and helped me to create pathways for others, be it in mentoring budding startup founders or in making it easier to support locally-owned businesses around the country.”

Founder: Joah Spearman
Company: Localeur