Tag: startups (Page 1 of 10)

Benish Shah Gives Startup Advice on the Ideas to Invoices Podcast

Benish Shah, courtesy photo

Benish Shah, a go-to-market strategist, specializes in growing companies via brand, revenue, and product.

She’s worked across tech, media, and consumer packaged goods. A licensed lawyer, she’s been published in Forbes, Refinery29, and more. She is also the author of two children’s books.

Shah co-founded and served as CEO of a fashion tech startup. She also served as director of marketing strategy at SAY Media, VP of Marketing at Raised Real, which was acquired by Once Upon a Farm, and head of product marketing at Refinery29.

Shah recently sat down with Silicon Hills News on the Ideas to Invoices podcast to talk about the startup ventures she’s been involved in and the lessons she’s learned.

She founded a legal startup to make legal services more affordable.

“The hourly rate felt a little antiquated,” Shah said. “It makes getting a lawyer almost inaccessible because you never know if something is going to cost a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars.”

She worked on creating a model for lawyers to do flat rate deals, which has become more common in the last decade, she said. Shah has never left the legal field and has found that her law degree has helped her in the various startup ventures she’s been involved in.

She left the legal startup to co-found a fashion startup, which used crowdfunded projects to decide how many garments to make. The company was way ahead of its time, Shah said.

“We were way too early on that concept,” Shah said. “It did not take off the way we wanted it to.”

There’s a market for it now, Shah said.

“You can have the best ideas but you can launch them at the wrong time,” she said. “And they won’t work.”

Shah is good at seeing a trend when it’s forming and not when it’s happening. And when people invest, they look at a trend that is already happening.

“You have to know the trends that are appearing and then you launch when the market is ready for them,” she said.

Many pioneers survive because they come from some kind of backing that allows them to continue operations without going bankrupt, Shah said.

More funding and opportunities are becoming available to women and people of color but only because people of color are tenacious and they’ve demanded changes, Shah said. They’ve taken a chisel to the concrete ceiling and the black community has been working on this for decades, she said.

“The breakthroughs that are happening are not actually breakthroughs, they are years of labor both emotional, physical, and financial from these communities that have gotten us to where we are,” she said.

There are a ton of new VCs and seed funds focused on under-represented founders, but we don’t know yet what that means or how that is going to come out, she said.

The traditional markers that many investors look for in entrepreneurs are not always present with under-represented founders. They may not have gone to an Ivy league school or worked in a particular job or industry. They may not have an extensive network of well-connected friends and family members.

“When those markers don’t exist and that’s not what you’re using to make a decision, that to me is a true breakthrough if you’re able to do,” Shah said. “And that’s what I’m watching.”

Companies, firms, and organizations that have hired people of color also need to support them and make sure they are given the resources to succeed, she said.

Most recently, Shah moved from New York to Dallas to be closer to her family. She also co-founded COVID Tech Connect, a non-profit that raised more than $10 million in less than 6 months to help during the COVID 2020 crisis. The nonprofit organization raised the money to put tablets into the hands of COVID-19 patients in ICUs across the nation so they could say their last goodbyes to family members and loved ones.

Shah also launched the first-ever product marketing course at General Assembly to help more women get into the technology and product field.

For more, listen to the entire podcast, pasted below, or wherever you get your podcasts – available on Google play store, Apple iTunes, Spotify, PlayerFM, Libsyn, and more.

Austin-based Bandit Acquired by GoPuff

Photo courtesy of Bandit

GoPuff, a Philadelphia-based snack, and beverage delivery company, has acquired Austin-based Bandit, the App-only coffee shop founded by early Uber employee Max Crowley.

Bandit, founded in 2019, relocated its headquarters from New York to Austin in September of 2020 because it offered the startup an opportunity to experiment with curbside and drive-through technology in a booming city, according to a company blog post.

The financial terms of the acquisition of Bandit by GoPuff were not disclosed.

Bandit had raised an undisclosed amount of venture capital from Alex Pattis and four other investors, according to Crunchbase. GoPuff, founded in 2013, has raised $2.4 billion in venture capital to date.

Bandit is all about contactless delivery of a cup of premium coffee, matcha, or ice cream. It also offers sandwiches and local pastries. Bandit is a mobile app that allows customers to browse a menu, place an order and receive rewards for purchases. Bandit competes with Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts and other coffee shops.

“We’re proud to serve delicious coffee, a full matcha bar, exciting new treats like ice cream, and a menu full of local offerings like Tacodeli breakfast tacos, pastries from Texas French Bread, and other treats from Easy Tiger,” the company wrote in a blog post when it moved here last year.

Editor’s note: This story was briefly taken down because a representative from GoPuff said it was incorrect. GoPuff says the acquisition took place last year. A PR firm representing Bandit sent a release saying the acquisition took place last week. The story has been updated.

LitLingo Raises $7.5 Million for its AI-Powered Business Communications Platform

LitLingo, which makes specialized software that allows businesses to monitor and correct real-time communications, announced that it has raised $7.5 million.

Breyer Capital led the Series A round of funding with participation from former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano and existing investors LiveOak Venture Partners, Clarke Nobiletti and James Marsico.

To date, LitLingo has raised $9.5 million. It raised $2 million last August. LitLingo’s Co-Founders Kevin Brinig and Todd Sifleet met at Uber in San Francisco. They both moved to Austin and launched LitLingo in January of 2019.

The Austin-based startup employs artificial intelligence and natural language processing databases to help organizations communicate more effectively. LitLingo integrates with Slack, Zendesk, Gmail and Office 365.

The aim of LitLingo’s software is to help organizations communicate effectively and reduce litigation, compliance, and other problems. The software can flag questionable language in a real-time message before it is sent. LitLingo can also block message transmission and alert compliance teams for review.

 “LitLingo is an incredibly valuable tool in our new hybrid workplaces and positioned to be one of the most important players in the digital communications analysis and management space,”  Jim Breyer, Founder and CEO of Breyer Capital said in a news release.

“LitLingo is reimagining how we build culture and mitigate risk,” Sam Palmisano, Chairman of the Center for Global Enterprise and former CEO and Chairman of IBM said in a news release. “We have all seen the impact a few badly written emails can have on an organization. Yet, traditional approaches to compliance and risk mitigation are outdated, reactive, expensive, and hard to scale across large enterprises. LitLingo is a unique platform providing critical value to employees and organizations of all sizes.”

“LitLingo leverages artificial intelligence to proactively help good people avoid bad mistakes in the workplace and to help leaders foster a better workplace overall,” said Brinig, LitLingo CEO.

LitLingo plans to use the venture capital to hire key employees and double its headcount over the next 12 months at its Austin headquarters and remotely. Also, the company plans to spend money on product enhancements.

Legal Tech Startup CS Disco Files to go Public

Law scale rules regulations

CS Disco, a legal tech startup, filed papers with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering of stock.

The Austin-based company did not set a date to go public or a price for its shares, which will be traded under the stock ticker “LAW.”

CS Disco plans to use the proceeds from the stock sale for “working capital and other general corporate purposes, including developing and enhancing our technical infrastructure, solutions, and services, expanding our research and development efforts and sales and marketing operations, meeting the increased compliance requirements associated with our transition to and operation as a public company and expanding into new markets,” according to the filing. The company could also use the net proceeds to acquire complementary businesses, products, services, or technologies, but it doesn’t have any plans to do so right now.

CS Disco reported revenue of $68.4 million for 2020, compared to revenue of $48.5 million for 2019. It also reported a net loss of $29.8 million for 2020 and a net loss of $22.8 million for 2019.

The company gets less than 5 percent of its revenue from international sales, but it plans to expand further.

To date,  CS Disco has raised $161 million in venture capital, according to its filing. The company reported that it had $53.6 million of cash and cash equivalents as of March 31st, 2021.

CS Disco uses artificial intelligence and cloud computing to help lawyers and legal teams. As of March 31, 2021, the company reported it had 909 enterprises, law firms, legal services providers, and government organizations as its customers.

And the market is growing.

“Legal services is a massive, growing global industry that we believe is significantly underpenetrated by modern technology solutions,” according to the company’s filing. “According to Statista, total global legal services spend is forecasted to be $767 billion in 2021 and grow to $846 billion in 2023. Within legal services, DISCO Ediscovery addresses the ediscovery market. According to International Data Corporation, the worldwide ediscovery software and services market is forecasted to be $14.7 billion in 2021 and grow to $16.9 billion by 2024.”

Founded in 2013, CS Disco moved its headquarters from Houston to Austin in 2018. As of March, the company had 336 full-time employees.

Sana Partners with Proactive MD to Open a Health Care Clinic in Austin

Skyrocketing health care costs is a problem Sana, a health care startup, has set out to solve since its founding in 2017.

Recently, the Austin-based company took another step in that direction by announcing a partnership with Proactive MD to open a primary health care center, Sana MD in Austin. With the center, Sana and Proactive MD expect to improve care management and reduce health care costs, according to a news release.

The center is expected to open in late August, said Sheli Wibaux, Sana’s head of direct care. Sana MD will operate as a subscription-based unlimited care option to Sana’s health care members, Wibaux said. The nonprofit center will be located at 1715 W. 35th St. in Austin.

“Sana believes that exceptional, preventive-focused primary care is the most effective way to improve health outcomes,” Sana CEO and Co-founder Will Young said in a statement. “By establishing Sana MD as the foundation of our growing Sana Care ecosystem, we are empowering members to take advantage of free, high-quality primary care.”

Sana MD will include family medicine, urgent and preventive care, reduced cost-prescriptions through an in-house pharmacy, labs and diagnostics, chronic disease management, physical therapy and total wellness solutions including weight loss programs, diabetes education, stress management, smoking cessation, and wellness coaching. In addition, patient advocacy services will also be offered including mental health support and more.

“This partnership with Sana is a huge step toward our ultimate goal of transforming health care for the good of the patient,” John Collier, Proactive MD’s CEO, said in a statement. “We believe that primary care is the most powerful tool for risk management, cost containment, and overall patient wellbeing. Now that our Advanced Primary Care model has joined Sana’s innovative health plans, our positive impact on patient lives will be amplified in Austin.”

Sheli Wibaux, Sana’s Head of Care

Other Sana MD Centers could be rolled out to other locations if this one proves successful, Wibaux said.

“If we find the model works, we would like to expand this offering to our members nationwide,” she said.

Sana is providing access to Sana MD as an opt-in benefit to its members, Wibaux said. The clinic has the capacity to serve 2,500 members, she said. It also has a 24 hour, seven-day-a-week after-hours helpline and it also provides spots open for same-day appointments, she said.

Sana provides an alternative to big insurance providers like Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare, Cigna, and Humana. It competes with them by providing insurance that is, on average, 30 percent cheaper, according to the company. Sana’s platform covers health, vision, dental, telemedicine, and maternity, in addition to benefits like ClassPass. Sana moved to Austin in 2018 from San Francisco.

Outdoorsy Raises $120 Million in Financing and Launches Roamly, its Insurance Division

A Young Couple Parked Van at a Viewpoint of Lake Tahoe

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck last March, initial bookings to rent Recreational Vehicles plummeted but that didn’t last long.

“Covid was a big, big spike for the company,” said Jeff Cavins, Outdoorsy’s co-founder and CEO. People realized they could quarantine in RVs and maintain freedom of movement in a controlled environment, he said. As a result, RV sales and rentals are at all-time highs, he said.

A record 20 million people visited Outdoorsy’s RV and outdoor travel marketplace last year and 89 percent of the renters were from Generation Z or Millennials, Cavins said. Today, more than 11 million U.S. households own an RV, according to the RV Industry Association.

“The upswing in RV ownership over the last 10 years is driven by strong interest from younger individuals and families who live an active outdoor lifestyle and Baby Boomers who are entering retirement,” according to the association. That trend only strengthened during the Pandemic because work-from-home arrangements encouraged more people to move and a shortage of houses also prompted people to look for alternative home arrangements like RVs, Cavins said.

In addition, there are thousands of people running businesses on Outdoorsy running mobile bed and breakfast businesses. In fact, one businessman in Atlanta made $8.2 million on Outdoorsy renting out RVs, Cavins said. And a 28-year-old woman in California earned $2.2 million last year, he said.

Jeff Cavins, Outdoorsy’s co-founder and CEO

Outdoorsy’s marketplace is open to anybody that has an RV – anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. Among its most popular rentals are Class C RVs which have a bunk over the cab that are popular with families and Class B RVs which are camper vans popular with couples.

The most popular destinations include anything in the Southwest, Cavins said. Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Montana are popular destinations for RV rental customers, he said. It also changes with the weather, he said. Florida is popular in the Winter.

The nomadic life seems to suit the Lone Star State. Texas is the number one market for RV purchases in the world, Cavins said. That makes it a great home base for Outdoorsy, which moved its headquarters to Austin in 2018.

And to further fuel growth in the RV industry, Outdoorsy announced Thursday that it has raised $120 million in equity and debt financing. To date, the company, founded in 2015, has raised more than $220 million.

Outdoorsy has 90 employees in Austin and 105 overall in Texas. The company has a total of 250 employees and is hiring.

Outdoorsy’s $120 million raise includes a $90 million private placement equity round led by Moore Strategic Ventures, ADAR1 Partners, Monashee Capital, SiriusPoint, and Convivialite Ventures, the corporate venture group of Pernod Ricard, with participation from existing investors Altos Ventures, iAngels, and Greenspring Associates. Pacific Western Bank provided the $30 million debt facility.

Outdoorsy Launches Roamly

Outdoorsy plans to use the funds raised to scale its operations and to drive growth and expansion of Roamly, its insurtech business.

“Roamly’s digital annual insurance product recently came out of beta in the U.S.” Cavins said.

Outdoorsy created the product in response to a problem its customers encountered in the RV rental industry. RV owners couldn’t get their insurance companies to cover their RVs when they rented them out to others because the insurance industry doesn’t view the RVs as commercial vehicles, Cavins said. So Outdoorsy created an insurance product for RV owners who want to rent their RVs to others on Outdoorsy’s marketplace.

“Roamly is insurance that moves with you,” Cavins said. “It’s a very unique insurance product.”

The world of RVs is viewed by the insurance industry with a unique classification like jet skis or snowmobiles and it basically considered a toy, Cavins said. And so, they don’t want them commercialized, he said.

“We’ve solved this problem,” Cavins said. “We’ve been working on it for over three years.”

Outdoorsy plans to expand Roamly’s market in the U.S. and Canada and launch Roamly in Europe, Cavins said. It will also aid in the expansion of Outdoorsy’s new accommodations venture with Collective Retreats, he said.

Earlier this month, Outdoorsy announced it is expanding its outdoor experiences portfolio by partnering with outdoor luxury accommodations operator Collective Retreats. The companies will work jointly to build a suite of offerings designed to cater to road travelers and guests looking for an elevated outdoor accommodation experience.  For example, Collective Retreat specializes in “glamping” or high-end camping experiences with good food and wine and champagne in places like Vail, Aspen and Governor’s Island, New York. Outdoorsy will offer its customers access to Collective Retreats services like good food and wine. It will blend glamorous camping with RV camping in select locations.

Iris Plans Lands $5.1 Million to Take the Pain out of Managing Long-Term Illness

Andrew Chen, Dr. Stephen Bekanich and Steve Wardle, co-founders of Iris Plans

Publisher with Silicon Hills News

For Dr. Stephen Bekanich, treating long-term illnesses early on with advance care planning is a personal mission.

Dr. Bekanich’s grandmother had metastatic breast cancer and his grandfather had dementia.

“Even as a physician I felt ill prepared to be able to take them through this,” Dr. Bekanich said.

Their illnesses prompted Dr. Bekanich to switch his medical practice to become one of the nation’s experts on palliative care, an approach to improve the lives of patients and families suffering from long-term illnesses by creating a plan early on to deal with the treatment of physical problems like pain and emotional distress. He saw a huge shortage of palliative care doctors nationwide and some patients didn’t have access to a program because of geography.

At his children’s school, Dr. Bekanich met Andrew Chen, who at the time was senior director of product management at Spredfast, and previously principal product manager with BazaarVoice. Together, they founded a predecessor company to Iris Plans, with the idea of offering advanced care planning to people with serious medical conditions through video.

For the first 10 months, Dr. Bekanich and Chen bootstrapped the previous company and then Lee Walker, former president of Dell and a mentor of Dr. Bekanich, asked them to pitch to a group of investors. Steve Wardle, who previously worked as regional CEO for the Grameen Foundation, a microfinance nonprofit organization, in Africa, was in the audience that day. He also has a background in commercial and investment banking.

“At the end, Steve said the idea is great, but the business model needs some work. Let’s see if we can shore that up a little bit,” Dr. Bekanich said. The three decided to re-form the company and create Iris Plans, with Wardle joining as co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. The three founders have been together working on Iris Plans since 2015.

Iris Plans on Wednesday announced it has raised $5.1 million in venture capital led by New York City-based Activate Venture Partners, and Austin-based LiveOak Venture Partners. Other investors include Oakland-based impact investor Better Ventures.

Iris Plans has gotten a lot of customers since its launch. Initially, the company went directly to the consumer. Now it delivers its service through partnerships with large national healthcare providers and health insurance companies who cover 100 percent of the cost for their members. Its customers include Humana and Brookdale Senior Living Inc., the largest assisted living provider in the country.

Iris Plans offers Advanced Care Planning services to patients and their caregivers through interactive online tools and live video conference sessions with specialized care facilitators. It then documents detailed medical directives for patients to help them receive future care in-line with their preferences.

“We want to make this effortless for patients and families,” Dr. Bekanich said. “We’re dealing with a population that is very vulnerable. They are going through significant stressors. They don’t want razzle-dazzle and all kinds of bells and whistles. They want their connections to the healthcare system to be as simple and effortless as possible.”

Iris Plans currently has nine full-time employees and 15 part-time workers. It expects to add five full-time employees and 10 part-time employees by the end of the year. The company, based in 3,000 square feet at 2121 E. Sixth Street, has room to grow.

Iris Plans can also save up to 25 percent on healthcare costs, Wardle said.

“If you look at the U.S. compared to other countries, we spend two and a half times more than the average, per person, on healthcare and our outcomes are towards the bottom,” he said. “In short, we’re getting a bad value right now. And there are complex reasons for that.”

“In general, there is an opportunity for our healthcare system to deliver much better value to people,” he said.

Sixty percent of personal bankruptcies are driven by medical costs that are just out of control, Wardle said. There’s a lot of room to help in that, he said.

Iris Plans is aimed at improving quality of care, improving the experience and lowering the out of pocket costs for the patients, Wardle said.

The number one reason LiveOak Venture Partners invested in Iris Plans is the impressive team to go tackle this market opportunity, said Krishna Srinivasan, general partner at LiveOak Venture Partners.

It’s a huge market opportunity and Iris Plans has already gotten huge traction, Srinivasan said.

“We all have loved ones, we all see the importance of this category called advanced care planning, there is plenty of evidence right now about the importance of this both from a cost and as well as from patient wellbeing and families wellbeing perspective. There is just a real need for advanced care planning – this is something we are convinced about,” Srinivasan said.

This is LiveOak Venture Partners’ third healthcare investment and its 20th portfolio company. It has also invested in NarrativeDX and Digital Pharmacist, both based in Austin.

The need for advanced care planning is seen across all populations whether it’s Medicare, Medicaid or the commercial healthcare system, Dr. Bekanich said.

“These serious illnesses that we’re tackling they are on the rise concurrently with the aging population that we have,” he said. “So, we are looking at heart disease, COPD, emphysema, stroke, late-stage cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, end-stage kidney failure or kidney disease – we don’t have cures for those things. They are illnesses that people live with for a prolonged period – years, sometimes decades.”

There is $210 billion spent every year on unnecessary care, Wardle said.

“A lot of that is spent on the population that has a serious chronic illness,” he said. “Ultimately, that leads to a bad experience for them. It leads to high out of pocket costs for them. It leads to a lot of stress on the family. And not necessarily the right trade-offs people think they are getting. That population is set to double and triple in the coming years. We have a rapidly aging population. And as people are getting older in the U.S., they are experiencing these kinds of conditions.”

There are a lot of barriers preventing doctors from doing advanced care planning, Wardle said.

“And the physicians want it,” Dr. Bekanich said. “They feel like it’s important like it’s necessary. We even have feelings of guilt or shame when we don’t have the discussions. But it’s almost impossible for physicians to do this with any kind of consistency or scale because of conversations are filled with conflict and they are very unpredictable in terms or how long they are going to last. They are time intensive. They are very emotional. So if you are having a bunch of these it’s easy to feel burnt out or spent. And we don’t teach people how to have these conversations.”

“That’s not part of what we learn in medical school. We learn to be great technicians, and surgeons, and diagnosticians and so forth, when a lot of the problems in this serious illness population could be handled much better with a conservation than an order for a new test or procedure.”

“For Iris Plans, because it’s technology enabled, it allows people to do this off-hours, after work, on the weekend, whatever is convenient. We can serve them virtually” Chen said.

11 Startups Join DivInc’s Latest Accelerator Program

DivInc Cohort Three, courtesy photo

In 2016, Preston James, Ashley Jennings, and Dana Callender founded DivInc to bring greater entrepreneurial diversity to Austin’s technology industry.

The 12-week accelerator program, based at Capital Factory, has graduated two cohorts so far and made a big impact on providing women and minorities with greater access to mentors, funding, partnerships and the overall inner workings of the local tech industry.

To date, 18 companies and 24 founders have participated in the DivInc program. They’ve collectively raised nearly $600,000, according to a news release.

On Tuesday, DivInc announced 11 new startups, run by eight women and seven men, for its third accelerator program, which begins Sept. 5th.

The numbers are bleak for funding for diverse founders, with “only three percent of VC funding going to women founders and less than two percent going to African American and Latino founders,” according to a news release.

“Just think about the socioeconomic impact an inclusive, innovative tech startup ecosystem will have,” Preston James, co-founder, and CEO of DivInc said in a news release. “With the population shifting to 51 percent people of color by 2040, it’s not only imperative but essential that these demographic groups be major contributors to economic growth in the U.S. Imagine in Austin alone…with a potential backlog of 1,000 tech entrepreneurs of color and women, and if on average, one out of 25 became successful entrepreneurs that creates 100 jobs and $5 million of wealth. That would translate to 4,000 jobs and $200 million in revenue contributed back to the city.”

The third DivInc cohort includes the following:

● Dr. Jennifer Davis and Stephanie Cantú, founders of Data Bot Box (AI and psychology)

● Dion Jones, founder of enautics (B2B SaaS)

● Roman Gonzalez, founder of Gardenio (Marketplace for Gardeners)

● Shambrekia Wise, founder of FuzeU (Education Tech)

● Yogi Patel, founder of iuzeit (Mobile App)

● Wes Riddick and Cristina Rodgers, founders of Maximus Box (Retail Tech)

● Sara Brinton, founder of Penguino Travel (Travel Tech)

● Stephanie Labay, founder of Retreat Place (Travel and Wellness Tech)

● Anna Renery and Dan Driscoll, founders of Sponsorfy (MarketPlace)

● Ashley Behnke, founder of Spot Loc8r (Mobile App)

● Airion Watkins-Clark and Ethan Isaacson, founders of WutzGood Inc. (Mobile App)

At the conclusion of the program on Nov. 30th, the startups will pitch their startups at a Demo Day event.

WeWork is Already Full and Looks to Expand in Austin and Texas

Special Contributor to Silicon Hills News

WeWork Congress, photo courtesy of the company

WeWork Congress, photo courtesy of the company

WeWork, a startup that offers short-term leases to businesses in need of office space, has expanded to Austin and, despite only having launched in February, is already operating at full capacity with over 500 members.

The New York-based company currently operates in cities across the globe, including major cities in the United States, Israel, U.K. and in Amsterdam. Occupying an office space in the heart of downtown Austin, on the corner of Sixth Street and Congress Avenue, WeWork Congress marks the startup’s first expansion into Texas.

Adam Neumann, the company’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said the WeWork brand is largely about cherishing collaborative experiences, and working together to find new solutions for problems.

“It’s about being a global citizen for the world,” Neumann told Silicon Hill News during a launch party in March.

Bob Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet, who also attended the party, said signing five-year or three-year leases can be burdensome to young and small companies. By offering solutions for this problem, he believes that companies like WeWork help the city foster a better atmosphere for entrepreneurs.

“These leases are for 30 days, and it’s a very ‘hip’ space,” Metcalfe said. “They have aimed it right at the small business community, so it’s just a fantastic thing.”

Photo courtesy of WeWork

Photo courtesy of WeWork

In all 30 of its locations, WeWork offers its members rates on monthly leases, which are sold as packages with various amenities, such as free wireless Internet and printing. Members can also take advantage of open lounging areas that can be used for large social events or casual networking.

WeWork also connects its members to resources that help them manage their business, including discounted rates on health insurance plans and affordable solutions for payroll services.

Rates for the Austin location currently range from $45 to $350.

“It’s this idea of allowing you to focus what you’re super passionate about, but also having a culture of openness and collaboration,” Vice President of Business Development Matt Shampine said.

Shampine said Austin’s vibrant community of entrepreneurs, as well as the city’s unique personality are, largely in part, what caught the expansion team’s attention. During its expansion to central Texas, which took a little over year, Shampine said that the team reached out to local industry leaders as well as the Austin Chamber of Commerce to get in touch with the city’s business community.

“We try to be a part of the transformation of a neighborhood, so in terms of where we could have had our first location in Austin, this is an awesome spot,” Shampine said.

Shampine, who operated his own design and development agency out of a WeWork office space before officially joining the company in 2011, now oversees the company’s business operations. He said the startup will preserve the qualities that first attracted businesses to its spaces during its infancy as it plans for further expansion.

In 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported that the startup was valued at about $5 billion and speculated that the company was planning to go public within the next several years.

Austin is already the home to more than a dozen different coworking office space providers, such as Tech Ranch and Capital Factory that also offer businesses short-term leases. The diversity of its membership base, Shampine said, is what makes WeWork coworking spaces unique from similar shared workspaces.

“Our membership includes tech startups as well as independent lawyer firms. We also have people in accounting, public relations and marketing,” Shampine said. “Everyone here can help each other be more successful, because they each provide a different service.”

Whurley (William Hurley), co-founder of financial technology startup Honest Dollar, was one of the first members to join WeWork Congress. The seasoned serial entrepreneur said he was reeled in by the potential of expanding his business to the other WeWork locations around the world.

“We’re already looking at offices in New York and San Francisco,” Hurley wrote in an email. “The international capabilities were a huge draw for us.”

Honest Dollar, which launched during SXSW, offers small businesses affordable and transparent retirement plans for their employees. Since its launch, the company has grown to 20 people from its original two founders.

“More important than the facilities are the quality of startups we’re around; it’s super inspirational,” Hurley said. “And since startups are our client base, we literally have an office inside a floor full of potential users.”

Photo courtesy of WeWork

Photo courtesy of WeWork

Mark Lapidus, head of Real Estate at WeWork, who answered questions via email, said that the company is currently looking at potential properties for a second location in Texas. Lapidus also wrote that the company has made plans to expand the current office space in the fall.

A small team manages day-to-day operations and organizes social events for its members at each WeWork location.

“All of our community management teams use technology for supporting members, as well as for promoting collaboration in each location and across the globe,” Carly Langley, community manager of the Austin branch, wrote in an email. “Our digital team has built amazing products for us to manage our communities seamlessly.”

Hojun Choi is a student in Professor Rosental Alves’ Entrepreneurial Journalism Class at the University of Texas at Austin.

Silicon Hills News’ Latest Magazine on Tech Startups Taking Off

Farewell Atlantis
Founder of Silicon Hills News

Rockets launching are a symbol of Texas’ rich history in the space industry.

Although innovation has become a buzzword in many circles it still rings true in Texas and the neighboring states of Louisiana and Mississippi, which all have NASA facilities.

Space exploration is at that heart of innovation.

First, the nation raced to put astronauts on the Moon. Mission accomplished. Next, NASA built Skylab and then took 10 years and 30 missions to complete the International Space Station. In September, NASA announced a $6.2 billion contact with private companies SpaceX, a startup, and Boeing to shuttle astronauts to the ISS.

And now NASA has sets its sights on taking humans to Mars.

Talk about big ideas. Texas has ideas as big as the state. And that’s evident when you look at the tech startups coming out of Central Texas. They aim to tackle big problems and deliver clever solutions.

The ecosystem of investors, law firms, accountants, public relations firms, accelerators and incubators, banks, universities, government departments, chambers and support agencies all help to make this a strong region for technology and innovation. But it’s the people who make things happen. And in this issue, you’ll meet one of them, Jacqueline Hughes, creator of the Austin Startup Week. And we’ll introduce you to even more people who make up the great tech scene in our next issue.

For now, enjoy these stories of entrepreneurs creating something from nothing and pushing the envelope of innovation.

Without a doubt, the tech industry is white-hot and taking off in Austin and San Antonio. The sky is the limit.

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