To Austinites, it is no secret that many residents are busy spending their time making the city and the world a better place but now, Austin is showing the rest of the country as well. Forbes' 30 Under 30 Class of 2021, which was released this week, features six Austinites who've made an impact in their respective industries, all under 30 years old.
Of the 600 total individuals on the list, from innovators to athletes to musicians, Austin has it all—just take it from these guys.
Alex Le Roux, 28
Humbled to be included in #ForbesUnder30 class of 2021!Feeling lucky to be inspired & challenged every day. Gratefu… https://t.co/mrqDa4hKtZ— Alexander Le Roux (@Alexander Le Roux) 1606886679.0
A Baylor University graduate and Austin resident, Alex Le Roux is changing the landscape of home building as we know it. Le Roux created the Vulcan, a 12-foot-tall 3D printer that can build houses entirely out of concrete in less than 24 hours for up to 30% cheaper. So far, Austin is home to 16 houses made by Le Roux's startup, Icon, which he founded alongside Evan Loomis and Jason Ballard, both over 30. Now, Icon is creating the first 3D-printed community for low income families in Mexico, has a contract to 3D-print barracks for the Department of Defense and is working with NASA to build structures on the moon.
Amobi Okugo, 29
Amobi Okugo may play defense for Austin Bold FC in his day job but aside from working on the field, he is working behind it. Born in California to Nigerian parents, Okugo has lived all over the country and now hangs his hat in Austin. Okugo founded A Frugal Athlete, a financial literacy company designed to help educate professional athletes on how to handle and maximize their profits, and runs the Ok U Go Foundation, which helps disadvantaged children discover their passions and become more active in their communities.
Conan Gray, 21
We felt like today was when we needed to relive when @ConanGray played #Heather during his Celebrity Session on… https://t.co/1rw4e1sqku— SiriusXM Hits 1 (@SiriusXM Hits 1) 1605139898.0
Hailing from Georgetown, Conan Gray started making music via YouTube when he was just 12 years old. Though Gray lives in Los Angeles now, he spent his "rough" childhood moving around the U.S., eventually settling in Texas, where he became inspired to write music. Gray has been praised by music legends like Taylor Swift and Elton John for his musical prowess, named an up-and-coming artist by MTV, YouTube and Apple; and sold out tours all over the world. Gray is best known for the tracks "Maniac" and "Heather" off his first full-length album "Kid Krow," which was released this year.
Graham Gaylor, 29
Self-proclaimed wearer-of-many-hats, Graham Gaylor co-founded VRChat, a virtual world-builder turned social network for its 9 million users to congregate in, in 2015. With over 20,000 users at any given time, VRChat users have created over 25,000 worlds and numbers are growing every day. Some people even use the platform to create skit-based narrative content on YouTube and Twitch. VRChat is taking off and has raised $20 million from backers like Rothenberg Ventures, GFR Fund and more.
Renji Bijoy, 29
🎉It's such an honor and a privilege to be elected as this year's @forbes 30 Under 30! 🔥🚀 So grateful for the innova… https://t.co/SQprd6j80f— Renji Bijoy 🚀 (@Renji Bijoy 🚀) 1606831633.0
Renji Bijoy, on the other hand, is providing a different use for VR. Bijoy founded Immersed, a company that partnered with Facebook to build VR office and productivity spaces with the tagline "be remote together" just in the nick of time for COVID-19. With $35 million in venture backing, the former Techstars company is bringing the office to you in a safe, yet familiar, way.
Skler Mapes, 28
Skyler Mapes' Italian husband grew up on an olive tree orchard, so when he couldn't have his Calabrian olive oil to cook with in Texas, it was a disappointment. The couple set out to rectify that issue by moving to Italy, harvest, mill, bottle, produce and export their own olive oil: EXAU olive oil. Now, you can get Italian olive oil in Austin—if you're fast enough—because there is a waitlist. EXAU's oil has been featured on the Food Network, Taste, TMZ and named one of Oprah's Favorite Things.
Austin is making a name for itself, special thanks to the movers and shakers of today.
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Live Music Capital of the World. Mecca of all things "weird." City of hippies, slackers and honky tonks—Austin's reputation was once synonymous with all things "cool."
But after three years as the top city to live in the U.S., Austin fell to No. 13 in the U.S. News & World Report's ranking this year.
For over a hundred years, Austinites have lamented that their city's charm is gone, and some continue to worry that the city has swapped too many of its grittier live music venues for gleaming corporate towers.
Has Austin's coolness taken a fall from grace? Here's a look at what could be affecting Austin's reputation.
Migration and affordability—not so cool
3. The median priced home costs $635K, while the median Austin resident can only afford a $438K home.— Nik Shah 🏡 (@NikhaarShah) June 16, 2022
This affordability gap of $187K is 3x higher than at the national level! pic.twitter.com/CH036nj8Nn
There can always be too much of a good thing–including dating profiles bragging about packing up and moving to Austin.
Austin saw a higher growth rate than any other U.S. city from 2010-2020 as the metro attracted 171,465 newcomers in a decade.
With highly publicized move-ins including billionaire Elon Musk, podcaster Joe Rogan and tech HQs, came a gaggle of Californians eager to eke out a living in the burgeoning "boomtown" paradise.
An affordability crisis ensued.
Young people, who often serve as the drumbeat of a city's "coolness," are quickly being priced out amid skyrocketing rent. While a Rent.com study ranked Austin as one of the best cities for young professionals in 2022, the city's share of 20-24-year-old residents was 7.5% of the population in 2019—down from 8.6% in 2010.
And the so-called "slackers" that helped make Austin famous are now struggling to survive in a city where the median price for a home is now $550,000, especially as many in the city's creative class make well below a living wage.
Live music and things to do—still cool
The outside, Zilker, Towne Lake, Barton Springs, dozens of decent hiking within the area. This is the advantage, do the free outside stuff (Austin has wonderful patio restaurants, etc but then the 💵 goes) More time inside less advantage to living here.— Trust_w/o_Journey_Is_Compliance (@runningman902) June 7, 2022
Austin was famously dubbed the "Live Music Capital of the World" in 1991 when officials discovered that the city had more live music venues per capita than anywhere else in the U.S. And with 46.4 venues per 100,000 residents in 2018, that mantra remained largely true for years.
After the worst of the COVID pandemic, which was estimated to shutter up to 70% of music venues in the Red River Cultural District alone, the city's live music scene has worked hard to bounce back. The city now has the fifth-highest number of small music venues per capita in the nation and comes in at No. 4 among the best live music cities in the U.S., per a 2022 Clever.com study.
And many of Austin's unique attractions remain timeless. While paddle boarding on Town Lake has become overcrowded and even caused swimmer's itch for some, outdoor attractions like Barton Springs Pool, the Barton Creek Greenbelt and other Hill Country swimming holes remain a popular pastime.
And while the coolness of Sixth Street has become riddled with violence and safety concerns, the city still boasts plenty of nightlife districts.
Instead of the Armadillo Den of Austin yore, the new Austin boasts bachelorette party entertainment on West Sixth Street, intimate concerts in East Austin and a refuge for tech professionals on booming Rainey Street.
Keeping Austin Weird—barely hanging on
If you know...you know pic.twitter.com/auDQyVurUy— Evil MoPac (@EvilMopacATX) September 3, 2021
Leslie Cochran, the high-heel-wearing homeless man who personified the "Keep Austin Weird" movement, is long gone. In his place are controversial attempts at keeping that mindset alive, including an Instagrammable sculpture of the mantra approved by the city's Historic Landmark Commission in February.
But pockets of that signature Austin feel still exist. It's not uncommon to see Sam Greyhorse riding on his horse on South Congress.
And while South Congress is losing longtime businesses and gaining luxury retailers in its new Music Lane development, other areas—like Barton Springs—still retain their carefree, old Austin feel.
New "weird" strongholds have cropped up as well, like Austin FC's Q2 Stadium, where 20,500 soccer fans gather to chant Austin's mantras, lift up inflatable chickens and celebrate their community.
"Cooler" alternatives emerge
Moving out of Austin is so good for your mental health.— 𝒟𝑜𝓁𝓁𝓎 𝒷𝒶𝒷𝓎 🥂 (@adeeoxox) July 30, 2021
Still, Austin's residents are facing the second-most overvalued housing market in the nation, and many are looking for greener—and cooler—pastures.
Instead of cross-continent moves, some new move-ins are now relocating to nearby cities, according to a Placer.ai study. The study found that Austin's "boomtown" status could already be overshadowed by new tech markets like Philadelphia, Phoenix and Raleigh, North Carolina.
And even within the state, Austin fell behind Dallas, Houston and San Antonio as Texas' most sought-after city.
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Austin has been in the national spotlight for more than extreme growth—the last two years have brought a handful of violent crimes, missing persons cases and shootings.
Some of the most heartbreaking cases have yet to be solved. Here's a small update on some ongoing, high-profile cases in Austin.
Moriah Wilson | Suspect still on the run
Star biker Moriah Wilson was found dead in her East Austin home.
Professional cyclist Moriah “Mo” Wilson’s alleged killer, Kaitlin Armstrong, is still on the run and was last spotted leaving LaGuardia Airport in New York City on May 14—three days before the Austin Police Department obtained a warrant for her arrest.
Wilson was shot to death in her home on May 11 just hours after she went swimming with fellow cyclist Colin Strickland, who Armstrong had previously dated. Strickland said it was never a secret that he dated 25-year-old Wilson and had “no indication” Armstrong would react violently, as she had been dating other people as well.
While Wilson’s family said they don’t believe she was romantically involved with anyone, the case is being investigated as a crime of passion.
Investigators believe Armstrong might be using her sister’s name, Christine Armstrong, in New York State. A $5,000 reward has been issued for information leading to her capture.
Timothy Perez | Missing since March 2022(Robert Perez)Conroe couple Robert and Sandra Perez haven’t seen their son, 32-year-old Timothy Perez, since he left to go visit his brother in Austin on March 5. The couple said he got lost and called Robert for help at 1 a.m. before the call disconnected.
"He said, 'Dad, come get me, I'm lost,'" Robert Perez told Austonia. "I said, 'Pull, over,' but he just hung up, and we were never able to get a hold of him."The Austin Police Department found Timothy’s car—cold and with an empty tank—around 15 miles from his brother’s home at 4:30 a.m. the same morning
Timothy was last spotted again that morning when Round Rock Police responded to a welfare check called in by St. William Catholic Church. RRPD photographed him, said Timothy refused to identify himself and left without incident; Timothy wasn’t reported missing until a few days later.
According to EquuSearch, Timothy’s phone pinged briefly in Conroe on March 16 but hasn’t been located since. RRPD officials said they believe Timothy is voluntarily missing based on his interaction with officers.
But his parents think Timothy might've suffered a nervous breakdown and still drive from Conroe to Austin every few days to look for their son.Due to the sighting at the church, APD closed its missing person case on April 8 but Round Rock Police still lists Timothy as missing.
Timothy is a 6'2, 180 lb. Hispanic man with shoulder-length black hair, a full beard, and brown eyes. Anyone with information on Timothy Perez's disappearance can call the family's private investigator at 512-844-7933.
Jason Landry | Missing since December 2020
More than 31,000 acres were combed through to find missing Texas State student Jason Landry. (Caldwell County Sheriff's Office)
Texas State University student Jason Landry went missing on Dec. 13, 2020, after his car was found abandoned in Luling as he was driving home from nearby San Marcos to Missouri City, Texas, for winter break.
Landry’s car was found crashed with keys still in the ignition and all of his personal possessions, including his clothing, some with drops of blood, and phone, but no one in sight.
As conspiracies have swirled around the internet about what might've happened that night, Capt. Jeff Ferry, who is the lead investigator on the case, said "no doubt this is a tragedy… but it’s not a crime.”
More than a year later, friends and family of Landry are still searching for him and have erected billboards reminding locals of his disappearance and offering a $10,000 reward: one going southbound on I-35 and another along U.S. Hwy. 183 north of Luling.
The billboards were leased for 13 weeks in April but they may extend the rental—meanwhile, the case is in the hands of the Texas Attorney General Cold Case and Missing Persons unit. Anyone with information is asked to call (512) 936-0742.
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