After yet another year of uncertainty for small businesses, local entrepreneurs still prevailed and continued to adapt to the world around them. Of the thousands of small business owners in Austin, 23 were named on Forbes’ Next 1000 list
The Next 1000 list is a year-round showcase for America’s small businesses and sole proprietors with under $10 million in revenue. The list is fueled by nominations to create four seasonal installments of 250 people redefining what business means to them. The list is still accepting nominees for the next installment.
More Austin-based companies were named than any other Texas city, though Dallas comes out on top if you include the full metro area of Fort Worth and Frisco, with 24 businesses.
Meet the entrepreneurs from Austin:
Antoinette Alexander Adefela | Exp.Design founder
After more than 10 years of consulting, Adefela started architecture and design firm Exp.Design at the onset of the pandemic and quickly scored big with her first client, Apple's Inclusion and Diversity team.
Nitin Agrawal | Cofounder and CEO of Interstride
Interstride was inspired in 2016 by the real-life experiences of Agrawal and cofounder Christian Eder, who moved to the U.S. several years back to pursue higher education. The result: an interactive portal to help close the opportunity gap for international students by putting community, job opportunities and visa guidance all in one place. Now, Interstride is used at more than 150 universities, including Duke University and UT Austin.
Tim Angelillo | Founder and CEO of Source Craft Cocktails
Austin-based company Source Craft Cocktails spurred to life after the COVID-19 pandemic rendered the bar industry inoperable for months with luxe cocktails delivered to your door. Source Craft Cocktails now serves more than 900,000 customers per day in 10 cities and holds virtual happy hours, called “Sourced Socials.”
Ruben Arias | Beereaders cofounder
Along with cofounder Luis Gringas, Arias started digital learning platform Beereaders to help close the reading comprehension gap among Spanish-speaking students. The platform has helped 135,000 students improve in their native language and has raised more than $2 million in venture capital funding.
Heather Emerson | Prep to Your Door founder
Farm-to-table meal delivery service Prep to Your Door was founded by Emerson after wrapping up a fashion career in New York City and cashing out her 401k savings. Though the service only delivers in Austin and Houston for now, the company has plans to expand nationally by 2024 and has doubled its revenue every year since it began.
Mbiyimoh Ghogomu | Tradeblock cofounder and CEO
Cofounded by Ghogomu, Tony Malveaux and Darren Smith, Tradeblock offers a social marketplace for sneaker collectors with barter-based transactions. Now with more than 38,000 users and 180,000 pairs of shoes, Tradeblock charges a service fee of up to $60 for sales.
Christopher Jane | Proper Good cofounder
Another clean eating company, Proper Good isn’t Jane’s first entrepreneurial endeavor. Proper Good started in 2020, eight years after Jane’s organic condiment company Montana Mex, and offers pre-made meals for all types of diets through its e-commerce platform.
Caren Kelleher | Gold Rush Vinyl founder
As the former head of Music App Partnerships at Google, Kelleher ordered vinyls to sell as merch for an indie band she managed and received them months too late. The late delivery inspired Kelleher to start Gold Rush Vinyl, making the manufacturing process three times faster than the industry standard with energy-efficient practices.
Ariel Lee | Remane cofounder
Personalized hair care company Remane is aiming to disrupt the Black hair care industry by offering personalized recommendations driven by machine learning to those with natural hair. Since starting the company in her junior year of college in 2018, Lee has received funding from Target Accelerators and Blackstone x Techstars.
Charles Li | V2 Admissions founder
At just 21 years old, Li started V2 admissions to help students achieve top-level university acceptance. With its master class on college applications, 150 clients and a three-step approach, V2 Admissions boasts that more than 95% of enrolled students attended one of their top three university choices.
Daniel Marcos | Growth Institute founder
Marcos is a serial entrepreneur who has founded several companies, including Hispanic-serving mortgage lender Unika Mortgage. Most recently, Marcos founded the Growth Institute, an executive coaching company with master classes and online programming. Growth Institute says it helps mid-market companies “scale up with less drama.”
Julia Niiro | MilkRun founder
In the pandemic sphere, a trip to the grocery store can be a formidable task, especially while many home cooks are searching for local alternatives in the kitchen. Niiro’s company MilkRun gives consumers a marketplace to buy produce, dairy and meats from local farmers and has since expanded to Portland and Seattle on top of Austin.
Victoria O'Connell | Golightly cofounder
After having her home burglarized by some renters in 2017, O’Connell started Golightly, a members-only home-sharing platform in 2020. Now with more than 7,000 members in 90 countries, Golightly offers an online and offline community for members to connect.
Janice Omadeke | The Mentor Method founder
Having already raised over $1.5 million in seed funding, The Mentor Method is a reinvigoration of tired corporate mentorship programs and has clients like Deloitte and Chegg. Omadeke did this by creating a double-blind algorithm that matches mentors and mentees, combating unconscious bias and helping increase workplace retention.
Jen Pinkston | La Paloma founder
Pinkston wants kids to be just as cozy at nighttime as their parents, so she created La Paloma, a children's and women's loungewear with garments made from 100% cotton. Now, La Paloma has more than 700 customers including Molly Sims and Meena Harris.
Alexandria Porter | Mod Tech Labs founder
After spending 15 years in the entertainment sphere, Porter created Mod Tech Labs in 2020 to fill a need for realistic content. The business uses machine learning to speed up digital content detailing.
Scotty Reiss | A Girls Guide To Cars founder
Giving women more agency in the auto industry, Reiss founded A Girls Guide to Cars in 2013 and has since gained a digital audience of more than 2 million. Reiss works with brands like Volkswagen, Lexus, Toyota and Cooper Tire while giving car tips on her blog.
Yash Sabharwal | CherryCircle Software cofounder
Working as COO at Xeris Pharmaceuticals, Sabharwal discovered that data management issues delayed product manufacturing and medical availability. Sabharwal cofounded CherryCircle with partner Ryan Shillington to help bridge the gap, accelerate treatments and provide products to patients at cheaper price points. CherryCircle has since raised $4.6 million in funding.
Krista Sampson | Argument-Driven Inquiry founder
Giving teachers tools to create the classroom resources they need, Sampson founded the company in 2015 for educators teaching grades 3-12. Argument-Driven Inquiry provides instructional materials for science, engineering and math teachers through a browser-based application
Benjamin Smith | Disco founder
After a lifelong skincare struggle, Smith started premium care line Disco to give men comfort and confidence in buying skin products. His face cleanser, eye cream, face masks and more are sold at Nordstrom with gender-neutral packaging. The company has raised over $5 million in funding and around $10 million in revenue.
Mark Stern | Custom Box Agency founder
When Stern launched a virtual events company in 2018, he didn’t expect the custom boxes to morph into his main offering just two years later. When the pandemic hit, Stern began to offer more than 100 types of packages to help onboard employees, foster business growth and build business relationships. Custom Box Agency made $450,000 in revenue in 2020.
John Paul Udenenwu | JP’s Pancake founder
A former college basketball player, Udenenwu began experimenting with pancakes for his coworkers while working at a Mexican restaurant. The experience led him to start the first deluxe pancake food truck in 2019, offering toppings like pecans, raspberries, bacon and cookie butter. Since, JP’s Pancake has served more than 20,000 customers.
Lauren Washington | Fundr cofounder
With a mission for bringing equal opportunity to the world of investing, four-time entrepreneur Lauren Washington created Fundr in 2020. Fundr is an online marketplace that automates seed investing by creating portfolios of AI-vetted startups for angel investors and institutional VCs—the company tested the algorithm at the Black Women Talk Tech pitch competition and correctly predicted the winner.
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Nick Nanakos is taking the long view.
Founder and CEO of Austin-based ZIKI, Nanakos is on a "multi-decade, global-scale conquest to build the most significant company to ever exist in food."
His Spartan ancestry has made him a fighter for excellence, and his Macedonian heritage (think Alexander the Great) may be what helps drive him toward empire.
Venture capital firm Gigafund, core Elon Musk backers who invested more than $1B into SpaceX, are backing Nanakos's expansive vision of disrupting and transforming the food industry on an industrial scale.
His plan to optimize and re-aggregate multiple elements—ingredients, chefs, cooking techniques, agriculture, teams, factories, real estate, systems, technology, design, and logistics—all integrated on a foundation of proprietary technology, reminds at least one of his investors of a famous trillion-dollar Austin-based company.
"ZIKI is approaching restaurants the same way Tesla approaches cars—with a master plan to be the fastest, most creative company in the category," said investor Ryan Metzger.
ZIKI is short for "Tzatziki," Greek cuisine's most iconic flavor
ZIKI is a fast-casual restaurant serving Greek & Mexican fusion. Signature bowls, zurritos, salads, sides, drinks, and desserts. The brand's hot pink color illuminates from a distance and is impossible to miss. Food is prepared fresh daily. Veggies, dairy, and meats are sourced locally.
The Zurrito, Greek Fries, Falafel Bowl, Gyro Bowl, Pork Bowl, Quezzadilla
Head of Quality Control, Chef Mo, outlines the system and philosophy: “Proper food sourcing, agricultural partnerships, and quality control systems are imperative to our kitchen operations. The food must always look good, and make people feel good as well.
Nanakos says that it’s as much about the heart as it is the head. “Food is a passion business. Embracing our chefs by creating the best possible environment for them determines the outcome of the food. Our chefs are the backbone to our business. When they are happy, they thrive.”
Get ready, Austin—you're about to turn pink
With the boost from Gigafund, ZIKI's goal is to quickly have the largest restaurant presence in all of Austin, before expanding to other cities.
"Austin's love of food, culture, and tech are what add to its vibrancy," says ZIKI’s Head of Marketing, Kat Vasylyshyn. "We're painting the city pink."
ZIKI is a member of the largest commercial kitchen in Texas. This serves as their central point of logistics for local restaurant operations. Food inventory arrives here from suppliers. It's prepared on-site, ensuring the highest quality, with an added level of safety and control.
A fleet of Sprinter vans brings the food to modular kitchens for final prep.
ZIKI's systems identify areas with the highest order volume densities and target those areas for placement of new kitchens.
Getting big fast: Why ZIKI is the Tesla of restaurants
CEO Nick Nanakos is not afraid to state his bold plan: "Our vision is to become the fastest-growing restaurant company on the planet, with unstoppable unit economics."
That doesn't just happen on its own. ZIKI's Chief of Staff, Anthony D'Apolito III, says the Gigafund backing is the green light for a fast start: "We've spent an enormous amount of time building systems prior to our funding, which has positioned us well for scale, and that's showing now in how quickly we're moving."
ZIKI believes that a restaurant should control its own expansion destiny. This is why they're vertically-integrated, manufacturing modular restaurants in the company's Texas factory.
Cutting-edge developments in manufacturing, technology, real estate, and hiring complete the picture.
ZIKI is a company led by a driven, visionary founder that's ready to conquer the world, starting by making you happy with their Greek/Mexican fusion fare, right here in Austin.