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Austin already has a reputation as a hub for technology and art, making it the perfect candidate for the emerging crypto-art scene.
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are a form of digital collectibles that come in many forms, from digital art and animations to NBA Top Shot basketball highlights. It's a market that's exploding globally. In our neck of the woods, Grimes, girlfriend of "Mr. Dogecoin" and Austin transplant Elon Musk, has already sold $6 million otherworldly NFTs herself, and cryptocurrency giants like blockchain company Blockcap have recently made the move to the Texas capital.
🗡️The "War Nymph" collection is dropping tomorrow, February 28 @ 2pm EST.
Are you ready for this collaboration between @Grimezsz & @MacBoucher1? Who is excited for this drop? 👀👀👀
Don't forget a % of the proceeds from the #NFT sales will be donated to @carbon_180! pic.twitter.com/Z07WTvrM6g
— Nifty Gateway (@niftygateway) February 27, 2021
Some say the NFT market is a bubble waiting to pop, while others question why a JPEG image that could be viewed by anyone has value. Thomas Dylan Daniel, an NFT publisher who has been in the cryptocurrency sphere for over a decade, said it comes from owning an original product. "You can see pictures of the Mona Lisa on the Internet, (but) nobody says that you own the Mona Lisa now because you saw it," Daniel said.
Daniel, a longtime Austinite, is creating what he calls the NFT world's Library of Alexandria ("It can't burn down this time") and said that while NFTs are becoming a household term, they're still widely misunderstood. An NFT owner isn't just receiving art, they're also gaining an invincible virtual certificate of ownership.
"The big benefit with an NFT is that it's an immutable link that sticks around forever," Daniel said. "That's the point. That particular link is inscribed upon the Ethereum blockchain until the end of time."
But NFTs have hardly broken ground on the local level.
One Austin curator who goes by the name "Apollo The Curator," is looking to bring the lofty NFT sphere back to Earth. He's seen celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton sell NFTs for millions, and he's hoping to transfer some of that success to Austin artists who are just beginning to get into the crypto-art scene.
"I simply put the dots together on why Justin Bieber sells NFTs," Apollo said. "I started thinking about how we experiment with that locally and reaching artists that are all in the physical space. Why (are they) not in the space right now? The answer is access."
Apollo, 26, founded Open Art Studios to bring NFTs down to the local level as he mixes Austin's iconic street art culture with crypto art. He started his passion project by hosting Battle Buses, an in-person event that pits four well-known Austin artists together in an interactive paint-off. Each canvas is then put up for sale in a bundle that bridges the gap between the physical and digital world.
The owner receives the canvas and an identical NFT of the work, which serves as both an asset on its own and a proof of ownership. While still in its early stages, it's proven successful—the first NFT put up for sale by artist Tommy Disco sold in 2 hours for .1515 Ethereum (around $365 USD.)
Apollo said that his business model helps street artists by getting them in touch with graphic designers who can create NFTs for them and in turn marketing them in a sea of global NFTs. As a result, both value and authenticity is added to these artists' already successful work.
He's the first in Austin to bridge the gap between physical and NFT art, and he's one of the first to make an organized NFT studio in the state. "It's adding real authenticity to art," Apollo said. "I think that's where I'm really changing the game, is combining the physical aspects with visuals."
Apollo is eager to keep putting down roots in the city before the inevitable NFT boom takes over.
"I think being here in Austin just makes so much sense, because of our techie background," Apollo said. "Tackling that barrier to understanding some of those digital concepts isn't as hard, and there's a big social interest."
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The census occurs every 10 years and determines how trillions of dollars of federal funds are allocated to state and local governments and where district lines are drawn at the local, state and federal levels. "This data is important," Travis County Intergovernmental Relations Officer Julie Wheeler told local elected officials on Tuesday. "It touches every area of our lives."
Although more granular census data won't be available until later this year, the 2020 census is already having an impact on Austinites, from how they will be represented in Congress to confirming its status as a perpetual boomtown.
1. There may have been an undercount.
Texas gained two congressional seats as a result of population growth tallied during the 2020 census, more than any other state in the country, but the state was widely projected to gain a third.
Along with the pandemic and a lack of state investment in census outreach, the former Trump administration's attempt to add a citizenship question may have contributed to an undercount. "There was a lot of damage done with just that early confusion," Wheeler said.
Regional data will be released in late September, which will provide more insight into where an undercount may have occurred. But there are already indications that a gap occurred. The census tracts with the lowest self-response rate in the city of Austin are mostly concentrated on the East side.
Additionally, nearly 0.9% of Texas addresses remained unresolved—meaning members of those households did not respond to the questionnaire or census takers who followed up in person, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This is a 71% increase compared to the 2010 census, when 0.52% of Texas addresses remained unresolved.
2. Even a small undercount could have large financial repercussions for Austin.
The city of Austin 2020 population estimate is 995,484. Assuming this is an undercount of 0.9%—which would be at the low-risk end of the spectrum, according to a 2019 report by the Urban Institute—it would leave 9,041 Austin residents uncounted.
For every person uncounted, the community loses $1,500 in annual federal funding, Wheeler said. So this gap would cost the community $135.6 million—in Medicaid funding, Title I school grants and public transit programming—over the next decade.
Although such federal funding has constraints in terms of what it can be used for, such dollars could help offset the costs of programs like:
3. Austin's racial and ethnic groups are growing at unequal rates.
Between 2010 and 2020, the city of Austin's overall population grew by nearly 26%, according to census data. But this growth varied across racial and ethnic groups.
The city's Black or African American population grew at about the same rate between 2010 and 2019, the latest year for which such data is available. The non-Hispanic White and Hispanic or Latino populations grew at slightly lower rates—22.8% and 19.5%, respectively—over the same period. But the city's Asian population skyrocketed, growing by more than 50% over the last decade.
4. Austin outperformed other large Texas cities in counting its population.
Although the state of Texas saw its self-response rate ranking fall to 39th place in 2020 from 25th in 2010, Austin-Travis County improved its performance over the same period. In fact, it was the only large city-county pair in Texas to beat its 2010 self-response rate, City Demographer Lila Valencia said Tuesday. "I'm really optimistic for Travis County and Austin," she said, attributing the improvement to local investment in the counting process.
5. It's not too soon to start thinking about the 2030 census.
John Lawler, 2020 census program manager for Austin-Travis County, laid out a number of things the city and county could do in the meantime to improve accuracy, including:
- Staffing up earlier to improve local outreach efforts
- Building on relationships with grassroots community organizations, which proved critical in reaching hard-to-count populations
- Jointly funding an organizing entity that improves civic participation overall, and not just during census years
"Frankly, we should start tomorrow planning for the census in 2030," he said.
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Fortune 500's 2021 list is officially out, and the Austin metro saw two companies crack the list this year, with two others making the top 1,000.
While the Texas capital doesn't boast as many Fortune 500 headquarters as some other cities, its reputation as a tech hub and a Californian's paradise is still well-represented.
Oracle, which uprooted its headquarters from California to Austin last year, made the top 100 in the 80th slot this year, while Round Rock's own Dell was No. 28. Companies with large ties, including Tesla, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google all cracked the top 100. And despite a tumultuous economic year, each of the Fortune 1,000 companies HQ'ed in Austin saw growth in 2020.
Here's a look at Austin companies that made the Fortune list:
28. Dell Technologies
Dell thrived during the pandemic by helping employees across the country adjust to remote work (Dell/Facebook)
Dell, which has been rooted in Austin since Michael Dell started the company as a University of Texas-Austin student in 1984, made the top 30. The computer manufacturer moved up six slots this year, is listed on the Global 500, and is one of the 100 most profitable corporations in the Fortune 500.
Dell is the second-largest non-oil company in Texas and the sixth biggest company in the state by revenue. As a global power, it is the largest shipper of PC computers in the world.
To cope with the pandemic, Dell decided to double down on work rather than hit the pause button. Dell gained 8,000 more employees in 2020 and employed a record of 165,000 worldwide as it shifted to push 90% of its employees into remote work. The company's emphasis on digitization and mobile technology for consumers during the pandemic paid off—the company had record revenue in 2020.
Dell, with multiple local offices, currently employs around 13,000 people in Central Texas and plans on keeping most of its employees in a remote or hybrid work format.
Oracle's Austin campus, which is now the company's headquarters, opened in 2018. (Oracle/Facebook)
Oracle, a global corporation that sells database, software and cloud technologies, was one of the major tech companies to announce its relocation of its headquarter to Austin from Southern California in 2020, after establishing a half a million-square-foot facility on East Riverside in 2018.
The corporation rose up two spots to No. 80 on the Fortune 500 in 2021 and is one of the 100 most profitable on the list. Oracle also cracks the Global 500 and is one of 71 Fortune 500 companies to have a female CEO, Safra A. Katz.
During the pandemic, Oracle faced big changes. Aside from moving its headquarters across states, the company began using artificial intelligence, augmented reality and voice commands (instead of "Hey, Siri", think "Hey, Oracle") to help companies move into the cloud.
According to Shailesh Singla, Country Head & Senior Director, Employee Experience/HCM Business at Oracle, the pandemic actually sped up digital technology, especially using AI as a human resources function, by many years.
Tesla's newest plant, Giga Texas, is set to be completed by the end of 2021. (Tesla Owners of Austin/Twitter)
While electric car giant Tesla hasn't moved its headquarters to Austin (although teased last year), its CEO Elon Musk, has already made the move. The man who called Austin a "boomtown" has plans to manufacture the company's Cybertruck and Model Y products out of the Giga Texas plant, set to be completed later this year in southeast Travis County.
The electric vehicle company just reaches the top 100 in the Fortune 500 list, rising 24 slots in the rankings. The company has seen job growth as Tesla works to employ nearly 10,000 Austin-area residents at the new Texas plant.
Musk famously had run-ins with COVID policies in California, where he was originally located, spurring him to join the California migration in the summer of 2020. Tesla famously struggled in its first decade of existence, but the EV entity grew more than a cult following during the pandemic. In April, the company reported its third consecutive profitable quarter for the first time, and Musk's net worth swelled to $155 billion.
Musk's former company PayPal also cracked the list at 134 on the Fortune 500. Musk used the funds from when the company went public to create the companies for which he is now famous, including Tesla, SpaceX and Neuralink.
523. Resideo Technologies- Fortune 1,000
Resideo Technologies streamlines home security and climate control worldwide. (Resideo Pro/Facebook)
While not quite cracking the Fortune 500 list, Resideo Technologies nearly made the list as a rising star in smart home technologies. The company is the No. 1 global distributor of home security products and employs over 14,000 worldwide. Resideo combines home necessities, including air conditioning, security systems, and water and energy conservation tools to give consumers a holistic product.
The company saw job growth in 2020 despite the pandemic as more consumers spent time at home. Over 15 million systems were installed last year, accounting for $5.1 billion in sales. Resideo bottomed out at the start of the pandemic but saw revenues rise by 10% from January to November 2020, surprising Wall Street investors.
627. Digital Realty Trust- Fortune 1,000
Digital Realty Trust owns two data centers in Austin and has influence worldwide as a real estate investment corporation. (datacenterdynamics.com)
Digital Realty Trust is another global giant that made its way to Austin during the pandemic. The real estate investment entity, which provides data center services worldwide, moved its headquarters to the Texas capital in January 2021 and has since seen revenue grow 32.4% to $1.1 billion just this year.
Only 5% of the company's investments in retail, energy, travel and lodging were at serious risk due to COVID. Although it only employs about a dozen at its Austin headquarters, it has a major footprint in Texas and owns 30 data centers in the state.
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Having known tech entrepreneur Elon Musk for more than 20 years, engineer, physician and XPrize Foundation founder Peter Diamandis has seen Musk through the lows and highs, from going into debt financing the creation of Falcon-1 to becoming the richest man in the world.
The pair, whose professional careers have crossed paths on numerous occasions, recently announced a $100 million prize for their XPRIZE Carbon Removal competition and share a fascination with space exploration. Diamandis has great respect for Musk's enterprise, even saying he is possibly the "greatest entrepreneur of our age."
Diamandis (second from right) and Musk (far right) pictured in zero gravity together. (Diamandis.com)
As one of Fortune's World's 50 Greatest Leaders, Diamandis knows a thing or two about success and shares what he believes built Musk to where he is today.
According to Diamandis, Musk doesn't enter into business ventures that he doesn't believe in. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO said he got into the car, space and solar industry because he believes that in order to make a difference, you must "create something substantially better than what came before. His abilities to stay focused, push forward through adversity and love for his craft are just some of the traits that make Musk successful, Diamandis said.
Massively Transformative Purpose
Something Diamandis says all successful ventures have in common: Massively Transformative Purpose, or a motivation to do great things. The MTP for Tesla and SolarCity, a subsidiary under Tesla that makes solar generation systems, is a transition to sustainable energy, while SpaceX's MTP is a backup biosphere to bring humanity to the cosmos. Diamandis said it is this passion and purpose that keeps all of Musk's ventures afloat.
Singular, unwavering focus
Musk has been known to zero in on the task at hand, sleeping in his office and putting in 80-hour weeks to keep the machine well-oiled. Diamandis said the key is what is called a "flow state," a highly enjoyable state where work becomes energizing and immersive that is achieved through passion, purpose and focus. Where many people might feel burned out, Musk is energized.
First principles thinking
Instead of a default mode of thinking, Diamandis says Musk uses first principles thinking, a mode of inquiry that "relentlessly" pursues the fundamentals of a problem. For instance, when developing new batteries, Musk continued to dig for a more affordable option than the standard and rejected that the present was the peak of performance. Musk was able to develop a battery that ran for $80 per kilowatt-hour, down from $600 per kilowatt-hour. The strategy allows people to edit out the unnecessary.
Thinking in probabilities
Nothing is ever certain, so according to Diamandis, Musk does not think in black and white. Thinking probabilistically—weighing chances based on different outcomes—as opposed to deterministically—as in A + B = C, something that has a definitive outcome—leans on different possibilities and discoveries. It goes against the inherent train of thought but gives way to new outcomes.
Not settling for "no"/Not giving up
A "no" is a green light to go one step higher, as Diamandis says, and conviction is key. Musk expects and embraces failure, always budgeting for a few mistakes in his endeavors, even going into debt despite his missteps. If your purpose and passion are strong enough, they will drive your vision.
In summation: Mindset is key for creating a Musk-worthy career.
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