Austin-based business Tito's Handmade Vodka took to the skies to airflight 300 homeless pets from Puerto Rico to New York and Maine on two "Freedom Flights" missions this Saturday.
The brand's Vodka for Dog People program teamed up with a coalition of animal welfare groups to bring 165 dogs and 135 cats from Puerto Rico's overwhelmed animal shelters to families and shelters on the mainland.
Dogs and cats were brought from two cargo planes to Portland, Maine and Whitefield, New York. (Alexandra Lloyd)
Remember when Tito's celebrated its 25th anniversary by inviting all dogs with the "Tito" namesake (and even those without it) to its first "Dogs Named Tito" event in Austin? Part of those funds fueled the two missions, and one cargo plane will include a VIP passenger inspired from that event. Tito, a mixed-breed puppy that was rescued from the streets of Puerto Rico, is the rescue mission's official mascot.
Mixed-breed pup Tito was the rescue mission's designated mascot. (Tito's Handmade Vodka)
In Puerto Rico, many of the pets would have been euthanized, or susceptible to the island's upcoming hurricane season—shelters have up to a 96% euthanasia rate as over 500,000 stray animals roam the streets. Now, sixty of the dogs have already met their forever families at the airport gate, while all other adoptable pets will be spayed or neutered and receive a health certificate.
“Tito’s Handmade Vodka is dedicated to helping our furry friends find safety from both overcrowded shelters and potential storms in Puerto Rico,” Vodka for Dog People Program Manager Beth Pollanti, who boarded the flight with Tito, said.
The brand teamed up with pet transport program Wings of Rescue and Puerto Rican group The Sato Project to bring the pets to Whitefield, New York and Portland, Maine. No local pets were displaced due to the project.
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Austin companies are on a rapid success streak.
136 Austin-area companies made Inc.’s 5000 ranking of the fastest growing companies in America. In total, the companies generated $5.3 billion in revenue and added about 16,700 jobs. Local businesses on the list increased from last year when 111 companies secured a spot on the rank.
The crown for the best ranking of an Austin company goes to AdOutreach, which peaked at 60 for achieving a 6,052% growth rate. Founded in 2016, the company offers training and resources for using YouTube ads for business growth.
The company’s founder Aleric Heck celebrated its spot on the list that was released this week.
“From the Early Days working alongside my now COO Julia Gordy while we were both still in college, to our first office in Cambridge, MA, our move out to Austin, TX, our first $1 million month, growing our team to 50+ Team Members & Now Ranking in the Top 100 on the INC 5000 2 years in a Row... It has been such an Incredible Journey!” a LinkedIn post read.
Here are the first 10 to make an appearance on Inc.'s ranking:
- Homestead Brands
- Digital Thrive
- Everly Health
- Element 26
- Cover Desk
- Canopy Management
- OJO Labs
The annual list assigned ranks based on percentage revenue growth from 2018 to 2021. To qualify, companies had to earn a minimum revenue in 2018 of $100,000 and $2 million in 2021.
The number one spot went to BlockFi, a New Jersey-based company providing wealth management products for crypto investors.
Crypto saw popularity in Austin in recent years, a trend that led the capital city to become one of the highest-paying cities for a crypto career earlier this year. However, no crypto or blockchain companies in Austin made Inc.'s list and many in the industry have been managing the fallout of the crypto market crash this spring.
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Genetic engineering company Colossal Biosciences announced it has started de-extinction of the thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian tiger.
Partnering with the University of Melbourne and its Thylacine Integrated Genetic Restoration Research Lab on these efforts, Colossal says bringing the tiger back could “re-balance the Tasmanian and broader Australian ecosystems.”
“With our planet’s biodiversity at risk, we will continue to contribute scientific resources to preserving the species and ecosystems necessary to sustain life,” CEO Ben Lamm said.
Founded last year, Colossal aims to further develop technologies for marsupial conservation efforts and say they are the first to apply CRISPR technology for the purpose of species de-extinction.
The company has its headquarters in Dallas with Austin ties through its software and hardware team. Also with Lamm, who is former CEO of Austin AI company Hypergiant.
Ben Lamm and co-founder George Church
The Tasmanian tiger marks Colossal’s second de-extinction project. Before its work on the Australian marsupial that was eradicated nearly a century ago, Colossal announced its plans to resurrect the woolly mammoth.
Now, Lamm said they are thrilled about teaming up with the Melbourne lab, which is headed by Andrew Pask, a marsupial evolutionary biologist and Tasmanian tiger expert.
Pask said this is a “landmark moment” for marsupial research and that the technology from the project will influence the next generation of conservation efforts.
“Additionally, rewilding the thylacine to the Tasmanian landscape can significantly curb the destruction of this natural habitat due to invasive species,” Pask said. “The Tasmanian tiger is iconic in Australian culture. We’re excited to be part of this team in bringing back this unique, cornerstone species that mankind previously eradicated from the planet.”
\u201cIntroducing Texas #pumas reinvigorated the Florida panther population.\u201d— Colossal Biosciences (@Colossal Biosciences) 1655137149
Colossal points to the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone and the Tasmanian Devil to Australia as examples of the importance of rewilding species to their original habitats. Through that, Colossal says, damaged ecosystems can be restored and revitalized.
To achieve the successful birth of the Tasmanian tiger, Colossal says advancement of current marsupial assisted reproductive technology is required. The work goes beyond the Tasmanian tiger though and Colossal says this technology will be instrumental in the preservation of marsupials at large. The company notes this is especially important in Australia, which faces a fast rate of biodiversity loss and where marsupials are highly concentrated.
Colossal boasts investors like nature gaming group Untamed Planet and local Australian non-profit WildArk, as well as actors the Hemsworth brothers.
“Our family remains dedicated to supporting conservationist efforts around the world and protecting Australia's biodiversity is a high priority,” Chris Hemsworth said. “The Tassie Tiger’s extinction had a devastating effect on our ecosystem and we are thrilled to support the revolutionary conservation efforts that are being made by Dr. Pask and the entire Colossal team.”
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