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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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Elon Musk, Tesla founder and new Austinite, paid a true tax rate of 3.27% between 2014 and 2018, according to a bombshell report published by ProPublica this week. The investigative newsroom tallied up how much he paid in taxes relative to how much his wealth grew over the four-year period to come up with what it is calling a "true tax rate."
Austinites, regardless of their income bracket, paid a higher federal income tax rate than this. The only question is: How much higher?
The median family income in the five-county Austin metro is $98,900, according to the city of Austin's housing and planning department. A married couple filing jointly who earned this amount would pay $9,325 plus 22% of the amount over $80,250 in federal income tax, according to NerdWallet. This equals $13,428, or 13.6% overall—four times the true tax rate paid by Musk.
The lowest federal income tax rate is 10%, for single filers earning up to $9,875 or joint filers earning up to $19,750 annually—otherwise known as "extremely low-income." This is more than triple Musk's true tax rate.
The highest federal income tax rate is 37%, which kicks in for single filers earning $518,401 or more in income and joint filers earning $622,051 or more—roughly speaking, the 1%.
Using "a vast cache" of never-before-seen IRS data sent in from an anonymous source, ProPublica showed how the 25 richest Americans pay little—and sometimes none at all—in income tax relative to their massive wealth. "Taken together, it demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most," the reporters wrote.
How do some of America’s ultra-rich live luxurious lives while claiming little to no taxable income? A little tax… https://t.co/hygW4MaHBH— ProPublica (@ProPublica)1623150001.0
It's worth noting that the U.S. tax system taxes income but not wealth.
Musk is the second richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of $151 billion, according to Forbes. Between 2014 and 2018, his wealth grew by $13.9 billion. Over the same period, he reported $1.52 billion in income and paid $455 million in taxes, producing what ProPublica called a true tax rate of 3.27%.
Although a fraction of the rate the median Austin household pays, Musk's true tax rate was still higher than that of other billionaires spotlighted by the story: 0.10% for Warren Buffett, 0.98% for Jeff Bezos and 1.30% for Michael Bloomberg, according to the report.
How did Musk and the other featured plutocrats swing this?
Mega-billionaires often eschew salaries, which are taxed at a high rate; take advantage of rules regarding deductions and debt; hold onto their company stock, allowing wealth to accrue without transforming into taxable income; and form "opaque and complicated trusts" that allow them to leave inheritances free from pesky estate taxes, according to ProPublica's report. All of these tactics are legal.
Without a wage or dividends, they often take out huge loans—which the IRS does not consider to be income—to cover their expenses. Musk pledged some 92 million Tesla shares, worth about $57.7 billion, as collateral for such loans last year, according to a securities filing cited by ProPublica. The interest paid on such loans can often be deducted.
As the New York Times pointed out Wednesday, "comparing the billionaires' tax bills with estimates of their wealth isn't how the U.S. tax system works." ProPublica published ts reasoning for the publication of private information stating that the report "will help readers understand the magnitude of the tax advantages the ultrarich enjoy," adding it hopes people will "participate in the public debate about the future of our tax system."
When asked to comment by ProPublica, Musk responded enigmatically, as is his wont, with a single character—"?"—and did not respond to follow-up questions.
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In the $159 billion global video game industry, Austin got a high score as the number one city of opportunities for gamers and developers and one of the best cities for gaming.
According to a WalletHub study comparing the 100 largest cities in the U.S., Austin attracts gamers like no other with the most job openings in the video game industry and ranked the second best city for gamers overall.
The list was dominated by California cities—with six in the top 10 alone—and Austin was the only Texas city up until Plano, which was ranked 14th.
Falling shy of No. 1 Irvine, California, which took a total score of 73.6, Austin scored 65.9 across 22 indicators of gamer-friendliness, including the number of gaming stores per capita, average internet speed and number of video-game-centric events.
Austin attracts those in the tech sphere, so it is no surprise that the city holds more opportunities for those who are trying to break into a video game-related career. The city is home to a multitude of companies that focus on video games; Rooster Teeth, Unity and Zynga all have jobs available.
While you might find more arcades in Orlando, Florida; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or Las Vegas, Nevada, which all tied for the first slot, Austin was next on the list. With plenty of classic arcades like Pinballz, Main Event and GattiTown, Austin has also made several recent additions to the retro gaming scene with Cidercade and Texas Gamers Lounge.
According to the Pew Research Center, 72% of American men aged 18-29 play video games and 49% of American women in the same age range do as well. Austin has the fourth-highest percentage of residents between the ages of 18-49 that game, falling between Seattle, Washington, in third place and Minneapolis, Minnesota, in fifth place.
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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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