A-List Awards Highlight Successful Growing Companies; Underscores importance of innovation in Austin Region

Posted on 05/30/2018 by Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce

On May 24, over 700 attendees experienced the eighth annual A-List Awards to celebrate outstanding up-and-coming companies in the region. The premier event highlighted a diverse range of companies that attract talent, increase capital, and diversify the innovation ecosystem in Austin.

The A-List Awards, a program of the Greater Austin Chamber and co-sponsored by SXSW, recognizes the significant role growing innovative companies play in the growth and economic vitality of the region.

“Austin’s innovation community plays a vital role in our region’s economic success,” said Leigh Christie, Senior Vice President, Global Technology and Innovation, Greater Austin Chamber. “We have grown to become a major hub for innovation in the country. This year’s A-List winners typify the best of Austin’s emerging, growth and scale companies. We are thrilled to recognize these outstanding businesses.”

The recipients of this year’s 2018 A-List awards were chosen from a group of 150 nominations. The 25 winners were selected in four categories—emerging, growth, scale, and culture —by a panel of independent judges. The winners include:

The event featured host Doreen Lorenzo, Assistant Dean of School Design at the University of Texas at Austin, and included several inspiring speakers: Julia Taylor Cheek, Founder and CEO of EverlyWell; Mark McClain, Founder of SailPoint Technologies; Samantha Snabes, Co-Founder and Catalyst of re:3D; Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, President & CEO of Huston-Tillotson University; and Brian Sheth, Co-Founder and President of Vista Equity Partners.

During the fast paced program, speakers talked about the importance of entrepreneurship and shared their real world experiences for success.

Build a team that lasts a journey

“What kills a lot of companies is not the lack of funding, but people fighting and not getting things done together,” said Mark McClain, Founder of SailPoint Technologies. “No matter where you are, if you want to grow and succeed you have to do it as a team.” McClain also shared his three traits—hungry, smart, and humble—as characteristics of an ideal team player.

“The kind of people you want to work with are not all about them. They are about the team and making sure the team succeeds. They are hungry because they want to succeed, get better, and achieve something,” he said.

Founder of EverlyWell, Julia Taylor Cheek, agreed as she thanked her team and colleagues for their continuous support. Last year, the local Austin company secured a million-dollar deal on ABC’s Shark Tank. “It has been the most rewarding journey thus far,” Cheek said. “But it would’ve been impossible without each of you.”

It’s okay to be local

“People ask us what allows us to be so profitable over the past four years and how we were able to get to 53 countries so quickly,” said Samantha Snabes, Co-Founder of re:3D. “Honestly for us, the answer is simple—we are a Texas company.”

Snabes proudly spoke on her local roots and humble beginnings in Austin. She recalled programs through Capital Factory and opportunities through SXSW that helped her company raise over a quarter of a million dollars and generate corporate partnerships. Today, re:3D produces the world’s first 3D printer from recycled and pelletized plastic waste. Snabes encouraged local startups to be proud of their local roots and the global impact they can make on the world from their humble beginnings.

“When people ask me every day why we are successful, I tell them it’s because we are a Texas company. I tell them it’s because we have roots in Austin. I tell them it’s because of you.”

Be audacious in diversity

“Moments like this are what keep Austin magical,” said Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, President, and CEO of Huston-Tillotson University. “Moments like this are what keeps Austin audacious. Honoring the A-List with Austin’s hottest startups, that’s what my students would call 'mad' innovation, and to be on the hottest list of anything is a good thing.”

Dr. Burnette introduced her first angel investors growing up—her grandmother and grandfather—who invested in her life through education, confidence, integrity, diversity, accountability, leadership, and high expectations.

“I understand your work and the effort it took you to get here on the Austin’s A-List because I am from a family of entrepreneurs—bar owners, beauty shop owners, restaurant owners, and barbers. They didn’t have business plans or business capitalists, but they had what each of you have as a winner—grit.”

Dr. Burnette not only inspired the audience with her authentic story but challenged the local startup community to embrace diversity. Referencing an article from Forbes, diversity is the number one challenge that the startup culture must overcome to thrive in the future. “So, my challenge to you is that you make inclusion a daily thought. So much so that we can get rid of the word inclusion in the workplace.”

Support the next generation

“We are always going to be that David vs Goliath and there is pride in building something that has endured even when there are a lot of doubters out there,” said Brian Sheth, Co-Founder, and President of Vista Equity Partners. “You don’t fear struggle, instead you creatively innovate.” Sheth briefly shared his company history and progress over the past ten years. Since relocating to Austin, Vista Equity Partners has invested in 13 local companies that generate over $2 billion in revenue.

“Today Austin is leading the conversation nationally regarding growth, livability, and innovation. We have become a gathering place as America’s greatest innovators in technology, food, music, and sustainability." But Sheth cautioned there is work to be done on addressing the Austin region's income disparity gap. “The people in this room have the obligation to fix that income disparity gap,” he said.

Sheth encouraged local startups to not only build their credibility and lead successful companies, but to support the next generation through focused community philanthropy. “When inequality exceeds growth, like it currently does in Austin, all of us loose. The disparity in growing cities leads to skill gaps and sets us on a course for peaking rather than continuing to innovate. If we don’t replenish this well of rising talent, we are going to plateau.”

The event was in partnership with SXSW and held at the ACL Live Moody Theater. To view photos from the event, click here.

Related Categories: Chamber, Innovate Austin