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Inspiring young people named to Inno Under 25 – Austin Business Journal

Ask a tech leader or investor what makes Austin great, and they’re likely to talk about Austin’s exceptional pool of talent and mention the brain power and energy emerging from local universities and startup accelerators.
Austin has perhaps always been a bit of a young person’s town. And its continually expanding startup ecosystem makes that attribute even more visible.
For Austin Inno’s newest Inno Under 25 list, we aim to recognize young entrepreneurs and technologists who are already making their mark on the city’s tech community. We’ve sourced dozens of nominations from our readers to build a list of founders, investors and community builders and more who were 25 years old and younger during out nomination period, which ended in early fall.
This year’s list features a Y Combinator alumni, University of Texas students and founders who have hustled to build impressive businesses despite the headwinds of a global pandemic and a flurry of layoffs and economic disruption. As many of Austin’s most experienced investors and founders note, sometime the best companies are born into trying times.
Now, let’s explore this year’s Inno Under 25 list and meet some of Austin’s new startup stars.
Destin George Bell, 24, founder and CEO of Card.io
When Destin George Bell decided to move to Austin, he set himself up to hit the ground running with a new startup that helps people turn mundane workouts into a gamified challenge. His fitness tech startup has raised $1 million from grants and other funding. That was amplified, in part, by the company’s participation in DivInc’s accelerator. Meanwhile, Bell has been named a 40 Under 40 winner by the Austin Black Business Journal, as well as becoming president of BrickSquadATX LLC. He also became a Venture for America Entrepreneurship fellow and accelerator participant and was named head of the entrepreneurship committee at the Junior Achievement of Central Texas. As Bell noted earlier this year, when he came to Austin he was homeless and making $8 an hour as a freelancer. Now, he has bought a house and launched a growing startup.
Apoorva Chintala, 23, co-founder of Clocr Inc.
Losing a loved one or seeing them unable to manage their assets is one of the hardest things any of us face. It’s a truism that Apoorva Chintala explored when her grandfather died. Since then, she, along with her dad, created a startup called Clocr that helps people with estate planning, an often complex process that typically impacts family members while they’re grieving. Chintala built the platform to help people store and share their important online accounts, documents and last wishes – and securely share that information with loved ones when the time comes. The startup got on many people’s radar when it was featured in a 2021 episode of “Meet the Drapers,” and Chintala went on to become founder of the month earlier this year at the Kendra Scott WEL Institute at the University of Texas. Then she won the inaugural Dream to Venture pitch competition at the WEL Institute.
Matthew Iommi, 25, co-founder and CEO of Fetii
After launching Fetii, a group ride-hailing startup at Texas A&M, Matthew Iommi has continued to build on early success. The startup was accepted into the prestigious Y Combinator accelerator program, which also came with $500,000 in fresh funding. It has also raised money from Goodwater Capital, Stonks and angel investors. Despite Covid-19 headwinds, the company’s 15-passenger vans have now transported more than 650,000 passengers.
Chukwudi N. Kanu, 26, CEO of Humblebrag
Building a successful startup requires a ton of energy, as well as support from a network of friends, family, customers and fans. Chukwudi N. Kanu, CEO of Humblebrag, knows that well, and he has built a platform that helps founders develop collaborative workspaces for founders to engage with their support systems in a gamified way. Kanu has been recognized for his work by the United Nations Development Programme, LinkedIn, Ernst & Young, Notley, FounderGym, the United States Senate, and he was inducted into the Austin Black Business Journal 40 Under 40 this year. Meanwhile, Humblebrag has been part of the Founder Gym and was recently accepted into the 2022 Venture For America Accelerator, not to mention the startup won 2nd place at the Venture for America demo day pitch.
Hailey Nichols, 25, founder and CEO of Locus Lock
Earlier this year, Nichols’ startup, Locus Lock, spun out of the Radionavigation Lab at the University of Texas. Locus Lock leans on Nichols’ background in technical engineering, and the company’s GPS lock targets customers in aerospace, defense and research that need next generation GPS with centimeter-accurate, real-time positioning. As a student athlete at MIT, she was a two-time CoSIDA NCAA Division III Academic All-American who had a successful soccer career. This year, she won the Malcolm Milburn Endowed Scholarship and Award in Entrepreneurial Studies at UT, as well as winning a Launch Texas Fellowship for her work on Locus Lock. She was also one of Aviation Week Network’s 20 Twenties for her work in the aerospace sector.
Ben Pfeffer, 24, former director of development at Notley
Ben Pfeffer has played a significant role in the Austin startup scene, both as the former director of development at Notley, a social impact and venture organization, and as a board member at 3 Day Startup, where he mentored underrepresented youth exploring paths in entrepreneurship. Those roles were preceded by his work at Next Ventures, which is focused on health and wellness, as well as management consultancy West Monroe Partners. He’s also among the youngest members of the Austin hub of Global Shapers, which is a World Economic Forum initiative.
Jungmin Kang, 18, CEO of Snoopslimes
As a 13-year-old entrepreneur, Jungmin Kang started her business with $200 from her parents and the intrigue from peers toward her unique slime creations. The now 18-year-old CEO of Snoopslimes has grown a slime empire, with a clock counting down the seconds for the next product restock. Additionally, her parents, the company’s first investors, are employed by Snoopslimes. Slime has grown up over time, no longer limited to the bright green ooze dunked at Nickelodeon awards shows. Young entrepreneurs have transformed it into a sensory toy, enjoyed by young kids to adults who want to calm down anxieties or just play. Kang’s slimes replicate ice creams, cookies, beverages and even ducks in a pond. The colorful mélange has become a multimillion-dollar generator, with millions of sales annually with slime packets averaging in the high-teen dollar amounts.
Sreesaketh Grandhe, 21, co-founder and “Sree-EO” of Three0
If graduating with honors in electrical and computer engineering at UT weren’t enough, then consider that Grandhe’s effort to found Three0, a startup with a decentralized development service that help people build new dApps for Web3 products. He’s also been an SDE Intern at Amazon, as well as a computer science tutor and CTO of Ping! Social, a geolocation platform for local events. And, before that, he co-founded a software company called Sandbox Systems that was part of the Sputnik ATX cohort in 2020.
Sam Padilla, 24, Web3 custom engineer at Google Cloud
Landing a role as an engineer at Google at age 24 is no small feat. But that’s just part of the story with Sam Padilla. He grew up in Colombia and Brazil where he was a standout tennis player, which earned him a scholarship at Morningside University in Iowa. After moving to Austin, he became a top contributor at ATX DAO, which connects members of the local crypto community and helps influence local and state government policy. He’s also been a speaker at several events, including the Texas Blockchain Summit. Add to that, he has been a United Nations Youth Assembly Delegate, a Future Founders 2020 Fellow and a fellow with NPR’s “How I Built This.”
Ashley Raymond, 24, co-founder of Safely
Ashley Raymond has already experienced the rollercoaster of entrepreneurship at a young age. She was one of four co-founders of Pocket Punch, a UT-born personal safety device to help women feel secure alone in public. The idea attracted hundreds of pre-orders and media attention, but Raymond, Danna Tao, Margy McCallum and Meagan Doyle decided to dissolve Pocket Punch and launch a company with even wider ambitions called Safely. Their aim: to create products but also cultivate conversations around personal safety. The young women behind Safely have gone through the FoundHER program at UT’s Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute and now Raymond, who earned her master’s degree in technology commercialization from UT in May, is spearheading the company’s first line of pepper spray. She said that, despite “many obstacles and setbacks over our entrepreneurship journey, we’ve come back stronger and truly appreciate the beauty in failure.”
Luke Thorssen, 24, co-founder and CEO at Vlogmi
Rafaella Thorssen, 21, co-founder and chief creative officer at Vlogmi
Like many young people, Luke Thorssen uses social media to keep in touch with friends. But he became disillusioned with the warped reality often found on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, with airbrushed influencers and unrealistic filters. He launched Vlogmi with a tweaked vision for social media and recruited his sister, Rafealla, to help him flesh out the idea. Vlogmi users can only post from the in-app camera, with no filters — the founders want to promote “connecting, not comparing.” The Filipino Canadian family visited Austin in 2021 and decided to stay, in part because of the supportive startup scene they found. Vlogmi went through the Draper Startup House accelerator in Austin in May and the Thorssen siblings have already returned as entrepreneurs in residence for the program founded by billionaire VC Tim Draper.
Colin Tierney, 25, founder and broker at Gold Tier Real Estate
University of Texas at Austin grad Colin Tierney established both his commercial real estate career and his firm, Gold Tier Real Estate, in 2020 during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the company is quickly climbing the local commercial real estate rankings. In two years, the firm has sold over $145 million in real estate deals, and has over $150 million in the pipeline. Notable transactions include South Congress Station, a 47,000-square-foot retail center, and Parmer McNeil Plaza, a 47,888 square foot retail center adjacent to Apple’s campus. Tierney himself made an appearance on our 2022 list of building sales heavy hitters, having closed seven deals and selling 165,136 square feet of space in 2021. Tierney joins JLL’s Josh Green and Graham Schmergel and Weitzman’s Nick Naumann as the only four of 25 heavy hitters on that list to begin their careers within the past decade.
Blake Takushi, 23, creative director and partner at Idea Peddler
It only took Blake Takushi one semester as an engineering student at the University of Texas to realize he was pursuing the wrong path. But a change in major wasn’t enough to satisfy his creative passions. Takushi, who has said he fell in love with filmmaking in high school by making vlogs and YouTube videos, was only 19 when he dropped out of UT to become a freelance videographer. Takushi was eventually recruited to join a small creative agency called Nimaroh, and was named a partner within a year. Clients of the agency included UT, CNN, Coinbase, Planned Parenthood, SXSW and more. When Nimaroh was acquired earlier this year by ad agency Idea Peddler, the 23-year-old Takushi was named a partner and given the responsibility of leading a video production team at the agency. Here’s to watching how Takushi’s work evolves in the coming years.
Aleric Heck, 25, founder and CEO of AdOutreach
Aleric Heck has been navigating Youtube since his early teenage years, and the work shows. Heck, now the 25-year-old founder and CEO of AdOutreach, leads the fastest growing Austin-based startup on the 2022 Inc. 5000 list. The company, which was founded in 2016 to help businesses generate more leads through video marketing, ranked No. 60 overall this year on the national list with 6,052% three-year growth. The company has now made the Inc. 5000 list two years running and has revenue in the eight figures. Heck appears to have a bright future, and his polish in front of the camera is self-evident — check out his Youtube channel to see it for yourself.
Brent Wistrom, Paul Thompson, Sahar Chmais, Cody Baird and Will Anderson contributed reporting.
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