Austin tech launches Hurricane Harvey relief efforts

by Kelly O'Halloran
August 30, 2017


Hurricane Harvey has shown that Texans know how to band together in a time of need. That includes members of the Austin tech community. Along with fellow Texans Beyoncé, athlete JJ Watt and jewelry designer Kendra Scott — as well as politicians and CEOs — local tech has united in an effort to assist the families and areas affected by last weekend’s storm.


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On Sunday, while the storm continued to pummel the coast, the co-workers at Capital Factory took to social media to organize a blood drive for Monday. The co-working space also opened its doors for displaced people who need a space to work this Friday. Additionally, Johnathan Wojtewicz, executive director of Bunker Labs Austin, which operates out of Capital Factory, assembled a local rescue team of boat owners to head to Houston together — boats in tow.

“It was great to see the Austin tech community come together over Twitter, finding ways to help,” said Josh Baer, Capital Factory executive director. 

If you missed Monday’s drive, you can sign up here for another one this Friday, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.



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Austin startups uShip, The Chive, Aceable, Box, Everfest, Invodo and Boundless Network have collaborated for a massive donation drive this week.

"Hurricane Harvey has been one of the most tragic, heartbreaking disasters to hit Texas," said uShip CEO Mike Williams. "It’s impacted many friends and family of those not just at uShip but so many around Central Texas and Austin. It’s been wonderful to see how our Austin tech community has pulled together around something that truly transcends business, doing what we can, even in some small way given what people in the Houston area are facing now and in the days, months and even years to come."

Non-perishable food items, water, personal hygiene items, pet food and pet essentials, insect repellent, hand sanitizer and baby wipes, tools, work gloves, buckets, industrial trash bags, flash lights, batteries, tarps, foam earplugs and safety glasses may all be dropped off or sent to uShip’s headquarters: 205 E. Riverside Drive, Austin TX 78704.

While clothing and blankets are important, they are not needed at this time.



Austin’s largest digital tech employer Dell made a $500,000 donation to support The American Red Cross and Team Rubicon. Additionally, the company has set up a dedicated relief page on Dell’s Legacy of Good Community site, where the company matches employee donations up to $10,000 per employee annually.

“As a company headquartered in Central Texas, the devastation from Hurricane Harvey is personal, and we are committed to supporting customers, colleagues, friends and family who have been affected,” said Trisa Thompson, corporate social responsibility officer at Dell.


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IT software provider SolarWinds is organizing both volunteer support and financial donations for the families affected, said Jenne Barbour, SolarWinds senior director of corporate marketing. On Tuesday, the company donated $75,000 to The American Red Cross of Central & South Texas Region, All Hands Volunteers and Feeding Texas.

SolarWinds is matching U.S. employee donations to these organizations over the next 30 days on the basis of $2 for every $1. They are also committing a minimum of 1,000 employee volunteer hours over the next six months.

“The impact the storm has had on our neighbors in Texas has been and continues to be devastating,” said CEO Kevin B. Thompson. “This is a time when we as a company — and all of us as individuals — need to step up and help as much as we can.”


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Silicon Labs is also launching a fundraiser in which the company will match employee contributions of up to $2,000 per employee. The company also donated $50,000 to The American Red Cross.

"I am calling upon other technology community leaders in Austin to make sure Harvey’s impact is met with an equally strong response – a commitment to provide disaster relief, infrastructure repair, and help rebuild lives and our economy in the wake of this storm," said John Hollister, Silicon Labs CFO and chair elect of the Red Cross Central Texas board of directors, in a statement.


BigCommerce is matching employee donations dollar-for-dollar up to $10,000, and their CEO Brent Bellm is hosting families impacted by the hurricane through Airbnb properties. 

"We have created a matching program for BigCommerce employees who are willing to open their home to evacuees and BigCommerce customers who were impacted by the floods in either Texas or Louisiana," said Rachael Genson, BigCommerce PR manager. 


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On Monday, TurnKey Vacation Rentals co-founders TJ Clark and John Banczak headed to Port Aransas with a truckload of supplies to assist in home repairs and cleanup in the destroyed communities. The pair are also assessing damages of the TurnKey-managed properties in the affected areas, spending the week with a team of 12 people.

"We are inspecting homes, taking inventory of the damage and doing lots of cleanup work when things can be salvaged," said Banczak. "It is a pretty dismal picture. So many homes and businesses have been destroyed or severely damaged. The local TurnKey office is almost a complete loss. We have not even begun to try and salvage anything until all of the homes are checked out first."



Pets are in need of support, too, and many Texas shelters are requesting dog food donations. Embark Veterinary relocated to Boston in July, but the dog DNA testing startup hasn’t left its Texas roots behind. Between Aug. 29 through Sept. 3, Embark will donate 100 percent of its net profits to the Houston Humane Society, Austin Dog Alliance and the Embark Veterinary Foundation, where non-profits helping dogs impacted by Hurricane Harvey can apply for grants.

“We thank you for any support you can provide these dogs in need (and the shelters that are putting in Herculean efforts on the front lines),” said co-founders Ryan and Adam Boyko, in a blog. “Please spread the word by sharing this blog. There is no dollar limit to our donation.”


HomeAway donated $25,000 to The American Red Cross this week and will match employee donations to their chosen hurricane relief organization up to $25,000.
The company is also locating temporary housing in vacation rental properties to offer displaced rental owners, travelers and evacuees. Use this link to offer your house for evacuees, or to find an available house for free or a discount.

Since launching a donation page to support The American Red Cross a few days ago, RetailMeNot has already raised over $54,000. The company is also matching donations and has committed $100,000 in employee, customer and corporate gifts. 

"We’re also mobilizing our employees for supply drives, specifically to help the Texas Diaper Bank with baby and adult diapers, and Austin Pets Alive! will receive donations of cat and dog food, treats, litter boxes, and cleaning supplies," said Chelsie Baugh, RetailMeNot's manager of corporate communications. 


For every delivery that Dropoff makes this week across the country, the startup will donate $1 to The American Red Cross.

"Our thoughts are with those affected by the devastating damage caused by Hurricane Harvey," said CEO and co-founder Sean Spector in a blog


Ride-sharing startup Fasten will offer free rides on Friday for Austinites willing to donate blood at the drives taking place at Capital Factory and three other locations of the Austin-based We Are Blood. 

“We really wanted to help out where there was great need. We Are Blood is not only helping patients and evacuees in Austin, they’re also sending supplies to Houston where their centers are unable to operate due to the flooding,” said Kirill Evdakov, co-founder and CEO of Fasten. “We encourage anyone who has not signed up already to please get out and help on Friday. We’ll make sure you get to a donation site and back—for free.”


AdAction Interactive's CEO and CFO are both from Houston. To support those in need, staff from their Denver and Austin offices are traveling to Houston to provide some extra hands. 

The company has also donated $2,500 to Team Rubicon and $2,500 for the Houston, Texas/JJ Watt YouCaring Fund. 


One of the most requested donations items so far has been for baby goods and diapers. To help, Bumble is hosting a donation drive on Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. at their headquarter office on 1105 W. 41st. 

"We are collecting baby and adult diapers, diaper cream, unopened wipes, pads, tampons, and baby formula," said Caitlin Sullivan, Bumble's HR advisor. 



In addition to delivering the news of Amazon’s completed acquisition of Austin-born Whole Foods on Monday, the companies announced their joint hurricane relief efforts. They will match monetary donations of up to $1 million to support The American Red Cross. Whole Foods customers can also donate in stores during checkout.

To make additional donations like cribs and phone chargers, members of the community can buy items off Amazon’s wish list. The items will be delivered from Amazon’s North and Central Texas fulfillment teams directly to The American Red Cross distribution centers.


For additional ways to volunteer and donate to those affected by Harvey, check out this list compiled by Do512.

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