First jobs, favorite books and more: What we learned about Austin tech leaders in 2017

December 27, 2017

While many of Austin tech’s leading entrepreneurs face the same challenges, how they actually got to where they're at today differs wildly. Throughout 2017, we connected with local founders and CEOs to learn about what inspires them, how their careers have evolved — and how those prior experiences help drive them to be better leaders today. Here’s a look back at seven of the interesting facts we learned about our community’s leaders.


From chemist to tech veteran

We caught up with Brightpearl over the summer after the U.K.-based company announced Austin as its new American headquarters. Derek O'Carroll, Brightpearl’s CEO, sat down with us to share why he and his team selected Austin, how they’ve gone about growing their team and how he led a sales push that increased deal sizes by 500 percent. During this conversation, we learned O’Carroll was a chemist before entering the tech space in the 90s.


One boss before becoming the boss

In August, we connected with three CEOs from Austin tech to reflect on the favorite bosses they had prior to assuming a head honcho position of their own. We learned Headspring’s President and CEO Dustin Wells only worked for one boss before becoming one himself. Wells said that he learned to support his team’s personal growth, even if that meant a member was leaving the company.


Matt Sanchez
Founder and CTO

Patent after patent; startup after startup

Matt Sanchez, CTO and founder of CognitiveScale, filled us in on the technologies that make up CognitiveScale’s machine learning algorithms. In a seven-question interview, Sanchez shared that the company has filed for more than 100 patents since its inception in 2013. We also learned that Sanchez has lived in Austin for 27 years, founding three companies along the way.


The books that inspire a book startup founder

Monica Landers launched in 2014. The startup leverages machine learning to pair writers with the publishers most likely to publish their manuscript. In April, we asked Landers to share what books have influenced her entrepreneurial journey. Her top picks included “In The Company of Women,” “The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stores About Facing the Unknown” and “The Joy of Leaving Your Sh*t All Over the Place.”


Nick Bawa
CEO and Co-founder

Can’t do it alone

Nick Bawa, co-founder and CEO of Covintus, reflected on his leadership styles and the best advice he’s received in our February interview. Bawa said the most valuable lesson he’s learned throughout his career is the significance of the team mentality. For new startup founders, Bawa said it’s important to know your strengths and surround yourself with experts who fill the weaker areas.


CEO and Founder
Joah Spearman

Middle school hustler

Before launching Localeur in 2013 — heck, even before graduating from 8th grade — Joah Spearman had already taken a swim in the entrepreneurial pool. In March, we wrote about Austin tech founders’ first jobs, and Spearman shared that his first paying job was his own lawn services business in 6th and 7th grade. Upon realizing he couldn’t make money during school hours, Spearman said he began selling bubble gum to his classmates to help pay for school clothes and field trips.



Xuan Yong
CEO and Co-founder

Good ideas spawned from brews

In February, we ran a piece sharing the stories of how co-founders met. Turns out, RigUp co-founders Mike Witte and Xuan Yong met years before going into business together while attending Texas A&M. Witte studied petroleum engineering and Yong majored in business. Both ended up working in the oil industry and living in NYC. When the two reconnected for a beer in 2012, RigUp’s business model was born.


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