Socially conscious businesses on the rise in Austin

Money pretty much does grow on trees for Abianne Miller Falla and her sister JennaDee Detro.

Back in 2012, Abianne had a comfortable Washington, D.C., job with Lululemon Athletica Inc., the Canadian maker of yoga workout gear.

That’s when JennaDee called from Texas with a discovery — a tree on the family property seemed to be unaffected by the drought that started months before. Not only did the yaupon tree in Cat Spring, between La Grange and Houston, need little water, but its leaves could be harvested to produce a tea that was used by Native Americans hundreds of years ago.

That fact had since been mostly forgotten, except by a few businesses, and it smelled of opportunity. The sisters started a business called Cat Spring Tea LLC that would capitalize on the abundance of the leaves that grow year-round.

But this business isn’t all about money. From the beginning, Abianne and JennaDee decided to hire workers who had difficulty finding jobs for a variety of reasons, such as being former inmates or recovering from substance abuse.

Details revealed on Blackstone Groups’ bid for Dell buyout

Dell Inc.’s go-shop period in the run-up to its 2013 shareholder buyout prompted the Round Rock tech giant to pay another prospective buyer as much as $25 million in due-diligence expenses. What’s more, it caused a prospective Dell customer to have concerns the buyer would replace CEO Michael Dell, according to recently released court documents.

The Delaware court filing made in connection with a continuing shareholder appraisal lawsuit offers a rare glimpse at the inner workings of the $24.9 billion Dell buyout by Silver Lake Partners LP and Michael Dell, that took almost a year to complete.

HomeAway OKs $59M in vested shares for CEO

HomeAway Inc.’s board of directors has authorized CEO Brian Sharples to immediately vest restricted stock and options worth nearly $59 million.

The board approval came Nov. 4 — the same day Austin-based HomeAway announced plans to be acquired by travel industry giant Expedia Inc. for $3.9 billion, according to a Tuesday filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

HomeAway’s compensation committee “approved the full single-trigger accelerated vesting of all of the outstanding stock options, restricted stock units and restricted stock awards of the company” held by Sharples, the filing indicates.

Inside the cluttered, creative mind of Gary Hoover

It was a Friday morning in July at the century-old downtown building housing The Austin Club when 15 sleepy-eyed business people sat around five round tables in an upstairs meeting room.

The gathering of the Technology Advisors Group featured a hot breakfast and plenty of coffee. But there was little need for caffeine because entrepreneur Gary Hoover was providing his own wake-up presentation to the group.

The perpetually energetic Austinite jolted the audience to attention as he outlined his latest business idea — a global network of innovation museums — during a 25-minute presentation without notes or PowerPoint images. Instead, Hoover relied on his memory and a machine-gun stream of facts to make the case for a venture that would focus on innovation in disciplines such as music, art, games, technology, health, food and medicine.

Riding the roads in Google’s autonomous car

What many consider to be the future of transportation sat motionless in a parking lot off West Anderson Lane Wednesday morning.

Today, it was my turn for a ride in a car without a driver.

A white Lexus RX450h outfitted with the latest scanning technology took me for a spin on local streets with two Google Inc. employees monitoring its every move. The car is one of 14 autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles technology giant Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) is testing in Austin.

Dallas startup launches app to delivery nearly anything

A Dallas startup is launching an app-based delivery service in Austin that goes beyond food delivery and ridesharing — and it’s hiring.

Get Me LLC, which was founded in early 2014 and started operating in Dallas last month, is launching a combination personal delivery and ridesharing service called Get Me. The company plans to host local driver sign-up events Wednesday through Sunday and expects to enlist 60 drivers initially in Austin, co-founder Jonathan Laramy said.

Taking a bite out of tech worker food perks

A proposal to tax the complimentary meals many technology companies provide workers is being watched carefully by Austin startups — but don’t expect any new rules to go into effect soon.

It’s possible that the measure being considered by the Internal Revenue Service and Department of the Treasury could go into effect in about two years at the earliest. But such proposals often take much longer to adopt.

Coding school and co-working space to open downtown

Coding school and co-working space operator Galvanize Inc. has confirmed plans to open offices next year in a new tower being built in downtown Austin.

The Denver-based company, which operates as a combination coding school and co-working space, is scheduled to start finishing out its space in October in an office building across the street from the skyscraper that Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) is moving into at the site of the old Green Water Treatment Plant on the north shore of Lady Bird Lake at West Cesar Chavez and San Antonio Streets.

Galvanize plans to occupy three floors — 25,000 square feet — of the building and employ 25-30 workers, Mandes said.

Gary Hoover to launch chain of innovation museums

Austin serial entrepreneur Gary Hoover plans to raise $6 million to $8 million to open a local innovation museum that would be the first in a chain.

Hoover told the Technology Advisors Group Friday morning that the Austin market is underserved by museums, and indoor activities would be popular alternative especially during times of inclement weather. The success of businesses such as TopGolf have proven the experience-based business model to be a solid one.

“Our society is shifting from products to services,” he said. “People are looking for stuff to do. People are looking for experiences.”

Local energy company goes against the grain

An Austin oil and gas exploration company is banking on generating healthy returns in a volatile energy market — with $250 million to get it done.

Austin’s American Resource Development LLC, known as Ameredev, launched in July with the financing and a team of experienced energy executives in place. That combination is helping to position the startup amid an industry contraction and sluggish oil prices, CEO Parker Reese said.