By John Egan
Clayton Christopher, founder and former CEO of Austin-based Sweet Leaf Tea Co., has invested in Austin snack company Beanitos Inc. and joined its board of directors. Details of Christopher’s investment weren’t disclosed.
Nestlé Waters North America Inc. bought Sweet Leaf, a maker of bottled teas, in 2011. Christopher stepped down as CEO in 2010; Nestlé executive Dan Costello replaced him. Costello had joined Sweet Leaf as president in 2009 after Nestlé made a $15.6 million investment in the company.
“We’re happy to welcome Clayton to the Beanitos team. With his proven track record of success and deep understanding of retail, he makes our team even stronger,” Beanitos co-founder and CEO Doug Foreman says.
Christopher co-founded Deep Eddy Vodka, an Austin-based producer of vodka, in 2011. Christopher also is co-founder and a board member of Austin-based Rhythm Superfoods, which makes kale snack chips.
Aside from Christopher’s investment, Beanitos has attracted what it calls a “substantial investment” from Chicago-based investment firm 2x Consumer Products Growth Partners. The amount of the firm’s investment wasn’t revealed.
Beanitos bean chips are made from pinto and black beans. A 1.25-ounce bag has 6 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber.
“Beanitos launched in 2010, and our sales are already surpassing our original goals. Americans are looking to eat healthier, and Beanitos is helping them do it,” Foreman says.
By John Egan
2012 promises to be a happy new year for Unwired Nation Inc.
Bolstered by a funding round of $6.5 million that’s set to close in February, the Austin-based software company aims to practically double its workforce this year with the addition of as many as 10 employees. Unwired Nation currently has 13 employees.
New hires this year will be in areas such as sales, marketing, mobile development and web development, CEO Eric Smith says.
“The company is looking to hire great people who are passionate about mobile technology,” Smith tells AustInnovation. “In 10 years, the Internet will be mobile. We’re starting to see that transition, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”
Unwired Nation currently doesn’t have any job openings. If you’re interested in working for the company, fill out the “Contact Us” form on the Unwired Nation website.
The $6.5 million in new funding came from 15 angel investors. The company’s investors include Dale Quisenberry, founder of Austin-based Crossroad Systems Inc.; Eric Simone, an early investor in Austin-based BazaarVoice Inc.; and Irl Nathan, an investor in Austin-based Caringo Inc.
The company focuses on development of mobile apps and conversion of web pages to smartphone platforms. Among its customers are Q2ebanking, uShip, VoicePort and VoiceTech.
Unwired Nation, a graduate of the Austin Technology Incubator, occupies 5,000 square feet at 11940 Jollyville Road in Northwest Austin. The company boosted its office space and headcount by 30 percent in 2011.
By John Egan
PetRelocation.com, which arranges for transportation of pets anywhere around the world, has relocated to new digs in downtown Austin and is seeking to fill several positions over the next few months.
Rachel Farris, director of operations, says PetRelocation.com envisions employing at least 40 people by the end of 2012. Currently, the company has 27 employees. That would mean a 48 percent increase in the size of PetRelocation.com’s workforce.
PetRelocation.com now occupies 10,000 square feet that it bought at 612 Brazos St., which had been used for several years as the IFC Crossroads House during South by Southwest. The company previously was housed in 4,500 square feet on U.S. Highway 71 West in Spicewood. Farris says the furnished Spicewood space is for sale or lease.
“We’ve been consistently growing since we first got started, and 2012 promises to be no different,” Farris says. “As the economy continues to recover and companies begin opening new offices and expanding, the relocation market is poised to continue growing considerably over the next year. Our focus will be on building our sales and customer service department, and our growth plan includes hiring at least 10 new sales and customer service employees within the first half of the year.”
Farris says PetRelocation.com also will add employees in human resources and business development. Furthermore, the company is looking at opening regional offices in high-demand markets.
Currently, the company is searching for two people to become “PetRelocation Specialists,” who are customer service associates. “PetRelocation Specialists are the heartbeat of our company,” Farris says.
In hiring a PetRelocation Specialist, the company typically sees “the most success with individuals who have worked in other service-related industries – specifically hotels, travel, event planning and hospitality. So we keep an eye out for people who have been in one of those industries and are ready to make a change,” Farris says.
PetRelocation.com always is hunting for front-end and back-end developers as well, she says.
For more information about jobs at PetRelocation.com, visit careers.petrelocation.com.
PetRelocation.com moved its IT and engineering department to downtown Austin this summer. The rest of the company didn’t relocate from Spicewood until Nov. 11.
Husband-and-wife entrepreneurs (top photo) Kevin O’Brien, the CEO, and Angie O’Brien, the chief financial officer, co-founded PetRelocation.com in 2004.
To view videos on PetRelocation.com’s YouTube channel, visit www.youtube.com/user/petrelocation.
CiCi’s Pizza, known for its bargain-priced pizza buffet, will start testing online ordering early next year in Austin and five other markets.
Aside from Austin, the online test will occur in Charlotte, N.C.; Denver; Las Vegas; Orlando, Fla.; and Richmond, Va. CiCi’s is based in Coppell, a Dallas-Fort Worth suburb.
In a news release, Steve Hawter, CiCi’s vice president of franchise services, says the company sees the takeout pizza business “as a real growth opportunity for our current and future franchisees.”
CiCi’s has about 600 restaurants in 35 states. The chain has eight locations in the Austin area.
In 2010, CiCi’s announced that it planned to add another 500 restaurants in the following 10 years.
BusinesSuites, an Austin-based operator of executive business suites, is preparing to debut its fourth location in the Austin area.
BusinesSuites Hill Country Galleria will open Sept. 26 at U.S. Highway 71 and Bee Caves Road.
The new BusinesSuites will feature 40 furnished offices and three meeting rooms, complete with phone systems, Internet service and telephone-answering services. It also will offer a shared co-working space with phone, Internet and business services. Co-working spaces are an alternative to coffee shops, restaurants, libraries and other public spaces used by freelance workers.
The new location is adjacent to a Whole Foods store that is under construction and is set to open in early 2012.
BusinesSuites, founded in 1989, has nearly 20 locations in Texas, Maryland, Nevada and Virginia. The company is owned by Luci Baines Johnson and her husband, Ian Turpin.