Angelos, the founder and CEO of International Accelerator, where they discover and support startups from around the globe, introducing foreign-born founders to the American market. He also specializes in technology-based economic development, business accelerator programs, and angel investing. His expertise lies in strategic business planning and development, corporate site selection, incentive negotiation, economic research and analysis, public policy, litigation support, marketing and branding, public-private partnerships, and entrepreneurial accelerator programs. Angelos is frequently sought out by national and international media for his comments and insights.

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Show Transcript:

Ryan: Hello everyone and welcome back to this week’s episode of the Full Stack Leader Podcast again this week. I’m doing a special innovators perspective here at South by South West 2023. I am really, really excited this week to be sitting with Angelos Angelou. It’s great to have you here. He is the CEO and founder of the International Accelerator and an amazing economic development talent here in in Austin and has been, as I was just talking to you, been coming to every single south by Southwest to ever exist.

So that’s, that is that’s amazing. And it’s been wild to watch it grow. 

Angelos: Brian, it’s, I’m happy to be here. I’ve been in Austin for 35 years now. So actually the Chamber of Commerce funded South by Southwest with $5,000, 35 years ago, and that’s all the money they needed. 

Ryan: Wow. Talk about taking and, and applying $5,000 really effectively, really good roi.


Angelos: Luckily we didn’t take an equity position. If had we asked for an equity, they would’ve given us 30% probably. We just asked them to. Through the other venture that they, the owners owned the Quickly Chronicle, not to criticize the business community and the Austin Chamber of Commerce. And we never, we never got any slack on from them on that.

But um, Once they became themselves a real business, then they become pro business themselves. 

Ryan: Well, I, I, I have to believe that this event and some of the decisions you probably made leading up to that and around that helped facilitate the massive growth of technology in this particular corridor region.

Like it’s this very 


Angelos: Well, we had a vision though we hired a consulting firm, but then we expanded on that vision. The strategic plan that we received was not workable and we wanted to be the hardware innovators. So we focused on the semiconductor industry today, Austin is the number one city for manufacturing semiconductors in the US and there are more than 200 companies now that are in this.

Sooner after we decided the future is not just on your manufacturing, but mostly on innovation. So we focused on the r and d part of the semiconductor industries, the design, and every company in the world has a major design center here for semiconductors. Including Apple. 

Ryan: That is absolutely amazing.

Yeah. And I’ve watched it grow up. I’ve been coming to this event for about 20 years as well, and it’s just been amazing to see the city flourish. Well, 

Angelos: what I, I can say is when I moved to Austin back in 1984, there were only two high rises. Yeah. Which may not be classified as, as higher it today.

The population was 560,000 of the entire region. Now we’re 2.5 million and growing at 85,000 people per year. Wow. So this is, this has been the fastest growing tech city in the US for the last 40 years, and it will be the fastest growing city in the US for the next 50. Wow. 

Ryan: That, that is amazing that in just the nineties, the Driscoll Hotel may have been the third biggest building in the city.

Yes. Yes. Yeah. To, to, to what it’s become now. I, that speaks a lot to the, the thought process around the economic development of the city. And you must have You had to think a lot about how you wanted your future to be at that time and how, how you saw this develop. And it looks like it’s been very successful.

And as you’re looking into the next, you know, 10 years or so, what are some of the ideas that you think are gonna be impactful? 

Angelos: Well, as I’ve mentioned, we focused on the semiconductor industry, the r and d part of it. Then software development, because we have a lot of talent coming out of our educational institu.

Now there is a growing segment of AI and cybersecurity here with the government, the military having the $32 billion procurement office here, the Army Futures Command if you, if you will, 600 people looking at technology to adopt with the US military. This has become actually the most important recruitment for Austin because now many companies around the country want to be here closer to the decision makers if they have any opportunity to do business with the US military.

So we have quite a few military assets as well in technology, but you know, every major company has several thousand people’s people here, led by Dell, led by Apple. Which is gonna probably become our largest employer here with 30,000 people in the next few years. So significant assets from every major company, not just service centers, but r and d support and sales.

I mean, this is a major development center. We probably have more patents than per capita than any other city in the US besides the silicon. We’re very close to that. The institutions of higher education in Texas are very strong meaning UT Austin, ut Houston, UT Dallas, Texas, and m only about a hundred miles away.

We have over 165,000 college and university students here. That does not exist anywhere in the US So companies move here because we have the talent, the innovators. And moreover, as you can see, the Austinites now are maybe one or 2% of the population. All the growth is coming from other parts of Texas, other parts of the world as well as the us 

Ryan: Yeah.

I I also know you run an accelerator as well. Mm-hmm. And you, you’re getting to view lots of, lots of great ideas come in. You have to make decisions on who to engage with. What are some of the things that, as you’re thinking about the, that kind of period over the next little bit that you’re looking for in some of the entrepreneurs and technologists that are coming 

Angelos: through your doors.

Well, we focus on those sectors that venture capitalists are investing and that changes every year. So we like health tech. We like FinTech, we like cybersecurity, we like ai and those are the sectors that we focus on E-commerce. We have some gainer enablers in our portfolio. Let’s say that we have 36 portfolio companies that.

Today from 15 different countries. We focus ex exclusively on foreign born entrepreneurs to give us a different dimension than anyone else. And we have two unicorn companies and hopefully two or three more on their way. So very successful in just. Six and a half years 

Ryan: that we’ve been in business. I know there’s a big population of un farm companies in this town.

Correct. Yeah. So it’s it’s amazing that you’re a part of that for sure. 

Angelos: Absolutely. And you know, we, strive to attract foreign born entrepreneurs with a unique value proposition. First of its kind typically. We have a couple of deep tech companies, one of. Has discovered quantum wireless charging the first one in the world.

Wow. Yeah. They will, they will eventually become the new standard in wireless charging. We have a company out of California Indian entrepreneur that is a prodigy inventor. She has 52 patents filed, 11 of which have been approved in the semiconductor industry. Again, one of a, one of a. But you know, you don’t have to be one of the kind to be successful.

It’s all about being a serial entrepreneur having a good sense of how you are gonna grow the company and the support that they need to have in the us which we provide as an accelerator and not, don’t have to worry about anything. I actually host all of the startups initially at my home for three.

Wow. Really? Absolutely. I cook for them. I let them use a third car that we have, free office, free CFO services, free CMO services, free. Everything. We take an equity position of those companies to, and then we fundraise up to a million dollars for them or more if they. To scale their business in the us We help them find mentors.

We’ve built their board of advisors, if you will. We, there has not been anything that we have not been able to do for them, including the visa. 

Ryan: Do you, do you think the training and kind of personal touch that goes into that kind of like initial onboarding of a, of an organization leads to like a long term methodology, 

Angelos: Absolut.

We have 30 competitors here in Austin. We have several hundred competitors in the us Yeah. But we’re not in a numbers game like most accelerators. Right. Where they have 200 companies and hopefully one of them will succeed. Or two, we only choose 12 companies and we better choose Well, and they better, some of them become 

Ryan: unicorn.

Angelos: I remember one of our entrepreneurs um, his. Years ago, profusely was thanking me for providing a secure home. Right? Yeah. Because he had a child that he’d never met. And she was very concerned about him and his safety in the us.

Is he living in the right part of town? Is he how, how does every day go? How does he get to work? Which we of course gave him the truck to drive and all of that. So the support system is, Significant for them, more importantly, to get their visa.

Ryan: On, on, on this front. I mean, considering you are working with international, big, big international teams that you’re, you’re focused on growing or, or I guess international founders that are, that are beginning teams here. How do you see over the next 10 years, the technology industries outside the United States do you see them burgeoning 

Angelos: extensively?

Well, what I can say before I started the accelerator, I did my homework. If you go and visit the offices of Motorola or AMD or Facebook, Microsoft, more than 60% of the workers are foreign born. It’s international. More than 50% of all entrepreneurs in the US are foreign born. Wow. 40% of all our IPOs are run.

Companies where there is one foreign born entrepreneur leading that company. So tremendous talent. We’re here to, we’re survivors. We’re not, we’re not coming to the US to fail. So failure is not an option. That’s right. So what you don’t get from a foreign born entrepreneur as well, I’ve burned 5 million.

I’ve learned a few lessons onto their second startup. Well, I’ve burned another 5 million. I’ve learned more and hopefully. Third time it will be a charm. These guys don’t have that luxury. They lose face. There’s family considerations. They have to make it, they have to make it work hungry. They work 18 hours 

Ryan: a day.

Do you, do you think there’s something in the support system they can provide each other to, to 

Angelos: Yeah. There is already quite a. Support that they provide to each other in our own accelerator. That’s right. Yeah. Companies interact with one another. They help one another. Some of them are customers of each other, so it’s a phenomenal network.

I guess close in network. Well, part of a small family. We’re a family. We’re not running this as, you’re not a number in our accelerator. You’re actually a human being. We never work as a cohort. We bring everyone individually here and we focus on their business. So, the future is obviously innovation.

We have yet to see what is going to come about from G B T three and four and life sciences. We’re gonna see phenomenal innovation in the future. Quantum computing semiconductor industry has a lot of innovation still to come about. As I always say, the best of technology is yet to come. 

Ryan: I love to hear that. And, and for somebody who’s been helping the best of technology show up over and over again, it’s good to hear that it’s still panel. 

Angelos: Oh, it is. It’s yet to come. There’s phenomenal entrepreneurs from around the. And we sometimes our government would be a little bit more lax on the immigration so they can, we will attract them because we’re the largest market in the world, the most developed market.

With a developed ecosystem and we make it very hard for them to come to the US and yet it is very easy for illegals to come into the us. So it’s is kind of an oxymoron. 

Ryan: Yeah. You want, you want to keep, keep supporting all kinds of growth from, from people around the world. Yeah. That’s really, 

Angelos: but we were built by foreign born entrepreneurs as a country and we’re still evolving from foreign entrepreneurs, whether it’s Asians, whether it’s Europeans, whether it’s people from Latin America.

We see quite a bit of entrepreneurship from Vietnam, from Brazil, from Mexico. I’m Ukraine of, you 

Ryan: know, yeah. You see a lot of, a lot of that regions moving out 

Angelos: So Greece has a very strong entrepreneurial ecosystem. Romania has had for many years as well. 

Ryan: What’s what’s one of the, one of the great things that you’ve seen here at the show that inspired you?

Angelos: Well, this year we haven’t reached a pre pandemic trade show here. It’s building up and it will applaud the effort of South by Southwest because in a way they make Austin an international city. You know, I missed the Chinese contingent here where they had a hundred boots with so much technology, but you.

A lot of robotics, a lot of innovation, a lot of services. particularly like the, the focus on food and health. I think that was very, very important because the world is changing. The younger generation is much more responsible, quite frankly, in taking care of the. 

Ryan: My kids agree with you. My kids agree with you.

Yeah. Us. Yeah. 

Angelos: Yeah. Completely agree. Climate change, what is that? I mean, we now, the young generation is all about climate change changing the world, and it’s actually in their hands to change it. 

Ryan: They, and they got a big 

Angelos: job ahead of them. The old generation is not changing the world. It’s a young generation.

We got, 

Ryan: yeah. We’re handing them a big, big task. So, 

Angelos: and Grant, what I’m amazed. Every time I think, well, this is sort of it, we’re not gonna see more innovation in this sector. Hundreds of other innovators come in and, and do it. Innovation is just nonstop and it’s global. It’s not, nobody has cornered it.

And eventually the Asian countries are gaining on us now, China. Produces more than one and a half million patents. The US only about 550,000. Yeah. So the world is changing and a lot of that, a lot of that in the AI and machine market. Absolutely. It’s quantum machines, quantum computing, our startup in quantum wireless charging, which is gonna set a new standard in and also save 35% energy.

On, on, on doing that, but I’m very excited about the future. I advise all of my clients in economic development and we’ve worked with over 600 cities in the US to keep at it. And rather than investing in megasite, everyone expecting to get a auto plant or big data center, I encourage them to invest on their entrepreneurial e.

Ryan: Kinda 

Angelos: like plant seed, right? Yes. Yeah. And the reason why I started the accelerators because of that, I was trying to convince my clients that they should invest and they were not way back then, 20 years ago and 15 years ago.

And now everyone is has an entrepreneurial program. Yeah. But I set out, I’m gonna show them how it’s done and and how easy it is to get it done. Well, 

Ryan: we applaud you and thank you. And I know just by uh, my own ability to come to Austin so much from South by Southwest and things that you help generate.

We, I, you know, I deeply appreciate it and, and I’ve grown a ton in my life because of it. 

Angelos: For me, there is nothing more rewarding to help people achieve their goals, and that’s what we’re doing. I’m not here for the money. Been there, done that. My wife and I can always retire very comfortably, but it’s helping others achieve their goals and I don’t want to, to have one innovator was their innovation, trying to achieve it.

All of them should be given the opportunity. 

Ryan: Well, thank you for all of your insights today. Really appreciate it and won’t take any more of your time, but it’s been an absolute pleasure. 

Angelos: Yeah, thanks so much. Look forward to working with you Absolutely. On many more