Lone Star stars

2 innovative Austin companies named finalists for prestigious $10 million prize

2 Austin companies named finalists for prestigious $10 million prize

Austin skyline
Two Austin companies are in the running for a $10 million prize. Photo courtesy of Unsplash/Abodo

Two Austin organizations are in the spotlight for innovation, and their ideas could score them a $10 million prize.

The Lone Star Prize launched in early 2020 by Lyda Hill Philanthropies and Lever for Change to fund Texas-based companies addressing critical issues across the state. On January 7, it announced the five finalists for its multimillion-dollar prize, which range from clean water to improving mental health access for all Texans.

“The finalists for the Lone Star Prize are answering the call just when Texas needs them the most,” said Lyda Hill, founder of Lyda Hill Philanthropies. “Amid the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, finding long-term solutions to improve the lives of Texans is more critical than ever."

Of the more than 170 proposals submitted for the prize, only five were selected. Among those is Austin's JUST Community, which offers a nonprofit financial platform that helps to close the racial wealth gap by investing in ambitious Texas women. By breaking down financial barriers — credit scores, collateral, etc. — JUST Community aims to to create more resilient communities and diverse economic opportunities. 

Also selected is the Austin-based Texas Water Trade, which aims to solve Texas' water crisis — a crisis that disproportionately affects communities of color. 

“At the heart of this effort is the belief that the technological solutions that we are unlocking for water resilience in wealthier communities across the state should be equitably deployed to close the clean water gap that still leaves hundreds of thousands of Texans without basic water services,” said Sharlene Leurig, CEO of Texas Water Trade, in a release.

Also short-listed is new project proposed by the Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. The institute's project proposal, titled “Texas Dirt: The Key to Environment, Economy and Resilience,” aims to transform the state’s environment “through implementation of a soil carbon storage market while growing new economic opportunities for rural Texans” according to a press release.

Other statewide finalists include Dallas-based Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, which will will improve quality of life and mental health access and the Dallas location of Merit America, which will will build new pathways to upwardly mobile careers for low-wage Texans without bachelor’s degrees. 

The winner will be announced later this year.