Hi, I'm Austin!
My name is Austin Hirsh, I'm 23 years old, and I'm the founder of The 2050 Company. I grew up in Gig Harbor, Washington, the epicenter of all outdoor activities. I love hiking, camping, and wake boarding in the summer and escaping the rain to ski in the winter. In the past couple of years, I have become increasingly alarmed by the scientific projections concerning the future of our planet and the ecosystems I have grown up in. Recent studies predict that by the year 2050, the Arctic could be ice-free, 90% of corals could become naturally extinct, and wildfires could double in frequency. On top of this, the UN predicts that food production must double by 2050 to meet the needs of a growing population. In my final years of college, I decided to seek out a way to make an immediate, positive impact and help to ensure prosperity in the year 2050.
As a Mechanical Engineer, I had always assumed that the best solutions to climate change would be complicated new inventions to replace today's cars, airplanes, and power plants. In fact, I spent the majority of my time as an undergraduate working on a very different venture, inventing the "Tesla of Lawnmowers", an electric and autonomous robot that would replace my least favorite summer chore. But during my senior year, I was surprised to see that the easiest way for a 21-year-old solo entrepreneur to maximize his impact might be simpler than I imagined. According to Project Drawdown, the world's leading resource in climate change solutions, reducing food waste is the single-best way to prevent global warming of 2 ºC by 2050.
This data point, combined with a discovery that 49% of produce grown in the US is never eaten, was all the convincing I needed to pivot to a new venture. I drafted up a pitch for an idea that had been in the back of my mind for years and submitted it to the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge. My idea was to rescue unwanted, surplus, or "imperfect" produce and transform it into a nutrient-packed smoothie that could last for 2 years, easily travel to all corners of the globe, and make customers' lives simpler every time they used it. This was an ambitious dream. To make it happen, I looked to the stars!
I have always been fascinated by space exploration. My parents were both commercial airline pilots, so I grew up surrounded by news of exciting aerospace developments, flight stories, and acronyms galore. In high school, I took flight lessons and was able to experience the exhilaration of flying a small plane solo. It's a lot more exciting than sitting in the back of a 737, even if your mom is flying that 737.
Even as I flew hundreds of feet above the ground, I would still catch myself looking up, imagining what lay beyond the Earth's atmosphere. Since I had been interested in aerospace technology since a young age, it seemed obvious to me that freeze-drying technology was destined to follow in the footsteps of memory foam and computer mice, eventually making it down to Earth and into our homes. It also seemed outrageous that while most people knew of this revolutionary technology, it was still relegated to limited production of camping provisions and chalky ice-cream bars sold for $15 at space museums. I saw this technology as a solution that could not only rescue produce before it goes bad, but transform otherwise doomed fruits and vegetables into true value-added products. Plus, we could ship it around the world, connecting areas of food scarcity with those of excess.
I got right to work, and I've been tirelessly working to build The 2050 Company ever since. I ended up winning first place in that pitch competition I mentioned earlier. One day after that, I began an accelerated master's program at the University of Washington to soak up all of the business skills I would need to build The 2050 Company. While working on my master's, I kept building 2050 as a sole-founder, entering 5 more pitch competitions and bringing in $20,000 to put toward the business. At night, I studied all the ins and outs of crowdfunding, so that 2 months after receiving my master's, I could launch a Kickstarter campaign to bring the 2050 Smoothie to life.
When I launched the Kickstarter campaign, my goal was to raise a total of $20,000 in a month. I blew past this goal in two days, was selected as a Kickstarter staff favorite, and closed out the month with more than $40,000 in funding! The same day the Kickstarter launched I was accepted into the Jones and Foster Accelerator, where I spent 6 months working with mentors to flesh out my plans to build the 2050 Company sustainably and to maximize impact. I finished the accelerator in February and received another $25,000 to put toward building the business. Two days later, I filmed a video and entered for my chance to go into space!
My business philosophy is built around doing good and doing well. I believe it’s possible for a business to make money and make an impact. It's possible for customers to make their lives easier and more sustainable. The best sustainable inventions don't require customers to compromise. Solar panels are good for the environment and they save you money. Teslas are electric and incredibly sexy. The Impossible Burger is plant-based and tastes like the greasy, delicious burger you'd expect from Burger King. I think it's vital for young people to know that they don't have to compromise. We don't have much time left to act. Now is the time to follow your dreams and start changing the world!
I truly believe that I was born to be on Inspiration4. My entire business is built on the concept of bringing space technology down to Earth and ensuring prosperity 30 year in the future (and beyond!). I am always considering problems from "30,000 feet up" to predict how each and every business decision will impact the long-term well-being of the planet and its inhabitants. I think of this perspective as a kind of earth-bound Overview Effect. We've never experienced what impact a "1,000,000 foot" perspective can have on social innovation, entrepreneurship, and invention. This fall, I hope to find out!