Tina Cannon is a woman who jumps into action.

Tina Cannon cover image holding a pickleball racket

By: Joleen Jernigan. Photos by Annie Ray.

Actions speak louder than words, and Tina Cannon is a woman of action. “Civics is not a spectator sport,” declares Tina Cannon, echoing a common sentiment and rallying cry of those who, like Cannon, walk the walk as far as helping to shape the Austin of today and tomorrow. Cannon embodies this ideology as a bold entrepreneur with a razor-sharp mind for market trends in the start-up world, as the president of the Austin LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and as one of the founding forces behind recently co-launched PIX Sports Gear, a premium pickleball outfitter, because making time for fun and exercise is important, too

Austin Allure

Tina Cannon is a first-generation U.S. citizen, born to a Turkish mother raised in the U.S.Cannon was living in Las Vegas when she made her way to Austin to visit friends back in 1992, when Austin was a sleepy little city famous for green spaces, live music and hippies. Austin won her over immediately, and she felt that her destiny awaited her here. Within a week, Cannon headed home to Vegas, packed up her car–and moved to Austin.

Cannon never looked back, jumping into the Austin scene and the Central Texas lifestyle full steam ahead. Who knew then that she would end up in multiple roles in local government, marry her true love in the Capitol, lead the Austin LGBT Chamber and “serve on a gazillion boards”? In Austin, Cannon had found a city that welcomed her and, as it turns out, one that needed her voice, her fire and her gumption.

Finding Her Footing in the World of Startups

She finished her degree at Texas State University in accounting and began working as an auditor, taking on more responsibility with each new role. By 2008, Cannon had begun dabbling in startups, a business scene Austin was ripe for and one that Cannon quickly got the hang of, despite the tech bro landscape of the startup scene.

She had some early success foundingPetsMD in 2008. PetsMD was a comprehensive website with an A to Z pet health care reference library that pet owners could consult to help them better understand their pet’s symptoms and behavior. After scaling the business through several fundraising rounds with angel investors, she negotiated an acquisition and sold PetsMD in 2011.

A spin-off vet-booking tool, Book-a-Vet, followed, a business she later licensed to a firm in the U.K.

Cannon later launched Napkin Venture with her partners, a startup consulting company to advise executives on all things startup

She then served as the entrepreneur-in-residence for the Texas State University Applied Entrepreneurship Program. She fit the bill perfectly. The program catered to“tough-as-nails female founders,” as Cannon describes it. In this role, she shared her applied knowledge to train current and future founders in every aspect of launching, nurturing, funding, and scaling a company.

Natural Born Leader

Throughout her career, Cannon showed an affinity for leadership and public speaking. She wanted to participate in another type of leadership, leadership that drove the city she so loved. In 2012, Tina Cannon ran for a City Council spot and lost. The next time around, she ran—and lost—again. Still, she wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. She knew she wanted to be apart of preserving the best parts of Austin in a period of rapid growth.

Cannon wanted in and accepted a role working for her opponent at the time. Despite opposing political views, she knew they could find common ground in what they wanted for Austin, and she would still have a hand in local governmental goings-on. She served as a senior policy analyst in this role until 2017, when she moved to the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. She did so at the behest of a friend who knew she could help facilitate positive change. She still saw herself returning to the startup world but figured this role was worth postponing that a little longer.

The Austin Chamber needed new blood, and Cannon’s background in both business and local government as well as her love for the City of Austin meant she could bring useful, practical, yet hopeful insight to the role. She served as the vice president of Local Government Relations of the Greater Austin Chamber for nearly two years, helping to decide where Austinites’ public money went and what happened with public lands. She worked hard to help create a viable plan to allot public funds for the City of Austin Cultural Arts Funding Program to preserve the best of what makes Austin Austin.

Highlighting Diverse Voices

Tina Cannon with the LGBT Chamber of Commerce, an alliance of business owners and entrepreneurs who are members of the LGBT community and their allies, with the goal of promoting mutually beneficial regional economic growth.

Cannon sought to bring diverse viewpoints to the Chamber, and would often reach out to friends in the Austin LGBT Chamber. Once more, in the now-familiar pattern, a friend at the Chamber convinced her that she could best help amplify LGBT and other underrepresented voices by coming on board, which she did in May 2019. Cannon currently serves the president & CEO of the Austin LGBT Chamber, Her ever-growing list of accomplishments with her team there, as well as the alliances she has made, prove that putting off entering the startup world just a while longer was a good call. These include the fast growth of the Chamber membership and the creation of the Diversity & Ethnic Chamber Alliance (DECA Centex) and the REED Plan forRegional Equity Economic Development.

Love and Marriage

Somewhere along the way—on the campaign trail, in fact—Cannon met Christi Grider. The two fell in love and married each other in 2017. Not only did they get married in the State Capitol Rotunda, officiated by then-mayor, Steve Adler, but Tina and Christi were the first LGBT couple to get married at the Capitol–a venue most befitting their shared love of advocacy, getting involved in local government, and Austin.

It’s Serving Success: Pickleball!

Lately, Cannon and Grider have been working on launching and growing their new Pickleball gear business, PIX Sports Gear, founded with their entrepreneurial partner, Satish Kodukula. Finally, Cannon got back to her roots in startups, only this time in a kinder, more fun industry.The Pickleball community is “super nice, and everybody wants to work together,”Cannon says. It’s a far cry from the currently beleaguered, cutthroat tech startup world.

Cannon and Grider are out to change the world and lead the charge in outfitting Pickleballers to look and perform their best on the court. They are loving cat owners and happily spend time at home together. When they aren’t working to change the world or brainstorming on PIX, you maybe able to catch a glimpse of them riding around Austin e-bikes, their latest obsession.

Getting Involved

Cannon shares words of wisdom for those who may be reluctant to participate in local government or speak up to impact change. She notes there are more than 60 local commissions and advisory boards to volunteer with and help shape the future.

“It’s time to get out there and develop your civic muscle. You have to use your voice, or the other voices will win out,” she emphasizes. “The upside of being in Austin is that we have city leaders who are listening. They want to hear from us. There is no reason to not be involved in making the decisions about what your city will look like tomorrow.

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