Executive Director, Office of Inclusive Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE)
The story of humanity is an epic tale of love in action, growing stronger each time a person walks by faith, trusting in their well-being, and sharing that trust with others.
Life for Rubén Cantú starts with his family immigrating from Mexico and its indigenous roots. It includes traces of European, African, and Asian descent. He manifests what it means to be thoroughly American, with the different racial and ethnic strands of what makes this country unique.
Through this lens, he walks through the world with a mission to foster peace through understanding and healing through love. His work through the past twenty years has had him play a role of a bridge through the power of convening community and storytelling.
From launching his first radio show at fourteen to founding his first company at sixteen to working with some of the world’s biggest hip-hop stars, his early music career set the tone for what would come next.
As a first-generation college student from a family of migrant workers, Cantú dreamed of creating a better world for his family. He achieved this and set a precedent for his family, high school, and native east side community. As the first student from his school to go to UT Austin for his undergraduate studies to go to graduate school and learn, he was one of the very first Mexican American students to go through the program; pioneering was his honor it was also a responsibility.
In 2009, CORE Media Enterprises launched as his second company, a full-scale video production company with a mission to create content that shifted people’s minds and consciousness to be more intentional, responsible, and loving towards each other and the environment. This later evolved into a marketing strategy agency, eventually leading Cantú to serve as a fractional marketing officer for startups and consult on how they can be sustainable and profitable through applying investments in people development, protecting the planet, and prudential profits.
During this past decade, Cantú became deeply passionate about social entrepreneurship. In 2012, he launched a local community around this conversation, eventually leading him to help found a global community with the United Nations Foundation in 2013. +Social Good brought local activists who leverage technology around the world. They create grassroots initiatives that deliver results so they can have a voice on a global stage. Their actions help shape the conversation and development around achieving Sustainable Development Goals and hold world leaders accountable. Cantú pioneered the first-ever conference for social innovation at SXSW in 2013. And he launched Austin’s first social impact accelerator and fund and pitch competition.
In 2015 he co-created an entrepreneurial program for Title 1 public schools bringing entrepreneurship back to the block with a program called Startup Superstars.
In 2016, he co-founded a version for college students. Aptly branded the LevelUp Institute, it went out to launch the careers of very talented students who now launched ventures, non- profits, and work for Fortune 50 companies.
In the summer of 2018, he was recruited by the University of Texas at Austin to launch this program inside the university. He founded the Office of Inclusive Innovation and Entrepreneurship, where he serves as Executive Director and Assistant Professor. He’s launched the Product Prodigy Institute and WIELD Texas, two student-facing programs that teach entrepreneurship, executive leadership, and human-centered design.
As a consultant and coach in DEI, social impact, community building, and practitioner of human potential/emotional mastery, Cantú travels the world giving talks and workshops and launching movements that advance more love in the world.
At the pandemic’s start, he co-founded a think and action tank called Community Resilience Trust. Today, CRT has played a pivotal role in operationalizing equity throughout our city and creating a model of innovation from the margins.
Ruben graduated from Leadership Austin’s Essential Class of ‘14. He was awarded Austin Under 40 for Youth and Education in 2023. The Austin Young Chamber nominated him for Changemaker of the Year in 2016.
When not working, he focuses on being a bridge between the local community and international issues that break barriers and foster peace and prosperity. He also is an avid music lover and Jeopardy enthusiast.
Rubén Cantú has received numerous recognitions throughout his career. He was awarded Austin Under 40 for Youth and Education in 2023 and was recognized as the Most Outstanding Alumni from Leadership Austin in 2022. He has been nominated multiple times for Austin Under 40 in categories such as Youth and Education, Startup and Innovation, and Entrepreneur of the Year.
His dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion has earned him nominations for DEI Champion, DEI Leader, and D&I Leader by DivInc Champions of Change in 2019, 2020, and 2021. He was also recognized as a Latinx Innovator by HTTP Policy in 2019.
2016 the Austin Young Chamber nominated him for Changemaker of the Year. He was also recognized as one of 11 People of the Year by Tribeza Magazine in 2020 and as a Perseverance awardee by First Tee – Greater Austin in 2021.
In addition to these recognitions, Rubén was awarded as a McBee Fellow in 2022 for the Austin Area Research Organization, and he won the 50 on Fire for AustinInno in 2016 in Social Impact.
These recognitions reflect Rubén’s commitment to his community, education, and social impact.
He founded SocialGood.us, LevelUp Institute, and CORE Media Strategies.
He is a founding member of +SocialGood (UNFoundation), where he served as Advisor and Business Development Director.