Ask any startup company founder and almost all will agree it’s best to exercise cautious optimism when starting a new business. That was the tone at the eight annual Geekdom State of the Ecosystem update given Tuesday morning at the Geekdom Event Centre. David Heard, chief executive of Tech Bloc and chief marketing officer at SecureLogix and Port San Antonio‘s new vice president for cybersecurity development Will Garrett joined Geekdom chief executive David Garcia to assess the past year for San Antonio and its technology community.
You can see a copy of Geekdom’s 2018 impact report here.
San Antonio’s economic disparities continue to pose challenges for residents. Median household income for San Antonio was $56,774 in 2017, the latest figures available. Part of the mission in building a better tech economy for San Antonio is to build a better economy for all residents and why The University of Texas at San Antonio’s downtown campus with its School of Data Science and National Security Collaboration Center will be vital to improve career opportunities.
“Average salary for tech in San Antonio is $70,000,” Heard. “That’s about twice the average salary in all the other industries.”
The focus for Tech Bloc and San Antonio overall continues to be to build more local tech talent and help fuel the growth of knowledge-based jobs and industries, especially when “tech is driving every industry,” Heard said. Startups have played an important role in contributing to San Antonio’s local economy, with Heard noting that “five years ago there was no tech in downtown San Antonio.”
Heard estimates that every five years, San Antonio’s tech workforce has increased by about 32 percent. According to 2014-2015 City of San Antonio data, there are about 1,000 tech companies across the city employing almost 35,000 workers with an economic impact of $10 billion on the local economy.
“Our place in the global economy will be tied to our success to building a tech scene here,” Heard said. “We need more Rackspaces.”
Garrett focused on the 10,000 or so employees in San Antonio’s cybersecurity industry and related developments over the past year. Both IPSecure and Northrop Grumman expanded their respective cybersecurity operations at Port San Antonio in 2018. Lockheed Martin was the first company to move into the Port’s new tech complex known as Project Tech.
Port San Antonio also began planning its new innovation campus that will house a new, 50,000-square-foot facility at Port San Antonio with a showroom for locally developed innovations, in addition to the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology and a maker space.
“It’s a huge asset from a cybersecurity standpoint,” Garrett said. “There are assets at Port San Antonio outside of the defense space that just don’t exist elsewhere…ones like advanced manufacturing, robotics, lasers.”
Garrett also continues to oversee Build Sec Foundry, a cybersecurity incubator program housed at Geekdom for cyber startup companies. The program has five participating startups with several more operating in stealth mode. The focus now is to maintain and build upon the momentum from the past year.
“It’s been a better year than we’ve seen in ten years,” Garrett said. “We have more and more [companies] in the early-stage startup space.”
Garcia noted how Geekdom has evolved into something more than a downtown co-working space. With over 1,800 members, Geekdom has embraced its role as a collaborative community where members can learn, develop ideas, create teams, and start companies.
In 2018, Geekdom launched its pre-accelerator program and its quarterly Community Fund, a competitive process in which Geekdom awards a startup company $25,000. Geekdom co-founder Nick Longo, entrepreneur and founder of CoffeeCup Software will launch a new six-week entrepreneurial course called The District in early February. Codeup also launched its data science program in 2018 with its first cohort starting in February.
Geekdom Media also launched in 2018 to provide podcasts produced by local experts sharing their specific business expertise. Geekdom also partners with Trinity University and the 80/20 Foundation on the internship program Students + Startups. The internship program’s participation rate nearly doubled over the past year. Of note, Trinity opened the program in 2018 to all U.S. college students who may apply to intern with a local startup.
Geekdom also worked closely with the civic engagement program CivTechSA which provides a means for startups to work with the City of San Antonio in addressing civic challenges.
When Geekdom was founded in November 2011, only a handful of members and companies occupied a single floor at the Weston Centre office tower. As growth quickly outstripped available space, Geekdom companies began moving into the Rand Building, after entrepreneur and Geekdom co-founder Graham Weston purchased the building in April 2014.
As the co-working community enters its eighth year Geekdom continues to build upon its roles as one of the builders of economic growth in San Antonio’s tech ecosystem.
“We are a community of members,” Garcia said. “We’re more than just a space.”
The featured image represents some of the growth seen in San Antonio’s tech ecosystem in 2018. Cybersecurity company IPSecure expanded into their new innovation and testing facilities at Port San Antonio in 2018. Port San Antonio courtesy image.