SAN ANTONIO - When it comes to high tech jobs in Texas, most people automatically think of Austin and Dallas as being the hubs for the State's tech industry. While those cities are leaders in technology, San Antonio has added more tech jobs than any city in the state in the past five years and it's poised for more growth.
Even so, there are a smaller percentage of tech jobs than the bigger cities and the jobs here tend to pay less. But efforts are underway to change that.
When Peep Laja moved here from Austin a year ago, he thought he was coming to a tech desert. Then he found Geekdom, a collaborative work space where tech-minded entrepreneurs are sharing ideas and building start-up companies.
"You know, Austin has lots of tech stuff going on and when I moved to San Antonio I was kind of bummed," Laja said. "I thought nothing was going on here and suddenly Geekdom appeared and it was everything I wanted it to be. I have been here a year and it's been great."
In its first year, Geekdom has given birth to over 50 startups and has 500 members who pay as little as $50 a month to share office space and gain knowledge by mentoring each other.
Rackspace co-founder Graham Weston and his friend Nick Longo founded Geekdom to help kick start the local startup community and get their ideas in front of investors.
"There's actually a lot going on in San Antonio just most of the companies didn't know each other," Weston said. "Geekdom is trying to give a heartbeat or a center point for the start-up community here so it can grow faster."
In return for the cheap office space, members are required to give back one hour a week to other members by sharing their expertise. They can also give back by offering a monthly workshop to their peers.
"Everything you need to accelerate your start-up is right here under one roof," said co-founder Nick Longo. "Just because we're technology focused, it doesn't mean we're only going to be dealing with computers and all this hard code stuff. That's not the case at all. If you look at every flower business every restaurant, they're all on line. They're all doing e-commerce. So what people need to understand is they are a technology business now and they can come here and make it better."
Geekdom isn't just helping local tech entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. They're also getting local students involved which could help drive our economy well into the future.
Geekdom's director of education, Louie Pacilli designs and develops programs for 7th and 8th graders to spark their interest so they want to pursue careers that require science and math.
"If we can build a modern workforce by getting middle school students engaged in technology at a younger age they're more likely to go into careers such as technology," Pacilli said. "It's about taking local talent grooming them and teaching the collaborative skills so that they can build and work together and want to stay in San Antonio and let San Antonio grow to be a great 21st century city."
By fostering startups and teaching kids how to build their own websites, robots and video games with the help of mentors Weston believes Geekdom is laying the groundwork for San Antonio to be a leader in the tech world.
"In the future, I think you will see San Antonio as one of those startup areas," Weston said. "It just takes time. We have to get the geeks together, get the entrepreneurs together and we have to build a culture where taking risks and trying out your idea is something that people want to do."
For a list of recent stories Tim Gerber has done, click here.
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