San Antonio Startup Week returns with aim of more collaboration — and funding — across tech sector – San Antonio Express-News

Geekdom CEO Charles Woodin speaks on Nov. 16, 2021, at Geekdom Event Centre. “Funding is consistently increasing,” Woodin said. “We’re going to see more funding come to San Antonio.”
SAN ANTONIO — After two years of hybrid and virtual events, San Antonio Startup Week is back in person.
The conference this week is bringing together business executives, tech experts and government officials discussing topics such as early-stage funding, opportunities for Latino and LGBTQ entrepreneurs, marketing investments and the future of artificial intelligence in robotics.
Its main focus is introducing investors to entrepreneurs, and comes as leaders are working to build more collaboration across the city’s sprawling tech scene.
“San Antonio is still kind of maturing and going through a rapid growth out of the pandemic,” said Charles Woodin, CEO of Geekdom ’s for-profit downtown co-working space. “It’s something that’s creating a lot of excitement in different parts in the city.”
By late last week, more than 900 people had registered for the free seven-day conference that runs through Saturday. The event is hosted by Geekdom and the 80|20 Foundation — both founded by serial entrepreneur Graham Weston — along with Trinity University’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Visit sasw.com/attend to register.
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San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg is scheduled to launch the conference at 8:30 a.m. on the 24th floor of Frost Tower.
Today’s main event is to follow: Weston is leading a “fireside chat” with Steve Case, CEO of Revolution LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that’s invested at least $1 billion into startups across the United States. Case is best known for co-founding America Online, or AOL, the giant internet company, in 1985, and negotiating its merger with Time Warner in 2000.
The conference has scheduled numerous panels throughout the week. A sampling:
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who is stepping down at year’s end, is set to speak at 11:15 a.m. Thursday at the Geekdom Event Centre about experiences in and around the local tech industry. He will be joined by Randy Smith, chair of regional business booster Greater: SATX and co-founder and CEO of developer Weston Urban.
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At 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Gabriel Garcia, founder of San Antonio design agency Summit Creative Group, will join local photographer Justine Scott and other professional creatives at Hopscotch art gallery to discuss diversity and the obstacles faced in their careers.
San Antonio Philharmonic board president Brian Petkovich is set to speak at 2:15 p.m. Friday at the Geekdom Event Centre about developing and launching a full season of programming after the bankruptcy of the symphony. Founding musicians will join him for an interview by board member Lara August, who’s also the founder and CEO of the Robot Creative marketing agency in San Antonio.
Participants will also offer step-by-step process of creating a startup.
At 10 a.m. Tuesday, Bexar County clerk Lucy Adame Clark and Renee Watson, director of the county small business and entrepreneurship department, will join a Q&A-styled panel at the Geekdom Event Centre. Then, at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Pat Matthews, founder and CEO of Active Capital, a Terrell Hills-based accelerator, will join speakers at the Geekdom Event Centre to discuss angel investing, venture capital, debt financing and other financial topics for people interested in starting a business.
Startup Week’s return comes amid efforts to more tightly integrate the city’s technology firms, which have historically stayed largely on their own.
“We’ve operated in silos and in order for us to make some progress, something needed to change,” said Phillip Hernandez, chief operating officer at Geekdom. “I’m hopeful that this conference will be a catalyst for that change and now there’s just going to be a lot more collaboration.”
Geekdom offered a co-working space to budding entrepreneurs downtown. Port San Antonio built on its North Side campus near the JBSA-Lackland base. Small-to-medium-sized cybersecurity and IT firms scattered across the city. Rackspace, the city’s largest tech company, worked on Fanatical Place in Windcrest, a suburb north of the metro.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the arrival of accelerators like Austin-based Capital Factory to the Port, Geekdom’s partnership with gener8tor from Wisconsin and the expansion of nonprofit VelocityTX downtown has sparked efforts to band together to attract and retain startups, businesses, venture capital, and eventually workers.
As Geekdom scanned San Antonio for partnerships, they also looked at their own programming to figure out where they fit in the tech scene. They decided on a rebranding of sorts.
“When Geekdom first started out, we were known as a co-working space and it was really hard to differentiate ourselves from other spaces,” Hernandez said. “In the last three years, we’ve started to pivot and figure out we’re not as much of a co-working space as we thought we were. We’re more so like a place where entrepreneurs can come and co-work and collaborate with each other.”
When Joshua Baer, founder and CEO of Capital Factory, traveled to San Antonio from Austin for the April opening of a new office at Tech Port Center + Arena, local tech leaders wondered how the large accelerator providing finance to startups across Texas would work here. Did it mean Capital Factory and Geekdom would compete for startups? Or could they work together?
On ExpressNews.com: How Port San Antonio brought Capital Factory to its campus and what it seeks to accomplish there
Geekdom now sees itself as operating in the “early-stage, ideation space,” Hernandez said, adding that the group focuses on helping entrepreneurs develop startup ideas through in-house mentorships and accelerator programs and then send them to Capital Factory once they’re ready to seek more resources.
By comparison, Capital Factory has said it plans to work with venture capital-ready companies as it brings its Center for Defense Innovation program here to build partnerships between the private sector and Defense Department.
Baer is a keynoter this week. He’s scheduled to speak at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday at the Geekdom Event Centre with a talk titled, “Unlocking 100s of millions of government funding,” in which he will discuss new ways the military buys tech.
In recent years, the city’s startups have collected an increasing amount of venture capital but continue to struggle to compete against companies elsewhere.
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In 2021, investors put in $93.1 million into San Antonio, according to Crunchbase, which tracks investments in startups. That was nearly double the $47.1 million raised in 2020.
By comparison, Dallas startups attracted investments of $1 billion in 2021. Houston firms brought in $1.7 billion. And Austin startups secured $5 billion.
San Antonio’s tech leaders are wary about comparing the local scene to that in other major urban centers. But venture capital remains a benchmark of the city’s ability to reel in and retain companies and workers needed for growth.
For now, Geekdom believes things are looking up.
“Funding is consistently increasing,” Woodin said last week. “We’re going to see more funding come to San Antonio.”
He said Case’s new venture company Revolution has a reputation for investing in tech scenes outside of Silicon Valley and hopes his introduction might fuel investment opportunities in San Antonio.
“Putting us on the national radar with Revolution is very exciting and hopefully creates a cascading effect for the years to come,” Woodin said.
eric.killelea@express-news.net
Eric Killelea is a technology reporter, covering Space X and area cybersecurity, cloud-computing and IT companies. Before moving to Texas, he worked for local newspapers and freelanced for The New York Times in Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota and Montana. He is from New Jersey.

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