TechStars Cloud: A longtime observer sees transformative change in San Antonio

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Frank Burney is a local lawyer with Martin & Drought P. C. He has been active in numerous civic and community endeavors since moving to San Antonio from Corpus Christi in the late 1970’s.  He admittedly does not understand the tech world, but is trying to understand the sea change that it is bringing. He submitted this article after attending TechStars Demo Day at the Charline McCombs Empire Theater on April 11, an event you can read about in detail here. Readers interested in even more background can read this story about TechStars Cloud Managing Director Jason Seats. –TRR

By Frank Burney

 

I’ve lived and worked in San Antonio for more than 30 years, and have witnessed many of the “threshold” moments in our economic development history:  Target 90 and “McD” driven growth; Kelly privatization and BRAC; Toyota and its suppliers; River Walk improvements and the “Quality of Life” focus; and now SA 2020 and Mayor Julián Castro’s Brainpower Initiative. All of these events have transformed our city in meaningful ways and contributed to our bright economic future.

Being a non-geek (although some would consider me a nerd), I believe that I witnessed this week another “transformative moment” in San Antonio’s economic development future: “TechStars Cloud.”  Rackers, through their visionary chairman Graham Weston, led this effort to attract, host, incubate, and nurture Internet-based start-ups from around THE (our) country in a 90-day Boot Camp to make these companies investor-ready.  Selecting 11 companies from several hundred applicants, TechStars has focused the VC/Angel community’s attention on San Antonio, culminating in a “Cloud Demo Day” presentation by each team of entrepreneurs.

From cloud-based connectivity, to web-analytics to measure and understand hits, to net-based marketing tools, these companies are on the cutting-edge of the infinitely expanding Internet.  While none of these start-ups are currently planning on remaining in San Antonio (which should be high on the “To Do” List of our economic development agenda), the energy, intellectual capital, creativity and commitment of these entrepreneurs was remarkable to experience.

Together with Geekdom (Weston’s tech village/incubator at the Weston Centre), the accelerator TechStars is putting San Antonio on the tech map.  I can’t explain the concepts and business plans, much less the tech terminology such as APIs and NFCs, but I do see this as an economic development initiative we should endorse.  If you need proof, just contemplate the purchase by Facebook of the 24-month old start-up “Instagram” for $1 Billion dollars this week.

For the first time, San Antonio is compared favorably with other tech centers such as Seattle, Boston, and Boulder, which also host TechStar accelerators. Using a mentor-based approach with initial seed funding, our city has been home to some of the best and the brightest minds in the Web World. TechStars, through its innovative leader Jason Seats, is committed to two more rounds of hosting the new tech ideas of 2013 and 2014 in our community.  If 2012 is any indication of what is to come, I can’t wait.

To paraphrase, “I have seen the future, and it is TechStars.”  We should set aside our 60’s “Graduate” advice about “plastics” and find the inner “Geek” in all of us.

 

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