Membership Growth Triggers Leadership Changes for Geekdom, 80/20 Foundation

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A quinquennial sign is posted outside geekdom head quarters.

Hannah Whisenant / Rivard Report

Co-working space Geekdom has chosen six startups for its Pre-Accelerator program.

Geekdom announced Tuesday that David Garcia Jr. will become its new CEO, effective Oct. 1. Formerly the company's chief operations officer, Garcia has been working to grow membership to 2,000 members and beyond since July 2016.

Also as of Oct. 1, Alexandra Frey will take over as executive director of the 80/20 Foundation. Since August 2016, Frey has worked to implement processes to manage and strategically grow the 80/20 grant portfolio.

“Revitalizing downtown work is a team effort," said Graham Weston, co-founder of Rackspace, Geekdom, and 80/20. "We are excited to add Alex Frey and David Garcia to our senior leadership team.”

Lorenzo Gomez, currently CEO of Geekdom and executive director of the 80/20 Foundation, will become chairman of the board for both organizations. In his new role, Gomez will develop and implement the long-term strategic vision for San Antonio's entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Director of Geekdom Lorenzo Gomez speaks about the importance marketing plays. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report

Geekdom and 80/20 Foundation Board Chair Lorenzo Gomez.

"The CEO of Geekdom is steward of Graham [Weston]'s and Nick [Longo]'s vision while the CEO of the 80/20 Foundation is steward of Graham's philanthropic vision," Gomez said. "Neither David nor Alex are strangers to the communities they serve as both have been working to execute these missions. Today's announcement reveals they will be the two new stewards of these organizations."

Founded in late 2011, Geekdom hit the 1,650-member mark in August, triggering a series of strategic decisions to accommodate the co-working space's growth. Adding members led to several internal decisions, like the one to begin construction of the Rand Building's basement to add more workspace. Geekdom's role in growing San Antonio's downtown tech community has become more prominent as new startup companies such as ScaleWorks and its seven companies plan to move into the downtown tech district before the end of the year.

"We started planning the next five years [for Geekdom] about a year ago, since we realize full ecosystem development takes a minimum of 10 years," Gomez said. "As we've studied mature ecosystems in other cities, regions, and countries, we realized we needed to pursue a strategic vision to take the ecosystem to the next level. The new organizational structure is setting us up [for the] next five years and beyond."

Geekdom CEO David Garcia Jr.

Both Garcia and Frey have experience scaling up organizations for growth. Garcia served in senior management positions at both Apple and Gateway while Frey previously specialized in hospitality management. Both have already begun implementing strategies to scale up both organizations, Gomez said.

When Garcia joined Geekdom, the co-working space had 1,200 members. In his first year, he saw membership grow to 1,600.

"I can see Geekdom reaching the target of 2,000 members in another year," Garcia said. "Because Geekdom is a 24/7 co-working space, we have yet to see it at full capacity."

Still, with the anticipated membership growth comes the need for more space. Once completed, the basement of the Rand Building will provide an additional 8,500 sq. ft. of office and community space and will include a full kitchen, conference rooms, and a podcast studio.

Garcia said his goals for the foreseeable future are to continue growing overall membership as well as focus on military entrepreneurs who have joined Geekdom. USAA in January launched an initiative that underwrites 50% of Geekdom membership fees for military veterans, active duty military, and military spouses who sign up as new members.

"Over 200 new military members have taken advantage of that [USAA] program," Garcia said. "I have a good team in place who can help grow membership to 2,000, increase the engagement with our military community, and develop new programs and workshops."

80/20 Foundation Executive Director Alexandra Frey.

Frey's goals include ensuring 80/20's grants have a sizable impact on San Antonio. The foundation has partnered with Trinity University to subsidize 50% of the cost for students to work as interns in the Students + Startups program, where talented interns work in local startups over the summer, Frey said. The 80/20 Foundation is looking to scale this program to reproduce it on other campuses.

"This year we had 38 students working at 29 local startups, and for next year we hope to have 100 students," Frey said. "Of the 38 students who participated this past summer, 55% were offered part-time jobs once their internships were completed. This grant is an excellent example of how to make a difference and help keep talent in San Antonio, rather than have graduates leave the area in search of a tech job."

Beyond granting funds for nonprofits, Frey wants to strengthen ties with the organizations she and her team serve. "The meaningful engagement we have with these organizations includes helping them grow their capacity to provide services and become sustainable long term," she said. "Being able to partner with high-impact nonprofits is an exciting time for me personally, and for the future of the 80/20 Foundation."

"Geekdom is truly a community as long as we support the entrepreneurs looking for a place to connect with people and grow their business idea," Garcia said. "For those people, Geekdom is the place to be."

 

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