Startup Advice from the Founders of Geekdom in San Antonio

Lorenzo Gomez, Nick Longo and Graham Weston at Geekdom

By LAURA LOREK
Publisher of Silicon Hills News

The founders of Geekdom borrowed the “Serendipitous Collision of Ideas” phrase from Tony Hsieh, founder, and CEO of Zappos, and a catalyst in the Las Vegas technology community, said Lorenzo Gomez, chairman of Geekdom.

Geekdom, founded in 2011, is the catalyst for San Antonio’s technology community downtown. The collaborative co-working center focused on fostering technology startups has nurtured the city’s technology community. And Graham Weston and Nick Longo, founders of Geekdom, visited technology centers around the world to draw ideas from to build Geekdom.

Gomez moderated a fireside chat Monday night at the Geekdom Events Centre with Longo, founder of CoffeeCup Software and Weston, co-founder of Rackspace.

During the hour and half long talk, the three discussed how they built their various ventures and founded Geekdom to be a place where like-minded entrepreneurs could come and launch startups. Geekdom started off on the 11th floor of the Weston building, but now occupies the entire historic Rand Building on Houston Street. It has incubated and spun out several tech startups including Parlevel Systems, Codeup, TrueAbility, Merge VR and others.

The talk is the first in a series of monthly “Collision of Ideas” talks Geekdom plans with various founders.

At Silicon Hills News, we’ve distilled some of the highlights in the form of advice given to tech entrepreneurs from the talk below.

  1. ASSEMBLE A GOOD TEAM – With the Rackspace founders, Patrick Condon was the business expert, Dirk Elmendorf was the software expert and Richard Yoo was the hardware expert, Weston said. That combination of skills made for a winning team, he said. Rackspace, founded in 1998, grew to become San Antonio’s largest technology company with more than 6,000 employees.
  2. FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT – The three founders wore official uniforms with the Cymitar Network Systems logo on them to their first meeting with Weston and his business partner Morris Miller, the early investors in the company. Those uniforms and the professionalism and confidence displayed by the three young founders gave Weston and Miller the confidence to invest in the company, according to Weston. They wrote the first $500,000 check to invest in the company.
  3. MAKE IT EASY – When pitching a new idea it’s critical to explain it in simple terms so that people can understand it and buy into it, Weston said.
  4. GET TO KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS – Condon and Weston visited Longo at CoffeeCup Software, which was an early customer of Rackspace, in Corpus Christi to develop the relationship and learn about what he needed first hand, Longo said.
  5. FIND A COMMUNITY – Finding a community of like-minded individuals will help you accomplish your goals and help you with your startup. That’s why Geekdom was created, Weston said. It’s a place to chase your dream and find your team, he said.
  6. PIVOTS HAPPEN – A lot of times you think you’re pursuing one idea, you pivot and you’re pursuing another, Weston said.
  7. YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE – Fear is the number one thing that stops entrepreneurs, Weston said. You have to believe that your dream can come true for you. It’s hard to do that when all the people sitting around you are skeptical. We wanted Geekdom to help people overcome that fear and take that first step, Weston said.
  8. FIRST 15 – The first 15 people who join a startup are critical to its success, Weston said.
  9. KNOW WHEN TO QUIT – It’s very hard thing to know when to cut your losses, Weston said. Knowing when to pull the plug is critical. Most entrepreneurs pull the plug when they run out of money, Weston said. Others do it when they lose their passion for the business, he said.
  10. TIMING – Timing can make a big difference, said Weston. “But you have to be prepared to seize the moment,” he said. “There are magic moments happening in all of our lives all the time. And it’s very hard to spot them but when you do you need to be prepared to go all in.”
  11. FINDING PRODUCT MARKET FIT – Iterate, adapt and change constantly to find product-market fit, Weston said.
  12. DO WHATEVER IT TAKES – Longo slept under the counter of his coffee shop to manually process orders for his software as they came in. Be prepared to go “all in,” he said.
  13. SALES AND MARKETING ARE CRITICAL – So many entrepreneurs pitch Weston and say that they are selling their product without any sales or marketing personnel and Weston tells them “You’re an idiot.” Sales and marketing are critical to the success of any startup, Weston said. Tech founders need to respect the skills of others that they will need to succeed, he said.
  14. WHAT IS YOUR NOBLE CAUSE? – Why does it matter to you and why does it matter to someone else? Longo said. What problem are you trying to solve, Longo said.
  15. JUST DO IT – Barriers to starting a business are lower than they have ever been, Weston said. It’s the golden age of entrepreneurship for men and women, he said. With the cloud, starting a business is inexpensive, Weston said. The technology and tools that exist make it much easier than in the past, he said.

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