Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Rackspace Employees Adrian Dominguez, Hart Hoover, (Former Rackspace President) Lew Moorman and Sammy Balogun (Cutline info courtesy of Dale Bracey)

Rackspace Employees Adrian Dominguez, Hart Hoover, (Former Rackspace President) Lew Moorman and Sammy Balogun (Cutline info courtesy of Dale Bracey)

Tom Cuthbert founded Click Forensics in San Antonio a decade ago but he moved the startup to Austin because he couldn’t find funding and technology talent locally.

That company evolved into Adometry, an ad tracking and fraud detection firm, which Google acquired last May.

Now Cuthbert wants to grow San Antonio’s startup community as a member of a new grass roots organization, SATechBloc, focused on bolstering and promoting San Antonio’s technology ecosystem. Its sponsors include Geekdom, Codeup, Giles-Parscale, Rackspace and SecureLogix.

“I live in San Antonio and it is my home,” Cuthbert said. “TechBloc is focused on building a better San Antonio to both attract and retain talent. I’m proud to be a founding member and blown away by the support and excitement this event has generated.”

On Tuesday night, more than 700 people, including both Mayoral candidates, County Judge Nelson Wolff and other local politicians, turned out to Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery at The Pearl for the kick off event for SATechBloc. At one point, the event had reached capacity and the organizers had to wait until people left to allow more people in. Attendees received two bottle caps and a glass for two free drinks. Organizers wore black and red t-shirts emblazoned with a man’s clenched fist, as the symbol for an uprising and a revolution in the San Antonio tech community.

SATechBloc wants to encourage progressive high technology policies on a city level, recruit and train talented and highly-skilled tech workers, install high-speed fiber Internet and attract venture capital and economic development funds to bring more technology entrepreneurs to the area.

Brad Parscale, one of the organizers of SATechBloc

Brad Parscale, one of the organizers of SATechBloc

Brad Parscale, co-founder of Giles-Parscale and one of the founding members of SATechBloc, sees a big need for the technology community to have a unified voice on issues of importance.

“The city has every piece to make a huge technology industry happen locally,” Parscale said.

Parscale is the kind of technology entrepreneur San Antonio wants to attract and retain.

Parscale is originally from Topeka, Kansas. His dad previously served as CEO of NewTek and helped move the company here. Parscale graduated from Trinity University and then moved to California to work in the technology industry. He returned to San Antonio in 2004 and started a web design company with $500. In 2011, he partnered with Jill Giles to form Giles-Parscale. They own an 18,000 square foot building on Broadway and they have 46 employees and 800 clients including Trump Enterprises.

San Antonio lacks some of the talent in other high tech hubs but not because they don’t want to be here, Parscale said. But to attract them, the city needs to support the issues and amenities that are important to a tech-savvy workforce, Parscale said. That includes bringing Uber and other ride sharing services back to the city, he said.

Both San Antonio Mayoral run-off candidates, Mayor Ivy Taylor and Leticia Van de Putte, attended the SATechBloc event.

San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor speaking with members of the city's technology community

San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor speaking with members of the city’s technology community

Mayor Taylor said she wants ridesharing to come back to San Antonio.

“I never wanted it to leave,” Mayor Taylor said. “I certainly welcome the technology and innovation. At the end of the day, we wanted to make sure our citizens are safe. Uber left because we wanted to do background checks on its drivers.”

Taylor said she’s hopeful the city can bring Uber back and plans to restart negotiations with the company now that a statewide bill to enact ride sharing appears to have died in the state legislature.

Mayor Taylor said she attended the SATechBloc event to support the city’s burgeoning tech industry.

“I want to help develop jobs here and support entrepreneurship. My focus has been on workforce development,” Mayor Taylor said. “We’ve got people here who can do these jobs but they need skills development to do the jobs.”

As part of that initiative, President Obama in March selected the city of San Antonio to participate as one of the cities in its TechHire program in which $100 million of federal dollars are earmarked to help Americans get the skills they need through universities, community colleges and coding bootcamps like Rackspace University and Codeup.

“We need to grow the technology industry here and highlight the advantages we have,” Mayor Taylor said. “We need to do a better job of marketing San Antonio to young people who are here and to attract new people.”

The Veteran’s Administration is also teaming up with Codeup to train veterans in the VA Accelerated Learning program, said Jack Coley, who runs a consulting and training firm with 50 employees in San Antonio. The veterans will attend bootcamps at Codeup and get web development and other technology skills in demand, Coley said.

Programs like Codeup are helping fill the need in San Antonio’s technology community for workers, Coley said. But the city needs to attract more skilled workers.

“It’s really hard to find good people,” Coley said. “We need more good people to drive growth in this community.”

Issues like workforce development, Uber and Google Fiber and even Bike Share, a program people might not think of as a tech issue, affect a company’s ability to get top tech talent, said Lorenzo Gomez, director of the 80/20 Foundation and Geekdom. He’s a founding member of SATechBloc and wants the community to come together regularly to keep the momentum going.

“We’ve got a lot of other events planned,” Gomez said. “The goal is to do as many events as we can on a regular basis.”

San Antonio’s technology industry needs more visibility, said Lew Moorman, former president of Rackspace and now a founding member of SATechBloc.

“There are 1,000 people here today doing all kinds of cool things,” Moorman said. “We want to have one resource where you can have all the resources of San Antonio’s technology community.”

The next SATechBloc event is scheduled for August 11 with Robert Hammond, a San Antonio native and a co-founder of The High Line, an urban park project in New York

“This thing got started informally and now we’re going to figure out what to do,” Moorman said. “The city has a lot of potential. We need to realize it.”