Tag: Lorenzo Gomez

Geekdom Moves Into its New Headquarters at the Rand

Founder of Silicon Hills News

IMG_2861The geeks might inherit the earth eventually, but for now, they’ve got their own building in downtown San Antonio.

On Monday, two Geekdom flags flew from the top of the historic Rand Building at 100 E. Houston St., signifying the move in of Geekdom members. It’s their new headquarters.

On the seventh floor, Lorenzo Gomez, director of Geekdom, thanked everyone involved in the yearlong renovation of the space and move to the new 12,400 square foot space. (Eventually Geekdom will takeover the entire building, but for now it’s occupying one floor) He thanked Geekdom Staffers Kara Gomez, Julie Campbell, Ryan Salts and Zac Harris as well as Nick Longo, co-founder of Geekdom, the place where startups are born. Geekdom tailored the space to meet the needs of its community members.

“Here we have more useable space for the community,” Longo said. “We doubled the size of the space for community members.”

IMG_2878Geekdom members toasted with mimosas served in red solo cups and celebrated the new space with sweet rolls and macaroons from Bakery Lorraine.

A year ago, Graham Weston, chairman and CEO of Rackspace, through his Weston Urban LLC., bought the Rand Building from Frost Bank with plans to create a permanent home for Geekdom, a thriving community of technology workers in San Antonio. The space serves as the epicenter of the city’s technology community, Gomez said.

Alamo Architects‘ Irby Hightower and his team worked with Geekdom and its members to tailor a space specifically to their needs, Gomez said. It features a large community space for members with an open kitchen and bar stools nestled around a long table. The office is functional and looks cool with exposed pipes in the main room and a wooden ceiling by the kitchen, funky light fixtures, red and black carpeting to muffle the noise, murals, whiteboards and writeable walls. The signs to the conference rooms pay homage to video games of the past.

IMG_2810The space also features bike racks and showers. And it has 23 offices and several conference rooms and a telephone room for private phone calls. It even has a mother’s lounge for new moms who need a private space for pumping breast milk.

IMG_2843Geekdom’s community space also has multi-level workstations for people who like to stand while they work as well as desks for sitting.

The new Geekdom office also has lots of windows and offers spectacular views of downtown San Antonio.

Eventually, Geekdom will take over the entire Rand building. For now, it has moved into the seventh floor, but in a few months, the larger companies like TrueAbility, ParLevel Systems, Codeup, Pressable, Promoter.io, FlashScan3D and Sammis & Ochoa will move to the sixth floor.

“We have a Champagne problem,” Gomez said. “We have more demand then there is supply for. We have more startups that want space than we have space for. Next year this time, when the rest of Frost moves out it’s going to be a really big question we’ll have to figure out the answer for whether it’s more offices, more community space. We don’t know the answer yet.” It could be one big company with 100 employees moves in to an entire floor, he said.

IMG_2848For the past two and a half years, Geekdom has been housed on the 11th and 10th floors of the Weston Centre, about a block away from the Rand. But the technology incubator and coworking space has grown dramatically with more than 750 members and needed a building of its own, Gomez said.

Later this summer, Geekdom will also open an events center on the first floor of the Rand Building. But for now, it’s hosting its events at the Weston Centre until the space can be finished out.

Geekdom’s new building is designed to launch, nurture and expand San Antonio’s technology industry through startups, Gomez said.

Laura Thompson, a public relations expert, joined Geekdom about a year ago. She plans to launch a startup called The African American Network, a broadcast company.

“I hope to be one of the companies that grows into a bigger space here,” she said.

The new space got rave reviews from Geekdom members.

“It’s cozy and warm,” said Jorge Amodio, a hardware developer and Geekdom member for more than a year.

The glass doors on the conference rooms are more inviting for collaborating and coworking, Amodio said. The natural light is also a bonus, he said. But the real draw is the people, he said.

“Geekdom is about being part of a smart, vibrant community,” Amodio said.

Geekdom is a sponsor of Silicon Hills News

San Antonio MX Challenge Seeks to Solve Problems and Realize Dreams

Founder of Silicon Hills News

IMG_2424The XPRIZE Foundation organized a four-day adventure trip to visit tech companies in California last February.
XPRIZE Founder Dr. Peter Diamandis wanted to showcase space and ocean innovation to a select group of entrepreneurs.
Part of the event involved a Zero G flight in which the passengers float about weightless for several minutes. That’s where software entrepreneur Christian Cotichini literally crashed into Graham Weston, chairman and co-founder of Rackspace, during the flight.
When the flight ended, Cotichini, Diamandis and Weston met and dreamed up the idea for HeroX, a smaller, community-oriented version of the XPRIZE, which seeks to solve the world’s big challenges by creating and managing large-scale incentivized prizes focused on learning, exploration, energy & environment, global development and life sciences.
On Thursday night at an invitation-only event on the fourth floor of the Rio Plaza on the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio, the first HeroX challenge officially launched. It’s called the San Antonio MX Challenge, a two-year $500,000 prize to foster entrepreneurship between San Antonio and Mexico.

The team behind the San Antonio MX Challenge: Tito Salas, Emily Fowler, Christian Cotichini, Lorenzo Gomez and Graham Weston

The team behind the San Antonio MX Challenge: Tito Salas, Emily Fowler, Christian Cotichini, Lorenzo Gomez and Graham Weston

“XPRIZE was a grand idea for very lofty things at an ivory tower aspiration level,” Weston said. “What I love about HeroX is it takes what we learned about offering big grand prizes and it brings it down to a city-level. We are not going to Washington, D.C. to change the world; we can change it in our city. The most important unit of economic action is the city. The HeroX prize is about bringing that innovation and technology to the city level.”
San Antonio has the opportunity to be the gateway to America for the entrepreneurs in Mexico and the San Antonio MX Challenge will serve as that catalyst to make it happen, Weston said.
San Antonio has so much of the infrastructure to offer entrepreneurs in the startup world, Weston said.
“Mexican entrepreneurs can come to America to launch their products and then go back to Mexico to build their companies,” Weston said.
San Antonio is the first city to launch a HeroX prize, but soon it will be everywhere, Weston said.
“HeroX is going to be in every city around the world from London to Lubbock,” he said.
HeroX democratizes innovation, Cotichini said, co-founder and CEO of HeroX. He sold his software company, Make Technologies, based in Vancouver, to Dell in 2011. He soon became immersed in studying the world’s problems. It almost made him become depressed until he read Diamandis’ book Abundance, which paints an optimistic view of the future. Cotichini then knew he wanted to be part of making that vision become a reality.
“This is the very first HeroX branded challenge,” Cotichini said. “The Internet is creating new models that allow us to be far more powerful as a species. These new models are going to change the world.”
Open innovation can change cities and companies. It’s a tool for anybody who needs innovation, he said.
HeroX is an online crowdsourcing platform that allows people to realize visions and live out dreams, said Emily Fowler, co-founder and vice president of possibilities for HeroX.
HeroX plans to launch hundreds of competitions worldwide.
Whereas the XPRIZE challenges offer prizes from $10 million to $30 million and last from five to eight years, the HeroX challenges offer prizes of $10,000 to millions and last from six months to a few years, Fowler said. Anyone can take on a challenge or offer one up, she said.
“We’re stimulating a new generation of entrepreneurs and it’s really interesting,” Cotichini said. “The millennial generation really gets the power of crowdsourcing and collaboration.”
One of those is Tito Salas, project manager of San Antonio MX Prize. He was born in Northern Mexico and graduated from the University of Texas with a double major in marketing and business management.
“The San Antonio MX Challenge wants to make it easy for Mexican entrepreneurs to move to San Antonio to launch their business,” Salas said. His role is to help provide Mexican entrepreneurs with Visas, mentors, business services, access to capital and more.
“We’re also looking to get together all of the entrepreneurs from Mexico in San Antonio and bring them to Geekdom to make something bigger,” Salas said.
Walter Teele, co-founder of ParLevel Systems .

Walter Teele, co-founder of ParLevel Systems .

Walter Teele and Luis Pablo Gonzalez are both from Mexico. They came to the U.S. to go to college. They graduated recently and launched ParLevel Systems, a company that connects vending machines to the Internet to monitor them remotely. ParLevel last year graduated from the Techstars incubator program. Teele and Gonzalez are building their company at Geekdom.
Teele sees the San Antonio MX Challenge as a way to fill a need that exists in helping Mexican startups.
“I think it’s going to give entrepreneurs in Mexico awareness that there are people here that want to support them and help them realize their dreams,” Teele said. “We don’t have a startup culture in Mexico. You have it here.”
Mexican entrepreneurs can benefit from the infrastructure that already exists in San Antonio, Teele said.
So far three people have expressed interest in registering for the San Antonio MX Challenge, said Lorenzo Gomez, director of Geekdom. The organization provides the criteria a company needs to meet to win the prize, but they don’t provide any seed stage capital or pre-determined solutions, Gomez said. Early registration ends on Aug. 25 and final registration is Jan. 14, 2015.
“The beauty of the prize models is it’s always the person that didn’t know they could win it that wins it,” Gomez said. “It’s probably going to be someone you never thought or maybe it’s someone that was very obvious. That’s one of the exciting parts of the prize is to see who steps up to solve it. It might just be one person with a magic Rolodex that makes it happen.“

Social Media Tips and Tools for Startups

Christie St. Martin, community manager and digital media specialist for HeroX

Christie St. Martin, community manager and digital media specialist for HeroX

Founder of Silicon Hills News
Geekdom, the collaborative co-working space in downtown San Antonio, kicked off a new speakers event Thursday called The Master’s Series.
“Our goal is to pummel you with amazing information,” said Lorenzo Gomez, director of Geekdom.
The first speaker, Christie St. Martin talked about social media tips and advice for startup companies.
Martin, formerly social media manager for JPMorgan Chase and L’Oreal, currently serves as community development and digital strategy manager for HeroX and is from Toronto. She’s helping to kick off HeroX’s first local prize San Antonio Mx Challenge.
It’s really important companies manage their social media presence online, St. Martin said. The job is one of the most important for companies and it should not be regulated to the social media savvy intern, she said. Tools like Hootsuite, social media management software, can help.
In the past, customers with a complaint would call or write a company, but today’s consumers often go directly to complain on Twitter or Facebook, she said.
“Real time interaction is 100 percent where you need to focus your time,” St. Martin said.
In her PowerPoint presentation, peppered with pictures of LOL Cats and dogs, St. Martin advised companies to be honest, be you, don’t panic and listen to customers.
“The stuff that is super important is you being a real human,” she said.
She advised companies to brainstorm all of the frequently asked questions from customers and to put them into a document. She tells them to use that document as a guidepost in answering queries online. But don’t just regurgitate the stock answers, she said. Personalize each answer and tailor it to the particular customer, she said.
St. Martin also advised startups to cultivate their influencers, which she defined as “someone who is active online and followed by your target audience.” These people can drive traffic to your website and ignite interest around your brand. She listed five common types of influencers:
1. The Networker (Social butterfly)
2. The Opinion Leader (Thought leader)
3. The Discoverer (Trendsetter)
4. The Sharer (Reporter)
5. The User (Everyday customer)
St. Martin also advised companies to post regularly on all of their social media channels. But she advised quality over quantity of posts. The social media checklist St. Martin shared with the audience is listed below. She also gave away copies of Rohit Bhargava’s book: likeonomics: the unexpected truth behind earning trust, influencing behavior and inspiring action.


NowCastSA livestreamed the presentation, which is embedded below.

Watch live streaming video from nowcastsa at livestream.com

Geekdom Gets a Hip Makeover at its New Digs in the Historic Rand Building

A mock-up of the new open community space at Geekdom, once it moves into the historic Rand building.  Courtesy of Alamo Architects

A mock-up of the new open community space at Geekdom, once it moves into the historic Rand building. Courtesy of Alamo Architects

Founder of Silicon Hills News

Converting a historic building into a modern-day tech coworking space to incubate hot new startups in downtown San Antonio isn’t an easy task.
But Irby Hightower of Alamo Architects and his team have managed to do just that. They took a former bank building and are transforming the seventh floor into a modern day workplace for geeks.
It’s a work in progress right now. In fact, it’s a hard-hat construction zone. But once finished, the new Geekdom at the Rand will have bike racks, showers, lockers, changing rooms, a nap room and transparent glass sliding doors on the offices to give the entire floor a wide-open feel.

Irby Hightower with Alamo Architects shows off the new design for Geekdom at the Rand building.

Irby Hightower with Alamo Architects shows off the new design for Geekdom at the Rand building.

“The center offices open up from a smaller office to a larger office as a startup grows,” said Hightower. He presented drawings of the new space at a town hall meeting for members at Geekdom on Wednesday night.
The 1,200 square foot space will have 20 offices available for tech startups. Desks will rent for $200 a month. Community membership will remain at $50 a month. At the new site, the community space is larger and snakes throughout the floor.
An open kitchen also encourages interaction among the members. The entire place is built to encourage community collaboration.
The space also includes a large conference room and smaller conference rooms.
“The whole place really is meant to be one big community work environment,” Hightower said.
The new Geekdom is a little grungier than the 11th floor of the Weston Centre, current home of the site and a former law office.
A packed house turned out for the town hall meeting at Geekdom to unveil the new design for the site at the Rand building.

A packed house turned out for the town hall meeting at Geekdom to unveil the new design for the site at the Rand building.

“We think that’s the right approach,” Hightower said. “The ceilings will have more character…It’s the kind of space you can experiment in and have more fun in.”
The space will also contain a lot of writeable surfaces and reliable high-speed Internet with lots of outlets for wired service as well as Wi-Fi.
The main floor of the building will also contain an events center with two Tricasters, portable live broadcasting studios, from NewTek for live streaming programming. The events center will also house a Ping-Pong table and other games.
The new Geekdom is expected to open on March 31st. It will feature the events center, the sixth floor for established tech companies and the seventh floor for new startups and community members.
In another 18 months, the entire Rand building will be vacated and will belong to Geekdom, said Lorenzo Gomez with Geekdom and the 80/20 Foundation.
They’ve talked about putting an electric sign on the roof of the building then with one letter that continues to flicker on and off, harkening back to the 1930s, when the building served as a department store.

Geekdom is a sponsor of SiliconHillsNews.com

Code for America Coming to San Antonio

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Code for AmericaThe City of San Antonio is now one of only 10 U.S. city governments chosen for the national Code for America program. Its status as a fellowship city was announced last week at the annual Code for America Summit.
A national nonprofit organization, Code for America works to create better citizen-government interactions and improve city services though a technologist volunteer program similar in structure to the Peace Corp. Each year the organization chooses 10 cities and around 30 technologist fellows to work in those cities. This January, three of those fellows will travel to San Antonio to begin work on one of several proposed initiatives to improve the citizens of San Antonio’s relationship with their local government.
“We are excited to partner with Code for America and welcome the fellows to San Antonio,” Mayor Julian Castro said in a city press release. “I look forward to the work that the fellows will produce to improve on the quality of services the city provides. This partnership will strengthen the city’s competitiveness as a technology and innovation hub.”
Code for America will announce San Antonio’s assigned technology volunteers in November. The fellows will work closely with San Antonio Chief Technology Officer Hugh Miller and Assistant IT Director Kevin Goodwin – going through a research phase in January and choosing their project by February. Two proposals are currently being considered.
The first initiative is to create a database on every address in the city that will display all relevant services or events that occurred at that point. This would include city services performed at the location – such as road work, solid waste disposal stats, and water services – as well as all the permits requested and crimes committed at the address. This will enable citizens to make informed decisions on whether to buy a house, locate a business, develop a property, or do anything else at any address in the city.
The second initiative will create a website that ties together all the volunteer opportunities in San Antonio so that citizens would be able to log on at one place and become more involved in the city. A database connected to the site will allow the city to monitor and better use volunteer resources by ensuring that the right number of volunteers are working on each project and that they have all the resources they need to complete their job.
Miller had already been communicating with Code for America in the 10 months leading up to the announcement and said that Code for America had been considering San Antonio for a long time. He sees it as a great way to get new talented technologists into government – an area they typically avoid.
“How do you make government appealing to talent? That’s one of the things this program does is you take this talent, you engage them into civic opportunities, and let them get a feel for what it takes to run and manage government and citizen services,” Miller said.
To be considered, every applying city must both pay $180,000 and receive a matching amount from the community. San Antonio’s 80/20 Foundation is financing the other $180,000 and will continue to support the project by connecting the fellows with additional partners and resources The money will pay the fellows’ living expenses and go towards the chosen initiative for the city. The 80/20 Foundation’s Executive Director Lorenzo Gomez believes that acceptance into the program is a huge step for the city.
“I think that being accepted into Code for America changes the brand of our city,” Gomez said. “It says we are an innovative city, that we are looking for new ways to run government business, and it portrays the image we want to the rest of the world which is: We embrace the new talent economy and embrace using new innovative technologies to change city government. It is yet another reason that San Antonio is a city on the rise.”

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