Tag: Nick Longo

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

Finding Your Noble Cause

Founder of Silicon Hills News

Nick Longo, co-founder and director of Geekdom, photo courtesy of TEDxSanAntonio

Nick Longo, co-founder and director of Geekdom, photo courtesy of TEDxSanAntonio

At TEDxSanAntonio, Nick Longo, co-founder of Geekdom, walked onto the stage, sat on a chair and started to read from a book labeled “Hope, Dream and Inspire.”
But the story he told wasn’t a fairy tale. In fact, it was Longo’s own entrepreneurial journey and how his experiences and those of Graham Weston, chairman and co-founder of Rackspace, led them to create Geekdom, a collaborative coworking space for geeks in the heart of San Antonio. The two-year-old startup has come to be known as “a place where startups are born.”
“Every entrepreneur has a story,” Longo said. “A story of their success and a journey of their failures to get there.”
“I believe we are all entrepreneurs,” Longo said. “We were born this way. It’s in our DNA – some a little and some a lot.”
Kids learn from an early age how to become entrepreneurs from running lemonade stands, mowing lawns, working jobs and lessons in school, Longo said.
“Entrepreneurship is not just business,” he said. “Business is the mindset. Entrepreneurship is the heart set. Because of frustration, desperation or a passion you cannot let go.”
To succeed as an entrepreneur, Longo said he believes people need to find their “noble cause.” But they can only do that when they conquer their fears, he said.
Next, Longo shared “a little bit” of his story.
He recounted how he grew up poor in rough neighborhoods and lived in the projects. And when he was 12, he had a friend named Roman, who was a pale kid with black hair, “who everyone took turns picking on,” Longo said.
“We collected baseball cards together,” he said. “We added aluminum foil to the ends of walkie-talkies to talk to space and into the unknown. We were the different ones.”
Longo told a tale about going to Roman’s house one day and how he stole a $100 bill from Roman’s birthday card. He avoided going over to Roman’s house for the next few weeks for fear of being found out. Then Roman’s mother showed up at his house with all of Roman’s birthday cards in her arms. Longo thought he was in big trouble.
“She told me Roman had an asthma attack the night before and died,” Longo said. “And she handed me those cards and said he would have wanted me to have them. I was never able to say goodbye, never able to say I was sorry and never able to give him that $100 bucks back from his birthday card. I held those cards in my arms like they were him. I was lost. And to this day, I still have those cards.”
For the next 15 years Longo struggled and wandered to find his way. He tried to start different businesses.
“I was in the Air Force. I was a racing Greyhound trainer – the dogs, not the buses,” Longo said.
Then, in 1994, he opened a coffee house in Corpus Christi by maxing out his wife’s credit card.
“After a year, like a lot of other things I tried to do, the coffee house wasn’t really working,” Longo said.
He decided to offer free Internet access.
“What I didn’t know is we ended up being one of the first Internet cafes in the world and I ended up making the first commercial website in Corpus,” he said.
The story spread quickly through the local press and soon Longo’s phone was ringing off the hook with everybody in Corpus wanting him to create a website for them.
“So I started making websites for $500 to $1,000 a pop when I wasn’t making espresso,” Longo said.
No good tools existed for creating websites back then, Longo said. He created the websites but he realized that the work was really hard and time consuming because his customers wanted changes all the time.
“Then one day my world changed forever,” Longo said. “When someone asked for yet another change. I was angry. The coffee house wasn’t doing well and I was desperate not to fail again. In an outburst that could be heard a block away, I yelled these people need software so they can make their own bleeping websites.”
That’s when Longo realized that he should create software to let them do that.
“I found my noble cause,” Longo said. “I would empower and help people get on the web.”
With a dial up modem and a $500 home built computer, Longo set out to take on the software industry, but he didn’t know how to make software. That’s when he had an epiphany.
“No idea I had done alone had worked,” Longo said. “Maybe that was the problem all along. I needed to collaborate with other people that liked what I liked. That had the same passion, the same noble cause. I needed help.”
He teamed up with a regular customer who was a computer programmer. Together they created the Coffeecup HTML editor. They released it in 1996 and it was a hit, Longo said. He made more web design software. He helped “people fulfill their dreams just like I did. This was the noble cause that led me here.”
Next, Longo “skipped forward a few chapters” to recount how Geekdom was created to help entrepreneurs.
“A couple of years ago Graham Weston, the Chairman of Rackspace and myself got together and said wouldn’t it be cool if there was a place where startups were born – not the Internet but a physical place, a place where developers and designers and entrepreneurs could get together and work on their ideas in person,” Longo said. “We would call it Geekdom. You see in the urban dictionary it means a place where more than two geeks gather.”
images-2Geekdom would offer memberships and desks at a low cost so everyone had a chance to meet their team, to build their dream, Longo said. Each member would be asked to give one hour a week of their time back to another member or do a workshop once a month on their expertise, he said.
“The noble cause of Geekdom is to empower people by creating a center where every kind of geek and entrepreneur can go to build a business,” Longo said. “A place where meeting someone in the hallway and sharing an idea would be happenstance and serendipity and something would get built right then and there.”
Geekdom is about creating an organic ecosystem that lets its members build and develop it, Longo said.
“I believe if we take people and place them together to collaborate and help each other they will change the world,” Longo said. “They will fulfill their noble causes.”
He also believes “mentorship is the new classroom.”
“We are all makers of something. Every person we meet knows something we don’t,” Longo said. “I learn from people that are likeminded that share my passions.”
Longo said he didn’t learn this lesson until after he sold his company and that he burnt out because he was working hard all the time.
“I needed someone to turn to who wasn’t there. I needed all of you,” Longo said. “There’s no reason to waste potential. Every person in the wrong job, or kid without a dream yet, can do what we do.”
It’s our responsibility to show them the way, he said.
“I’m an entrepreneur,” Longo said. “I was born this way. I was made this way. I cannot talk to myself or to the unknown for help. I can help you and we can help each other. So what would your story be?”
Longo ended his talk by pulling out a walkie-talkie with an aluminum foil antenna.
“Hey Roman, are we even yet?” Longo asked.

Full disclosure: Geekdom was a sponsor of Silicon Hills News

SANewTech Seeks to Foster San Antonio’s Technology Community

Cole Wollak, founder and organizer of San Antonio New Tech, a new monthly technology meetup at Geekdom.

Cole Wollak wants to help foster San Antonio’s growing technology community.
So he created San Antonio New Tech, a new technology meetup that takes place on the first Tuesday of every month at Geekdom, a downtown collaborative coworking site for geeks.
The first gathering takes place next week and 75 people have registered to attend. The event features short presentations from Dirk Elmendorf, one of the founders of Rackspace who now runs a startup called Trucking Office, Troy Troman with Rackspace talking about its Open Cloud and Open Stack initiatives and Eric Larson and Richard Ortega, founders of Grapevine, a startup based at Geekdom.
The idea is to fill the Geekdom room with like-minded people who can discuss their ventures, bounce off new ideas, socialize, network and collaborate.
“That diversity could create awesome serendipitous events,” Wollak said Friday afternoon during an interview at Geekdom.
The San Antonio New Tech meetup is the kind of grass-roots events that Geekdom seeks to foster, said Nick Longo, its director. The coworking site, founded last November, has quickly grown to 425 members and is currently expanding from the 11th floor to include the 10th floor of the Weston Centre.
“I like when the community, the geeks, the entrepreneurs, creators, organize their own events,” Longo said. “Because that’s organic.”
Wollak, a 2011 engineering graduate of Trinity University in San Antonio, previously worked as program manager for TechStars Cloud, headed up by Jason Seats. He also interned at FlashScan3D. He’s working on his own stealth startup and plans to announce it publicly in coming months.
Wollak has always had an interest in entrepreneurship. He help start the entrepreneurship club at Trinity University and he worked on organizing the 3 Day Startups in San Antonio.
He learned about the New Tech meetups while helping to run the TechStars Cloud program. Meetups regularly take place in New York, San Francisco, Boulder, Colo. and Denver. He wanted to create the same kind of community building event here. Wollak also hosts the San Antonio Open Coffee gathering every other Tuesday in San Antonio. It’s a group of people interested in talking about technology whether it’s a local startup or the latest news coming out of Google or NASA.
The focus of the San Antonio New Tech meetup is to foster the city’s tech community, create awareness about what’s happening locally and to provide a destination for newcomers to San Antonio who are technology and entrepreneurially focused to get to know the community, Wollak said.

TrueAbility Wins San Antonio Startup Weekend

Team photo of TrueAbility, which took home the top prize at San Antonio Startup Weekend. Photo courtesy of San Antonio Startup Weekend.

A team of four former Rackspace employees claimed the top prize at San Antonio Startup Weekend.
True Ability, a service that lets companies test the technical aptitude of job candidates, won the panel of judges over.
“TrueAbility helps companies hire great techs,” Frederick Mendler, CEO, said during his pitch.
One of the things lacking in the startup community is domain expertise, said Nick Longo, director of Geekdom.
“The biggest missing element is someone who knows the business they’re getting into,” he said.
TrueAbility knows the marketplace, Longo said. The need exists for startup companies to tackle bigger problems and TrueAbility is doing that, he said.
The company has 30 years of experience hiring technical talent and has hired more than 1,000 people at Rackspace, Mendler said. The TrueAbility platform will allow companies to know in advance how competent its job candidates are in different technical skills like Unix, Php and Java Script among other skills.
The team is made up of Mendler, Marcus Robertson, Luke Owen and Dusty Jones.
Following the big win, the team retired to their office at Geekdom to drink champagne and celebrate.
“We’re going to take tomorrow off and let the Red Bull wear off and get out of our systems,” Mendler said. “Then we’ll come back and focus on building the site out. We think there’s an opportunity to have $1 million in revenue in the next eight months.”
The judges thought TrueAbility had a solid business model and a well-formed and experienced team.

Frederick Mendler pitching TrueAbility at San Antonio Startup Weekend photo courtesy of San Antonio Startup Weekend

The judges also liked BikeIdentity, which garnered second place. BikeIdentity reported that 1.5 million bikes are stolen every year and 48 percent are recovered but less than 5 percent go back to their owners. BikeIdentity wants to solve that problem with NFC tags on bike frames that the police could scan to find the owners. The tags would retail for around $10. BikeIdentity estimates it will reach $12 million in revenue in 3 years. The team was seeking a $150,000 investment to bring its product to market.
SoundFly, a seven second broadcasting service on Twitter, took the third place prize.
“What would you say to the world in 7 seconds?” asked Ramesh Danala, during his presentation. SoundFly gives people the ability to accurately convey tone, emotion and personality with friends and family.
“People can Tweet and text, but the power of talking is amazing,” Danala said.
Dan Pernik first pitched the idea for SoundFly on Friday night. The idea didn’t get enough votes to become one of the selected projects. But when a team broke up over night, SoundFly got a new life. Inaddition to Pernik and Danala, Sundip Lal and Elliot Adams from New Orleans, joined the team.
“SoundFly was one of the ideas that has big potential,” said Pat Matthews, a senior vice president at Rackspace and one of the judges. “It definitely is an exciting idea.”
At the end of the day, most of the ideas that come out of San Antonio Startup Weekend won’t work, Longo said.
“That’s not why they’re here,” he said. “They leave here constantly learning. They now have a network.”
People can have ideas all day long, but they’ve got to execute on them, he said.
“This program forces them to execute,” he said. But people can’t fall in love with their ideas, he said.
“Never get married to your ideas” Longo said. As San Antonio Startup Weekend proved, they change and teams must adapt or die.

Geekdom Launches Seed Stage Fund for Startups

Geekdom is taking a gamble on new technology startups.
The collaborative coworking site today launched the Geekdom Fund, seed stage capital for technology startups in San Antonio.
The fund will provide startup teams with $25,000 equity investments and free office space at the Weston Centre downtown where the Geekdom is based, said Nick Longo, director of Geekdom and one of the fund’s administrators.
The fund provides a big missing piece of the puzzle in San Antonio’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, Longo said.
“Funding is always the point people want to get to,” Longo said.
The money comes from Pat Condon, one of the founders of Rackspace, and other executives at Rackspace and other angel investors, Longo said. The fund seeks to give San Antonio technology entrepreneurs a head start in launching their products into the marketplace.
“You apply with a great idea and a great team,” Longo said. “You have to be a member of Geekdom to apply. If you want to relocate here, we want you.”
Geekdom is a collaborative workspace, which launched late last year and has grown quickly. The site occupies the 11th floor of the Weston Centre and has expanded to the 10th floor and plans to expand to two additional floors in coming months.

Nick Longo, director of Geekdom is also one of the administrators of the Geekdom Fund, a $25,000 per startup seed stage fund.

Geekdom has attracted numerous startups already including Roughneck Graphics, ZippyKid, Grapevine, Embarkly and TrueAbility.
The money allows people to build a website, build an app and quit their job and pursue their startup dream, Longo said. The Geekdom fund has already invested in some startups based at the center including ZippyKid and Embarkly.
“Part of our criteria is you haven’t received funding from somewhere else,” Longo said. “This is seed money.”
To apply, visit the Geekdom site and fill out the application. It also asks startup teams to fill out a lean canvas form and list the people on their team.

Disclosure: Geekdom is a sponsor of Silicon Hills News

A Conversation with Geekdom’s Nick Longo on His Entrepreneurial Success

By Luke Carrière
Lead Organizer of 3DStartup NYC

In August 1994, Nick Longo founded a coffee house in Corpus Christi, Texas, which became one of the first internet cafes in the world. He created a website for his coffee shop and began designing websites for others in his community. By 1996 it had became so popular that he designed software to help people make their own websites and called it CoffeeCup Software, Inc., a startup that went on to win Shareware Industry Awards Foundation (“SIAF Awards”) for Best Web and Internet Software for six years from 1999-2004. In 2000, Nick founded then spun-off Bluedomino Web Hosting, which hosted over 15,000 websites. Nick is now at Rackspace in San Antonio, Texas as “Chief Rainmaker & Director of Strategic Initiatives.” One of the initiatives he is involved in is a collaborative workspace for entrepreneurs called Geekdom.

How did you recognize the opportunity/research the feasibility of the idea?
That’s a good starting place. That was from being a user first. I think a lot of good ideas come from saying to yourself, “hmm this isn’t done right,” or, “I could do this better.”
So, opportunities seem to be right in our own backyard. We are really good at our hobbies and things we do everyday. For example, I’m a webmaster and I don’t like the tools that are available. The idea comes about to make my own software so life will be easier for me. If I can make my life easier for myself, then it is probably going to make someone else’s life easier too. That is exactly how CoffeeCup was formed. I wanted to make my life easier. I had an intuitive sense at it was going to help others because they must be running into the same problems.

How did you finance your business?
I started with just a Master Card. I bought a $500 computer. I setup the computer in my coffee house and slept on the floor for the first year. I spent 24/7 focusing on creation and distribution of software. I took no financing.

What did you do with initial profits?
I wasn’t concerned with paying myself the first year, except for minimal stuff. When I had to make the first hire, I stockpiled cash because I would need another developer. I used the income I earned early as my bootstrapping money. So, I would “save, save, save,” and then hire to make more software. It was really a bootstrap deal.

How long did it take for your company to become profitable?
Within the first three months I was able to close the coffee house. I paid myself as much as I could, of course, I was keeping it really low. At the end of year one I had already made another two pieces of software.

How did your idea change throughout the process?
Originally I put it out for free. But a few things that changed. First, I had no idea how big the market was going to become. I made an HTML editor and that was all I planned to make. Then, a few months later, I realized there was a lot more opportunity and I need to make more software. My original intent was only making an HTML editor. But by the time I was done there were 35 pieces of software. That was a major shift.

Did you ever think of giving up? If so why?
I’m not a big fan of the “fail” methodology. If I were operating on a “fail fast” mindset, I would have been discouraged at month 3, and at month 6. When you are doing it by yourself, or only one other guy, you have all these aspirations to make a million dollars, and then you realize you can barely pay yourselves. That can be discouraging. I don’t have a “fail” bone. I say to myself, “I am going to ride this out as far as I can for as long as I can before it fails.” When I start something I don’t start believing its going to be successful, I start believing that I don’t want to fail. I always keep this little “fear of failure” thing in my pocket. I don’t worry about it succeeding, I just don’t want to fail. That can be a major driving motivator. Sometimes it’s not healthy. I’m more concerned about paying the rent.

What was your initial role? What is your current role in the company now?
We didn’t use the word “startup.” Starting a new business automatically made me a founder. As business develops and you add more products and there are more revenue and profits which increase the amount of problems like taxes, accountants, insurance and employees. The role shift goes from Founder to CEO, and that is a hard transition to make. Founders have fun: CEO’s not so much. Then it becomes a daily process and a monthly process of watching numbers. Before I sold my business I spent more time during the last half, 5-6 years, hitting refresh and checking revenue and planning marketing and sales, than I did in the first half.

What are the most successful marketing techniques? Guerilla marketing?
Everything I do is guerilla. Try to spend least possible on anything normal. In 11 years I spent approximately $100,000 in total marketing costs. We did a lot of one-on-one marketing to our distributors like CNET and other download sites. We would take those guys out to parties, which was cheaper than paying for advertizing. In return, they would give us way better advertising spots than we could ever afford by being cool with them. I’m a big fan of contests. I’ve given away Super Bowl tickets, a Rolex, a Mercedes: I’m really big on contests. Surprisingly, that is cheaper than having a marketing budget. We would raid conferences, like crashing a wedding. We wouldn’t even buy tickets. We didn’t even look like we should be there. We handed out our software up and down every isle. I’d rather have a developer than spend money on marketing. It did take a lot of tricks to walk through the back door to get to the front door.

What is the worst advice you have ever received and why?
Well, to be honest with you I didn’t really take peoples’ advice. Our culture was a little weird. We used to talk about being in a petri dish. You were either in the petri dish or your not in the petri dish. We didn’t let much in and we didn’t go out of it. We were really making our own rules. I didn’t take much advice.
The best advice I got was to make it shareware and actually sell it and timeout the software. I remember that. It was from one of the founders of download.com. Besides that, we weren’t taking much advice. To me all advice was bad. If we ever heard it, it usually didn’t match what we were doing because the company was very rouge.

You were trailblazing?
If you want to call it that. If our attempts didn’t work it was okay because it was the internet. You could delete it and it goes away and its not a big deal. If you released software and no one bought it you could delete it and move onto the next project. We didn’t invest too much time in any one specific piece f software. We were developing software in really short amounts of time, the epitome of agile development or rapid application development. We would say, “if we add this feature…wait, lets just make it its own piece of software.” Every 2-week and 4-week blocks we were delivering another piece of software.

Which part of your job is actual work opposed to passion?
You’re mostly driven by passion, not by what the outcome will be. If you love what you’re doing you are probably going to get a good result. That doesn’t always have to mean money. Even today, CoffeeCup is pretty well known. We were trying to help people change their lives by using our software so they don’t have to work for the man any more. That made us anti-establishment. That drove our passion. All the people who worked for us were that way.
We didn’t follow any process. The smaller the team, and closer we are together, the more money we can make, and the more we can do what we believe to be the right thing, which was to make software cheap for everyone, so they don’t have to work for the man. If that was the mission, it was passion driven. It means 24/7 hours, but passion doesn’t have to be about hard work if your having fun. If you are having fun, it shouldn’t be work. So, if you find yourself thinking you are working too much it probably means you are losing some of the passion you started with on your first day.

How is the economy effecting your business?
I think that is product driven. During my tenure at CoffeeCup we went through the Dot Com Bubble Burst, and 9/11, and another stock market crash. Those were actually opportunities. When the economy is down people lose their jobs, which means more people want to do their own thing. More entrepreneurs and startups are born when the economy is down. CoffeeCup was there through a lot of the bad, but we made out better because of it.
If everyone has tons of money they will buy the expensive software, regardless of whether it works well or not. We were there for beginners and intermediates. It was perfect in goods times and bad. In bad we did better. That is an awesome market to be in: a business that is recession proof. I would always be looking for that.
There is a big difference between needs and wants. For example we need a car, we want a Mercedes. You are better off selling products or services that people need. “Want businesses” are hurt the most, not the “need businesses.”

What is your advice to future entrepreneurs?
First, find the thing that people need, not what they want. Second, absolutely do the thing that you are passionate about, not the thing that you think is going to make money.
Those are two super super important things. Right when you find the striking balance between those, that is when you will find yourself successful: worrying less about failing but knowing that it is still there.
Don’t drive for success: drive not to fail.

Reprinted with permission from 3DStartupNYC

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