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No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.

Geekdom Guest Spot: Matthew Myers

As Geekdom grows, our community’s entrepreneurial reach has expanded beyond the US borders and has gone international! We have everything from established companies to brand new start-ups from across the globe who have set up shop right here in our building.  Nevertheless, immigration can be a very complicated process. To help give us some basics, community member and immigration lawyer Matthew Myers wrote this post to help describe a basic understanding regarding the “legalese” of immigration.

When it comes to noncitizens, many people in the United States have heard generally of immigrants and undocumented aliens.  Under U.S. immigration law, there are actually immigrants and nonimmigrants and those with other legal status (i.e. DACA or asylum).

Most employment-based immigration options require employer sponsorship, and many foreign nationals actually start in nonimmigrant status as an F-1 student, H-1B specialty occupation worker, Trade NAFTA professional, etc. before obtaining an immigrant visa.

  1. Getting your Foot in the Door: Nonimmigrant Visas

Commonly referred by immigration lawyers as an “alphabet soup,” the U.S. immigration system provides for nonimmigrant visa options for almost every letter of the alphabet, with certain letters having multiple variations.  Nonimmigrant visas authorizing work may be issued for a specific duration generally between 1-5 years and at renewal require the petitioning company to prove that the foreign national still qualifies for the position in order to extend the nonimmigrant visa.

Certain nonimmigrant visas have a cap on the years that a foreign national may remain in such status, after such period the foreign national either needs to change to a different nonimmigrant visa, secure an immigrant visa, or return to their home country. For example, the cap on the number of years spent in H-1B status is seven years, and the cap on the U.S. intracompany transfer visa options of L-1A Managers and Executives and L-1B Specialized Knowledge employee is seven and five years, respectively.  Not having the same time restrictions, an alternate option available to companies may be hiring Canadian or Mexican professionals under the TN visa if the job and applicant’s credentials align with a set list of over 60 professional occupations set forth by NAFTA.

Other nonimmigrant visas, such as the H-1B Specialty Occupation visa, have a cap on the number of new visas that may be granted annually. The H-1B specialty occupation visa is the most frequently utilized by tech companies in the United States, but the annual cap on new visas is reached shortly after the beginning of the fiscal year on April 1. Companies who require specialized workers outside of the cap may choose to hire nationals of Chile, Singapore, and Australia. The U.S. signed treaties with these countries that provide for a separate visa category for U.S. companies to petition for nationals of these countries who are qualified to fill specialty occupations.

2. The Holy Grail of Immigration: the Immigrant Visa

The immigrant visa, commonly referred to as the “green card”, is the holy grail of U.S. immigration law, other than citizenship, because it allows the holder to renew permanent residency indefinitely so long as that person remains admissible and a permanent resident of the United States. The renewal process is similar to that of a passport or driver’s license and may be done routinely generally without the legal advice and substantial evidence of continued qualification necessary to extend nonimmigrant visas.

Generally speaking, there is a correspondingly higher level of scrutiny in the self-sponsored or employer-sponsored options to request an immigrant visa, relative to nonimmigrant visa options. These options include the EB-1 Aliens of Extraordinary Ability, EB-1B Outstanding Professor or Researcher, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa who invest $500,000 or $1 million, or the National Interest Waiver for individuals whose research is in the national interest of the United States who have proven accomplishments in the field.

Community Spotlight: Folo Media

It’s no secret that the Alamo city is in the starting phases of one of the largest population and industry booms of its 299-year history. People and businesses are looking to relocate here, while major companies like Hulu are looking to grow even larger in the Bexar area.

And yet, while all signs seem to point toward a bright future for San Antonio, it might not be available to everyone.

“I’m still pretty new to San Antonio, and I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a place quite this segregated,” writes Patton Dodd, Editor-in-Chief of Folo Media, “the seams between wealthy and poor show here, if you just look out for them a little bit”.

Comprised of three veterans of the news and media industries (Patton Dodd, Alice Rhee, and Benjamin Olivo), Folo examines the growing disparity and inequality between San Antonio’s wealthiest and poorest communities. As referenced on their website, two recent studies (linked here and here) argue that San Antonio is the most unequal city in the entire nation.

“Before we started Folo, we asked a lot of locals what they thought about local inequality, and they responded one of two ways: ‘That’s not something people talk about very much’ or ‘I had no idea’” Dodd said.

It was the surprising responses that led the team to dial in to this inequality and decide to focus solely on exposing and discussing this societal elephant in the room. With the support of the Laity Renewal Foundation and the H. E. Butt Family Foundation, Dodd, Rhee, and Olivo have set out to bring much-needed attention to San Antonio’s most vulnerable and at-risk communities.

“The Foundation tasked us with developing a project that would use media as a tool to serve vulnerable families and children,” Dodd explained, “We tested some ideas that were focused on national concerns, but as we got to know and love San Antonio and understand some of the most pressing local needs locally, we felt that this topic could benefit from sustained attention.”

The downtown districts have already experienced revitalization, and when coupled with Geekdom’s budding ecosystem of professional development and supporting local businesses and start-ups, Dodd knew Folo needed to be in the center of it.

“Entrepreneurialism is absolutely part of the answer to inequality, because people need jobs, and startups tend to provide jobs that pay more and offer more opportunity than jobs from aging firms.”

Dodd continued, “We’re also keeping an eye on the flow of venture capital to see if it spreads throughout the city via things like the Investing in Opportunity Act.”

But while business growth and entrepreneurs are part of the solution, what about on an individual level? For those of us who don’t have the start-up bug, how can we help encourage this vital conversation and begin to reverse this growing inequality in our city? Dodd’s answer is simple:

“Get involved. Local nonprofits do everything from building bikes for kids to serving food and making art. If you spend part of a day volunteering, you’ll make others aware because you’ll be wanting to talk about it.”

San Antonio is currently the seventh-largest city in the country, and although growing pains are inevitable, the Alamo city has all the talent and resources it needs to reverse the trend and spread the benefit to the entire population.

“This problem–systemic inequality–was created over decades, and it will take a long span of time to make systemic progress. Folo aims to cover every aspect of it because we think local citizens and institutions are going to have to throw everything at the problem,” Dodd wrote.

For more on Folo’s philosophy, or to read some of their recent articles, check out their website here, or stop by their office on the 7th floor!

Community Update: Whitecloud Drones

Happy Tuesday everyone! This won’t be the normal community blog post as we have written about Adam and Wes at WhiteCloud Drones before, but we wanted to give everyone a quick update on their recent landmarks and show off some of their latest footage!

The San Antonio Spurs Foundation was one of the first to sign with WCD, as they were in need of footage of the Spurs Coyote at some of the Alamo city’s famous locations to use as intro footage for the Coyote during home games. It wasn’t long before they were asking the pair to film for the Silver Stars, the Rampage, and even allowing them to operate their drones inside the AT&T center during the media day to catch players in the action!

Also, check out some footage here shot with Katt Slagle about the growing importance of STEM education in our youth and adolescent educations:

Finally, Wes and Adam recently had the privilege of collaborating on a passion project with Dodge South central Texas Viper Owners Association to create a breathtaking video of some of their finest driving on Devil’s Backbone, one of the most famous roads in the entire state of Texas, and a favorite among motorcyclists!

With several other projects in the works and other contracts  about to close, Adam and Wes are acting just like the drones they operate and soaring to new heights! Congratulations guys, and keep it up!

2017 Start-Up Weekend

It’s officially the Summer season! That means it’s time to break out the BBQ, Clean out the pool, and shotgun an energy drink because it’s time for the 2017 Start-Up Weekend!!

Starting June 2 at 6:30, participants will have a total of 54 hours to take an idea for a new start-up business from conception all the way to proposal! If you’ve ever had an idea for a business that’s been nagging at you in the back of your head, this event is for you!

Beginning with 60-second pitches, a round of voting will consolidate ideas and participants into a selection of teams that go to work on their shared idea. Teams will take over the 8th floor of Geekdom and use every resource at their disposal to research, brainstorm, analyze, and formulate a business plan that is as close to launch as possible for a final presentation on Sunday.

Food and caffeine will be provided to power through the weekend to keep your mind sharp and your brain churning. Not only that, but we’ll have a team of Geekdom mentors and veterans on-hand to help each team with any questions you might have and to give advice and tips along the way.

Of course, no good idea should go unrewarded, which is why awards will be given out sponsored by companies here at Geekdom! Here’s a quick list just to get you even more excited:

  • Geekdom
  • Biltt
  • Innocenti Jones
  • Key Ideas
  • Pear Analytics
  • Ace Screen Graphics

Each of these companies will be awarding packages tailored to your start-up weekend idea to help boost your business plan even closer to a reality. So what are you waiting for? Why are you still reading this when you could be signing up!?!

Community Spotlight: BySurface (and Quadrangular)

As far as neighbors go, Mexico has no shortage of ties to Texas; whether it’s business, political, economical, or culinary (queso has become a staple of the Texan diet), you can’t argue how our cultures have drawn from one another. Here at Geekdom, those ties have begun enticing Mexican entrepreneurs across the border in hopes of expanding their base into the USA marketplace.

“In Mexico we do business as Cuadrangular, we are known as the team that handled the digital campaign of the current governor of Nuevo Leon (Monterrey),” said Ruben Morales, of BySurface. “The challenge was that we needed to use technology to do something that has never been done before, which was to help on the digital side to win an election for an independent candidate, meaning that he had no political party.”

Ruben and his team at BySurface are all about the polished, higher end web design experience. As the average Google search result rises into the quintillions, the need for delivering sharp, intuitive web products that maximize results and minimize grief.

“No matter where you go, there will always be competition. Our most important tenet is ‘We Believe in Great Software Experiences’ and that means from the moment we meet with our clients, until we deliver the final product, it is all an experience. Beautiful digital products and outstanding customer care is key to us.”

While the entire company employs nearly 30 members, only a handful made the transfer here to the Alamo city to start the expansion. It was actually the 2016 Start Up Weekend event that made Ruben and his coworkers agree that Geekdom needed to be their new home in USA.

“We spoke with some Mexican entrepreneurs that are doing business here, then we brought part of our team to last year’s start up weekend so they could hang out with locals and see how the interaction was.”

As Ruben (and others) point out, San Antonio has become a sweet-spot of sorts for Hispanic development and business. With an already established and welcoming community, coupled with much more affordability than any other major Texas city, it’s no surprise more and more Mexican companies are eyeing our city as their next major growth.

“San Antonio has the perfect conditions for Mexican tech entrepreneurs because of the culture, the growing tech ecosystem and the openness.”

For more information about Ruben and his team, check out their site BySurface, or their Mexican counterpart Quadrangular!

Company Spotlight: WhiteCloud Drones

Drones—no term is better suited for being called a “buzzword” for 2017. They soar, hover, surveil, and even deliver small packages right to your front doorstep in select cities (though it’s expected to expand here to the Alamo city very soon). But a lot of people don’t know that drones are having a much more influential use outside of their military connotations.

“Drones have been a huge part of my life,” said Wesley Pruitt, co-founder of Whitecloud Drones, “I operated UAV’s/ Drones in the Navy [from 2007 to 2013] as mobile UAV operator for the SEAL Teams. I deployed numerous times to Iraq and Afghanistan flying for them.”

Whitecloud Drones recently moved into Geekdom late in 2016, but they’ve been putting their aerial skills to good use for years. San Antonio has been a major hub for drone technology for more than a decade now, so it stands to reason that their commercial abilities are finding solid footing here first.

“Aside from the USS San Antonio having a UAV Site onboard at all times the city of San Antonio has supplied updates to drone autopilots, as well as produce some awesome autopilots for the commercial markets.”

Of course, no good area of expertise goes unpoliced. Considering the already growing amount of aerial traffic occurring above San Antonio (and the bustling expansion of our international airport scheduled to be completed by 2018), it’s no surprise there are some significant laws regarding civilian drone operation.

“The new license is the Part 107 license that requires a person to take a knowledge test and pass with a score of at least 70%. The red tape list is large, such as operations near an airfield, 400 feet above ground level, filming historic locations [such as the Alamo], flight over people, and flight at night.”

But this hasn’t stopped White Cloud from droning ahead of the game and gaining all necessary permissions to film in places no one else is allowed to.

“We are the only company in San Antonio that can legally film Historic Locations.”

From a technical standpoint, when an operator can utilize heights unachievable with a crane camera, and couple that with programmable flight paths and camera angles that can’t be done by human means, the results are truly one-of-a-kind.

“Our ability to capture some amazing angles has led us to work with a lot of media production companies. We have a platform that allows us to fly around any camera and still be able to utilize all of the camera functions.”

Although they’re keeping a tight lip on what’s in the pipeline for 2017, they can tease us with one major client the entire city knows and loves.

“The San Antonio Spurs and the AT&T Center hire us to capture stunning images and video clips that they play on ESPN/CBS and NBC.”

So if you happen to look up one day while leaving the downtown area or perusing the farmer’s market at the Pearl and see a drone buzzing it’s way slowly across the sky, you don’t need to fret over a surveillance scare; in fact, you should throw your hands up and wave, and there’s a chance you might be able to spot yourself on Whitecloud’s next big commercial. Until then, check out this highlight reel they recorded out on Medina lake!

The Contagion of the SA Tech Community

Every now and then, Geekdom likes to reach out to some of our alumni and fellow alamo city techies to hear their thoughts on our burgeoning culture in the downtown area. Jessica Hernandez from Grok Interactive wanted to share her perspective on this “epidemic” that everyone should want to catch!

 

I am not talking about an infectious disease. I am talking about the infectious entrepreneurial spirit. The “let’s lift each other up” culture that has developed as a result of Geekdom’s efforts. If you are a part of this growing tech scene, you know the energy, the spirit and have grabbed on tightly to see how you can be a part of this vibrant ecosystem. For those not aware of our growing tech community, let me guide you through the web of knowledge happening in this city.

The tech industry’s growth in our city has helped with job creation. The highly coveted software developer job is most often discussed, but there are also opportunities in other key areas to include sales, marketing, and customer support. Remember that business degree you paid for and don’t know what to do with it? Well, tech companies need business minded individuals to help with day to day operations. Those skills are needed for strategic initiatives to help small tech companies grow.

Geekdom member and WordPress expert, Stefanie Young, from Grok Interactive gave a great example of her experience downtown. “I can walk down the street and ask any developer a question on any topic. Everyone is ready to help each other and provide support when we are looking for help.” Stefanie has also given back to the community by speaking at many engagements to share her knowledge with up and coming WordPress developers. She is a graduate from Codeup and is one of many Grok developers actively mentoring students. This is one small example of the open sourcing of information that is happening right now in our city.

If you are a current or former Rackspace employee, a short stroll down Houston street during a lunch hour will most likely lead you into a conversation with someone you used to work with and is now telling their story about their transition from a big tech company to a smaller start up environment reminiscent of Rackspace’s earlier years. For those not familiar with the Rackspace family and friends culture, you will be delighted to find many former Rackers who are willing to mentor and share their knowledge with others interested in this tech community.

Did I also mention that local downtown businesses are benefiting from the tech community’s growth? We are a group of hungry folks and we like to be fed good food. Pinch Boil House is an example of one of the eateries that will be opening due to demand and growth from this ecosystem.

Our collective community challenge in the coming years will be how will we allow this fostering of knowledge and information between each other to continue without allowing agencies to monopolize the community and make money off the values that we hold in high regard. You could be a Grok Interactive developer, a support team member of WPEngine, a database engineer at JungleDisk, a Codeup student, or working with one of the many startups at Geekdom, but our goals and aspirations are the same: continue to grow this thriving ecosystem and make it home to many of the tech companies of our time.

If you are not participating in the scene, you should be. Come downtown, grab lunch at Moshe’s, and get a membership at Geekdom. Find that energetic group of techies and ask them how to solve that business problem you have. Better yet, ask how you can contribute.

-Jessica

Company Spotlight: BILTT – Brick by Brick

Chalkboards & punk rock – that’s how projects begin to take shape at BILTT.

They are a design-first shop that specialize in helping startups and SaaS companies with logo and identity systems, marketing websites, and their digital products or applications.

BILTT was founded by Chris Welch and Josh Seltzer the beginning of 2014. Neither born and raised here, they originally met during the early days of Geekdom at the Weston Centre in March of 2012.

“It was pretty interesting meeting some rando dude in this city that matched my passion for quality work. Chris, although I don’t like to tell him, is an amazing designer and after a few quiet walks on the beach, it just seemed to make sense to work together”, said Josh Seltzer.

“Busted knuckles and broken backs are how we had food on the table every night.”

BILTT was born out of hard work and passion for delivering good design to good people. Even more impressive is the work ethic. This team is relentless at delivering something people can trust in and be proud of – and that kind of effort is home-grown.

Chris Welch puts it, “We come from blue collar families and backgrounds. Our fathers were both hammer-swinging carpenter types. Busted knuckles and broken backs is how we had food on the table every night. We wanted to build something that represented that work ethic.”

 

biltt-team-band-photo

“Aesthetics is a very small part of our job… design is about solving problems and delivering a message.”

In 2015, BILTT grew to add one more person, Claire Osburn. Prior to BILTT, Claire was working with SA2020, but took the first front-end development course that Codeup provided. It just so happened that Josh Seltzer was helping teach that course and BILTT hired her immediately.

“Claire is amazing. Her eye for detail and addiction to results is what keeps us moving forward some days. I can’t imagine a day without her around”, said Josh Seltzer. “The good thing about our team is that we overlap. We can move in and out of each others space. Claire can code and do Information Architecture, while I’m coding or working on UX, and Chris is working on UX or high-fidelity designs. I think we compliment each other and its awesome we can help each other out.”

Though small in team size, BILTT’s success and influence around these halls are bigger than you think. Between Techstars Cloud, Startup Weekend, Startup Next and even Geekdom (to name a few) they have been avid supporters of the local community.

biltt-team-3

“We consider our clients and partners to be friends. Working with people that we like, believe in and trust is huge for us. We like to say that as much as a client chooses to work with us, we choose to work with them. Getting to know the people and companies at Geekdom has played a major role in making that possible.”, said Chris Welch.

Stop by their office sometime, located on the 7th floor in the Mortal Kombat office. They may say hi or give you a “why are you bothering us look”, but truly do appreciate visitors even if they tell you to leave immediately – they’re probably just kidding – I think.

Otherwise you can find them at:
http://biltt.co
http://instagram.com/bilttco
http://twitter.com/bilttco

biltt-insta_1024

 

 

Company Spotlight: Digital Creative Institute

Graduation is as much an exciting ceremony as it is terrifying; while there’s always a lot of handshaking and picture taking and the like, there’s that subtle thought underlying everything that you can’t ignore anymore—you’re a grown-up now, time to “adult” with the rest of the world. And it can be a tough place, especially for the people who are just trying to get into it for the first time.
“I observed firsthand the challenges of finding your way as a newly minted grad,” explained Brad Voeller, founder of the Digital Creative Institute, “However, I also noticed that grads who overcame these odds and found early success had two common traits: A solid team of mentors behind them and hands-on experience in their chosen field. So I began to ask the question, why can’t we design a vibrant learning community around these two core elements?”

In order to achieve this, Brad and his team are taking the concept of apprenticeship—one with centuries of history behind many trades and industries—and digitizing it for the modern-day graduate.

“The word’s latin origin, ‘pretendere’ means to ‘grasp with the hand’. We’re re-interpreting this learning methodology for the digital age. Every skill is developed by building personally meaningful projects targeting real-world digital marketing challenges” Voeller said.

While the average graduate comes out of college with a basic understanding of marketing and advertising, most students rarely have the opportunity to get real experience with specific types of popular software or digital marketing tools that today’s companies are in demand for. At DCI, candidates will have both the time and the team to actually learn these highly sought-for skills and become adept at using them before becoming a full-blown employee.

“We work with program candidates seeking to enroll in the program to help them develop a basic understanding of analytics, PPC, and Inbound Marketing strategy,” Voeller described, “Once a candidate is successfully placed with a company and begins the apprenticeship experience, they collaborate with the other members of their cohort in strengthening the skills that are useful to all digital marketers regardless of their specific role.”

In a sense, DCI combines job training and job placement into a single entity where candidates receive guidance and the proper tools to learn what their future companies actually need from their marketing department and tailor the candidates to their strategies. So far, the results have been extremely positive and both the San Antonio and Austin markets are expanding.

“At scale, we should achieve a presence in 50+ markets with an average of 300 apprentices a year going through the program in each location!” said Voeller.

When it comes to succeeding in the professional world, you need all the help you can get, and the team at DCI is helping make that journey a lot smoother for the future of the San Antonio community. For more information or to sign up as a candidate, check out their website here!

Member spotlight: One Million Dreams

What is a dream to you? Is it a proverbial pot of gold at the end of a career rainbow? An ideal you want your moral compass to point toward? How about floor seats to the next Spurs vs. Mavericks game?

The beautiful thing about dreams is that they can be anything—a physical object, a spiritual state of mind, or a lifelong achievement of conquering a literal or metaphorical mountain. Of course, the intersection between our dreams and life itself rarely intersect at the time and place we want them to. That’s where Winslow Swart and Alberto Altmirano come in.

Winslow has been a member of Geekdom since our very first year, and has been a collaborator and mentor on several Geekdom projects. By day, he is the owner of Winslow Consulting, and after the sun sets he is the highest ranking Shihan at Kenseido, a Japanese martial arts dojo. Should the office ever be assaulted by thugs or ninjas, He is our greatest line of defense.

We spend so much time doing what we have to do, or what we are responsible for; work, family, friends, expectations, that eventually most of us give up on what we really wanted out of our life. I don’t want that to ever be an expectation for anyone looking to get the best out of their life, big or small.

“Dreams are what have kept me motivated since my younger years,” Winslow explained, “I always have five that I’m actively working on, but I’ve got 95 others I want to get to as well.”

OneMillionDreams.me is a dream mentoring platform they like to refer to as a “dream accelerator”. With nearly 70% of the workforce reporting to be “actively disengaged” with their work life, the inspiration to dream is being snuffed out from stress and pressure to perform for superiors. But without dreams to motivate us, what does any person truly have to look forward to? What really drives them to succeed?

Questions like these brought Winslow and Alberto to city councilman Alan Warrick who helped found Dare2Dream, a pilot program of dream mentors committed to inspiring people and civic groups, who have given up on themselves or their community, to start dreaming again. Then, find them the resources to start working toward that dream.

“Warrick was a catalyst for us when he came in. He saw our potential in a new way that could extend into the San Antonio community and especially for our youth, and that’s when this platform really took off” Winslow said.

Their upcoming web application will be the extension of that philosophy. Due to debut in early 2017, Winslow has been working with programmers in developing an algorithm that assists in dream achievement. As a type of gamification of the path to success, potential ‘dreamers’ would input as much description about their dream as possible, including timelines, dates, potential risks, challenges, benefits, and what success might lead to. From there, the application will design a rubric of “action steps” that act as positive feedback and reinforcement as the dreamer works toward their dream.

Part ninja, part geek, but all dreamer, Winslow has no intention of stopping dreaming, and to do so is to give up on part of what makes life so wonderful.

“We spend so much time doing what we have to do, or what we are responsible for; work, family, friends, expectations, that eventually most of us give up on what we really wanted out of our life. I don’t want that to ever be an expectation for anyone looking to get the best out of their life, big or small.”

Part III: Don’t Wait — Automate

When I began working at Geekdom, I thought I was the latest addition to a well oiled Geekdom machine. Truth be told, things were a little chaotic. Geekdom was nearing the final stages of its 8th floor expansion, we were in the midst of an aggressive growth period and staff members were being asked to do things not necessarily included in their respective job roles. During my first year at Geekdom our member base quickly grew from nearly 800 members to well over 1,100 members and our business processes were quickly beginning to show their age.

geekdom pre-2016 workflow

At Geekdom, we are always striving to improve the entrepreneurial journey, whether it be beefing up the resources available to our members, revamping our mentorship program, fostering community through new events or increasing membership base. But scaling and improving a business doesn’t come without its obstacles and challenges.

As our membership numbers began to grow, the once manageable everyday tasks spiraled into a vicious cycle of redundancy. Shackled by our manual processes, we were no longer able to implement new ideas, provide our members the attention needed, and to put quite simply, provide quality service. We could no longer evade the wind of change that was fluttering in our faces. We began to question our processes — exploring new applications and ways to better leverage our existing tools.

Emergence of Application Integration & Tasks Automation

We were soon introduced to Zapier, a web-based service that connects applications, allowing these applications to pass data, and perform automated tasks (shout out to Christian Torres & Chad Keck for this one). We thought Zapier sounded like a viable solution so we decided to kick the tires and put it through its paces. I was asked to meet with our staff members, to find their pain points, to explore new applications and to brainstorm new ways to automate our processes. If you asked me about our new found glory, Zapier, I would swear we had found the holy grail of automation. Some of the tasks we were able to begin automating are as follows:

  • Auto add new members to multiple email list
  • Auto send Slack invitation
  • Auto add all form entries to sales pipeline/CRM
  • Aut add new members to Membership Manager funnel/CRM

 

Some other notable improvements to our workflow have been:

  • Email Marketing – We began utilizing the email drip campaign of our existing email marketing solution (thanks Sean Wen & Leroy Bobadilla).
  • Net Promoter System – In order to gain some insightful feedback, increase our member loyalty, and improve the Geekdom experience we upped our use of NPS surveys (thanks Promoter.io).

AIO Coworking Space Management Platform – Because it made sense for us, we made the switch from a subscription billing platform to an all-in-one platform to manage our coworking space. Our members are now able to manage their account, add-on services, book conference rooms, view our member directory, access how-tos, and more.

geekdom-2016-workflow

Although these improvements to our workflow may seem minuscule, their impact has been immense. It has freed us from the constraints of time. That’s right baby, we’re f****n’ time travelers! OK, maybe not, but the new workflow has allowed for us to reallocate our efforts and focus on enhancing the membership experience across all areas of our business.

 

Going forward, I challenge you to always revisit and question your business processes. Discard of “muda” (useless/wasteful tasks), implement automation where it makes sense, and take back the time you need to focus on improving your business.

 

Special thanks to Luke Owen, Jaakko Piipponen, Sean Wen, Camille Seyler, Leroy Bobadilla and the whole Geekdom staff for making the new workflow possible! 🙂

So long and thanks for all the fish…

Dearest Darlings,

Our time together has come to an end. In the past two years, I’ve seen this community grow from 500 members to 1,200 strong. Businesses have sprung up all along downtown. We have not one, but two grocery stores in the downtown/southtown area. (My major gripe upon moving here was the longish drive to Central Market.) Venture for America San Antonio has grown from four ladies to ten amazing humans. I’ve gone from backing up and reapproaching the turns in the Rand Garage to whipping through them. Lorenzo and Kara’s feline family has increased from one cat to four. In just about every standard of measurement, both our community and I have grown significantly in two short years.

For this (and so much more), thank you.

Since my very first day, when I was absolutely terrified to start my first real job in a totally new city, you all made this place feel like home. Whenever I had a question (from how to make coffee or how to set up an NPS campaign), you were there. I have never, ever had any doubt that if I had a problem, you all would help me solve it. Sometimes, your help was as simple as explaining how to do a Fantasy Football draft (shoutout to Erik Ford!). Other times, it was something like how to use Basecamp or read gantt charts. A lot of the time, it was just getting another pair of eyes on something I’d written or a policy we were working on. (Thanks Catherine Lester!) Even now, as I’m about to start my new job doing marketing in New Orleans, I hit up Geekdom mentor week and got tons of great advice on how to approach the first day (thanks Jeremy Karney & Dave Geada!).

A bunch of times, I was just having an awful day, and you noticed and asked how I was doing. You did things to make me feel appreciated, like Gene Carangal breaking out all his shrimp recipes so I could partake in his amazing cooking. You cared about me as a human and not just an employee in your coworking space. The whole Infocyte team has helped me decide on shoe purchases. A lot of this stuff seems totally random, but it all added up. Being at Geekdom with all of you has been one of the very best experiences I have ever, and will ever, have.

In the past two years, I’ve had just about every job there is to have on the Geekdom team. At times, I have majorly screwed up. It hasn’t always been smooth. Moving to a new city wasn’t without its own mishaps. Trying to be a real adult has also been hilariously awful at times. With everything that’s gone wrong, friends at home questioned what I was doing here. To them, it never made any sense why I would pick a job where I stretched myself so much to make it work. Knowing you all have my back gave me the confidence to take on anything and look at my mistakes with a smile. What they can’t understand from afar is that you all made every bit worth it.

I didn’t expect to get this attached. In fact, I really didn’t want to fall in love with Geekdom, San Antonio or Texas at all. I hoped to just like you all a lot and then drive off carefree into the sunset. My predictions couldn’t have been more wrong. While I am excited to move home, I am so sad to be leaving you and missing out on the next part of San Antonio’s story. There is a taco-shaped hole in my heart. So thank you for every second of these past two years, and please keep in touch.

XO,

Camille

P.S. If you’re curious about the title, here’s the song!

Part II: Venture-backed to Bootstrapped

Do me a favor and ask ten random start-up folks if they think companies should be venture-backed or bootstrapped. On second thought, don’t do that. You’re guaranteed to get sucked into a dark world of debate filled with endless vitriol, judgment, and exaggerated eye-rolls…Yeah, I’ll take a large order of “no thank you,” please. (The short answer to that debate is, “It depends.”) The point of this post isn’t to debate which method is better. This post is simply about one (unbelievably good-looking, fantastic & super humble) person’s perspective on what it’s like to be in a venture-backed world vs. a bootstrapped world. On one hand, I’ve had the fortune to be an early employee at a successful NEA-backed company. On the other hand, I’ve also recently launched my own venture — insert plug, PINCH Crawfish Kitchen — using both bootstrapped funds and crowdfunded capital. Here are a couple of my observations:

 

  1. Mo’ Money — The most obvious observation comes down to $$$$$ (I’m going to exclude talks of equity, as that gets pretty hairy, pretty quickly). At a venture-backed company, you’re given money to make the decisions you presented to your investors. With a bootstrapped company, you’re hyper-aware about Every. Single. Penny. It’s important to note, however, that you can still be (and should be) mindful of your burn rate when you’re venture-backed. Too many companies burn through money at ridiculous rates and ultimately waste their funding. Don’t do that. Additionally, much of your company culture can be derived from how you/the company perceives money. The company I worked for developed many money-saving habits early on, and as a result, much of our culture was fixated on, “how can we save more money” — spanning from parties to how we set up our work stations.
  2. Mo’ Problems — With more money comes more temptation to lose focus and spend unwisely. Just a word of caution. In my bootstrapped company, we have a laser-like focus on making money — simply because this is how we get paid. When time is your most precious resource, we spend as much of it as possible trying to create value for our amazing customers. We want them to experience the best Southeast Asian Street Food they’ve ever had! Meanwhile, at a venture-backed company, many of our initiatives were directly influenced by how we thought investors would perceive it. We legitimately spent hours working on pitches, pitch decks, models, etc. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it helps your company truly understand its mission, LTV, churn, and so on, but you do lose time enhancing product ideas and other market strategies. Some other awesome upsides from receiving funding included the ability to easily obtain talent and new technology. This allowed us to scale effectively and grow quickly. Conversely, bootstrapped growth is typically slow and steady.
  3. Blast off in my (Mentor)ship — When you’re living in a venture-backed world, mentorship is a click away. Investors typically have a wide network of unbelievably talented and smart individuals/advisors. And because your company is already vetted, you get automatic credibility. I can recall having several of the world’s top “thought leaders” of a certain industry in our corner. With a bootstrapped venture, finding mentorship is a daunting and grueling process. You’ve got to be a bit shameless in your relentless pursuit of a mentor who is willing to, first, believe in your vision, and second, willing to take you all the way.
  4. Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock — Currently, I have no formal deadlines when it comes to PINCH. It is up to me and my co-founder to accomplish things in a timely manner and to push ourselves to constantly do more. However, in a venture-backed company, you’ll have hard deadlines, timelines and goals that MUST be reached. Your investors are counting on it. You feel the fire underneath you at all times. To be honest, sometimes it’s nice having that fire — especially when you’ve stayed up extra late the night before binge-watching ‘Stranger Things’. (If you haven’t watched this show yet, you haven’t lived)
  5. Shoot for the Moon — In both cases, setting huge goals is par for the course. Just because you’re bootstrapped does not mean you should not be trying to reach the stars. However, venture-backed companies typically have loftier goals — such as a becoming the next FB or IPO — simply because it is more realistic to get millions of dollars in funding to help propel their own valuation into crazy large numbers. A bootstrapped company has one goal: to be profitable. Slow and steady growth does not afford the luxury of ever ‘being in the red’.

 

Regardless if you’re bootstrapping or trying to raise a round, having a great product and being able to execute are the most important things. Because at the end of the day, receiving money is just one aspect of your company — albeit an important one — but providing value, putting forth your best effort and fine-tuning your product are ultimately the things that will validate your company and get you the money you deserve. Speaking of having a solid product, have you heard of PINCH Crawfish Kitchen? I hear their food is amazing. 🙂

 

Part I: Two Year Startup Survival Merit Badge

When I started at Geekdom two years ago, I was two months out of college, and my list of startup relevant skills was one word long.  I came into the job (and our huge ecosystem of entrepreneurs) expecting that everyone knew what they were doing. I pictured the people who started companies as high-achieving geniuses who, unlike me, didn’t have any doubts. While that’s a super intimidating thought, I was incredibly excited to learn from everyone. The learning tons from everyone I met did turn out to be a real thing. Everything else I expected was totally off.

Surprisingly, people starting companies are normal human beings. Even more surprising, adults are also normal human beings. You don’t turn 22 and suddenly receive magical adult-y knowledge that prevents you from getting road rage and forgetting to put your laundry in the dryer. Within the first month at Geekdom, I realized no one knows what they’re doing. The people founding companies are still high-achieving genius humans. It’s just that they also have doubts about the best course of action, get stressed, procrastinate and have to do things totally outside their wheelhouse to achieve their goals.

The story you know is that in these past two years, Geekdom doubled in size, expanded to three floors + an event space, improved our customer satisfaction, etc. While I love the victories, what I remember viscerally were all the false starts, all the little failures that helped us figure out what success actually looks like. I started as a project manager, but then we needed an events person. We didn’t have anyone doing sales so we hired someone. People previously doing office manager stuff, billing, etc became the membership managers you know and love. There was never a playbook for what we were doing or how to do it. The whole concept of “guess and check” from math class was very applicable to daily life. And all of that was just the Geekdom team. There were also sorts of changes, risks taken, adventures embarked upon throughout the rest of the community as well.

Instead of thinking less highly of the people around me, I find myself more impressed. All of the success stories (both large and small) were not about super humans; these are average humans with crazy above average bravery. I could talk your ear off about everything I learned working with the most amazing team I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of. The really important take away is that you can do anything if you assemble a solid team and aren’t afraid of making mistakes while you figure out what your success story is going to be.

Company Spotlight – Grok Interactive

To build an ecosystem, you need more than just successful companies. You need companies driven by a purpose and doing more than just chasing a buck. A real ecosystem needs companies that contribute, not just consume resources. This week, we want to showcase Grok Interactive, a company whose mission is creating software that matters. Grok is the epitome of a #GeekdomBuilt company led by long time Geekdom members, Jason Straughan CEO and Jason Ellis CTO. The Jasons joined Geekdom about four years ago after they left high paying jobs that had little impact on what they truly cared about. Both Jasons wanted help as many companies as they could while working as consultants, helping a company build an app or two then moving on to the next project.

And that’s what they did. However, the Geekdom community brought Grok Interactive more projects than two people could do, so Straughan and Ellis decided to expand. Before they knew it, they hired someone from the Geekdom community, then another and soon Grok Interactive became the go-to development house in the Geekdom ecosystem. That’s when they encountered a very interesting fork in the road; they could either focus on working with clients that would pad their bank accounts or pick customers who were also mission driven. When the Grok team sat down to evaluate the problem, they looked at their history and saw the answer in the past. Since day one, project after project they completed was for companies who desperately needed a developer to help spread their message and help build San Antonio.

While Grok is not located in Geekdom proper anymore (they’ve outgrown the space!), they are still as vital to this community as anyone. Whether they’re providing mentorship to our members, sponsoring events that support new developers or just taking the time to visit Geekdom during Fermented Friday, Grok is sure to never lose touch with the community that helped build them. No other company is better at contributing to the ecosystem than Grok, and we thank them for being a trailblazer in so many ways.

If you are looking for a company to help you build a web app, a mobile app, a WordPress site or even just someone to talk shop, you can find Grok Interactive in the 3rd floor of the Vogue building with Codeup and TurnerLogic.

Alan Weinkrantz Memorial Bash Announced

As some of you may know, over the weekend we lost a staple in the community, a long-time member, and a close friend to many. Alan Weinkrantz was killed while dining at one of his favorite restaurants in Tel Aviv when a driver lost control after having a heart attack and crashed into the cafe. Three people were killed and six injured.

If you ever had the pleasure of meeting Alan, you undoubtedly understood why he was as well-known and respected in our community as he was. Not only did he offer to help you in any way he could, but his passion for San Antonio, its tech scene, and entrepreneurship was infectious and palpable. As one of the very first Geekdom members, Alan travelled the world spreading the word of his favorite co-working space. It was no surprise when his son Aaron told us that he was accustomed to seeing his dad wear Geekdom shirts at least 5 times a week.

The constant story I’ve heard since his passing really tells you so much about the kind of person Alan was. During his time as a Geekdom office member he would travel often, but he didn’t want his office to go unused by our community. We’ve all heard the phrase, “My door is always open”. Well, he meant it. He let it be known that anytime he wasn’t around, his office was yours. He wanted a place for us to have meetings with our clients, take phone calls, and for one member, a place to sleep while he got back on his feet. To honor him, we are dedicating the one conference room that has a downtown view to our friend. Come Friday, Donkey Kong Conference Room on the 7th floor will now be known as The Weinkrantz Conference Room.  We invite you to swing by anytime Friday and leave a message on the whiteboard wall.

We are all heartbroken, but we knew Alan, and he’d want us to be happy, to celebrate, to sing, to dance. So that’s what we’re gonna do. We’re going to see our great friend off with the tunes of his favorite band, The Beatles. So please join us on Monday June 27th at the Paper Tiger for the Alan Weinkrantz Memorial Bash. There will be tears but they’ll be combined with smiles. There will be hugs, but only as we embrace and sing our favorite Beatles songs.

All proceeds will go directly to help pay for his funeral expenses and help his kids Aaron and Lauren in this time of need. We can’t wait to hear how Alan made you smile, how he befriended you, how he helped connect you in this amazing community we have. If you cannot make it and would like contribute, please consider donating by clicking here.

Introducing Mentor Madness!

Beta launch of Geekdom Mentorship starts on Today

Today is the very first Mentor Madness! What’s that? Basically, it’s a week where we try to get as many mentors as possible here at Geekdom to answer your most pressing questions and give advice. This will be a regular monthly event occurring on the first business week of the month. You can book mentors using this link. This is our first attempt at Mentor Madness so we appreciate you all for being our guinea pigs and would love any feedback you have about the process. 

                                                           Mentorsfor june

Meet the Mentors 

Who are the amazing mentors who have agreed to dispense wisdom and test out the new process? Michael Girdley (serial entrepreneur & founder of Codeup), Dax Moreno (sales guru), Matt Egan (SEO/web dev), Lorenzo Gomez (storytelling/microscripts), Luke Owen (operations/startups), and Trey Holder (production/distribution). Nick Longo will also be around all week (awesome!) and sent his calendar out in an earlier email. 

We are beyond excited to bring such a crazy week to our community. This is a total beta, so please let us know what you think and how we can make this better.

 

Top 5 Tech Trends in San Antonio

Being at Geekdom affords us a unique vantage point into the world of San Antonio’s growing technology scene. Consequently, for your own edification and reading pleasure, we’ve compiled a list of the five most exciting tech trends in San Antonio:

Cybersecurity

infocyte

Within Geekdom, there has always been a strong cybersecurity presence–thanks to companies like Infocyte and Global Infotek. San Antonio itself is consistently ranked in the top 2 for cybersecurity due to its education, talent and businesses. With the advent of new programs like the Cyber Incubator running out of Geekdom, San Antonio’s cyber program has begun to mature. San Antonio stays relevant in cybersecurity because of the educational focus that universities place on it, as well as the steady stream of talent coming from existing cybersecurity companies and the 24th Air Force Cyber Command. It’s safe to say that this is one San Antonio industry that is perpetually trending upward.  

Tech Courses

codeup

We’ve all heard the proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” In our digital age — where technology is a normal part of our daily experience — tech trade skills have become the new “fishing,” and for good reason! With programs like General Assembly, Tech Talent South, Open Cloud Academy, Iron Yard, and our very own Codeup, people of all backgrounds can now learn desirable and tangible skills that many employers seek.

The growing startup culture has made it possible for all of these boot camps and programs to thrive. Startups drive demand for graduates from these programs while the graduates themselves often start their own ventures. Beyond serving startups, many of these boot camps, such as San Antonio’s Codeup, function like startups, too — fast, nimble, and embodying the endearing “geek” culture.

The Downtown Movement 

downtown

‘Entrepreneurial density’ is a phrase that gets thrown around from time to time — particularly when the conversation revolves around cities and startups. With San Antonio, this phrase is becoming more and more relevant. In fact, there’s a growing trend of companies moving downtown or starting in downtown. The idea of density is crucial simply because when you are a small company, you cannot be on an island. You need the support of other people — a community. Density isn’t the be-all and end-all, but it is certainly a catalyst for growth. This is why the downtown community is so important to Geekdom.

This wave of new business inherently comes with some major economic and cultural implications, too. There’s job development, restaurants, real estate development, entertainment, along with hints of the dreaded ‘G word’ (Gentrification), purely as a result of more businesses being downtown. This is to say, we should be both excited and cognizant of the impact startups have with populating downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods.

Simply put, businesses are realizing they need to move downtown.

Satellite Offices

Google-Fiber-Rabbit-logo

San Antonio is quickly becoming a place that companies, of all sizes,  trust to build out their existing business. The most common example we see in San Antonio are high growth startups creating sales and/or support offices here — although large companies are also beginning to take notice. Tidemark, Oscar, WP Engine and Google are just some of the exciting companies putting roots down in San Antonio — largely due to the burgeoning tech scene that is developing here. Now to be fair, this isn’t necessarily where we want to end up — a destination solely for existing business to branch out. However, these companies definitely help validate our tech ecosystem and entice talent to come to this city. This is an important first step.

An interesting sidenote: this trend is partially due to San Antonio’s loyalty. People enjoy living in the city and finding solid careers rather than job-hopping to the ‘the next big thing.’ This ‘brand loyalty’ is certainly one of our cities largest competitive advantages.

Hosting

rackspace

However trite and cliche this tech trend may seem, we would be doing San Antonio’s startup culture a disservice if this was not mentioned. Why? Simply because hosting is one of the largest reasons why San Antonio’s technology scene was able to take off. Some of San Antonio’s most foundational companies were all in the business of hosting: Rackspace, Hostway, Peer 1, etc. Being a part of that environment inspired many nascent entrepreneurs to pursue their own ideas in the tech space. In fact, many of the founders and employees from these hosting companies have already started their own successful businesses (e.g. Help Social, DialPad, Jungle Disk) all over San Antonio — ultimately bringing in more jobs, more opportunity, and more young people. To put it succinctly, in the absence of schools and boot camps, hosting can be seen as San Antonio’s next-gen talent engine.

It’s not necessarily the ‘sexiest’ industry, but it was, and still is, crucial to the continued growth of our city.


Here’s the most important takeaway that we can gather from these tech trends: San Antonio cannot, and must not, be complacent — as there’s an entrepreneurial fire that needs to be stoked and nurtured. The city must continue to grow organically and push itself to be open to opportunities it may not be used to. In the meantime, San Antonio is poised for greatness — especially as these trends continue to push us in the right direction.

 

Startup Next Spotlight – CodersLink

With only two weeks to go before Startup Next Demo Day, we take a look at our last #GeekdomBuilt company. This company’s story is even more interesting than the last, since the founder once wore the geekstaff crown. Today, we’re talking about CodersLink.

Meet Tito Salas, CEO and founder of CodersLink. Like all great companies, Tito came up with his idea after recognizing a need. When Tito graduated from UTSA and looked for a  job, he saw many job opportunities for developers but not enough talent to fill them. Being a Mexican national, he knew that Mexico had tons of developers who could fill the roles and were also looking to achieve the American Dream. The problem: he had no idea how to bring the companies and talent together. At that time, Tito took a job here at Geekdom as a membership manager with the intention of bringing those developers to the San Antonio tech ecosystem.

Already familiar with starting lean and the process of testing out an idea, Tito developed his MVP.  Tito found five companies looking to hire developers and brought in five Mexican developers to interview for the positions. At the end of the day, one of the companies wanted to hire one of the candidates! That’s when the hard part started. Tito had made the match, but how did he get the developer setup in the US?  He then dug in and learned everything he could find about about visas and importing talent. After talking with lawyers and consultants, and more importantly, going through the entire visa process, Tito was able to bring that developer over and fill the company’s position. That day, CodersLink was born.
Tito took the money he made from that referral and immediately put in into starting his business. While CodersLink’s mission is to bring talent across the border, Tito’s personal goal is to show how easy it is to bring talent to companies that need it. While at Startup Next, he’s extremely interested in meeting with mentors, developing his pitch, and talking with companies about their concerns with hiring international talent. You can find Tito roaming the floors at Geekdom when he isn’t enjoying a torta in his favorite Mexican taqueria. Be sure to RSVP to watch his pitch on June 2nd in the Event Centre.

Expert to Help Startup Next Spotlight

We’re at the halfway mark of Startup Next and the teams have already learned a great deal of  information! This week we take a glance at Expert to Help, Jaakko Piipponen’s second go at entrepreneurship. Before starting this company, he ran Remote Garage, a startup dedicated to providing storage options for those who didn’t have it. He, unfortunately, was unsuccessful in his initial venture, but in conversations with fellow entrepreneurs and mentors, he quickly realized how important it was for companies to have financial plans and know how much runway their business’ had. Long story short — he learned from his failures.

 

Enter Expert to Help! — a company that builds financial models to illuminate important financial metrics for mid-size to large startups that need it the most. The team inputs data via the A.P.I’s of their existing services into a beautiful dashboard designed to bring day-to-day financial forecasts. While there are a few companies in this space, few manage to deliver dynamic content and even less are focused on startups. What really separates them is the perfect combination of customization and expert guidance. Customers can change just about everything in their dashboard to give them the most accurate runway for their business, but also have an expert — at a click of a mouse — ready to walk them through the process.
They’ve already learned so much from the mentors of Startup Next. Combine that with the avenue to collaborate with fellow entrepreneurs, and that gives this team the perfect opportunity to really take their business to a new level — which will in-part help the startups in our ecosystem grow. You can find Jaakko bouncing all over Geekdom, be sure to catch their pitch on June 2nd in the Event Centre.

 



Build it at Geekdom.