Last week marked the first annual San Antonio Startup Week. The conference pooled resources from over 20 different San Antonio organizations, with the 80/20 Foundation and Trinity’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship coming out as the main sponsors, to create a week-long celebration of entrepreneurship and technology in San Antonio.
“The week was meant to celebrate what is going on in the startup community in San Antonio,” said Vanessa Paige, operations manager for the 80/20 foundation and main organizer for San Antonio Startup Week. “There are so many movers and shakers doing amazing things to put this city on the map, and this week was just a reflection of their hard work and effort. We ended up having over 270 attendees, 68 events and over 55 speakers “” half of which were women.”
Director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Luis Martinez, said the event was an important move for the San Antonio entrepreneurship community as well as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between Trinity students and the San Antonio tech scene.
“It was a way to celebrate tech in San Antonio, encourage and invite people to participate as well as show what is distinctly different about San Antonio tech,” Martinez said. “Trinity has had a long role and a long history in tech in San Antonio. The founders of Rackspace were Trinity students, so really we’ve been a part of tech and growing tech here in San Antonio since the inception. So it was a natural yes for us when we were asked to be a cosponsor of startup week because we have played such an integral role in tech here in San Antonio.”
Not only did Martinez encourage students to attend events during Startup Week, all entrepreneurship classes were canceled and students were asked to attend sessions in lieu of class time. First year Elizabeth Metzger said this not only gave her a chance to get more involved with the startup community but also provided a way to see more of San Antonio.
“Although I’ve known about 1 Million Cups for awhile, I was really inspired to head downtown for SA Startup week,” Metzger said. “It was a very surprising and exciting event to see. This was also my first time to the public library, and that was awesome itself. The event was pretty big and filled with a breakfast club-like diversity of people. I mostly was there as a soundboard for these two entrepreneurs giving their longer pitches. It pretty interesting hearing about the two very different startup and their different hurdles.”
The events of Startup Week also coincided with the national accelerator program Techstars Cloud, which is based here in San Antonio. Demo Day acted as a capstone event for the week where students watched as 11 companies, including a Trinity-alum-led startup out of Atlanta, competed for anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million.
“This is the fourth class of Techstars Cloud and the second Trinity alum-led company to participate,” Martinez said. “It was really more though, for Trinity students, as an invitation to participate to see the exciting things that are happening outside of the Trinity bubble, to see the exciting things that are happening in tech in San Antonio.”
Paige said she thinks this event will help to expand the startup community in San Antonio and will help to make San Antonio a household name when it comes to collaborative tech entrepreneurship.
“I believe that we wanted to show San Antonio that there are amazing things happening and, more importantly, that there is something for everyone, from wellness to developers,” Paige said. “We had so many different individuals involved and so many topics covered. It was the “˜anti-conference’ conference that was free to the public, but pretty much every session consisted of curated content from important business leaders in San Antonio. It was amazing to see how the ecosystem embraced the week and how the week broke down the barriers into entrepreneurship. The entire week opened up the door to learn more about starting up a venture “” or just learning about an industry or topic of your choice.”
Metzger said that overall, she was inspired by what she learned at the different sessions.
“My favorite part of Startup Week was hearing questions and debates from the audience. There was real community of support for the presenters as people offered possible resources, partners, questions, concerns and clarification,” Metzger said. “I was also really surprised about the different types of startups from a magician’s show to an online short-term realtor. There are such a variety of niche markets that I had never considered. It made me really think about the variety of what a startup can be.”
Paige said she thinks the event helped open many eyes within San Antonio to the different opportunities available right in the middle of the city.
“The event was incredibly important,” Paige said. “It helped shed light on everything that is happening in San Antonio’s tech scene. It showed that there is more to downtown than the typical tourist spots. It also created a sort of energy downtown and got people excited about the startup industry.”
Even though SA Startup week is over, Martinez said he thinks students can still learn from the goals and values of the event.
“While students are here at Trinity in their four years, they need to spend time in San Antonio that is not the Pearl, the Riverwalk or the Alamo “” and the Quarry doesn’t count either,” Martinez said. “I know that for many of our students their interests and hopes are to do great things in other parts of the world, and that’s OK. Use your time here in San Antonio to get some amazing real-world experience. There are some exciting things that are taking place here, and all you have to do is get off the hill.”