As Geekdom, the coworking space in the Rand building on Houston Street, celebrates its seventh birthday tonight, it will also toast the creation of its entrepreneurial trade school called The District, which is scheduled to open in February.
The school will offer three six-week semesters filled with business and consumer-related coursework, research and development education, and strategies for funding and marketing to Geekdom members and the general public.
"The coursework comes from real minds, and students will learn from people who have succeeded and have actually built companies themselves,” Geekdom co-founder Nick Longo said in a press release.
Classes will be held in the Rand’s basement, which is currently being renovated into 9,000 square feet of additional Geekdom space. Geekdom, which moved into the Rand in 2014 from the Weston Centre a block north, already occupies floors 6-8 of the 105-year-old building, originally home of the Wolff & Marx department store.
The basement build-out will provide Geekdom’s 1,700 members with additional classrooms, offices and conference rooms, meeting areas and a special podcast studio, available to students and members, Geekdom CEO David Garcia said. This will be in addition to its current 50,000 square feet of shared office space, home to more than 500 companies and nonprofits, according to a 2017 Geekdom annual report.
The Heron asked about the project’s cost, but Geekdom has not shared it.
The school and Geekdom expansion fuel a continued effort to build up downtown’s tech district—a growing cluster of companies that have found homes mostly in refurbished historic buildings on Houston Street. San Antonio-based developers Weston Urban (Geekdom co-founder Graham Weston’s company), GrayStreet Partners and AREA Real Estate, LLC, have either built, or are in the process of creating, more open office space, the kind of blank-canvas work environment tech companies prefer.
Some would say Weston, who also co-founded Rackspace, and Nick Longo, a former director at Rackspace, birthed the tech district when they launched Geekdom as a collaborative resource for local business and entrepreneurship opportunities in late 2011. Rackspace previously struggled to find candidates willing to relocate to San Antonio without more job opportunities and business infrastructure.
"We have had a hand in (creating) the startup scene," Geekdom Chairman Lorenzo Gomez said. "I think that because of (Geekdom's) hard work, we're going to hit critical mass very soon. When you have more people, companies and programs and initiatives than you can track—that's when you hit critical mass, and we're rapidly approaching that point. (Progress) doesn't require one person to do it all or own it all."
In the next few years, the district is expected to begin expanding past its Houston Street confines. Currently, Weston Urban is renovating all 21 stories of the Milam, the historic office building located between the Weston Centre and the Rand. It's also co-developing Frost's new, 23-story glass tower a block west of the Rand, which will offer up 150,000 square feet of office space the bank will not use.
In mid-September, local officials and the University of Texas at San Antonio announced a massive expansion of the university’s downtown campus, for which Weston has donated $15 million for the creation of the $57 million School of Data Science. The school will be built on Dolorosa street near City Hall, along with a cluster of other new buildings in the area, and construction is expected to begin in spring 2019.
The building is part of UTSA’s larger plan to foster, develop and retain homegrown tech talent in the coming decade.
At The District, Longo will lead and teach curriculum for the new school, slated to open Feb. 4.
The District will partner with local universities to enhance classes, develop hands-on learning experiences for students and arrange guest speakers, an extension of Geekdom’s existing partnership. Geekdom and Trinity University partner on programs like Students + Startups, which connects students with paid work opportunities at new companies located in the City's tech corridor.
District students will be required to present business plans and company pitches to the public during a three-day startup program before they can graduate. Cohorts will be limited to 36 students per session, and open for registration three times each year.
"I want more entrepreneurs in San Antonio and I want them to be more successful," Longo said.
Tuition for Geekdom members will cost $299 per cohort, while non-Geekdom members can expect to pay $499. Individuals interested in learning more about the school application process can visit TheDistrict.Works or email Ashley Uptmore, programs coordinator for Geekdom, at email@example.com.
Lea Thompson is a freelancer journalist in San Antonio. Freelancer journalist Tim Hernandez also contributed to this report.