San Antonio Entrepreneur Center Opens Using Dallas Nonprofit as Model
San Antonio — Every city wants to boost growth for its industries, especially as technology and innovation-driven startups have become such a focus of the economy. Figuring out exactly how to do it is the tough part.
The Dallas Entrepreneur Center, a co-working and incubator space for startups in a city more traditionally known for its large corporations, says it has been able to create a swell of interest in the region’s small businesses through its events and activism, as Xconomy’s Angela Shah reported in January. The group has planned to bring that model to other cities in Texas, founder Trey Bowles said at the time, and now he and a few San Antonio entrepreneurs have delivered on that promise.
The San Antonio Entrepreneur Center opened in downtown San Antonio in February, offering small startups from any industry co-working space for a monthly fee. The center, a nonprofit like the Dallas group it’s modeled after, also acts as a type of incubator space, offering mentorship, networking events, and corporate benefits to its members.
“Our goal is to be a platform—that middle ground between leaders and experts and the startup community and the universities,” says Clayton Thomas, a commercial real estate agent who relocated from Dallas to San Antonio in 2014. Thomas co-founded the San Antonio Entrepreneur Center (SAEC) with Clayton Reaser, a local entrepreneur, and Peter French, who previously ran a business development center in the city, Café Commerce.
Thomas knew Bowles from his time in Dallas, and asked to put the Dallas Entrepreneur Center’s structure to work in the Alamo City. The group started working on the San Antonio center last year.
SAEC is one of many groups that are attempting to spur business development and revitalize the San Antonio economy. Along with Café Commerce and the Bexar County Economic Development department, organizations such as Tech Bloc have sprung up to promote development of the tech industry and the city’s downtown. Those efforts have been supported by local cloud computing comany Rackspace, as well as Geekdom, a larger co-working space downtown.
Thomas, who is the CEO of the San Antonio center, says a variety of small businesses in San Antonio need support—not just tech startups—with the little details of running a company: marketing, PR, IT setup, among others. Rising Barn, a startup that sells do-it-yourself building kits, is one of the earliest members. (Rising Barn is a finalist for a startup competition hosted by Tech Bloc.)
Membership costs $50 per month to use the co-working space, though dedicated desks and offices can be rented for $250 and $550 per month, respectively, Thomas says. The San Antonio center currently has more than a dozen members, and has had more than 600 people come through the office on E. Houston Street since it opened three weeks ago, he says.
The center also offers members corporate benefits, such as free credits on Amazon Web Services and other discounts on technology or flights, among others, for an additional $50 per month.
Now, the goal is to bring on more corporate sponsorships, as well as to further its relationships with local universities to spark interest in the startups among students. SAEC currently offers eight internships, Thomas says.
The center also plans to host more events like a rally it co-hosted on March 3 with Choose San Antonio, a group tasked with luring more workers to the city. Thomas says the group hopes to host three to four events a week, from pitch days to investor round tables.
Thomas, who still runs commercial real estate operations in both San Antonio and Dallas, says he hopes SAEC can be a place where startups can find the resources they need and investors—from both inside and outside the city—can find those startups.
“It’s something that San Antonio needs and is good for entrepreneurs,” he says. “When you have so many different industries and verticals and expertise coming in and colliding at some point, knowledge is power.”