Boulder Startup Veteran Tapped as New Chief at San Antonio’s RealCo
San Antonio—Richard Grote wants to bring a little bit of the Rocky Mountain High to San Antonio.
No, not that high—we’re referring to the buzz that comes from a vibrant innovation ecosystem. Grote, who founded several companies in Boulder, CO, and most recently led the Travelport Labs accelerator there, has become the managing director of RealCo, a San Antonio accelerator program founded a year ago.
“I was part of that early process; I was at the first Startup Weekend,” Grote says of the startup community in Boulder. “I see that San Antonio resembles Boulder then.”
Business leaders in San Antonio have been working in recent years to expand the Alamo City’s image beyond, well, the Alamo, its scenic River Walk, and the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. Given the city’s role as the birthplace and home of cloud computing giant Rackspace, tech boosters see a digitized future for the city’s economy. RealCo co-founder Michael Girdley, for one, is involved with a number of startup-related efforts including the coding school Codeup, the venture capital firm Geekdom Fund, and the San Antonio Angel Network.
Now, with Grote on board at RealCo, Girdley says he sees an opportunity to strengthen ties with Boulder’s thriving tech scene, which, like San Antonio, has a specialization in military-related technologies, energy innovation, computer storage companies. “If you compare the cultures, looking at where San Antonio feels the most kinship to other regions: one is Houston, and another one is Colorado,” he says.
RealCo’s program lasts up to 15 months and offers startups as much as $125,000 in early operating capital in exchange for a small equity stake. Grote says having the extended time to work with the startups—beyond the typical accelerator calendar of three to four months—will enable RealCo to truly prep these early stage companies for a Series A investment. “It’s better for the entrepreneurs,” he adds.
In addition to the longer program, RealCo says, its accelerator gives startups a more tailored experience. Startups are placed in one of five different course levels, depending on how far along they are. Each tier has certain requirements, and offers varying levels of funding. For the earliest stage companies—those with a complete founding team, business hypothesis and model, and target customers—RealCo offers $25,000 for a 6 percent equity stake.
To move on to the next tier of the program, a company would need a beta product and pilot customers, and get a $50,000 convertible note in return. The third and final level offers another $50,000 convertible note for similar advances, like achieving certain revenue goals.
The companies currently working with RealCo include Dearduck, an e-commerce startup that uses artificial intelligence and analytics software to upgrade from things like Amazon Wish Lists; and Dauber, which makes an app that lets construction trucking companies digitize processes such as tracking shipments, analyzing load information, and signing for orders.
Grote, whose family is still based in Boulder, says he expects to be in San Antonio frequently, especially during the week. Girdley says such travel is not atypical for RealCo’s leaders, pointing out that co-founder Chris Saum lives in Austin. “We see that the days of having local-only [leadership for] accelerators and incubators are ending,” he says. “There is something unique in having a program that represents different ecosystems.”