Building a City of Success
From the simple, country life to a tech giant — Graham Weston is no stranger to overcoming the odds. After years in real estate, he and his business partner Morris Miller met three Trinity students in the Fall of 1998. Together they decided to venture into the world of tech startups. Describing it as a “landlord of the internet,” their brainchild Rackspace grew at a rapid rate and showed the potential of how the internet would shape life as we know it.
The company has thrived in San Antonio for years, and now Weston aims to continue to bring growth and success to the Alamo City. He shares his hopes for the future of his hometown and why we are all the pioneers of change in San Antonio.
Does San Antonio have the potential to be a strong competitor in the tech industry?
Back when we were talking about forming Rackspace, there was really no tech industry here. San Antonio has come so far since that time. Today, the industry has grown so much, and San Antonio is a force. I think it is only a matter of time before San Antonio becomes as famous as Austin as a tech center.
What makes this city a special place for business owners and entrepreneurs?
San Antonio is a very relationship-driven place. We want to stick together and support each other. We have a business community that wants to work together, and it’s based on trust. We feel like we are in it together. Some cities have a very competitive culture, but I think San Antonio, our Hispanic roots, make us very family oriented and make us want to work together.
How are you helping startups in our community?
Nick Longo and I founded Geekdom, a high tech incubator for startups. We knew that there needed to be a high tech startup ecosystem formed. Our motto was that Geekdom was the place to “chase your dream and find your team.” It was a community of entrepreneurs, potential employees, lawyers, web designers, and investors: these are the people needed to support a tech startup industry. The number one thing that stops us from chasing our dreams is fear. Without fear, we would be doing so much more with our lives. With entrepreneurs, the fear is overwhelming; they don’t have the money or the skills, and they don’t know if their idea is going to work. One of the core missions at Geekdom is to create a safe place for them to go and start their idea. People can find like-minded people who support and encourage them. That has resulted in hundreds of jobs being formed by Geekdom companies.
What are the challenges our city faces in becoming a force in the tech industry?
Rackspace grew very rapidly, and it was tough to recruit employees to San Antonio in the early days. If the candidate was without children, because while the suburban San Antonio offers excellent home value, that lifestyle did not appeal to them. They were looking for a walkable, urban community that did not exist.
I had an employee at Rackspace that refused to move here. He sent me an email saying San Antonio did not have the startup community he was looking for, a single person scene, an urban core, or a tech community. I shared that email with Mayor Castro. I said this is the city we have to build and I need to play a role in creating it.
What does that role look like for you now as you help San Antonio develop?
I left my position as CEO at Rackspace in October 2016. Since that time, I have been focused on Geekdom as well as building a tech district downtown and leading the renaissance of downtown and the strengthening of our Urban core.
So many people have complained to me that they could not get their children to move back to town. I started thinking about my own children, would they ever want to move back? Was San Antonio going to be good enough for them? I think too often, many people find that their children do not feel San Antonio has the opportunities or the lifestyle for them. A city that cannot retain its young people is a problem.
San Antonio is still maturing; it is still growing and improving every day. People who move or come back are pioneers; they are willing to see potential in our future. San Antonio is rising right now and all of us who live here are going to be shaping the city that it becomes. It is a really exciting time to live here. We are creating a city of the future together.
By Gabrielle Hernandez
Photography by Al Rendon