San Antonio’s emerging tech community now has a website, sanantoniotechdistrict.com, built by nonprofit tech advocacy group Tech Bloc, which maps out the places and businesses making up downtown’s Tech District.
Once completed, the website will document every aspect of the Tech District, whether that be apartments or nightlife, startups or coffee shops. These businesses are represented by icons on an interactive map that allows users to virtually explore the community and identify where work, education, and lifestyle opportunities lie within the buildings of downtown San Antonio.
Once a user clicks on an icon that interests them, a “microsite” describing the business fills the left-hand side of the screen. Presented with a birds’ eye view of downtown, users can select any one of 372 businesses currently located on the website and visualize the business in the context of nearby parks, streets, and buildings.
Click on the icon for Pinch Boil House, for example, and you’ll be taken to an intimate diagonal view of the restaurant that includes scale versions of the surrounding Rand and Frost Tower buildings, parks, and streets, as well as places such as Geekdom, and parking garages nearby.
The vision for the website began in June 2016 at a rally to fund a technology-focused high school, the Centers for Applied Sciences and Technology (CAST Tech), now located in Fox Tech’s campus at 637 N. Main Ave. Tech Bloc wanted to center this high school in the tech district, which spans from the Pearl, down Broadway to East Houston Street, and ends at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s downtown campus
“Too many times in San Antonio, we have the right ideas and we build them in the wrong places,” Tech Bloc CEO David Heard said. “We need to be more urban and we need to cluster these resources.”
The nonprofit realized that in order to market the Tech District to local, regional and national entrepreneurs, it needed a web presence, a directory of all the businesses, startups and opportunities found inside the tech neighborhood.
The resulting website intends to pull together a central message of the Tech District for entrepreneurs inside and outside San Antonio.
“What is the Tech District?” Heard said. “There’s no way to experience it unless someone takes you on a walking tour through downtown San Antonio and points out where everything is.”
In 2017, Tech Bloc received a grant of $50,000 from the Bexar County Innovation Fund. Since its creation in 2016, the Innovation Fund has sought to provide resources for ideas that encourage growth in San Antonio’s technology industry. The money from the fund allowed Tech Bloc to build the website, but the total cost of developing and maintaining the website has reached well over $100,000. In order to meet their goals for the website, Tech Bloc staff donated more than $60,000 in time to polish and expand the website, Heard said.
“We’ve funded several Tech Bloc contests for emerging tech firms,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said. “A lot of the money went to different tech firms to foster the development of technology in San Antonio.”
Eventually, the goal of the website is to have every single business located on the map. Currently, Tech Bloc is working to incorporate every part of San Antonio’s downtown tech ecosystem into the map, but it wants to create an open system where businesses can write their own microsites and highlight the most important aspects of their business on the website.
Prior to the creation of sanantontoniotechdistrict.com, there was no way to navigate the downtown tech district without help from an insider. Without the proper resources to identify where startups, coffee shops, and offices are located, outsiders to the San Antonio tech industry have no opportunity to integrate themselves into the community.
“We want to encourage other tech workers to come here,” Wolff said. “This website will allow those living in the Tech District to identify all the things to do.”
Tech is a rising industry in the global economy. Tech Bloc believes that a strong technology presence is essential in order for San Antonio to stay competitive in the U.S. economy.
“All San Antonions should have at least some level of interest in tech,” Heard said. “Tech is used in every industry these days, and the pandemic has only heightened that.”
San Antonio native Maggie Ryan is pursuing a bachelor’s of arts in English Language and Literature/Letters at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. She is interning at the Heron through Students + Startups, a program by the 80/20 Foundation that pairs undergrad students with local companies and nonprofits. She can be reached at email@example.com or @m_rrye on Twitter.