County Commissioners awarded more Innovation Fund grants to both local and national startups Tuesday.
The County granted up to $30,000 to Turner Logic, a custom software and hardware development company; up to $70,000 to 3 Day Startup, which teaches entrepreneurial skills; and up to $15,000 for Rising Barn, a DIY homebuilding kit manufacturer company.
The grants for Turner Logic – which also does business as Snackdot, a self-checkout system for selling snacks at businesses – and Rising Barn were results of placing in the top three competitors in the County’s Tech Fuel Startup Competition held in February.
Legal Holdings, which does business as criminal expunctions company Easyexpunctions.com, also was recognized Tuesday and was already granted an Innovation Fund grant up to $50,000 in August. All of the grants require the businesses to stay within Bexar County and provide a certain amount of jobs for residents.
The County established the more than $1 million Innovation Fund last year to bolster the local tech industry. County officials see the grant program as a way to attract tech talent to San Antonio, and thus, investment to the growing city and its emerging tech district.
For Liquid Web, a web hosting and cloud services provider which recently acquired Rackspace’s Cloud Sites business unit, County staff recommended issuing a $150,000 grant. The grant terms will require the company to remain in downtown San Antonio for at least three years, retain 57 jobs, and create at least 43 new ones.
Codeup, a program that prepares participants to become software developers, submitted an application specifically to fund its professional/technical training program. With the $28,800 that County staff recommended, Codeup will offer 20 developer apprenticeships over 12 weeks to local companies in need of tech talent.
Typically, larger companies can pay for an experienced coding trainer, but smaller entities often can’t, said David Marquez, County Economic Development department executive director. With this grant, Codeup would be “targeting that initiative.” The grant funds will go toward 480 hours of training and will boost the average local company salary of $15/hour to $18/hour.
Eligible companies for the Codeup apprenticeships must be located in Bexar County, have at least one other developer on staff, employ no more than 200 people in the county, and agree to all of the terms of the apprenticeship.
Students who wish to apply for the apprenticeship must have successfully completed Codeup’s Full-Stack Web Development Program on or after Sept. 15.
Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) urged Marquez to make sure those apprenticeships are offered equally throughout all four county precincts to “get that pipeline spread throughout” the county.
The County’s Innovation Fund addresses four focus areas: the recruitment of new companies, expansion of local companies, talent competitions, and talent development through education and media branding. Since the fund’s inception, the County has invested a total of $518,800 to cover all of the focus areas.
“(The innovation fund has) been a very successful program in its first year of operation,” Marquez told commissioners as he summed up the year’s accomplishments. “We have a long way to go, (and) we do want to make some adjustments to policy going forward,” but it’s been an all-around success.
Through recruitment, Easyexpunctions.com – which provides expunction services for residents in Texas, Ohio, Illinois, and Maryland; Dialpad – a cloud communication system; and Liquid Web have already brought 140 jobs to the county, Marquez said.
The Tech Fuel Startup Competition, the fund’s first project which was held in February, helped increase talent development as it provided $50,000 total to the top three placing local startups that participated in the competition: Snackdot; Rising Barn; and Miltribe, an online marketplace for the military community.
As far as training, 3 Day Startup, Codeup, and Project QUEST combined will equip more than 80 participants with professional and technical skills. Officials only anticipate more growth in each of the fund’s focus areas in the months to come.
San Antonio’s tech scene is vibrant and expanding, and has been marketed through various platforms including Choose San Antonio – which has a presence at Austin’s SXSW; Women of TechBloc – which held its first luncheon and networking event this year; and the Cyber Texas Conference, among others, Marquez said. Still, County staff should look at bolstering its efforts to get the San Antonio tech ecosystem recognized in national tech and trade publications beyond the local ecosystem, Calvert said.
“We need to export this fund and these awards … to the rest of the tech world,” he said.
Top image: Codeup students hard at work in the main classroom in the Weston Centre. Photo by Kara Gomez.