Will Garrett, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce‘s cybersecurity guru who leads the industry-focused Cybersecurity San Antonio initiative, gave City Council committee members a small taste Tuesday of the “big news” that will be announced Thursday morning at Geekdom. It’s fitting that the first public step of the cybersecurity startup incubator, which will launch later this year, will be taken at the tech startup co-working space – an incubator itself.
The new incubator will be located in a large suite in the 6th floor of the Rand Building at 110 E. Houston St., home to hundreds of startups that are part of Geekdom, Tech Bloc, Techstars, and other larger, more established tech companies. Google Fiber will soon move into the third and fourth floors. The Rivard Report office is located in the Rand Building.
Establishing the incubator was one many goals that chamber officials, with the help of the City and several local industry leaders, set out to accomplish almost one year ago when Cybersecurity SA launched in July 2015. The City of San Antonio and Bexar County underwrite Garrett’s salary and position.
San Antonio has a wealth of public and private cybersecurity organizations and companies, including the 24th and 25th Air Force, NSA Texas, Denim Group, Fidelis, Infocyte, DefLogix, Jungle Disk, Lockheed Martin, and more, that give legitimacy to the Military City USA tag line the city has adopted.
Even so, qualified military veterans looking to start a cybersecurity company at Geekdom would have a hard time getting people to understand the industry-specific wants and needs, Garrett said. “It’s not a critique on Geekdom, it’s just a very different skill set.”
Over the last year Cybersecurity SA put together a founding team that includes Garrett, Austin Technology Incubator Water and ATI IT & Wireless Founder and Director Bart Bohn, and Lab41 Director Bob Gleichauf; a core management team, and the basic structure of the incubator. ATI, one of the longest operating university-led incubators in the country, has several centers in Austin for different industries including water, clean energy, IT/wireless, and bio/health sciences.
“This is the first time they’re branching out of Austin to launch one, it’s because they saw something that existed here that does not exist up the road in Austin,” Garrett said.
Lab41 is essentially the Central Intelligence Agency’s venture firm.
“This new incubator will be a tremendous engine for cybersecurity startup creation and support, and a key IT industry asset,” said Tech Bloc CEO David Heard. “But it’s location downtown also builds on the momentum gathering inside our city’s emerging downtown tech district, especially on the heels of the announcement of the new CAST Tech high school last week. We anticipate some coursework at the high school focused on cybersecurity and the internship opportunities for kids in that sector are expanding.”
The incubator received a “huge kickstart from 80/20 Foundation to make this happen,” Garrett added. “This will be another piece of the tech district downtown and what we believe is a tremendous gap that will be filled here in the ecosystem as it pertains to the security industry.”
He applauded the City’s recent approval of a four-year $800,000 retainment fund for Techstars startups and asked Council to consider similar, tailored incentive packages for cybersecurity firms in the future.
“We can’t incentivize everyone, but a lot of the companies we’re working with need to be co-located next to the talent,” he said. Other cities that cybersecurity hubs throughout the nation have some “gesture of support” for small teams.
To stay competitive, San Antonio needs to offer small monetary nudges “to help a startup choose here over some of the other spaces,” Garrett said.
Top image: The Rand Building, 110 E. Houston St. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.