Editor’s Note: David Garcia Jr., the newly appointed chief operating officer at Geekdom, has a tech résumé that dates back to the 1990s when he worked as a retail sales manager at the Gateway computer store on San Pedro Avenue inside Loop 410, which longtime residents will remember for its spotted cow motif. He most recently managed the two Apple retail stores in San Antonio.
Rivard Report: David, welcome to the Rand building and the emerging East Houston Street Tech District. How did you come to be Geekdom’s new chief operating officer?
David Garcia Jr.: I came to be the new COO for Geekdom through the relationships I’ve built over the years with Luke Owen, Dax Moreno, and Lorenzo Gomez. The four of us have been involved with technology since 1998 when we worked together at Gateway. It was this great relationship built over the years and my continuing collaboration with them that gave me a close-up look at how the tech scene is changing in San Antonio.
I watched each of these individuals grow in their own tech careers. Luke Owen, who was temporarily filling in as COO, is getting ready to launch his second startup here at Geekdom. He will stay on part-time to oversee the startup programs here at Geekdom. Luke is the co-founder of TrueAbility, and is now moving on to serve as the Startup Next director here at Geekdom. Dax Moreno was a director at Peer1 and MAXCDN, and is now with Assembla. Lorenzo, of course, is the CEO of Geekdom. In addition, all three of them were at Rackspace where they did an amazing job before moving on to other projects.
It was through these relationships with Luke, Dax, and Lorenzo and our conversations about how a business needs a good foundation in operations to be successful. Luke did an amazing job in laying the ground work at Geekdom to set some things in motion for a growing company. Now that Luke is at a point to move on to a new venture, Lorenzo felt that my skill set and background with technology and operations made me the perfect fit for Geekdom. After some conversations, it was decided that the timing was right and so here I am.
RR: So, before now you were managing Apple’s two stores in San Antonio, one at Northstar Mall, the other at the Shops at La Cantera. What was that like?
DG: To describe it in one word: awesome. I have always enjoyed helping people learn more about technology and how it can truly enrich their life. The ability to enrich people’s lives and showcase how Apple products could truly change their lives was something I enjoyed immensely.
Interacting with our customers was very rewarding, but even more important were the talented people and teams I worked with there. Many of the people I worked with have moved on to other things, taking with them what they learned from Apple. Being part of their development was very rewarding.
RR: Other cities I’ve visited have an Apple store downtown. How about an Apple store downtown here? Any chance?
DR: I can’t speak to what Apple’s plans are for the future in downtown San Antonio. My personal opinion? Right now there aren’t enough people living downtown. As more people move downtown the demand for an Apple store could be there.
RR: So what’s your charge at Geekdom? Is the mission to grow it, change it, or what?
DG: My charge is to help Geekdom grow. I want to ensure that the experience of our members is a great one. Members are our key to success, so we want to ensure that they are getting the support they need while having a great experience overall. This will ensure their continued growth so that one day they will be in a position to give back as mentors to others in the community.
RR: How will the arrival of Google Fiber to the Rand change things? Will there be synergy with Geekdom and all the other startups in the house?
DG: I can’t wait to have (Google Fiber) move in and become part of our community. It will add a whole new level of energy to our building and our community and it’ll help spark tech growth on Houston Street. We want to collaborate with them.
RR: You haven’t been on East Houston Street for very long. What’s your reaction to people who refer to the street as the Tech District? Is that legit or are advocates getting ahead of things?
DG: I don’t think people are getting ahead of things. I have many friends in the tech industry located here on Houston Street. The ability to connect with them again, seeing more companies moving here – it can only lead to more growth downtown as more people move back to the city, more retailers open up shops, etc. I’m excited to be part of the growth, especially because Geekdom is so central to that growth.
RR: You’ve been in the tech business since the ’90s when you worked at the Gateway store on San Pedro Avenue. What was it like selling those Gateway PCs and laptops? Were all the customers geeky or did you end up teaching a lot of people how to use their first computer, how to use email, etc.?
DG: Great question. Working at Gateway, it was more about teaching people what a computer was and what it could do for them. AOL was the way to get email using dial-up, and most computers would end up costing you around $2,000, which was a small fortune for people. Back then, we had to show people the value of owning a computer, why it needed to be part of their lives.
Who can’t forget Y2K and the concerns people had back then? We had to reassure people that the computer they were buying in 1999 was safe and wouldn’t have issues when the clocks turned from 1999 to 2000. It was a great time to get more people involved with technology.
RR: One of the great benefits for us as Geekdom members are the events, the speakers. U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) came by Wednesday with Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) to talk rideshare, and we recently heard Graham Weston and Bill Schley talk branding. Will you be bringing in more speakers?
DG: Absolutely. Members are asking for more. These events allow our members to learn more about things that are important to them and learn more about what’s happening in our community.
RR: Let’s finish with a personal question or two. Are you from San Antonio? Spurs fan?
DG: I am a native San Antonian, born and raised on the outskirts of the city on a small farm. I currently live out in the sprawling suburbs of West Bexar County, which continues to grow. All of my family still resides here in San Antonio. I attended the University of Texas at San Antonio, where I received my undergraduate degree in business administration. I also hold a teaching certificate to teach biology in the state of Texas.
Of course, I am a Spurs fan. I’ve followed them since their days in the old arena downtown. I saw them play in the Alamodome, where I had season tickets, and I was lucky enough to see the Spurs win the championship in 1999. I was at the AT&T Center when they won in 2014, too. I’ve been married for 14 years to my wife, Debra. We have two children, Christopher and Sarah.
Top image: David Garcia Jr. is the new Geekdom COO. Photo by Tom Bugg.