(left) Graham Weston speaks with Netflix Founder and CEO Reed Hastings during a Tech Bloc event in partnership with KIPP: Texas.
(left) Local entrepreneur and philanthropist Graham Weston speaks with Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings during a Tech Bloc event in partnership with KIPP. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Rackspace co-founder and billionaire entrepreneur Graham Weston flexed his philanthropic muscle Friday in front of a packed house in the downtown Charline McCombs Empire Theatre as he issued a challenge.

In honor of Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix and a KIPP Foundation board member, Weston said he would match any contribution to KIPP made by the audience of mostly tech workers, doubling any donation or tripling any donation made after a visit to a KIPP San Antonio campus

“Can I join Tech Bloc in participating?” Hastings asked Weston jokingly, garnering applause from the crowd. Hastings has donated $200 million to public education.

Hastings was the focal point Friday of Tech Bloc‘s 2019 rally, an annual event the local tech trade organization hosts for its 5,000 individual and business members. KIPP Texas Public Schools sponsored the event. In addition to his work in the areas of technology and online media, the programming also highlighted Hastings’ educational philanthropic endeavors.

Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings sits on the board of the KIPP Foundation.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg was on hand ahead of the program to give Hastings the honorary title of alcalde, or mayor in Spanish. He also presented the billionaire media mogul with the key to the city – a special “digital” key.

“Stranger things have happened,” Nirenberg said, riffing on Netflix’s hit original series.

Tech Bloc coalesced four years ago in response to what many in the local tech community perceived as draconian regulations of the rideshare industry, which prompted the two main providers Uber and Lyft to leave San Antonio for several months. It hosts rallies at least once a year in downtown San Antonio.

The event Friday coincided with the fourth anniversary of Tech Bloc’s founding.

“We hope as our tech district, and our tech industry, and all the offshoots therein grow in San Antonio and – as our dot on the map becomes brighter – you’ll come to remember this day as when the first digital key to the city was given to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings,” Nirenberg said.

Hastings has helmed an organization known for pioneering online streaming and altering the media landscape. But Netflix isn’t done there, Hastings said Friday.

Interviewing Hastings, Weston asked whether the streaming service and now-content producer aimed to supplant a decades-old cable network.

“Graham, you’re thinking too small,” Hastings said. “Our ambition is not to knock off HBO. Our vision is to become the greatest entertainment company.”

To make a donation to KIPP San Antonio visit http://kippsa.org/donate/.

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.