The Peer 1 tank at the Pearl Brewery. Photo by Andrew Moore.
The Peer 1 tank at the Pearl Brewery. Photo by Andrew Moore.

Tech jobs are migrating to the Pearl, a destination – until now – known for culinary education, some of the city’s best restaurants and farmer’s market, and a fast-growing community of near-downtown residents who have filled recently constructed multifamily developments.

Canada-based web hosting company Peer 1 is announcing its arrival at the Pearl with dramatic fashion, hosting an open house this Friday, April 4, at the company’s newly renovated digs that once housed the original Pearl tenant, the Aveda Beauty School.

The new space is located in the former brewery’s garage and maintenance building, which Peer 1 will now be using to provide clients with cloud hosting and other managed web services.  The party will feature a performance by The SA Blue Cats and a menu of Mexican food and libations.

Peer 1 CEO Gary Sherlock
Peer 1 President and CEO Gary Sherlock

Peer 1 President and CEO Gary Sherlock, who is based at company headquarters in Vancouver, will speak at the event.

What attracted Peer 1 to San Antonio and the Pearl? One factor was the company’s relationship with Rackspace, which sold ServerBeach, a lower-cost server hosting service, to Peer 1 a decade ago.

Dax Moreno, Peer 1’s director of North American sales, said the new space and expansion will enable the company to identify and retain talented programmers and other workers in San Antonio.

“Really this was about expanding into an area that would be attractive to the type of employee demographic that we want to recruit,” Dax said. “The Pearl is a known commodity, folks know where it is, they know what it is. Bringing this space to life would be more attractive to folks on the outside, but more importantly it lets our employees know that we are investing in them, and that we are investing in San Antonio and what it has to offer.”

Peer 1's new digs at the Peal Brewery. Photo by Andrew Moore.
Peer 1’s new digs at the Peal Brewery. Photo by Andrew Moore.

But Peer 1 is expanding to the Pearl for more than just a great place to work and play.  According to Moreno, the new San Antonio office will allow Peer 1 to add 50-60 new tech jobs to the area in the next three years. Peer 1 is looking now to fill 10 positions in customer support, sales, and developer positions, and plans to add another 10 positions in the next six months. District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal, who will speak at the opening, believes the Peer 1 expansion is an important part of keeping tech professionals in San Antonio.

“We find ourselves in a really great position of being the host to a growing ecosystem,” Bernal said. “They (Peer 1) can start to develop talent, but they can also attract talent, and people can, at one point, transition from one company to another but stay within San Antonio. That wasn’t a reality three or four years ago, and we are starting to see that emerge. That’s what is very, very exciting about this.”

The new office will house 100 employees that make up Peer 1’s sales, support, and marketing operations in San Antonio, while 10 employees will stay in the original data center that Peer 1 had long ago outgrown.

“The biggest driver as we worked on this was how do we thank all these people that have worked here for so long and done the things that they’ve done working in a crowded space?” Moreno said. “It’s by showing the investment where – as a company – we are going to build an amazing space that’s going to reflect how amazing you are.”

Moreno said he visited 25 potential locations in San Antonio before he settled on the Pearl and began working on the floor plans in September.

The new office space offers employees options for both work and play. Employees who need to get things done can work in the open office area where they can freely communicate with coworkers, or retreat to the library if they need  a quiet space. Quick meetings can be held in designated meeting rooms or at less formal collaboration stations. Important telephone conversations can take place in private phone rooms.

The office has five of these informal work/meeting areas, if employees are tired of working at the desk
Peer 1’s new office at the Pearl has five of these informal work/meeting areas. Photo by Andrew Moore.

The office includes a full kitchen, a cantina area with a chalk wall, a bar, a game room with a ping-pong table and a game station, a work-out room featuring machines and free weights, and shower facilities.

The new Peer 1 office also has a separate collaboration space for the local startup and tech workers. Moreno is in talks with Geekdom about using the space for off-site training and meetings, and making Peer 1 a gathering place in the local tech community.

Peer 1's office at the Pearl has a bigger kitchen than most homes do, complete with oven/grill combo and industrial vent. Photo by Andrew Moore.
Peer 1’s office at the Pearl has a bigger kitchen than most homes do, complete with oven/grill combo and industrial vent. Photo by Andrew Moore.

Peer 1’s most important reason for locating at the Pearl is to grow as a business in an increasingly competitive environment for companies specializing in cloud hosting services. The company first entered the U.S. managed hosting market when it bought ServerBeach in 2004, and since then has grown from 50 to 550 employees worldwide with offices in San Antonio, Atlanta, Miami, London, and Southampton, and data centers spread out across the country.

Peer 1 Hosting typically focuses on mid-market businesses that make between $2.5 million and $1 billion and have less than 1,000 employees. The company is intent on challenging major market competitors – including the San Antonio mother ship, Rackspace.

Peer 1’s Senior Vice President of Business Development Robert Miggins said the company intends to challenge Rackspace’s Fanatical Support customer service model with its own premium 24/7 customer service. Peer 1’s strength, Miggins said, is its great customer relations and the efficient size of the support team which answers the telephone.

“What I like about Peer 1 is it’s not 10 people and it’s not zero people, it’s two or three. But it’s people who you know on a first name basis,” Miggins said. “We talk all the time (about how) we want to create the most human experience on the web.”

The recently minted Peer 1 slogan: “Where every interaction matters.” The company believes personal service will win away customers from competitors.

Peer 1’s new office has significantly more free space and uses sunlight as well as interior lighting
Peer 1’s new workspace at the Pearl has significantly more free space than a typical office and takes advantage of natural light. Photo by Andrew Moore.

“We certainly have examples of customers that we have won from Rackspace, because they are just not feeling it anymore,” Miggins said. “We hear all the time about upset customers that are looking for a deeper relationship and a level of friendly service that they once had.”

In addition to its commitment to service, Peer 1 has a few unique tricks up its sleeve. Unlike Rackspace, Peer 1 executives say the company owns its own database network which allows for more security options and a faster response to hacker attacks or other issues.

“Each one of our data centers is connected to each other on the Peer 1 fast fiber network, so what that means is that when something goes wrong or there is something uncommon happening, we can diagnose and route around that issue much, much more quickly than any other company that doesn’t own their network,” Miggins said.

While they do claim a competitive edge, Peer 1 shares some similarities with Rackspace. The pricing and the kind of services available are generally similar, and both claim an advantage over cloud giant Amazon in customer service. Both face serious price pressure competing with Amazon.

Rackspace is many times larger than Peer 1, so how competitive the two companies really are depends on who you talk to. For District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal, the real advantage goes to San Antonio. Having both hosting companies with significant operations in the urban core will mean more high paying jobs that will support local families.

“It’s not just that I like for people to live in the inner city – that’s great – but beyond that I want people to establish roots, I want people to become part of their communities, to venture into their neighborhoods and become active,” said Bernal. “It’s not just about an immediate win but about that long-term vision that we have of strengthening all our neighborhoods.”

*Featured/top image: The Peer 1 tank at the Pearl Brewery. Photo by Andrew Moore.

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Andrew Moore

Andrew Moore is a native of San Antonio and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. He wrote on tech startups for a year as a freelancer for Silicon Hills News and loves reporting on the cool...