The crowd at the 2015 Tech Bloc Summer Rally. Photo by Scott Ball.
The Pearl Stable was packed for the 2015 TechBloc Summer Rally. Photo by Scott Ball.

One year ago, a group of techies essentially crashed a downtown beer garden and started talking about their concerns, aspirations and to-do lists for about San Antonio’s tech economy.

Today, that same group of techies is known as Tech Bloc, a grassroots movement of volunteers and staff dedicated to furthering the city’s tech community. By partnering with the City of San Antonio, Bexar County, USAA and H-E-B, the group has grown to more than 1,000 members.

Tech Bloc representatives will announce the organization’s latest project during its first birthday rally on Thursday, June 16, said Tech Bloc CEO David Heard. He expects the mystery project will have a “seismic impact” on the community.

The rally received more than 600 RSVPs within the first 24 hours the event page was launched.

“We are going to announce something that will become an important pillar of the tech ecosystem downtown,” Heard said. “It is a project that is large in scope and … (will) feature the incredible progress being made to create a real density of startup activity downtown, in and around Houston Street.”

Although the details of the project remain under wraps, Heard said it will create opportunities that otherwise may not have existed within San Antonio’s tech ecosystem.

The birthday rally will take place from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Pearl Stable. Guests will receive Tech Bloc swag, complimentary snacks and drinks from Chef Johnny Hernandez and Jeret Pena, embroidered portraits, on-demand haikus, and henna tattoos. Individuals must RSVP online. Heard expects they will reach capacity soon.

The birthday rally will be exactly that, Heard said: a rally.

“We don’t throw parties,” he said. “It may look like a party because we want it to be youthful and fun and energetic … but when we say ‘rally,’ we use that term intentionally. These aren’t galas and they’re not luncheons — they’re rallies and rallies are, by definition, a groundswell, grassroots-level coming together around an idea or series of ideas. At the end of the day, we want our members activated and pushing in the same direction for progress around an idea or series of ideas that we championed as a group.”

Tech Bloc was founded by Heard and several other prominent members of the local tech industry and it officially launched with an energetic rally in May 2015 that drew more than 600 people. In less than one year, the organization has helped shape city policy, inspire the female workforce, administer a startup competition and contribute research to the citywide annexation conversation. Heard likens Tech Bloc’s first year to an Apollo trip to the moon.

“Year one was launching the movement — the booster launch of this rocket ship on a really important journey,” he said. “We needed to clear gravity to get on a trajectory that was sustainable (and) that was what year one was all about: creating energy, launching the movement, getting people enrolled and putting some infrastructure in place.”

During year two, he said, Tech Bloc is going to up their game. They plan to tackle more complex, long-term projects that require extensive planning and coordination across many different interests, he said.

Ultimately, he added, Tech Bloc wants to accelerate San Antonio’s progress and not not just for the tech industry workers and entrepreneurs of today. Healthy cities attract more workers and the economies that follow them.

“Can we take (a project or idea that) would take 10 to 15 years to play out and bring that forward in time and compress it into five years? Can we buy a time machine for San Antonio?” Heard quipped.

The June 16 rally is meant to show Tech Bloc members what they have built, but more importantly, Heard said it is meant to remind them that there is still progress to be made.

“It is important to us that we not be a backward-looking, self congratulatory organization,” he said. “We are absolutely proud of some of the work we have done, but we are way, way more interested in discussing what we would like to continue to build versus what we have built today.

“We have so much more work to do.”

https://rivardreport.wildapricot.org

DISCLOSURE: Rivard Report board member Lew Moorman is a founding member of Tech Bloc.

Top image: The Pearl Stable was packed for the 2015 TechBloc Summer Rally. Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Katie Walsh

Katie Walsh studies journalism and English at the University of Texas at Austin and will graduate in May 2017.