It started out as a meeting of industry leaders at Bakery Lorraine, but quickly grew into a movement, galvanized by a rally held at the Pearl. When Ashley Jones attended the inaugural Tech Bloc rally in May 2015, she could not have imagined she would eventually become the Operations and Community Manager of the organization. It was attended by 600 individuals who gathered not only to keep rideshare in San Antonio, but create an organization to represent the growing tech community in the city. They succeeded on both counts.
David Heard, CEO of Tech Bloc. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
“We worked with the city to build this pilot program for the rideshare companies to operate in San Antonio… we were able to build a really awesome model for other cities to work off of.” Says Ashley. They collaborated with Centro San Antonio and SAPD to launch a verification incentive for rideshare drivers. Rideshare is back and since then, Tech Bloc has grown to over 5,000 members. Its focus has turned from a specific issue to becoming a tech advocacy group helping to build a tech ecosystem with impact in San Antonio. Among its founders are David Heard of SecureLogix (now volunteer CEO of TechBloc), Lorenzo Gomez of Geekdom, and Lew Moorman of Rackspace.
"The work that they are doing now is really going to affect San Antonio 10, 15, 20 years from now and to be a part of that is really exciting.”
“The movement has come from our volunteers and our members wanting to get involved in the tech scene. The work that they are doing now is really going to affect San Antonio 10, 15, 20 years from now and to be a part of that is really exciting.” Ashley helps coordinate events and communication for the organization. Whether it’s planning and executing the next ‘Tech Tuesday’ meetup, creating a newsletter updating members on the latest tech news, or communicating with volunteers for Tech Bloc’s various initiatives, Ashley keeps day-to-day operations running smoothly. In fact, as we were meeting in her office at Geekdom in the Rand Building downtown, she received an email from the CEO highlighting the next event. She takes the opportunity to share about it.
“Right now CAST Tech is a huge initiative for us because we're partnered in this first-ever SAISD Tech High School. I just talked to David; we’ll be sending an e-blast to remind those that have already signed up to be mentors to these students that there's a volunteer opportunity coming up at Rackspace.” She sums up Tech Bloc’s operations as “beautiful but also organic.”
Intersection of Houston and Nevarro, near Tech Bloc's workspace at Geekdom. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
“David really is a behind-the-scenes guy who gets big things done and that’s what I really respect.” Ashley says of the Tech Bloc co-founder, “I’ve learned so much from him.” And the broader community she discovered downtown really inspires her. “We are a big city but when you run into people you know, it’s a small radius. It's just a great hometown feeling, I think that's what I love most.” The downtown community, including the tech community, feels familiar and friendly to her. Ashley enjoys the fact that because of startups and shared workspaces, you could be talking to the CEO of a company and not even know it.
Ashley discussing her experiences downtown. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
And it’s all about fostering that culture. “I love making a difference… I love helping to build the community and helping San Antonio to continue to be the city on the rise.” For Ashley, her journey started by signing up to volunteer and eventually entering into a full time position. She’s been in San Antonio her whole life and only lives a mile away from her downtown office. She also takes online classes at Texas A&M-San Antonio and hopes to complete a degree in Computer Information Systems. She was in an internship located in the Weston Centre when she joined Tech Bloc. “I’ve always had to work my way from the bottom up.”
And her story is just one of 5,000 Tech Bloc members. In the end, the movement isn’t just about any one individual, says Ashley. “There isn’t one face to Tech Bloc. That’s what we really want people to know. It’s not one person, it’s this entire movement.” For anyone wishing to engage with the tech scene in downtown San Antonio, Tech Bloc offers many opportunities to connect, volunteer, and learn.