Oct. 11, 2022

Road Trip to San Antonio Part 2 – Alamo Angels Make Substantial Progress


Today we continue our visit to San Antonio and working to discover the unique innovation ecosystem here in the Alamo City. And no discussion would be complete without talking about the investors here. Juan “Sebastian” Garzon serves as Executive Director for Alamo Angels and Programs Manager for VelocityTX. In these roles, Sebastian supports early-stage companies by providing them access to funding and resources to accelerate their growth. The growth of this angel network is impressive and their future even more so.


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Our music is “Tech Talk” by Kevin MacLeod. Licensed under Creative Commons 4.0 License

Transcript

Michael: Austin is the new innovation powerhouse, not the next Silicon Valley, but the first Austin. We are adapting to the future in real time.

Jason: I'm Jason Scharf, a biotech executive and early stage investor.

Michael: And I'm Michael Scharf, advisor and board member for multiple private companies.

Jason: You can call us optimist, abundance minded, up wing, and even solutionists.

We see a bright future ahead that can be achieved through innovation and entrepreneurship.

Michael: In this podcast, we explore Austin superpowers, the people and companies driving our growth and the macro and micro trends that come together to create Austin today.

Jason: This is Austin next.

Today we continue our visit to San Antonio, working to discover the unique innovation ecosystem here in the Alamo City. And no discussion would be complete without talking about the investors here. Juan Sebastian Garzon serves as executive director for Alamo Angels. And programs manager Velocity Texas.

In these roles, Sebastian supports early stage companies, provided them access to funding and resources to accelerate their growth. Sebastian is also an adjunct faculty member at Trinity University teaching their student managed venture course fund. He also owns Passport to Fluency, a company that helps people improve on their Spanish skills

Sebastian. Welcome to Austin next.

Sebastian: Jason. Thank you for having me.

Jason: All right, so let's start off with Alamo Angels. That group has the most unique formation I've ever experienced with any Angel group. Can you walk me through how the group came together and its different structure?

Sebastian: Absolutely. So Alamo Angels actually got started in 2016 under the name of the San Antonio Angel Network.

The story goes there. You guys know that in San Antonio we've got a big company that made it big, Rackspace, and so a lot of those initial. Rackers from that first generation, they,

Jason: So it's billionaires and Rackers. Got it.

Sebastian: There you go. Yeah. They called themselves Rackers and they got out, they got some resources and they wanted to contribute towards the community.

I think at the beginning it was more in terms of how do we support the tech developments that are happening in San Antonio. So it was very specific to tech and very specific to San Antonio. And as time has gone by, we've opened up our borders. If you wanna look at that way to not just the geographical specificity of San Antonio, but also looking at.

All across the US as well as not just tech companies, but generally, like any type of company that we can find.

Jason: So since we're relatively new to the area, when was the Rackspace exit?

Sebastian: You caught me on that one, Jason. I don't recall the year that happened.

Jason: Okay. Is it the last 10 years? Last 20 years?

Sebastian: Yeah. It must have been about last 10 years.

Jason: So it's still a relatively new event.

Sebastian: 10 years nowadays with the pandemic, I kind of lost track of time, but it's been anywhere. It's probably about 15 years or so.

Jason: Okay, so they exit, they wanted to be involved. So from a timing perspective, was there an Angel group that was around that then San Antonio Angel replaced? Or was it really just individuals running around running?

Sebastian: Not that I'm aware of. It was just those individuals that were investing on these early stage companies, but there was nothing formal, or not an actual group that they can belong to.

Jason: So what was the impetus for then the creation of the.

Sebastian: Like I said, I think it was one of those things that they knew that companies that start from scratch can make it big. And it's just one of those things that we want to give back. That's what they were telling themselves. And let's now find ways in which we can put some of those resources that we now have into contributing to towards this ecosystem.

Jason: So then talk to me about the relationship between Alamo Velocity and then the Texas Research Foundation. Yeah. And how all of that.

Sebastian: Jason, That was a game changer for Alamo, specifically because the TR tf, it's a foundation that has been around San Antonio for over 35 years now. So they've been champions of economic development for the city of San Antonio for 36 years, I think to be exact, always focused on the life sciences and they wanted to contribute towards these entrepreneurial ecosystem.

But it was not until 2020 that this opportunity came about, and Alimo Angels basically was looking for a. And TRTF was willing and obviously able to bring him under their wing and integrate him into their family of businesses. And so that's of how it happened. It was July, 2020 when that happened.

That's also when I came on board. And the beauty of this is if you were to look around the nation, you'll quickly realize that most angel investment networks are standalone entities, right? And as such, they run with limited resources. And again, not to say that we have unlimited resources, but I can tell you, we, there are certain things that we don't necessarily have to worry about, like marketing or accounting.

Those are shared resources that we can tap into because we belong to that bigger foundation. One of the things I think is interesting is, Seeing somebody like yourself in a, Alamo Angels is relatively small compared to some of the larger angel organizations in Texas, or like where we came from in California.

Jason: But having a dedicated executive director who is focused on everything from building the brand, getting the events going to the actual investment process itself, I think that's something. Is much more seen at larger and more mature angel networks, and I think that's something that provides you guys an interesting opportunity to almost leapfrog some other opp stages of growth.

Sebastian: Jason be, Before I came here, I had an opportunity to be a part of the creation of an angel network from Scratch, which is the South Coast Angel Network down in Corpus Christi. From there, when we were doing that, the folks down at the Rio Grand Valley wanted to do something similar to what we were doing and so long story short, directly I was directly involved with scan with the creation of the South Coast Angel Network and indirectly with the Rio Grande Valley Angel Network, just because they used to come up to Corpus Christi and pick our brains on how we had done it.

And I can tell you that the main differentiator from what I've seen in my experience with this networks, and what I am experiencing now with Alamo Angels is what you've just shared. Most of these places have a part-time executive director or someone that's doing it on the side or just dedicating a percentage of their time towards the success of such network for us is we knew when we evaluated this as an opportunity, we knew that if we were to do it, we definitely needed to put the resources into it and take that to the next level.

I don't know what would've happened. If the TRTF did not step in and, integrate Alamo Angels into our family of businesses. But what I do know is once that happen and we put the resources behind this, I think that was a big game changer for us as an organization and for San Antonio as a community in general.

An ecosystem is comprised of many different parts, and access to capital is one of them. And having an established, an active angel network, it's a very important element within that ecosystem. And so I think that we're trying to fulfill that. I know that there is room for improvement, just like with any other organization, but having those resources and putting the time and the effort towards making sure that this is successful, I think it's a game changer.

Jason: So walk me through the Alamo Angels operating model. What's your guys thesis? Check sizes, sector, What are you looking.

Sebastian: So one big differentiator and I have to highlight this because a lot of times people. Think of us as Velocity or TRTF, which are very highly focused on life sciences. Right TRTF, it's our parent entity Velocity.

It's our sister organization. So we all operate very independently. And the biggest difference among each other is particularly between velocity and angels. We are industry agnostic, so we are investing in companies regardless of the industry where they're coming. And that is not the case with t RT or Velocity, which are much more focused within the life sciences.

So that's one we've invested so far. Our smallest investment is typically $25,000, and the highest one that we've done, it's about $300,000 out of Austin, actually a company from Austin. Average investment the last time we run the numbers, it was about a hundred thousand. I will say that's probably about 125,000 or so now.

And numbers keep growing just because our membership also keeps growing. So we've got more creative investors that belong to this network. And with that, we now have access to a variety of different pockets. And when we put it in front of these investors on opportunity that is fruitful for them, then hopefully they'll write 'em a check.

Jason: How big is the group at this point?

Sebastian: As of right now, we've got 62 members of Alamo Angels.

Jason: And what does the typical angel look like? Are they pulling a bunch of Rackers or is it other is. Tend to be what I've heard a lot of in this space. It's obviously oil and gas and real estate and wealth.

What does they look like?

Sebastian: It's a very diverse network nowadays. It used to be the case like we were saying in the past when the rockers started this deal, it was more people from the technology arena coming together. That is no longer the case. We've got people still from technology.

We've got people that are in cybersecurity particularly like CSOs, chief Information Security officers. There, there is quite a few of them. We've got people within the medical industry, CEOs of medical device companies, those type of and that's very representative of this community as well, right?

So we've got quite a few individuals, high network individuals that work within this industry. Cyber security. Life sciences, specifically medical devices and there's quite a few of those that belong to the network. We also have retired executives and so they actively participate on this. Some people within the legal field.

We also have some attorneys. And we got a lot of people that come from the real estate arena as well. And so they are active investors within the real estate industry and diversifying their portfolio by investing on early stage companies when they come to Alamo Angels.

Jason: So what do you see as a lot of the primary motivation for a lot of the angels coming in And I asked that because the difference I've seen between more mature and active and getting better deals, and I'd say less mature is the rationale there. There are the angels that treat it almost as philanthropy. Yeah. I wanna help the community in that I think tend to be a little less. Picky, you're not necessarily doing the due diligence or even being quote unquote smart money.

And then there are those that are in it as an investment vehicle wanting to catalyze its innovation. Some of them are are just risk seekers. I will say I was a part of an angel group. We have a Slack channel. There is a there's a public investing and. As someone who invests in early stage company, I think I'm pretty, I'm okay with risk.

Yep. And some of the conversations on this are about naked shorts on public companies. I'm like, But not that kind of risk. That's not, I'm not willing to go for that. It's an interesting kind of gram. So where do you see the motivation coming? What is it that's driving? The Alamo Angel Investors,

Sebastian: I think it's probably an 80 20, 20 20% will be more.

Those that don't necessarily pay attention match attention to the due diligence process. A lot of times they are connected to this investment through an emotional type of standpoint, whether it's giving back to the community or because. They one of our investors as an example, there is a company that we've invested on that developed pro prosthetic.

I always have issues saying that, that were like prosthetic hand. Yeah. Within that investor's family history, somebody had the need to use something like that. And so obviously that emotional aspect came into play when he made that investment. But I will say that maybe about 20% of them are more like, let's give back to the community.

And obviously they have the resources to do recognizing fully that this is a risky asset class, but also knowing that it's part of the ecosystem and just supporting those companies. Those tend to be the ones that have more of an investment thesis, specifically focused on local companies from San Antonio.

The other 80% I would say is more, I kind want to be on here because I want to diversify my port, my portfolio. And they obviously fully recognize that this still a risky investment, but also know that if they play their cards well, they'll eventually get a return. And so I will say that's probably a good split.

Jason: Do you see a lot of activity post check, especially you said like the 20% that it's more of the investment thesis, so I can see that group wanting to be sitting on boards, being advisors. Is that what you're seeing or is it broader?

Sebastian: I think that's what we're looking at. Not everyone wants to be actively participating after making an investment.

There is a handful of people that actually want, and they want to serve on the role of an advisor, as an example or a mentor. I give you two examples. The most recent investment we've done was with a company out of all places from Monterey, Mexico, and one of our, there is 11 of us that came together to invest on that company.

And one of the investors, he wanted to play an active role within the company and serve as an. So that was part of the arrangement that we had with the company as we made that investment. In the past, I think it was 2020, we had a company that came to us and then four or five months after they got selected to go to Shark Tank, and one of the investors that participated on that investment opportunity, he actually offered to provide him coaching for their pitch.

So he kind help them get towards, up until when the VC people take over. But he helped with that. And so you, it's not uncommon to find some of those people that are willing and able to contribute towards, making that those companies better.

Yeah.

Jason: It's one of the positives you reach scale, right?

Not only do you have more capital, but you get more diversification of skill sets that they can apply and more people that are interested. Some people just want, as you said, to diversify and make my money grow.

Talk to us about some of the successes so far. Obviously it's still relatively early in the process, but what are you guys seeing?

Sebastian: Yeah, very early and to give context it, it does take some time before you see a return, obviously, and that's highly dependent. A lot of times on the industry, it's not the same to, invest on a tech company that will give you a return five years down the road as an example, or a medical device that will give you a return 10 years down the road.

And so keeping that in mind and also knowing, while San Antonio Angel Network was established in 2016, it was not until 2018 when we started at the time, or the group started actively investing on companies. And so if you do the math we're approaching our 6, 5, 6 year mark. And so as of right now, we are seeing some development but not quite exits.

We've just experienced one a local company here from San Antonio, a success story if you ask me for the ecosystem, just because they had so many touch points with different players. And so this is a company called Par level. They went through Gig, which is another player within the ecosystem here.

They got investments from not just Alamo Angels, but even TRTF, even prior to us having that formal relationship. TRTF and Alamo Angels, they invested on them. I believe the gig fund also had invested on that. So there is quite a few players within the ecosystem that had something to do with that company and they just had an exit what, two months ago.

So that's probably the one that's, I will say is the most tangible. Now we keep track of what happens within our portfolio, and there is another one that also happens to be local. That as of right now, if they were to sell, they will provide us with a 56 x return. So that's the preliminary multiple that we've got on that one.

Again the key question there is the if if they were to sell, but knowing that we've been keeping track of this company and their progress, we believe that they will achieve a pretty good exit fairly soon.

Michael: I want to take it up a level. The pandemic has done all kinds of things in terms of accelerating investment and changing the way that investment in early stage company happens. What have you guys seen in terms of the San Antonio capital scene? Now you started investing in 2018. Two years later came the pandemic. Where now, three years after that, what did you see trans, How did it transition through that?

Sebastian: At the beginning of the pandemic, it was very uncertain, just like everything else, right? And we have to people and adapt to the new conditions I need I must admit it took a few months, maybe three to four months before we fully adapted into it. And by that I'm talking. We were used to meeting in person and the pandemic hits and how do we put investment opportunities in front of these investors when we don't have that opportunity to do it in person?

Michael: Don't chide yourself a three to four month to transition from being, in person to being online is not bad. Yeah. Especially after all these years. Yeah, if we can't see them, we can't touch them. We don't wanna invest in them. So that's a nice, That's a fast transition.

Sebastian: Yeah it was fairly fast.

And again, coming back to how fortunate we are of being part of that bigger foundation. We moved into the We Office out of Velocity, Texas, which is the innovation center. And velocity up in two weeks prior to everything starting, like the pandemic officially starting. But the good news is it is got the state of the art facility.

You've been there, Jason. So we've got the camera, we've got multiple cameras in a room, we've got the microphones. Everything was already in place. So it was, it just what it did, it was accelerated our need. To figure out how do you go and run fully virtual type of event. And that's how we went about it.

Generally speaking, not just for Alamo Angels, but I think that there was a little bit of a transition from a mental standpoint. As an investor, it used to be the case that you really wanted to see it, touch it, feel it, like you, it was very uncommon for an investor to write someone a check unless they get to see him.

How do they behave? How do they look like, like those type of things are very important. And the pandemic did not offer that type of opportunity. And Those who are sophisticated and still wanted and saw this as an opportunity to actually invest capital on these new innovations, they had to adapt to that new environment and ended up investing even though it was through a screen, right?

And so we, we had to go through all of that. Long story short it did take some time, particularly at the beginning, at which at the same time we were still cleaning our own house, right? We integrated with TRTF in 2020, so it was about the same time. It was just a few. Into the pandemic when we had to figure out how do we grow this thing and how do we structure it in such a way that it offers value?

And so a combination of those, It was a little bit of a rough start, but then we started growing the membership with the right type of people. Because that's something else that you can see. I've experienced it in other groups that you go there and they, in some ways they may be more like a social club than an investment group.

And so we really wanted to get away from that. We cleaned up the house. There were quite a few investors that, they just, at the end of the day, they just didn't belong there just because they weren't there for the right reason. And so we clean that up. We make sure that those that belong to the network where in fact those that wanted to write a company a check.

And that's how we approach this with that. What we've seen is investment activity has gone up. To give you an idea, within the past 12 months, one out of the three companies that we feature during our pitch events gets funded. That was not the case when we first started. It could have been two or three months before we see someone that actually wrote a check into one of the companies that got featured.

And so it's been a, it's been a transition. Last year we invested a little over $600,000. This year we are at a little over a million dollars, and so I'm pretty sure that we're going to make almost probably be double the size in terms of investment from what we did last year to this one. So I think it's been a, it's been a process.

Michael: So you've got a lot of things happening at once there. I just wanna peel that back just a little bit, because in general, we've seen 2021 had growth in venture capital, angel investments in 2022 because of the economy on a national basis, we've seen pullback. Yeah. But you guys are seeing almost a doubling.

Is that because you're seeing more opportunities? Is that because you have more angels coming in, or is it just. San Antonio is growing and the country be damned, we're gonna grow anyway.

Sebastian: I think it's a combination of those three different factors. Number one, in terms of membership, like I said before the more members you have, the more accredit investors belong to the group.

They hire the opportunity for you to actually. Activate an investment opportunity there, number one. Number two, San Antonio and Texas in general is experiencing fastly. It's rapidly expanding in terms of growth and we're getting a lot of people that are coming from different communities that are very sophisticated when it comes to this asset class.

That was not the case 10 years ago. And so I think that has, And then the last one is we've matured as an organization, and with that we put a lot of processes in place that have yield better quality companies, and with the high quality company that we put in front of the right investor, then you start seeing higher investment dollars.

Michael: I have to assume that you're getting, whether it be our referral or just over the transo, a large number of potential investments. Are you seeing them in specific sectors? Is the sector mix changing in the last couple of years? And not only in terms of what's coming in, but when you're doing your presentations to your members?

Sebastian: On average, we get 30 applicants a month, unique applicants. And the goal is for us to feature three of them. And so there, there is quite a few that are knocking on our doors to. , it's been a combination of us proactively seeking those that deal flow as well as people just speaking to one another.

I always tell people, it may seem like it's a big ecosystem, but it's not even nationally. There is companies that will know who Alamo Angel sees, even if they, even though they are in San Francisco, right? And so they talk to one another and they cannot belong to the same ecosystem.

They cannot go and knock at different, the same doors, and they hang out in the same places. Same conferences and stuff. So once they identify that there is someone that is actively investing and that they are taking it seriously and that they've got a good process in place, then I think that starts generating some of those, that, that level of activity.

And so I think we've experienced some of that. I think of one of our team members as a scout in some ways. So he's always scouting where are the best opportunities, and we try to establish good partnerships with. Sources of deal flow that could potentially bring those high quality companies?

Michael: Are you syndicating with other angel networks?

Sebastian: Yeah, so one thing that we do is we actually take the lead on coordinating an effort to unify all the different investment angel investment networks in Texas. There's about 16 of us that actively invest. There's probably more than that, but the ones that are like always on the know and actively investing are part of this.

And so once a month we get together for the purpose of the EL indication.

Michael: Wow. I don't think anybody would've figured that they were at least 16 different angel networks in Texas. Yeah. As large as this state is though. Yep. But that's great with that growth. And clearly you guys coming online in, in the pandemic and you're saying the growth and everything . Else, it's not all roses.

What are the biggest challenges that you see today in terms of the angel investor, the investors that's going in pre institutional round

Sebastian: AT D one, one big roadblock that we still have to overcome is, It's from an educational standpoint, we're getting a lot of people that want to invest. A lot of people that are obviously accredited and have the resources to do it, but they don't necessarily know how to go about this.

You ask 'em how to invest on the stock market. They'll know you ask 'em how to do it on real estate. They'll know oil and gas, but when it comes to this specific asset, classes is still very early on and so we, we need to do a little bit of a job in terms of educating them and for that, as soon as we get, I will qualify or I will divide, I guess my membership in what I will say up and coming investors.

And sophisticated investors, right? Sophisticated, they know they've got an investment thesis on their own. They're actively investing. They've been doing it for some time up and coming. They have a desire and the resources to do it, but they don't know how to do it. So my goal is to take that up and coming investor and turn it into a sophisticated investor in a year timeframe.

How do we do that? As soon as they sign up, we get them to go through an angel investing course. We partner up with a company out of New York that tells them all the in and outs. It's a highly intensive course Monday through, towards the two hours every single day. But at as soon as they finish, then they'll have a better understanding of what is this all about?

And then from there on every other month, we offer workshops. With subject matter experts and topics of interest for investors. So that's our goal. And then just in organically what happens is when they come to the speech events, they get to see other sophisticated investors. We always look for opportunities to have conversations, networking, those type of things.

I think they get to know one another and learn from each other as well. So

Jason: Obviously we're an Austin based podcast coming down, right? Trying to learn more about San Antonio, but wanna talk a bit about the interplay between the two metros. Where are you seeing investment flow? Are you seeing, is there money coming from Austin down to San Antonio San Antonio money in Austin, companies, startups going back and forth?

What is it you seeing the dynamic between the two?

Sebastian: A hundred, maybe 95% of our investors are from San Antonio. We've got a couple of them who are from. Maybe two or three to be exact where I see them. So from an investor standpoint, I think is very localized. Our investors are from San Antonio.

The deal flow though, it's a different ballgame. We've got quite a few companies that are coming from Austin to San Antonio, and quite a few of them have received investment from San Antonio into them. Like the one that I was telling you, the key, it's the company called out of Austin. We have partnered up with different, Places that have access to this, what we will consider high quality companies, or at least companies that are ready for investment.

And we try to offer office hours. We try to, proactively ask for them to provide us with the companies that they believe will be a good fit for us. And that's how we do it. So we've got a cu, a few partners in Austin and I will say that's the most word, the most activity is coming.

Jason: So with the companies that and you've only been doing it for four years, but like the companies that are now reading Series A and getting into kind of venture investment size, is it coming from San Antonio?

Is it coming from Austin, other places in Texas? Or, having to leave in terms of getting that that investment.

Sebastian: a lot of times because those are higher check amounts that they're seeking, they have to go and look in other communities. They we've been able to participate but not fulfill their major needs.

And From a fundings perspective, of course. And so while we try to get to that point, I don't think we are there yet. Once they get to that, those levels, they need higher than the a hundred thousand dollars, the, even the $300,000 check that we've been able to write so far.

Jason: But I'm curious when we think about again that the bridges between, like San Antonio, Austin's VC environment is much more mature.

There's lots of dry powder. are those companies that you guys are investing in that have reached Series A, are they able to go to Austin and tap into that VC community to raise, or are they having to go somewhere else?

Sebastian: Oh, I see what you're saying. They, they have, but I wouldn't specifically say that it's only Austin.

I think this has been a nationwide type of approach, and like I said before, because of the pandemic, it used to be the case that. If you're not able to raise in your own backyard, then other people wouldn't necessarily pay as much attention. I think that's changed tremendously. And so new opportunities have come about because of that.

And they are very interconnected. They know who to talk to regardless of where they're coming from. So I wouldn't say just Austin. I think Austin plays a role, but I think it's more of a nationwide type of, ,

Jason: Do you think Austin should play a larger role and be able to, as we see, one of the conversations that kind of led to this is how much VC capital needs to put down roots in San Antonio versus how much can San Antonio leverage what's, 60 minutes north, right?

 And Trying to build that funnel and that connection, I think is an important function that the two metros can play.

Sebastian: Yeah, we keep talking about San Antonio and Austin's two separate communities today, but I think 10 years down the road we're gonna basically be talking of them as one in some ways.

And so I think that's what needs to start happening now and it'll eventually happen. We're just so close to each other that I think opportunities will come up and unless we wanna, we don't wanna grow together then we will then take advantage of those. But I don't think that'll be the case.

I think. An example is this, right? You've got an Austin podcast coming to San Antonio and not only interviewing me, but somebody else from the community. So I think those type of activities and those type of things will continue to happen. And with that, those collaboration opportunities should happen all across the board, including funding.

So yes, I think the VC from Austin should have a little bit more of a presence in the companies that are coming from San Antonio, and maybe even establish their presence here in San Antonio if they have a satellite office or something of that nature.

Jason: And that's the question I was is do they even need a satellite office?

We, the point being that we're here, we came down this morning, two interviews, going all around Port San Antonio. I promised my wife we'll be home by dinner. Is there a question of do you need the feet on the ground? Every day versus, Hey, I'm in San Antonio once a week. I'm in, being able to actually build that connection and that bridge and what's along, along the way.

We always talk about San Antonio and Austin and almost forget the corridor in between. I've been doing some stuff recently with Texas State San Marcos and Star and what they're doing there. So there's so many, I think, opportunities along and it's, I've done the Houston Drive in one day and that's a bit more of of an ask, right?

Versus I think you. San Antonio to Austin is a lot closer. Yeah.

Sebastian: There's nothing we can do about 35, but I know that once, once they fix that road this will become much more evident. We always say an hour and a, an hour and 15 minutes to get from one, one city to the other.

That's assuming there's no traffic. Yeah. I think once that gets away, I think this is going to be much. I do still believe that having a presence, a physical presence in San Antonio, if you ask me today, I think that will be beneficial. If you ask me vision wise, is that still gonna be the case five or 10 years down the road?

I think five or 10 years down the road, that won't necessarily be a huge need. But as of today, I think there's still some challenges that we need to overcome.

Jason: The critical mass isn't quite there enough to be able to just go, I'm coming down on a random day and let's get it together. So what would be then, Today, your biggest ask of the Austin innovation ecosystem.

Sebastian: I think we just need to collaborate and be open to collaborate with each other. That's really it. And I, and by the way, I've seen it, I don't think I've never been in Austin and I've never experienced anyone closing the doors because we're coming from San Antonio per se. I think they're open to that.

And I will also say that's very much the case in San Antonio. One, one, I'm originally from Columbia, in case you're wondering where my accent is from. So I was born and raised there and I was born in art an environment where I was used to saying hi to my neighbor when I saw him or her, and asking how they are doing and just being friendly and offering a helping hand. I've lived in four or five different cities in the US in the 16 years that I've been. And it was not until I came to San Antonio that I realized that this is the closest that I've ever experienced to home, right to the warmth of people that openness.

I think people in San Antonio are super open to collaborate, very open, to help open to sharing their feedback, their opinions. And one thing that I love about this community, people are very accessible. And that's not necessarily the case in a lot of other places, maybe even Austin. I couldn't tell you for sure.

But the typically, the larger the city the more difficult it is for you to access certain profiles of people. I still feel like here in San Antonio is fairly simple to do so as a founder, that's important, right?

Jason: It's something that I feel. Parallels both Austin and San Antonio. While, San Antonio, I think is now with the eighth, biggest seventh or eighth biggest city in the country.

Austin is 11th. Obviously when you look at the metros, it's slightly lower than that, but. They are big cities that still have a lot of small town component to 'em, both. One, there's lots of people who still know each other, even though you'd be like, if I was in New York, people would never interact with each other in terms of your strata.

And then just history too. People who've lived here for a long time. I've said this on the podcast a lot. That's always just blow my mind that, my son's second grade teacher went to his elementary. That doesn't make any sense to me. Yeah. Especially being in, in transient transplant towns, right?

Yeah. You don't have that. So I think both cities still have that flare while still being growth oriented, getting bigger, all the scale that comes with that. I think that's an unheralded power to both the entire region. Absolutely.

Sebastian: And to me that's a big benefit, like you said.

You don't really get that in New York or Chicago or any of the, those other places. That's the,

Michael: it's a real strength of the culture here in Texas.

Sebastian: It really is. It really is. And we are very, we own the culture. I feel like we take ownership and pride of it. And again I couldn't speak about Austin even though I go there fairly often.

I do have family that lives there but in San Antonio, it's just, I feel like the city has its own. . Like there, it's very, Again, I'm sharing this from a foreign perspective just because I was not born or raised in here. But I remember one time on my, one of my first trips that I did here in the us I really wanted to make it a point to go from, at the time I was in West Virginia down to Miami.

And I was given the option, Do you wanna do it by, by car or in the airplane? And I say it by car . Because I remember in Colombia, if you travel by car, you get to experience so much. Like you get different sceneries, different type of shops, different way people dress, different way they speak, and why not?

And here, while you get a little bit of that, everything seemed to be the same, right? You always got . The Walmart, you always got that. That big highway you always like, everything is the same. But you go to places like San Antonio, you're like, Okay, this is cool. This is different, right? They've got their own identity to 'em.

So I, I think that's super nice in a place like, like this.

Jason: So we always ask the same question. But we're gonna, for our road trips we change it up a little bit. What's next? San Antonio?

Sebastian: I think San Antonio's positioned positioning itself to, to take advantage of the big opportunities that are happening all over the place.

It's not just Austin. Austin I think is the biggest one just because of the proximity and there's so many good things happening in Austin, but. With that growth, there is also some challenges, right? And so you'll start experiencing people getting tired of traffic and affordability will become a challenge, I think it already is.

And so people will start looking at particularly those that, that come with a different mindset. People from California or any other states that are used to driving an hour or an hour and a half is not so bad to them, right? You ask someone. Like your son's school teacher, she may be like, No, I don't wanna get away.

She's set on her own ways and that maybe cultural and a baby, a virtue of the experience at the background that some people have. But as we grow, I think people will start realizing, Hey, so Antonio's just down the road. Hey, San Marcos is just on the road like it is. Not even just San Antonio, but that whole corridor is going to bloom because of that.

So I think that's an opportunity, and one that we've not touched on so far is South Texas in general. I think South Texas, there is a huge opportunity down south that nobody's really paying attention to on San Antonio is very well position. To do I spent some time in Corpus Christi, and I remember, we were, as a community, we always thought of San Antonio as being like that sophisticated city that you wanted to look up too, just because it seemed to be the biggest city closest to where you are.

And so in some ways you can look at that as that bigger brother or that bigger sister, right? That older. I think we can take advantage of that and we in fact have access to a different flow of information, different experiences, different type of people. So I think as a city we are well positioned to live an effort on how do we make sure that the region, South Texas region.

Can be a little bit more unified and now we can play as a region as opposed to just being little San Antonio or Little Corpus Christi or Little Rio Grand Valley, if that makes sense.

Jason: I think in Texas, none of the, none of these cities are little anymore.

Sebastian: None of them are that little anymore. That's right.

Jason: This has been fantastic, Sebastian. Thank you for joining us on the Austin Next podcast.

Sebastian: Thank you Jason for inviting me and hopefully you guys got something out of this interview.

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