Graham Weston Team

San Antonio: A City on the Rise

By Lorenzo Gomez

How do you tell your story or sell your idea in seven words or less? In the start-up world the ability to distill your idea into one sentence is an art that takes almost NBA-level practice at the free throw line. I’ve recently learned that in some marketing circles this is referred to as “micro-scripting.” Geekdom for example, is The Place Where Startups Are BornRackspace is The Open Cloud Company. But what about a city?

Over the last two years, I’ve been working to contribute to the already great momentum that San Antonio has established. I find myself in airports selling San Antonio to complete strangers. I talk to old friends, new friends and tourists, but usually I only have a few moments to launch the San Antonio story I want to plant in their minds. And so, I began to look for the perfect Micro-Script. And after months of trial and error, I think I’ve found it.

The 80/20 Foundation report. Click image or here to download.

The 80/20 Foundation report on San Antonio’s Top 10 rankings. Click image or here to download.

During one of our normal brainstorming sessions my mentor Graham Weston and I were trying to refine our San Antonio pitch. We obsessed for hours over the smallest word and concept. Then he said:

“When you and I travel and we tell people we are the seventh largest city in America it doesn’t really hit them. They think to themselves, ‘Why have I never heard of you?’ If you are in another country, a city with 1.3 million people is sometimes the size of one area of town. No, there is more to the city than stats like this. It is the notion that San Antonio is a City On The Rise.”

And there it was, a San Antonio Micro-Script I could sell: San Antonio: A City On The Rise.

So why did these four words hit me the way they did? I think it’s because ‘City on the Rise’ means that we are up and coming. It means we are going places and you need to keep one eye cocked for us because we’re gaining on you. When people ask, “Why haven’t I heard of you?” It’s because we are a City On The Rise, that’s why.

A list of reports and studies in which San Antonio ranks number one. Courtesy of the 8020 Foundation report.

A list of reports, studies, and articles in which San Antonio ranks number one. Courtesy of the 8020 Foundation report.

There is much more to it. I recently joined the board of SA2020 – the brainchild of Mayor Julian Castro, who boldly set the charge and unleashed the city to achieve greatness in less than a decade. As we sat in our various committees brainstorming and white boarding we realized that we needed a phrase to galvanize our efforts. City On the Rise is what it turned out to be.

You say, “Our early education indicators are not up to par?” We agree, but there is action happening. People are in motion. ‘The drop out rates unacceptable?’ We agree, but things are happening. Programs are underway and taking root. Mentors are stepping forward and signing up. Things are not perfect, but we are getting better. That is how a City on the Rise moves.

San Antonio skyline by Kevin G. Saunders.

San Antonio skyline by Kevin G. Saunders.

So who owns this initiative? Is it the Mayor’s job to make us continue to be a City on the Rise? Is it the city council’s? The SA2020 staff? The answer is that in a City On the Rise, it is everyone’s job. Have you started a neighborhood book club? Are you the entrepreneur that just started the new coffee shop near our house? Are you mentoring a young person with Big Brothers Big Sisters? Then you are an active member of the City on the Rise.

In my work at The 80/20 Foundation and in collaborating with the SA2020 team, people ask us every single day, “I want to be a part of this, what should I do?” The answer is that you need to follow your passions. You don’t need our permission, but if you’d like it, then here it is: You are now officially knighted to carry out the SA2020 mission of making us a “city on the rise!”

But let’s go back to our Micro-Script for a second. In the branding world, the only way a vision like City on the Rise works is if it’s believable. So when I tell someone that San Antonio is a City on the Rise and they shoot back something like, “Prove it.” Here is what I say:

Let’s play a little game called “Did you know…”

Did you know that San Antonio….

Enough of boring stats like that. You can see it with your own eyes. The 80/20 Foundation has done some of it’s own “micro research” and identified all the areas where SA has been cited in the top 10 over the last four years. If you want a self-esteem boost I will tell you the list is 135 items longClick here to see.

So, if you ask me what SA2020 is, it’s a community-driven movement to make San Antonio the world-class city it’s already on its way to becoming. If you ask me what SA2020 does, we are the champions of the City on the Rise. We keep score, keep our finger on the pulse and connect people to more people. That is how we raise the city–by celebrating our successes, telling the stories both good and bad, and knighting people all over to take the charge back home with them and make it their own.

Now that we have planted the flag, we want you to tell us your story. The “I Am SA2020” blog is about how people like you are helping to make this city rise more than ever. We’d love to hear from you.

Lorenzo Gomez works for The 80/20 Foundation. He is also an SA2020 board member, the founder of the nonprofit technology blog eSamaritan, and former ten-year Rackspace employee. You can follow him on Twitter at @lgomez123.

KATRINA SHELTER

L.A. Lorek

Express-News Business Writer

Within 36 hours, volunteers transformed a vacant Montgomery Ward’s building into a Hurricane Katrina relief shelter that also later served Hurricane Rita evacuee.

Graham Weston, who owns the Windsor Park building, which had been vacant for five years, called assistant city manager Chris Brady Friday afternoon on Sept. 2 to offer it as a shelter.

Brady and District Fire Chief Nim Kidd showed up at the building a half an hour later and said they wanted it. To get it ready, dozens of volunteers from Weston’s companies, Rackspace Managed Hosting and the Weston Centre, worked around the clock to take down retail displays, remove hazardous obstacles, install desks and computers and set up cots. Weston also called in electrical engineers who worked nonstop to get the generators running, fix the escalators and correct other electrical problems.

A cleaning crew of 65 people worked by flashlight until 11 p.m. when the power finally came on, said Garry Miller, a friend of Weston’s and a volunteer who worked on special projects at the shelter.

Rackspace brought in a recreational vehicle to set up outside the shelter for the workers to take brief naps and clean up in between jobs. Weston had bought the Windsor Park property for Rackspace’s new headquarters, but at the last minute he chose to relocate Rackspace’s operations from downtown to the former headquarters for Builder’s Square on Datapoint Drive. That left him with the vacant building and when he heard about the hurricane he wanted to help out.

Weston called a lot of friends to help outfit the shelter. Charles Butt of H.E. Butt Grocery Co., sent 1,000 milk crates for people to sit on and to use for storage. Time Warner sent more than half a dozen trucks to wire the building for high-speed Internet access and phone service. SBC Communications had crews install a bank of telephones.

When the first buses began to arrive Saturday, the shelter was ready.

“The biggest challenge was trying to get the paperwork done when in the back of your mind you know they haven’t slept for days,” Weston said.

Edwin Grubbs, co founder of Rackspace and three other programmers created a database to contain information on all the evacuees staying at the shelter. They also created a search engine to compile all missing persons data from more than 50 Web sites into one easily searchable site. Several reunions have taken place since the program, http://search.sasafelist.org, went live.

“Private individuals filled the gap that government didn’t,” Weston said.

Rackspace donated computers, printers, fax machines, tables, a public announcing system, radios – whatever the shelter needed, Weston said. It also provided similar equipment to the city’s other major shelters at KellyUSA and the defunct Levi’s plants.

The Windsor Park shelter, which processed more than 3,000 evacuees from Hurricane Katrina evacuees and 3,000 evacuees from Hurricane Rita, is one of the few privately owned shelters. It’s a great example of the private and public sector working together during a crisis, said Ramiro Cavazos, the city’s economic development director, who worked as a volunteer manager there. He also spent time last weekend volunteering at a defunct Wal-Mart on Highway 151 to help out with the Hurricane Rita evacuees. City employees pitched in after they completed their regular duties at the office, Cavazos said.

“People doubled up when they needed to to help others,” Cavazos said.

The leadership of Mayor Phil Hardberger and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff also contributed to San Antonio’s ability to manage the dual crisis of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, Cavazos said. It also raised San Antonio’s profile nationwide as a city that can respond quickly, compassionately and effectively, he said.

The federal government and nonprofit organizations like the American Red Cross and the San Antonio Food Bank also played a vital role.

On Sept. 5, Don Whittemore, head of the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team, took over the Windsor Park shelter under a contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He normally fights fires, but he says it’s the same set of skills to react to a crisis. He created an organization chart and put people in charge of operations, logistics, planning, safety and he even putting a public information officer in place. He used many of the same people Weston had already put in those kinds of positions. But he also brought in his own team of firefighters and emergency workers.

“Everyone has brought their skills to the table,” Whittemore said. “It’s not about us it’s about our residents.”

The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team did a great job, but they showed up too late, Weston said. The federal government lagged behind state, local and private businesses in responding to the needs of the hurricane victims in a timely manager, he said.

“You can’t wait for a disaster like this to build the systems needed for a tragedy,” Weston said.

To deal with a crisis, companies and government need to anticipate in advance what might occur and then prepare on how to deal with it and then respond, said William F. Crittenden, professor of strategic management at Northeastern University in Boston. Some of those relationships broke down during Hurricane Katrina, he said. Local government leaders need to spearhead the contacts among the nonprofit, business and government communities, he said.

In San Antonio’s case, the response worked out very well, Cavazos said. Everyone worked together, he said.

One of the things companies and governments need to consider in a disaster is who are they key stakeholders and who is most fragile among those stakeholders, Crittenden said.

“As we saw with Hurricane Katrina, the citizens who lived in some of the poorest neighborhoods were in fact the most vulnerable and those were the folks we weren’t reaching out to in a fast enough and efficient enough manner,” Crittenden said.

Yet San Antonio responded to take care of the most fragile citizens in a heart-warming way as hundreds of volunteers spent time in the shelters and donated money, clothes and other items for the evacuees. Businesses also donated goods and services and money to help out.

On the fly, Weston and his team developed a mini-village, which some dubbed “Windsor World” in just a few days. They decorated an entire wall with a chalkboard for children’s artwork. They erected basketball hoops and closed off a play area for kids. In the garden center area, they created showers complete with blue shower curtains and they installed washers and dryers for resident’s laundry. They also set up a makeshift childcare center, a medical center, an eyeglass center, a job center, a cafeteria and even a beauty care shop complete with pedicure and manicure treatments and hair grooming – all staffed by volunteers.

“We wanted to give back to the community,” said Veronica Beckmann, a senior at Roosevelt Cosmetology school, who volunteered to do pedicures and hairstyles.

More than 150 Rackspace and Weston Centre workers volunteered at the shelter for six-hour shifts to do everything from data entry to setting up cots. City officials, such as Cavazos, volunteered for shifts at the shelter. The different management and personnel skills drawn from the private and public sectors helped make the shelter run smoothly.

When the shelter opened, Weston’s wife drove to Toys-R-Us and bought a vanload of new toys for the children’s play areas. Weston also bought blankets and pillows at Wal-Mart. The shelter had 2,000 cots but no blankets and no pillows. Procurement was one of the most time-consuming tasks, he said.

“We each spent money out of our pockets that bridged the gaps,” Weston said.

llorek@express-news.net

CLOUD CONFUSION

I must hear the word Cloud Computing 20 times a day. I hear it on NPR and TV. And there’s unending chatter about it in the blogosphere. Last month Rackspace co-founder Pat Condon and I were having lunch with a Rackspace customer who is a tech guru in his own right. He put his hands in the air, shook them near his head and said “woo! cloud computing!! There’s so much talk about cloud computing. What the heck does that mean?”

Even the most computer savvy can’t define it, yet there is no topic in America that’s has more buzz right now (…..except for Barack Obama, or the economy, perhaps. I would have to look at the numbers to know for sure.) There is no doubt that there is a lot of CLOUD CONFUSION in the world today. But, what exactly is cloud computing? I will tell you…..listen closely.

Cloud computing is simply computing delivered over the Web. That’s it. Simple and easy to understand. But it’s a very powerful idea whose time has come. Its like a tsunami that’s been gathering momentum for 24 months and has come ashore right now.  This wave is carrying the force of an atom bomb and it will dramatically change the landscape of computing on every continent.

Why? Its a cheaper AND better way to buy computing power. Really. Seldom do these two qualities go together but when they do, things can change in a big way.

History has seen this many times before.  For example, years ago our great-grandparents burned wood and coal to generate energy for their homes.  Today, few of us generate our own power. Instead, we buy it from power companies. These companies generate and distribute electricity from massive centralized power plants that can cost over $1bl to build. Once created, the power travels at the speed of light over the power grid to your home. Cloud computing works the same way, but it comes from companies like Rackspace instead.  And, the “power” is the power of computing, generated on servers running in huge scale data centers scattered around the country somewhere (it doesn’t matter where, really). The computing power is delivered to your home over a network of fiber optic cables we call the “Internet” or the “Web”. When computing is done centrally and on this scale the cost goes down, naturally. Recently I spoke with a Fortune 500 Rackspce customer who expects to cut IT costs 85% with Rackspace’s cloud computing.  WOW!!!!  That’s certainly cheaper, and it’s better because there is zero capital cost to the customer.  And because our cloud computing system is automatically CDN-enabled. And because Rackspace works 24/7 to keep their applications running and care for our customers.  This powerful combination of benefits packs the power of an atom bomb!

Just like any major technology category, cloud computing will continue to evolve. And along the way, computing will change in form. It will move out of the server closets of small businesses and the data centers of large ones. These rooms will be empty because computing power will be bought from Rackspace and other cloud computing providers.  This proposition will be so compelling, cloud computing will become not just a way to buy computing power, but THE way of doing computing.

So, there it is. I hope I have helped reduce your cloud confusion a little.  Even now, as I write this blog, Rackspace is delivering cloud computing from 45,000 servers for over 50,000 customers. Over one million people will wake up tomorrow and check their email quietly delivered to them from Rackspace’s cloud computing system. This blog is also delivered to you by Rackspace’s cloud.

Rackspace’s exists to help IT departments do their jobs better AND cheaper. We are a tool for them and we will work tirelessly to earn their trust as collaborators and partners. We will help our friends in the IT department become heroes by helping them drastically cut their employer’s computing costs.

Stay tuned.

BANK EARNING ARMY OF PROMOTERS…AT A COST $1.8BL!!

Could having an army of promoters be worth $1.8bl?

Banco Santander, Spain’s largest bank manages a lot of money for customers. Some of the money they were responsible for was invested in Madoff’s fraudulent investment scheme. Today, the bank has agreed to compensate their customers for losses arising from these investments made on client’s behalf.

Cost to the bank is $1.8b! The bank is admitting that it failed its customers and that it keeps its promises. It was hired to be a middleman for being “quality control” for its clients. Its job was to evaluate and select among thousands of money managers around the world and guide their clients to the best ones. So, the bank was duped by Madoff, no doubt. But, the bank was hired look out for clients and that is exactly what it is doing.

Other banks and investment advisors will be sued and will hire lawyers to fight their clients instead; they will eventually settle. They will get no goodwill from clients for doing so. They will get a small story on the Web that tells a story of how they fought to the bitter end but settled without admission of guilt to avoid the risks of trial. While these advisors may end up paying less than this bank by fighting their clients, to clients, 100% of the cost will be flushed. Everyone will know that these firms didn’t keep their promises when put to the test.

At Rackspace we would call this being Fanatical. Bravo Banco Santander- I hope others follow your lead.

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