San Antonio Technology Community Split On Mayoral Race

Jun 9, 2017

San Antonio's technology sector is a small but growing force in business and politics. On the issue of Saturday's election for Mayor, there isn't a uniform response. 

Despite the gains made under Mayor Ivy Taylor, many see an ally in her opponent Councilman Ron Nirenberg as well.

The website TechforTaylor.com went live not long ago to tout the accomplishments of Mayor Taylor.

Screenshot of TechforTaylor.com

The website is filled with images of Taylor at a variety of technology-sponsored events and walks people step by step through why she is the right choice for their industry. The Mayor helping to bring back ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft is featured prominently, her workforce development efforts and a variety of other issues. 

The site is the work of Ryan Kelly and Tom Cuthbert.

"We put that site out specifically to remind the community how much Ivy Taylor has done for the tech community," says Tom Cuthbert.

Cuthbert ran a company called Click Forensics, later Adometry, that Google purchased in 2014. He now coaches and mentors CEOs.

He says he felt he needed to remind his colleagues all that Taylor has done for tech because she isn't a traditional politician, something she has said to him often.

"It is not flashy. It's not a 20-page, slick vision statement of ideas. She is a proven leader," say Cuthbert of Taylor's leadership style.

Her soft-spoken thoughtful manner can be perceived as a weakness, says Cuthbert, but he says it is a strength. He and other tech leaders say she is a good listener who has worked to figure out their needs and help.

That is one of the issues Rackspace co-founder Dirk Elmendorf sees as a problem.

"We've learned how to work with her. So I think that is part of the reason there is a big chunk of tech supporters behind her. Because they know what to do," says Elmendorf.

Tech will take care of itself, he says. He is more concerned with the larger city.

Dirk Elmendorf says he wants a Mayor with big ideas.

Elmendorf thinks the mayor is smart, competent, and -- for tech -- has gotten results.  But while Taylor works well one-on-one, he worries that the personal relationship model she has is ineffective when scaled up. 

The way San Antonio's government is structured, he says, it is best to  have a mayor that points to the mountain to climb and explains how, someone with a big vision. Elmendorf argues that Taylor doesn't have that big vision and Ron Nirenberg does, pointing to the 32-page vision statement Nirenberg released entitled "The City You Deserve." It is filled with ideas about solving problems like transportation

Screenshot of voteron.com

It's easy to put these kinds of documents off as just messaging, says Elmendorf.

"I built a multi-billion dollar company on the back of a simple idea like fanatical support because messaging does matter," he argues. "Because it helps people know they are part of the mission, and how they can help."

While Cuthbert and Elmendorf talk about division in the technology community similarly, they describe it differently. For Cuthbert, it is emotion vs facts. For Elmendorf, pragmatists vs idealists.

TechBloc--the San Antonio tech advocacy organization--has yet to endorse candidates in races, but several of its founding board have made contributions in the Mayoral race. A cursory scan shows Mayor Taylor with a slightly more board supporters than Nirenberg.