Alamo City’s ascent

San Antonio surprisingly tops Austin among up-and-coming tech cities

San Antonio surprisingly tops Austin among up-and-coming tech cities

San Antonio skyline
San Antonio is one of the top tech markets, says a new report. Photo by SeanPavonePhoto/Getty Images

In 2019, Austin topped a list from real estate website Commercial Café of the leading startup cities in the U.S. Fort Worth landed at No. 12, Dallas at No. 15, and Arlington at No. 19. San Antonio failed to earn a spot.

Now, San Antonio — often overshadowed by Austin amid the buzz about tech hubs — is turning the tables. A ranking released January 9 by real estate website Zillow puts Alamo City at No. 6 among the top 10 up-and-coming tech markets in the country. On this list, eighth-place Austin trails San Antonio.

Zillow based its analysis on data surrounding five factors:

  • Housing affordability
  • City’s appeal to newcomers
  • Economic strength
  • Pool of tech workers
  • Livability (such as commute times and internet quality)

San Antonio stands out in all five of those categories, according to Zillow. For instance, San Antonio boasts more skilled workers for each currently available tech job than Austin does. Zillow economist Jeff Tucker says that by this measure and others, tech startups “would have a lot more room to grow” in San Antonio than in Austin.

In addition, Tucker notes that the price of a typical home in Austin is more than 60 percent above the price of a typical home in San Antonio.

“The difference between San Antonio and Austin is emblematic of what we were looking for when we did this analysis,” Tucker tells CultureMap. “Rather than trying to describe the cities where we currently see a lot of tech hiring, we are looking for places where it would be easiest for a tech startup to grow.”

Boosters of San Antonio’s tech scene embrace the Zillow ranking.

“When San Antonio is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States and home of the second largest cyber hub in the country, it is no surprise to see our community listed as an up-and-coming tech market,” Amanda Lee Keammerer, vice president for cybersecurity at the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, tells CultureMap.

“From the booming downtown tech district to top talent graduating from local colleges and universities, San Antonio’s ability to develop, attract, and retain tech workers appeals to companies of all sizes and from all sectors,” Keammerer adds. “Cybersecurity, information technology, advanced manufacturing, and health and bioscience are our top industries for a reason — we are innovative, collaborative, and community-driven like no other city in the nation.”

Coworking space Geekdom is a driving force behind the evolution of San Antonio’s downtown tech district. Its CEO, Charles Woodin, tells CultureMap this type of ranking has been years in the making. More work needs to be done on the tech front, he acknowledges, but entities like Geekdom, EPIcenter, Port San Antonio, Codeup, TechBloc, and USAA have established a foundation that’s “putting our city in a place to catapult us not just to a rising market in tech, but a leading market.”

The downtown tech district is a linchpin in San Antonio’s pursuit of status as a leading tech market.

“If you walked around downtown San Antonio even just five years ago, it looked dramatically different,” Woodin says. “Now, downtown San Antonio is populated by amazing companies that launched as startups at Geekdom and other great spaces across San Antonio.”

In downtown San Antonio, “the restaurant, hospitality, and entertainment industry leaders have done their job by creating attractive places to dine, play, and stay,” he adds. “What’s even better is there are plans in place to continue to grow our city and its economy at the right pace.” 

In tech circles, San Antonio is perhaps best known for its cybersecurity prowess. Other than Washington, D.C., San Antonio is home to more cybersecurity professionals than anyplace in the U.S. Cybersecurity ranks among the most in-demand professions in the U.S.

Business promoters in San Antonio aim to position the city as a global epicenter for cybersecurity initiatives. The local presence of cybersecurity operations run by the U.S. Air Force, FBI, National Security Agency, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security — along with dozens of cybersecurity companies and the University of Texas at San Antonio’s nationally recognized cybersecurity program — contribute to Alamo City’s rise as a cybersecurity complex.

“With its significant military presence, continually thriving private cybersecurity enterprises, and nationally recognized technology and research institutions, San Antonio is increasingly becoming known as ‘Cyber City, USA,’” the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation says

Leading  Zillow’s list of the top 10 U.S. markets for tech growth prospects is Oklahoma City at No. 1, followed by Kansas City, Missouri (No. 2); Jacksonville, Florida (No. 3); Indianapolis (No. 4); and Cincinnati (No. 5).