Incubator grows firms via geek service swaps

San Antonio is the setting for what may be a trailblazing effort to help geeks become entrepreneurs by requiring that they help one another make their ventures successful.

Drawn with colored markers, the large sales chart is handsomely done. But it's drawn on the window. Carlos Maestas, occupant of one of the three desks in the office, has no idea what it represents. He assumes the occupants of the other two desks drew it. He hasn't met them; they come in at other hours.

Down the hall -- past the ping pong tables, an arcade video game, the kitchen, material used to teach robotics to middle school students and home brewing equipment (off-limits to the middle schoolers) -- Phil Mercer, owner of a design firm called Roughneck Graphics, also has a desk in an office with people who are not in his firm. But he has met them. In fact, they were put in the same room in hopes they would be of use to each other. And that has happened, he says.

"We send each other work, and trade services," he notes. "Here, I can walk down the hall if I need a mobile apps developer."

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