San Antonio — [Updated 3/22/18, 11 a.m. See below.] The first CEO of VelocityTX, an emerging technology and startup resource center in San Antonio, has left the organization less than a year after he joined.
Jorge Varela decided to pursue other interests, according to a press release from VelocityTX. A spokeswoman wouldn’t provide further detail. Varela took over as CEO of Velocity TX in May 2017, and also held a position at Texas Research & Technology Foundation (TRTF), the San Antonio bioscience and technology development group. Varela and TRTF revealed VelocityTX to the public in September, when they announced the purchase of an 110,000-square-foot industrial complex out of which it will operate. The group hasn’t released a timeline for when it might open.
“There really is no story behind my leaving, just difference of opinion,” Varela wrote to Xconomy, declining to comment further. [Updated to add comment.]
Now, John Randolph (Randy) Harig, the top executive at TRTF, is taking over as CEO of VelocityTX, according to Wednesday’s release. Additionally, the organization named Bill Cone, the former director of a business innovation center at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, as its interim chief operating officer. VelocityTX expects Harig will remain CEO and said it plans to do a national search to find a permanent COO, according to a spokeswoman. In the meantime, Cone will be responsible for the daily decision-making at VelocityTX. The San Antonio Business Journal first reported the news.
This is the second notable shakeup involving Harig at TRTF and VelocityTX in the last year. When TRTF announced it was creating VelocityTX in September 2017, the organization also said that Harig was taking over as CEO of TRTF that month. Harig, whose career has been spent working in executive roles for companies in fields such as medical equipment and contract research organizations, had previously been TRTF’s chairman, a position he was appointed to in December 2016.
When Harig became CEO of TRTF in September, he took over for York Duncan, who had previously led TRTF as its president since 1996, took the title of vice president of real estate. Stephen Dufilho, who sits on the board of directors of multiple organizations in San Antonio, took over now TRTF’s chairman in September.
Harig has been on the TRTF board since 1985, around the time that the foundation was as created as a nonprofit to use 1,200 acres of land donated by local philanthropists and entrepreneurs for a bioscience research park. After he became chairman, Harig and the board’s executive committee began developing a new plan for TRTF that focused on investing in the life sciences industry. To do so, TRTF began selling research park land, resulting in the formation of VelocityTX.
In addition to the 110,000-square-foot complex, where VelocityTX plans to provide startups access to manufacturing facilities and office space, the group has been trying to attract additional businesses to San Antonio. It announced partnerships with incubator programs in both Chile and Brazil that are aimed in part at getting startups from those countries relocating to the U.S. VelocityTX also works closely with other groups in Texas, such as the Alliance for Texas Angel Networks.