Last week I was at a brainstorming session for Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute initiative called Tech Connect. Tech Connect is attempting to address the gap in the market for “technology teenagers”, defined as growing companies between $1 million and $50 million in revenue with established products and services. The thinking is that startups trying to get off the ground have strong programs via the ATDC and large companies, especially ones considering relocating, are well supported by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and regional economic development initiatives. Technology teenagers, which are somewhat successful, have already created jobs, and are most likely to create more jobs aren’t part of the conversation. Arguably, technology teenagers are the most important economic development engine, and the most neglected.
At the TechConnect event I sat next to Steve McGraw, CEO of Compliance 360, which was just acquired for $42.3 million by SAI Global last month. Steve and I talked about the shortage of software engineers, with a rumored negative unemployment rate of 4 to 1 (e.g. there are four software development jobs in Atlanta for every one software developer looking to change jobs). There’s a talent war going on right now for smart people with programming skills.
Why the acute shortage of skilled developers? Open source software, cloud computing, iPhones, and more have opened up a whole new world of opportunities that weren’t available 10 years ago. And we’re just getting started.
As an aside, note that IT skills and software development skills are two different things. IT skills, like a MCSE Certification to manage Microsoft networks are plentiful. Software development skills from people that meet the smart and get things done criteria are what’s in need. It’s the reason New York City is betting big on an engineering school to the tune of $100 million. Only, Atlanta already has that school in Georgia Tech, and it’s worth billions.
Georgia Tech is Atlanta’s 10 year startup opportunity. More specifically, we need a concerted effort to infuse startups into the campus culture and stimulate more GA Tech seniors to pursue jobs with startups. Unfortunately, companies like Google and Facebook get the attention at campus recruiting events.
There are 1,000 undergrads in the GA Tech College of Computing. Assume 250 graduate each year, what percentage join a startup in the Atlanta area? 15? 20? Imagine if that number was 50 or 75 per year. The more graduates that join startups each year the more people that add to the momentum of the Atlanta startup community. More engineers in the community create more opportunities for future startups — they are the future founders and leaders.
A talent war is going on right now and Atlanta is in the middle of it. Georgia Tech is the largest engineering school in the country, and produces incredible software engineers. Atlanta’s 10 year startup opportunity is unique in that the talent is already here — already drawn to Georgia Tech, in Atlanta, in the heart of the city. Significantly increasing the number of Georgia Tech seniors that join local startups should be priority number one for the long-term growth of the startup community.