Ways to Grow a Startup Community

So, I’m on a mission to help grow the Atlanta startup community into one of the top 10 in the country. Much like Austin and Boulder are mentioned as two up-and-comers, my goal is for Atlanta to be mentioned in the breath. Atlanta has all the natural resources to be a major player, including an awesome engineering school (GA Tech), tons of young professionals, a low cost of living, the world’s busiest airport, low taxes, and a mild climate (if you don’t mind humidity). Some of the knocks on the Atlanta startup community include a risk-averse culture, lack of high-risk capital, geographic dispersion of startups, no anchor billion dollar tech company, and few venture backable entrepreneurs.

On the risk capital and venture backable entrepreneurs front, the debate is around what’s needed first. If we have more high quality entrepreneurs, we’ll attract more capital vs if we have more capital here, more quality entrepreneurs will emerge that will be successful. My personal belief is that capital is portable such that it will find the best opportunities, regardless of geographic location. Even with the theory of the Series A crunch, there’s plenty of money out there to fund the best ventures.

Here are a few ideas to grow a startup community:

  • Increase the density of startups in a geographic area (see Atlanta Tech Village and ATDC)
  • Recruit talent from outside the region to the region
  • Keep more of the talent that’s already in the region (e.g. get even more of the GA Tech engineers to stay in Atlanta)
  • Facilitate recycling of talent so that there’s rapport and awareness of talented team members to join other teams in the event their startup fails
  • Actively work to build community to learn, share, and create relationships
  • Highlight successful startups and great exits
  • Accelerate the rate at which startups achieve profitability so that they can then control their own destiny
  • Coordinate more introductions between entrepreneurs and capital providers including angels, venture capitalists, and family offices

At the end of the day, the sure fire way to grow a startup community is through cultivating more successful startups. More successful startups will then breed more successful startups in a virtuous cycle.

What else? What are some other ways to grow a startup community?

7 thoughts on “Ways to Grow a Startup Community

  1. Let’s rope the Central Florida cities in as satellites in an ATL tech entrepreneurship orbit. 60 min flights are close enough to remain in orbit and give/take some energy.

    Tampa-Orlando-Melbourne.

  2. Media coverage is also important. Both outside the region (TechCrunch, Hacker News, larger publications) and locally (Atlanta Business Chronicle, popular local blogs). I miss the concept of Techdrawl, though I don’t think it should exist as a straight clone of TechCrunch. A locally-focused startup-only news source would serve as a great syndication starting point.

  3. One of the competitive strengths Atlanta has (and importantly the other mentioned cities do not have) is the breadth of fortune 500 companies HQ’ed in Atlanta.

    Of course we need to recruit outside talent to prevent in-breeding, and corporate talent doesn’t equate to startup talent, but if we take a few steps as a community to create a talent recycling loop between our corporate peers and the startup community we could get a win-win situation.
    Corporations need better techies, and some techies aren’t right for startups, and startups often need good management to keep things on the rails.

    This is a start of an idea, and is going to need some structure put around it, but I think it something worth pursuing further.

    Have a great New Year David, congrats on ATV, and we’ll talk soon.

  4. I would say creating an open-door policy for entrepreneurs is a must. Here in Peoria, Illinois, home to Caterpillar it is a very engineering/manufacturing driven area. That’s great and all, but what about other sectors of industries where people (like myself) who don’t have any interest in that turn too?

    There needs to be a welcoming vibe that “Hey, let’s talk about your idea and see if we can’t line it up with someone or find them.” Chambers of Commerce don’t really delve into that, and I feel that SCORE is often lacking on that end. Universities are even intimidating to just pop-in on.

    So where does someone who is hidden in a job but eager to set out on their own go? Where are those opportunities for connection? – I really like your ideas and wish more areas where striving to grow innovation from within.

  5. I commend your work, David. Building a community is without a doubt tough sledding, but people like you have the ability to make Atlanta a great entrepreneurial hub. I am currently looking to make a geographic move and am considering cities like Atlanta and DC; fresh places w/ good business climates, startup friendly people and the ability to integrate into the community at large. Let me know if I can ever help and keep up the good work!

  6. Very good points. I think working with local universities to raise awareness of start-ups and incubators would help tremendously.

    There is a tech incubator in my hometown in Ohio, and after doing some interviewing I realized most students in the CS program at the local university don’t even know that it exists!

    Chris

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