The Atlanta Top 10 Startup City Question

Earlier today I got a question that hasn’t come up as often as I’d like: do you really believe Atlanta can be a top 10 startup city within 10 years? The answer is an emphatic yes! Atlanta has all the natural ingredients including a large number of young professionals, a low cost of living, the largest engineering school in the country with Georgia Tech, the world’s busiest airport, and an active startup community. If Atlanta has all the ingredients, what else is happening to make Atlanta a top 10 startup city?

Here’s what’s going on in Atlanta:

  • Large anchor technology companies – Atlanta has (over $1 billion in revenue) and Air Watch, which is going to IPO and have a billion dollar valuation within 24 months. More anchor technology companies results in more talent recruited to the area, more jobs, and more startups that spin-out. The seeds have already sprouted in Atlanta and full bloom is right around the corner.
  • High density startup areas – Atlanta has the ATDC, Hypepotamus, and the Tech Square area in Midtown with dozens of startups. Add in the new 103,000 square feet Atlanta Tech Village with room for 75-100 companies and 400+ people and now there are two areas accessible via train that have critical startup mass necessary for serendipitous interactions.
  • Early stage investment dollars – Within the past 24 months Atlanta Technology Angels has invested in 29 startups (source). Within the past 12 months three new venture funds including Moseley Ventures, Forté Ventures, and Hamilton Ventures have been formed. Just last month Cox Enterprises announced the $250 million dollar Cox Innovation Fund to incubate tech startups in Atlanta.

All the ingredients are in place and necessary advancements are under way. Atlanta will be a top 10 startup city within 10 years.

What else? What are some other reasons Atlanta will be a top 10 startup city within 10 years?

4 thoughts on “The Atlanta Top 10 Startup City Question

  1. David,
    You are absolutely correct that Atlanta has all the ingredients to be a highly successful technology hub. In my opinion, the primary item we lack is a winning culture. The perception is that those in the Valley or Boston tend to understand the importance of giving back more than we do – you are a pretty notable exception. The “community” of early tech pioneers in Silicon Valley produced an environment that stimulated entrepreneurial talent, initiative, and collaboration.

    We also need to encourage the already-established, Atlanta-based corporations to give back more. Giving back does not mean having an executive sit on a TAG panel. It’s understanding that being a good corporate citizen means having a vested interest in developing and growing your own region.


  2. Two interesting articles in Forbes last week about Startup Commons.

    Neither mentions Atlanta but I think we have a lot to feel positive about here:
    1. Very strong technology balanced with growing focus on Customer Discovery/Lean Startup techniques from ATDC/Flashpoint and others.
    2. A more stable ‘sticky’ workforce that will stay with a startup through the growth phase.
    3. A longer-view investment community coming from not just from the .com/internet group (telecom, bio-tech, automotive, ..etc.) that will allow startups to grow through the middle phases.

    Still with $8.2 Billion invested in Silicon Valley in the first three quarters of 2012, we have a ways to go to reach that level of activity.

  3. Perception is everything. While Atlanta is a great hotbed for startups, the vast majority of people don’t know it. Why? I see the reason as two-fold:

    1. Atlanta startups are mostly B2B (business-to-business).
    Thus, the average person can’t test or purchase AirWatch’s software or ISS’s security systems or Witness System’s workforce optimization. Said companies aren’t ones that people talk about in a normal conversation, unlike Groupon (Chicago), Twitter (SF), Facebook (SF), Foursquare (NYC), etc.

    2. Atlanta startups that have made successful exits, are typically run by people 40-60.
    There are definitely benefits to having a 40-60 year old run a startup. Experience trumps few things when it comes to running a business. That said, the mindset of people who are 40-60 when they receive a large lump sum of cash with a successful exit and the mindset of a 25-35 year old co-founder or early employee who just had a successful exit are quite different, as is their appetite for more risk. Please don’t confuse this statement with any sort of accusation. I’m not blaming the 40-60 year olds. They have earned the right to do whatever they want AND they’ve already done more for the startup community than most people will ever do: THEY STARTED A COMPANY. I’m merely stating a fact that there is a difference.

    I’m hoping that Atlanta will begin to foster more B2C (business-to-consumer) companies to increase the city’s visibility among the general public — including the people that live in Atlanta — and that the startup community finds a way to get a younger generation involved so that the people who might start a company when they’re 35-40 (and sell when they’re 45-50) are taking the plunge at 21-22 and then starting their second or third company when they’re 30.

    Clearly there are other factors at plan but I see these as the two that boil up to the top of my list. What do you think?


  4. I agree with this assessment and would also add that General Motors will be bringing 1000+ tech jobs to the Atlanta area (Roswell). This will bring in a whole host of talented workers to the area that may eventually seek work elsewhere in the start-up community.

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