Earlier this week I had the opportunity to spend a day in Birmingham, Alabama with the Endeavor Atlanta team in an effort to expand the non-profit to other regions of the Southeast. Endeavor, an international organization with offices in 32 countries, is leading the high impact entrepreneurship movement around the world. Think of Endeavor as an organization that supports scale ups (startups post product/market fit in the scaling phase) with mentorship, continuing education, networking, and an all-around high impact entrepreneurship ethos.
In Atlanta, we have eight Endeavor Entrepreneurs building amazing companies. These companies range from lease accounting software to second home rental marketplaces to Bitcoin payment processing platforms. Endeavor isn’t limited to tech companies. In fact, globally, most Endeavor Entrepreneurs aren’t in tech. The key: high impact entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is one of the most powerful forces to help communities through job and wealth creation.
Now, with Endeavor Atlanta off to a great start, we’re looking to grow the Endeavor footprint in the Southeast with regional offices. These regional offices would support their local entrepreneurs and lean on the Atlanta office to interface with the global network. Once a regional office achieves enough scale, they’d then become their own full office. The Southeast, with 80+ million people, is the fastest growing region in the United States and has a tremendous number of entrepreneurs.
If you’re an entrepreneur, or supporter of entrepreneurs, in the Southeast, please reach out as we’d enjoy talking about ways to grow Endeavor in the region.
One of the more popular questions I get is, “How do we grow the startup community?”
While some people suggest things like more risk capital and institutional investors, I’m not convinced that’s the answer. The answer, I believe, is even more challenging.
Here are three ideas for growing the startup community:
- More Ambitious Entrepreneurs – Let’s face it: most of the ideas in our community are incremental. While we aren’t suited for moon shots, we are suited for solving harder problems, building mission critical workflow systems, and driving for larger outcomes. Too many entrepreneurs are pursuing nice-to-have products instead of must-have products, and the success rate shows it. We need more ambitious entrepreneurs thinking big.
- More Anchor Technology Companies – While we have a number of large entrepreneurial success stories in town, we’re really missing out when it comes to anchor technology companies. Think about Dell in Austin, Amazon.com in Seattle, and other major tech companies that recruit thousands of people to the region, create tremendous shareholder value, and are deeply ingrained in the community. It often takes 20 years to build an anchor technology company — perhaps some are already in the works now.
- More Repeat Entrepreneurs – I often tell people that that best time to invest in an entrepreneur is after they’ve had their first full-time entrepreneurial failure and are ready to step back in the arena. Yet, to be a repeat entrepreneur you have to have started your first serious venture. We have a decent number of first-time entrepreneurs but we’re lacking when it comes to serious repeat entrepreneurs. Possibly, it just takes time but to grow the community, but we need even more first-time entrepreneurs so that the cycle starts sooner.
So, there you have it. More ambitious entrepreneurs, more anchor technology companies, and more repeat entrepreneurs are how we grow our startup community in a meaningful way. None are easy; all are important. Growing a startup community is hard, and we’re going to keep working at it.
What else? What are some more ideas to grow the startup community?
Every year I enjoy jumping in and reading the Inc. 5000. The 2018 awards just came out and there are a number of excellent Atlanta SaaS startups on the list.
When reading the list, always remember that growing fast becomes much harder with scale (doubling revenue every year is hard!).
Here are the top 10 Atlanta SaaS startups based on growth rate:
Congrats to all the winners! Onward and upward.
One of the areas I’ve been interested in for many years is how to help CEOs/presidents of the fastest growing companies. Organizations like YPO and EO are amazing for peer learning and personal development, but don’t have a component for high growth companies. Inc magazine has the excellent Inc. 500/5000, and a corresponding conference focused on these fast growing companies, but it’s an annual thing, not a local, on-going program.
Cities have programs like Leadership Atlanta that connect high potential people across all types of organizations from non-profit to business to government to religious in an effort to build community, and train the leaders of tomorrow. These are important programs, but not focused on CEOs during the most crucial period of exceptional business growth.
Over the years, I’ve hosted a number of dinners for CEOs of the fastest growing local companies in order to build relationships, share learnings, and help grow our community. These are worthwhile, and very fun, but sporadic in nature. There’s an opportunity for deeper peer learning, connecting with more experienced leaders that have already gone through hyper growth, and more structured events.
My brother, CEO of SpanishDict, went through the MindShare program in D.C. and felt it was valuable. MindShare bills itself as “an exclusive forum of CEOs from high growth technology companies designed to foster collaboration and innovation among its Alumni Network.” MindShare has been around for nearly 20 years and has had over 1,000 CEOs in the program.
- Are there programs like this in other cities? Are they worthwhile?
- What would be the ideal Growth Connection program? Class size? Meeting frequency and format?
- Should it be limited to just technology companies or is it better to have CEOs from all types of fast growing companies?
- How do you define fast growing? Minimum revenue in the millions and trailing three year growth rate over certain amount?
Growth Connection is simply a non-profit idea to help the CEOs and presidents in the community connect, grow, and learn while in the crucible of hyper growth. All feedback and ideas are much appreciated.
Last week I put out a tweet to collect ideas for accelerating the entrepreneurial trajectory of Atlanta, and received a number of excellent ideas. Now, none of these ideas are limited to Atlanta and most are needed in all cities.
Here are 18 ideas for accelerating entrepreneurship in a city:
- Run a billboard campaign highlighting local startups
- Provide free training and courses for local founders
- Develop and support free/subsidized office space for startups like the Atlanta Tech Village
- Organize an accelerator program like Y Combinator
- Launch a YouTube video channel of local startup stories
- Connect local mid-to-large companies with startups
- Get large companies to commit to working on their procurement process to accommodate a certain number of startups
- Drive a public relations campaign to spotlight local entrepreneurs
- Coordinate an “after hours” program for entrepreneurs that have full-time day jobs
- Facilitate formal internship programs across startups
- Engage with local K-12 schools and get kids involved in entrepreneurship at an early age
- Run speed dating events between entrepreneurs and angels
- Partner with the local universities to help more students build businesses while in college
- Educate potential angel investors so that they feel comfortable investing more
- Bootstrapping programs to help startups do more with less
- Curate entrepreneurs-in-residence that help startups
- Find local mentors that want to help startups with no ulterior motive
- Acquire housing options for startups
Wow, that’s a great list. I’m really excited about the ideas and eager to help accelerate the entrepreneurial growth in our community.
What else? What are some more ideas to accelerate a city’s entrepreneurial trajectory?
Next month we’re hosting the first of many Simply SaaS Forums in the Southeast. Taking a page from Jason Lemkin and SaaStr Annual, we’ve set out to build a community for SaaS entrepreneurs and professionals that want to network and learn from other experts. The faster you learn, the faster you grow.
As for the structure, it’s a 4.5 hour event from 1-5:30pm with an optional dinner afterwards. Being in Atlanta, we have direct flights and short drives for more than 80 million people in the Southeast whereby you can travel here in the morning, get a tremendous amount of value in the afternoon, and be home that night without having to even get a hotel room. We understand the grind and are providing a program and format to take actionable insights across a variety of functions for SaaS pros.
As for the program, we’ve broken it out into sales, marketing, product/engineering, and people/culture followed by a founder discussion on scaling from $0 to millions in recurring revenue. Here’s our first lineup:
- Tonni Bennett, VP of Sales at Terminus – Tonni will share her lessons learned as a sales leader growing Terminus from $0 to tens of millions in ARR.
- Tami McQueen, Co-founder of 31south – Tami McQueen, formerly of SalesLoft, will share marketing lessons learned when growing SalesLoft into one of the largest sales engagement platforms on the market.
- Hubert Liu, Engineering Lead at Atlanta Ventures – Hubert Liu will share experiences from his time as CTO at Rigor about what it takes to grow a product from $0 to Inc. 500.
- Karen Houghton, VP of Atlanta Tech Village – Karen has been with Atlanta Tech Village since the beginning and will share lessons learned on building great culture for startups.
- Craig Hyde, CEO of Rigor – Craig is the founder/CEO of Rigor and was recognized last year in the Inc. 500 as one of the fastest growing companies in the United States.
Overall, we’re on a mission to connect the Southeastern SaaS community with great content and programs to ultimately increase our quantity and scale of success. Please join us on our journey.
Early on in life I was lucky to find my true passion: being an entrepreneur. Everywhere I looked there were opportunities to create new products and solutions; most of my ideas failed but a few succeeded. As I developed my passion for entrepreneurship, I also realized my passion for helping other entrepreneurs.
In college I started an entrepreneurship house course called Internet Startups and Entrepreneurship with an amazing faculty sponsor. Over the course of three semesters I had the chance to teach — really, learn with my peers — some of the things I’d already been working on for years.
At Pardot, we started an accelerator for idea stage startups called Shotput Ventures where we hosted the entrepreneurs for a weekly dinner, speaker, and idea sharing. It was a labor of love and a great learning experience. After Shotput, we incubated a number of startups in the Pardot office to help the next generation of entrepreneurs. Some of those startups included Clickscape, Rigor, and SalesLoft.
After selling Pardot, we dreamed big and built the Atlanta Tech Village. At 103,000 square feet and over 1,000 people, it’s one of the five largest tech entrepreneurship centers in the United States. There, we helped launch Calendly and Terminus.
Now, with the launch of Atlanta Ventures, we’re serving SaaS entrepreneurs through community, content, and capital:
- Community – Regular events and programs for SaaS entrepreneurs ranging from idea stage meetups to curated SaaS forums to exclusive scaling SaaS dinners
- Content – Fresh stories and lessons learned from some of the fastest growing SaaS companies in the country
- Capital – Investments from $100,000 to $2 million in idea, seed, and growth stage SaaS startups
We’re here to serve entrepreneurs; it’s what we do. Nothing less, nothing more.
Please reach out and let us know how Atlanta Ventures can help.
Endeavor Atlanta just announced its first class of entrepreneurs. Endeavor, as mentioned before, is a global non-profit organization that seeks to help entrepreneurs maximize their potential and grow the entrepreneurial communities around the world. Endeavor is especially powerful for entrepreneurs that are looking to expand to other countries as well as get plugged into a worldwide network. Atlanta’s own chapter of Endeavor opened earlier this year and we’re excited to announce our first cohort of Endeavor entrepreneurs:
- Dave Keil / QASymphony – Dave and his team at QASymphony have quietly built one of the fastest growing software quality assurance platforms (think software to test software). They’re at the forefront of the trend where most companies are moving away from traditional waterfall processes to agile processes (more iterative and responsive to customer feedback).
- Hatem Sellami + Bahadir Ustaoglu / Cognira – Hatem and Bahir, along with their team, have built a retail analytics platform that helps large retailers get more value from their data. The platform is centered around customer insights, forecasting, and generally using data science to deliver better business outcomes.
Congrats to Dave, Hatem, and Bahir as Atlanta’s first class of Endeavor entrepreneurs!
Know an entrepreneur that might be interested in Endeavor? We’d enjoy meeting them and sharing the vision of Endeavor.
Atlanta Startup Village #49 just finished up at the Atlanta Tech Village. The event is free and open to the public. Join us.
Here were tonight’s presenting startups:
- Fetch: Truck Rental Made Easy
- Leadkit: Real Estate Technology & Lead Generation for the Modern Agent
- Zenway: Data analytics for the next generation of super-efficient clean vehicles
- Profound Studio: Expert home recording help
- BashBlok: Make your Bash a Smash
Visiting Atlanta in the future? Join us at an Atlanta Startup Village event.
Join us tonight at 7pm for Atlanta Startup Village #48. The event is free and everyone is welcome. Here are tonight’s startups:
- Atlas Bay: Bring your spaces to life with virtual reality for real estate
- Shofur: Bus reservations made easy!
- GATE: Interception-proof authentication and encryption system
- ReThinkingStartups: Startup whatever! The Whatever Network
- accessnow: Improves productivity by governing your automated, on-demand elevated access with audit logging
See you tonight at ASV #48!