This week Engine is traveling with Steve Case on the Rise of the Rest road trip to celebrate entrepreneurship, in all its forms, across America. Every day we’ll post dispatches from the cities we’ve seen. For more updates follow #RiseofRest on Twitter.
With over five million people, sixteen Fortune 500 companies and one of the top-ranked undergraduate engineering programs in the nation, it may be unfair to call Atlanta a city on the rise. Yet, the city’s environment for early stage entrepreneurs and new sources of innovation is still developing in many ways. The Rise of the Rest tour, with Steve Case at the helm, spent its fourth day on the road in Atlanta to learn from this vast, diverse city and to inspire the wider business, policy and educational leaders here to support its many entrepreneurs.
One of the Atlanta startup community’s challenges is fragmentation. Despite the proliferation of entrepreneurial activity, with 130 square miles and several city centers, Atlanta can be a sprawling place to navigate for both businesses and residents. Recognizing this challenge, David Cummings founded the Atlanta Tech Village in 2013 in an effort to bring the community together. Today, over 240 early and mid-stage tech companies are based there. SalesLoft calls the ATV home and Yik Yak did until recently—the messaging app experienced such rapid growth that they’ve now relocated to a new office space to accommodate an expanding team. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Tech Village continues to grow and newer centers for budding entrepreneurs have followed such as the Opportunity Hub.
We also got a sense of how Atlanta’s later stage technology startup companies are becoming part of a more connected Atlanta. The Ponce City Market is an 8,000 square foot space (in the old Sears Roebuck building) in an historic Atlanta neighborhood undergoing transformation, retrofitted for retail, residential apartments and offices. Cardlytics and Mailchimp showed off new startup-chic offices with lounges and snack rooms that rival any Silicon Valley startup’s digs. The Atlanta Business Journal reports Twitter may set up an Atlanta office there as well.
Yet another tech industry hub is the Atlanta Technology Development Center (ATDC) at Georgia Tech University. The ATDC brings together Georgia Tech students, industry experts and corporate partners through its incubator program and many resources. The center has enabled Georgia Tech students in engineering and computer science to find another career path after graduation—contributing their talents to a startup is made just as viable as working for a large corporation or going into research. These graduates remain a huge source of talent throughout the region.
Atlanta’s pitch competition put a number of promising new businesses on display - including Local Roots, which enables delivery of farm-grown produce to people’s homes, and eCredable, which has created a platform that calculates alternative credit scores. The pitch competition’s winner was a great example of the best of Atlanta startups: Partpic has a diverse team and innovative technology that identifies parts via mobile images, in much the same way Shazam can identify a song.
What we saw in Atlanta was just a slice of a widespread movement made up of many leaders committed to the city’s future. With continued support, a focus on inclusive entrepreneurship that reflects Atlanta’s diverse population, and the engagement of (and capital from) the city’s biggest companies like Coca Cola and UPS, Atlanta’s entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to build on the city’s success.