I am an Atlanta native and have spent my entire career in Atlanta. I started at IBMbefore diving fully into the world of entrepreneurship and startups. In recent years, the city has exploded with startup activity and an energy I have never experienced before.
I did a little digging just to see how hot “Hotlanta” is and found the following reasons the rest of the country should be paying attention to my hometown:
Reason 1: Incubators and Accelerators: to include the Advanced Technology Development Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology, considered by Forbes magazine as one of the 12 business incubators changing the world, and Atlanta Tech Village, a 103,000 square foot mecca for the startup community that boasts events like the Atlanta Startup Village each month attracting more than 500 individuals involved in the startup scene.
Reason 2: Higher Education: The acclaimed higher education system in Metro Atlanta and the city’s international prominence seeds the regional innovation community. From 2007 to 2011, Atlanta area universities, including Georgia Tech,Emory and Georgia State filed more than 3400 invention disclosures and received over 500 U.S. patents.
Reason 3: Young Entrepreneurs: Under 30 CEO ranked Atlanta the #1 city in the country for young entrepreneurs. Attend any event in Atlanta and you will quickly understand why.
Reason 4: Networking Events: On any given night, you can find a way to plug-in. Events like Network Under 40, the brainchild of Darrah Brustein, provide an easy way for newcomers to connect. TAG, the Technology Association of Georgia, one of the longest standing professional organizations, has over 30 different societies with specific focus to support individual interests. TIE Atlanta is specifically focused on supporting entrepreneurship and connecting Atlanta with a global community of entrepreneurs.
Reason 5: Access to Capital: Opportunities to pitch your idea to investors abound. Large events like the upcoming Venture Atlanta curate 30 companies every year from Georgia Tech, ATDC and other avenues of innovation and attract hundreds of venture capitalists. Small practice pitch events are held monthly at Atlanta Tech Village and by groups like the Atlanta Technology Angels and Ritz Group.
Reason 6: Great Connector: While Atlanta has always been a transportation hub, it finally seems to understand its place as a connector for the overall Southeast eco-system. Venture Atlanta, traditionally only open to Georgia-based businesses, is opening their application process to companies in other parts of the Southeast. Events like SuperNova South have also purposefully identified and recruited advocates in other nearby cities to ensure inclusion.
Reason 7: Fortune 500 Headquarters: Atlanta is #3 in the country for Fortune 500 headquarters. Porsche recently opened headquarters and a driving experience near the Atlanta airport. Companies move here for innovation they can gain from the startup community and their presence makes it easy for startup companies to find and sign their first customers.
Reason 8: Diversity: An anecdotal observation visiting Atlanta events today compared to the all white, all male events of the 90’s is a striking level of diversity in age, ethnicity and gender. American Express Open lists Atlanta as the #1 fastest growth of women-owned businesses. Change the Equation cites Atlanta as the #3 metro area for minorities in computing.
Reason 9: Southern Hospitality. I travel often and find myself in co-working spaces all over the country. No matter where I go, I have yet to find the level of hospitality and support I experience in my favorite co-working space back in Atlanta. ROAM, which has opened 3 locations and will soon open its 4th, provides an experience that few co-working spaces can touch. They understand their mission as much more than just providing space and actively work to connect their members in a meaningful way. ROAM’s attitude is representative of the city as a whole–the community goes out of its way to help connect individuals and companies with the resources they need.
Reason 10: Attitude of Gratitude. Atlanta benefits from the attitude of gratitude many company founders have felt after their own successes. 100 Black Men, an organization to empower underprivileged youth, was founded in Atlanta by Nathaniel Goldston. Atlanta Tech Village, which is David Cumming’s gift to the city after his many business successes. The Georgia Aquarium, one of Atlanta’s premier travel destinations was made possible by Bernie Marcus of The Home Depot and has served as an anchor for the revitalization of the downtown area.