Atlanta startup hubs and incubators are thriving. This morning, I was thinking about our short but sizzling startup hub history on my way to TechStars Atlanta. Here’s what I can personally recall of the happening history of our startup hubs–what and who am I missing?
Atlanta Startup Hubs and Co-Working Destinations
1981 – ATDC accepts its first company, using state-sponsored funds championed by Governor Busbee in 1979. (In 1981, I was 9 years old going to Crawford County Elementary School. You?)
<lots of quiet bubbling>
2008 – Strongbox West opens its doors to the freelance and startup community, billing itself as Atlanta’s “biggest and most bad-ass” coworking space with “bitchin’ fast fiber” internet.
2008 – Roam, a local coworking option, kicks off in Alpharetta. They’ll open 3 more locations in the next 8 years. I had just moved to Atlanta in late 2003 and in 2006, started Write2Market, which became known as one of the top 10 agencies for startups.
2010 – In the Jane just off Memorial near Grant Park, Nex Atlanta begins “calling all Nerds” to their unique coworking support system.
<lots of quiet bubbling>
2013 – Serial SaaS entrepreneur David Cummings opens the Atlanta Tech Village with 103,000 square feet of office space. Over 400 companies join. There’s general shock at opening a coworking space in Buckhead, or a second startup space when the signature incubator ATDC, was so successful already (ranked #12 globally by Forbes).
2013 – Downtown across from the Ritz Carlton, Rodney Sampson and his partner Earl Coleman open Opportunity Hub, which operated until its October merger with TechSquare Labs. Together, they trained, housed or invested in over 100 entrepreneurs, drawing from local universities like Georgia Tech, Georgia State, and Morehouse.
2013 – Goat Farm Arts Center, bleating its unique beat for artists of all types, opens an indie coworking option with fun events like Free Sketchbook Sunday.
2014 – Serial entrepreneurs Allen Nance and Paul Judge announce Tech Square Labs with 25,000 square feet of office space and a fund to build billion dollar tech companies next door to Georgia Tech in midtown. They roll in Opportunity Hub in 2015. Thus, a new startup hub is launched in frisbee-throwing distance of ATDC. There’s still some shock.
2014 – Back downtown, Michael Tavani of Scoutmob fame purchases the Switchyards building to create coworking and office space for design-centric entrepreneurs. It opens in late 2015. People think surely this thing is over and startups can’t possibly need more space.
2015 – Nicole Garner opens a space on historic Auburn Avenue for women entrepreneurs, called Open for Business.
2016 – Roam, the original Alpharetta co-working hub, offers its fourth location in Buckhead.
2016 – Entrepreneurs Ryan Wilson and TK Peterson, once Georgetown roommates, decide to update the idea of a “club” with a social working space sans leather, library and cigar room. (They do have a wine cellar.) The Gathering Spot opens on Atlanta’s Westside near Georgia Tech. It finds 400 members in its first three months and has a serious evening and weekend crowd of social digerati, startups and creative professionals.
2016 – National coworking conglomerate WeWork is clearly sure our startup situation isn’t fully tapped, because they open a location in Buckhead with room for 600 desks in spitting distance of Atlanta Tech Village and Roam. They boast that your local membership snags you space from Seattle to Shanghai.
2016 – Mayor Kasim Reed launches WEI, an incubator for 15 women led companies at the top of the FlatIron Building, which is also newly renovated office space created to appeal to startups. Microsoft Innovation Center becomes an anchor tenant.
2016 – $18B trans-media superstar Cox sponsors TechStars Atlanta. 11 companies, most of them from outside of Georgia, are coming to perch for Atlanta’s first boot camp in the new 9,000 square foot Techstars space at Ponce City Market. PCM is where some of Atlanta’s best known tech companies, like Mailchimp and Cardlytics, already roost.
2016 – Digital Undivided announces an Atlanta incubator for Black and Latina female founders that plans to reach 2,000 entrepreneurs a year. Kathryn Finney comes from New York to focus no the multi-week program. The first cohort had over 100 applications from black and Latina women founders.
Atlanta Startup Hub Ecosystem
Informing and underpinning all the new companies and creative coworking talent is an entire ecosystem around startups. Companies like 352Inc, Industrious, Pivotal, Ironyard, Microsoft Innovation Center, and Google Entrepreneurs have all expanded operations in midtown Atlanta recently.
Funding is following. Notably, Centerview, currently investing a $200 million fund, moved into Atlanta this year, led by former AT&T CEO David Dorman. The Leaders Fund, an evergreen $100 million fund led by entrepreneur Steve DeBacco in Atlanta, is also hunting the right enterprise software opportunities. Techstars Ventures, a $150 million early stage fund, will now be looking through the lens of its new Atlanta bootcamp, too.
Atlanta Coworking and Venture Capital
Today, if I count right, the scaling Atlanta startup scene has over half a million square feet of startup space. It’s earned access to half a billion in capital from established funds located right here like Moseley Ventures, Noro Moseley Partners, Tech Operators, Fulcrum Equity Partners, as well as Centerview and Leaders Fund. On the early stage and seed side, young funds like Valor, Tech Square Ventures, Tech Square Labs’ fund, and Switchyards Fund are hustling to help Atlanta and the Southeast scale while exposing their investors to the best startup opportunities available.
Without a doubt, coworking spaces funded directly by entrepreneurs are catalyzing the startup ecosystem. When you look at the ripples created by these coworking spaces, it’s far beyond simple workspace and is actual grass roots economic development.
Further, early stage funds started by entrepreneurs are helping to fill in the gap that the next generation of innovation needs to reach a national market. We are blessed in Atlanta with entrepreneurs who do all they can, and more, to deliver an innovation ecosystem that delivers from the desk to the quest for capital.
Do we have all we need? If this question occurs to you too, you’ll like my next post on Valor’s blog, the Real Deal, about the South’s startup squeeze.