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On December 10th, Silicon Road hosted our year-end social event for investors, startups, and friends of the fund, which took the form of a virtual tequila tasting. This was not trivial to organize: we had to create customized marketing material, create a box with all the tequila tasting materials inside, ship these boxes to 60 attendees across the US, work with a local tequila connoisseur to run the tasting itself, to say nothing of the complexities of making a sixty-person Zoom meeting engaging for all the participants. It was a high production event!

Why did we invest so much time into getting this just right? First, let’s be honest: drinking margaritas with our investors and founders is actually a lot of fun. But even more importantly, we realize the importance of building a community.

For the last few decades, Silicon Valley has reaped the benefits of having the most vibrant tech community in the world. Currently, thirty-six Fortune 1000 companies are headquartered there, and thousands of startups call Silicon Valley home. It’s a self-sustaining cycle: new startups go there because all the venture capital is there, and new investors go there because that’s where all the startups are. Each startup benefits from having a huge network of other startups to partner with and experienced tech veterans to ask for advice and capital.

But Silicon Valley has its problems. Currently, real estate in San Francisco is the most expensive of anywhere in the nation. That means it’s harder for the typical young college grads to afford to go there and start a company. Then, when COVID-19 hit and remote work became the norm, people looked around and said, “Why am I paying $3000 a month to sit in my apartment in San Francisco when I could do the exact same thing in Atlanta for half the cost?” And the pandemic became a catalyst for a mass exodus from Silicon Valley, to places like Austin, Miami, and Atlanta.

Many of the most famous companies in Silicon Valley owe something to one company, Shockley Semiconductor. When William Shockley decided to start his company in Palo Alto, it led to a chain reaction: his employees included the future founders of Intel and Eugene Kleiner of Kleiner Perkins.

Atlanta’s tech scene is already starting to bloom. We’ve had several unicorns that call Atlanta home, including Greensky, Greenlight, OneTrust, Calendly, and Mailchimp. And of course there are several other great startups in Atlanta that haven’t quite reached unicorn status yet. Now, as this first wave of startups exit and wealthy tech founders look for their next project, we’ll start to see the proliferation of another key ingredient to a startup community: angel investors and more risk capital.

At Silicon Road, we’re watching as the collision of these macro forces - from the COVID-19 exodus to the growing emerging capital scene in Atlanta - begins a similar chain reaction in Atlanta.

So we are doing our part, by making sure our portfolio companies are deeply connected across the Atlanta tech scene, because any one of these connections could be the spark to drive hyper growth. Then, when our portfolio companies exit and early employees are looking for their next project, they’ll stay in Atlanta’s thriving startup scene, and fund the next generation of entrepreneurs.

That’s why we organized a nearly three hour tequila tasting virtual social event. We believe community is the wild card that will create massive growth in both our portfolio and Atlanta. Cheers to that!

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