Over the last decade, several cities over the world have established themselves as fertile startup greenhouses with thriving ecosystems for innovation. These ecosystems are interconnected subsystems that all work together to create a better outcome for all.
So what does a thriving startup ecosystem look like? A strong ecosystem needs seven attributes:
Deep pool of talent
High quality of life
Strong economy powered by multiple industries
Capital providers across stages
Technology companies that have built from ground up.
Community for entrepreneurs
Successful entrepreneurs re-investing in the city.
Our firm - Silicon Road Ventures - is based in Atlanta and that is no accident. We believe that over the next decade, Atlanta will grow even deeper as a thriving ecosystem for entrepreneurs. Let's take a look at how Atlanta wins in each of these categories.
Deep pool of talent - Each year, 55,000 degrees are awarded to graduates from outstanding institutions like Georgia Tech, Emory, Georgia State, Kennesaw State, University of Georgia, and many of the oldest and largest association of historically black colleges and universities like Spelman College, Morehouse College, and Clark Atlanta University.
High quality of life - Cost of living in Atlanta is 48% less than San Francisco and 57% less than New York City. The Economist magazine recently ranked Atlanta as the number one US city for quality of life.
Strong economy powered by multiple industries - Atlanta is home to 30 Fortune 1000 companies including UPS, Coca-Cola, and The Home Depot. Technology companies are launching regional HQs in Atlanta including Airbnb, Google, Microsoft and others. More financial transactions flow through an Atlanta business like Fiserv than any other city in North America. Finally, Atlanta is serviced by the busiest airport in the world.
Capital providers across stages - Atlanta is home to more than a half dozen early stage VCs including Silicon Road Ventures, Tech Square Ventures, Overline, Zane, and Collab Capital. Across growth equity and mid-stage VC, Atlanta is home to TTV, Panoramic, and Fulcrum. And finally at the pre-IPO stage, several large PE firms including Roark Capital are home in ATL.
Technology companies built from the ground up are important since they serve as role models for other emerging businesses. The greatest bootstrapped tech exit of all time is in Atlanta in Mailchimp's acquisition by Intuit. Billion dollar VC-backed companies such as Calendly, Greenlight, and SalesLoft were founded in Atlanta. And dozens more "soon-icorns" aren't far behind.
Community for early stage startups - Atlanta is home to one of the oldest and most successful incubators in the country in Georgia Tech's Advanced Technology and Development Center (ATDC). Atlanta Tech Village (ATV) is the 4th largest startup co-working space in the country. Techstars regularly runs multiple programs thanks to the backing of Cox Enterprises. Finally, the largest startup and VC conference outside SF and NYC is in Atlanta every October. Venture Atlanta celebrates its 15th year this October and has been a catalyst for getting promising tech startups in front of investors.
Successful entrepreneurs who are re-investing in the city - Arguably, one of the most important drivers for a sustainable ecosystem is entrepreneurs who have had big wins reinvesting back into the community. Two of the leaders in our city are David Cummings launching ATV and backing dozens of companies through Atlanta Ventures over the years, and my partner at Silicon Road Ventures, Sid Mookerji. Sid is Managing Partner and anchor investor in both our funds. He is also a Founding Partner of Creative Destruction Lab and launched the Mookerji Innovation Fund at Kennesaw State University offering equity-free grants to students to pursue their startup.
Bottom line: Atlanta's entrepreneurial ecosystem is firing and is unique. This city is not trying to be "the next Silicon Valley." Instead, Atlanta is primed to build the next tech ecosystem that cranks out solid, sustainable technology businesses. At Silicon Road, we are thrilled to be positioned in the middle of it all.