Mayor Andre Dickens has set a lofty goal: Turn Atlanta into a top 5 tech hub in the country.
Atlanta has a lot of work to do to catch up with the likes of San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Austin in terms of the number of startups and jobs created. But in order to meet that goal, the Mayor knows the city can’t just follow the same playbook that others have used to attract and retain tech talent.
Instead, Atlanta’s playbook must focus on equitable growth, Dickens said during an event Tuesday night at the Coda Building in Midtown.
The event celebrated the one-year anniversary of the city’s Office of Technology & Innovation, an office created by Dickens and run by Sr. Tech Advisor Donnie Beamer. Elected officials, university presidents, founders, investors, and startup leaders packed the 20th floor of the Coda Building to hear Dickens, Beamer, and other Atlanta startup leaders talk about the strategic plan to make that Top 5 dream a reality.
Beamer said there are three areas of focus for the Atlanta Tech Hub: Changing perception, adding measurements, and connecting resources.
He knows Atlanta is facing an uphill battle on the PR front. Despite having one of the strongest, most diverse university talent pools in the country, most people don’t automatically associate Atlanta with technology innovation. And those already living in Atlanta have a difficult time navigating the ecosystem, since resources are so spread out across the Metro area.
To change that narrative, Beamer wants the Office of Technology & Innovation to “connect the dots” across the ecosystem. That means making it easier for people both inside and outside of the city to see the opportunities available across the city.
Part of that was running a campaign at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport this holiday season highlighting the stories of some of the city’s most prominent entrepreneurs.
In 2024, Beamer will be hyperfocused on ensuring young people have the opportunities to grow their tech careers in the city.
During the Tuesday night event, Beamer announced the launch of the Atlanta Collegiate Entrepreneurship Syndicate (ACES), a consortium bringing together Clark Atlanta University, Emory University, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, Morehouse College, and Spelman College. The goal is to create regular reports around the ecosystem’s growth, connect students across campuses, and create new robust internship opportunities.
For business owners and entrepreneurs, the Office has worked to roll out new funding opportunities. That includes a new startup loan program and a new capital allocation structure that will allow part of the city’s pension plan to be invested into private equity and venture capital firms, Beamer added.
A lot of what Beamer and his team will focus on is ensuring that Atlanta’s tech resources – from funding to accelerators to customers – are available and accessible to all people trying to build new businesses in the city.
“Atlanta is a group project,” Dickens added. “We are well on our way.”