Leaders come together to discuss how to make Atlanta a top tech hub

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Beamer’s office announced two new initiatives toward city’s tech ecosystem objective:

— A new consortium of local universities, called Atlanta Collegiate Entrepreneurship Syndicate (ACES), which will help the city define the metrics that are most important to indicate a healthy tech ecosystem. The consortium will include Clark Atlanta University, Emory University, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Spelman College.

Beamer said ACES wants to track three areas: how many startups are in the city and who runs them; the amount of capital that has been invested in local companies and how much how much capital is available; and the number of tech jobs created.

Faculty from the partner schools will then create an annual report on the city’s progress, which Beamer hopes to publish this year.

ACES will also try to bring more grant funding into the tech ecosystem, something the tech and innovation office has already started doing. Last fall, the office helped the Center for Black Entrepreneurship, which is housed at Spelman, receive a nearly $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce for a new incubator program for local entrepreneurs.

— Also announced was a new research report, conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) with the Georgia Tech Foundation and others, that looked at how to grow and improve Atlanta’s tech ecosystem.

Some of the findings were presented by Parmeet Grover, managing director and senior partner at BCG, who has been studying this issue since at least 2015.

“You have a lot of the ingredients, but there are things we can do to take this to the next level,” Grover said.

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Atlanta has four gaps in its tech ecosystem, according to the report:

— The city suffers from a perception gap around livability;

— Academia and universities are not playing a large enough role in generating new startups;

— The incubation, mentorship and startup support infrastructure is spread out and weakly interconnected; and

— Atlanta is not capitalizing on its diverse population.

Grover presented four ways for the city to address those gaps and grow its tech ecosystem, starting with what is initially being called the Startup Mill — a proposed public-private partnership of funding, mentorship, customers and academia to lead the advancement of entrepreneurship.

Three Atlanta founders spoke on a panel about their approaches to raising capital, finding talent and acquiring customers. The panel included Tope Awotona, CEO and founder of Calendly, one of the few Atlanta startups to be valued at or above $1 billion.

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Awotona said he sees the potential in Atlanta’s growth as a tech hub.

“I think the mayor is doing all the right things here and I want to be able to support him,” Awotona told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I like his vision.”

Dickens said part of his inspiration for creating the Office of Technology and Innovation goes back five decades to Maynard Jackson and how he tried to expand economic opportunities to all Atlantans.

“Technology is the fastest-growing sector, it is the highest-paying jobs, it is the place where you can see equity live out if you do it right,” Dickens said. “So in the spirit of Maynard, 50 years later, this is the ecosystem that can provide the equity that he sought, the economic inclusion that he sought.”

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