Techstars Atlanta effort to spur growth

Dave Payne, incoming managing director for Techstars Atlanta, speaks during the Techstars Atlanta Demo Day at The Tabernacle in Atlanta, Ga., on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. In their third annual Demo Day, Techstars Atlanta chose ten startup founders to present their company’s ideas to a crowd of potential investors, fellow entrepreneurs and consumers. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Dave Payne, incoming managing director for Techstars Atlanta, speaks during the Techstars Atlanta Demo Day at The Tabernacle in Atlanta, Ga., on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. In their third annual Demo Day, Techstars Atlanta chose ten startup founders to present their company’s ideas to a crowd of potential investors, fellow entrepreneurs and consumers. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

<span style="background-color: #ffffff; font-family: Georgia, Times, serif, 'Lucida Grande', Tahoma, Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 20px;">Local experts say growth of Georgia's tech sector is too important to be left to chance or n</span><span style="background-color: #ffffff; font-family: Georgia, Times, serif, 'Lucida Grande', Tahoma, Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 20px;">ature: the field may be fertile, but it needs to be seeded, fertilized and fed.</span>

Tech accounted last year for nearly 300,000 jobs with average pay of $85,681 a year and a total payroll of more than $25 billion, according to the Technology Association of Georgia. The region is a leader in some tech specialties, like fintech, the software behind credit card transactions and credit processing.

But much of it starts small.

For example, 10 start-up companies with about 60 employees total completed their "accelerator" training this past week for Atlanta Techstars, the Atlanta branch of an international organization founded to speed the development of tech entrepreneurs.

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The companies, selected from applicants in 42 countries, were connected to mentors and provided an intensive course in the “building blocks” of a successful business. Last week, the program ended with participants “pitching” their business plans to about 1,000 people, including investors.

Techstars, founded in 2006 in Colorado, has worked with about 1,000 companies in a number of cities. The Atlanta branch, which is located at Ponce City Market, partners with Cox Enterprises, which owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Techstars Atlanta has now run three sets of companies through the 90-day training. Among this year's companies were firms from Miami, Chattanooga and Israel. Three of the companies are based in Atlanta:

Since starting the Techstars Atlanta program, PadSplit’s business has improved, said Atticus LeBlanc, company founder. “We’ve doubled the number of high-quality affordable units for residents and increased profit margins by more than 30 percent for our property owners.”

The idea of offering expertise to entrepreneurs is not new.

The Advanced Technology Development Center at Georgia Tech has been cultivating young companies since 1980. Unlike an accelerator, ATDC is an incubator: it works with a company for months or even years, graduating a business only when it is confident of reaping revenue of more than $1 million a year, said Jane McCracken, interim director.

The ATDC currently has a "portfolio" of 180 companies, she said.

“We are not Silicon Valley and there isn’t as much venture capital here as in Boston,” she said. “But we have talent and a support system and venture capital is growing.”

Last year, the companies in the ATDC raised $130 million in venture capital.

“The technology climate is very robust in Atlanta,” she said. “We create growth tech companies here and give them a firm foundation of success.”

A few days after the Techstars finale, a separate group of organizers held the Venture Atlanta conference, a two-day effort to connect companies and investors. Organizers say the event has thus far raised about $2.5 billion for the companies involved.

Jobs in tech, by category 

Total: 293,501

Software and Information technology: 96,648

Equipment: 46,026

Telecom: 42,113

Entertainment: 16,705

Bioscience: 15,972

E-commerce: 7,393

Various other: 43,599

<em>Source: Technology Association of Georgia</em>

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