Major corporations like Delta and Coca-Cola have become synonymous with Atlanta (Inc.‘s No. 18 Surge City), but it’s the southern city’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem that’s taking its identity for a spin.
Working to Build a More Diverse Investor Scene
Black Founders Playing the Long Game
The Gathering Spot, a private membership club in downtown Atlanta, was founded two years ago by Ryan Wilson and T.K. Petersen, who curate their membership list to foster balance between entrepreneurs from local colleges, representatives of Atlanta companies like Coca-Cola and Chick-fil-A, and celebrities from the city’s entertainment industry. It caters primarily–but not exclusively–to Atlanta’s black community.
How to Connect a Sprawling City
After David Cummings sold his marketing startup Pardot for $95 million in 2012, he decided to invest in filling a void in his city. Today, Cummings’s Atlanta Tech Village, a six-floor building on Piedmont Road, is a co-working space that 300-plus startups call home. It also helped birth a startup movement throughout the city’s sprawling patchwork of neighborhoods, which had historically existed in isolation. Soon after ATV launched, Switchyards Downtown Club and FlatironCity arrived downtown. Then, in 2016, private club the Gathering Spot set up shop between Atlanta’s trio of historic black schools–Morehouse, Spelman, and Clark Atlanta–and Georgia Tech. “By having these hubs, we have way more density of startups,” says Cummings, “and, big picture, we have a lot more success stories in the community.”
Home Depot, CNN, and … Mailchimp
Atlanta’s Best Kept Secret: Tech Talent
Georgia’s business-friendly tax credits are a lure, but the city’s best-kept secret is a rich tech-talent pool. Georgia Tech’s computer science program is world-renowned, while Morehouse, Spelman, and Clark Atlanta also feature top engineering and computer science programs for people of color. It’s largely why Square, Pandora, and Opendoor all set up offices in Atlanta this year–joining Google, Twitter, Salesforce, and Facebook. It’s also why Blavity founder Morgan DeBaun, whose L.A. media company serves black Millennials, opened an Atlanta office in June. “There’s more diversity of ideas, industries, thought, and ethnicities in Atlanta,” she says. “Even if I didn’t have a black company, I would still probably put my company in a place that has diverse people. Which does not happen in San Francisco, where I lived long enough to know.”