The BridgeCommunity Outreach Program is seeding the next set of future technology startups. By supplying technical, business, entrepreneurship and financial literacy training, the program is encouraging the creation of startup companies and promoting intrapreneurship in Atlanta communities that have traditionally been overlooked when growing and searching for skilled technical talent.
The Bridge by Coca-Cola began in 2014 as a collaboration between The Coca-Cola Company and the entrepreneurial tech community in Tel Aviv, Israel. In 2016 the program expanded to Atlanta, Georgia with a specific focus to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem through startup engagement, partnerships, a powerful corporate member-to-member network and a local community initiative to help raise the technical skill level from high school onwards. Since inception, 74 startups and 9 corporations – Capgemini, Coca-Cola, COX Enterprises, InterContinental Hotels Group, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche North America, SunTrust Bank, Turner, The Weather Company – have participated in the program.
Anthony Newstead, Co-Founder of The BridgeCommunity by Coca-Cola, and Valarie W. Mackey, Founder of WrightNow Solutions, coalesced the local nonprofit sector and BridgeCommunity member companies to create three Future Entrepreneurship Programs in 2017:
“I am so proud of what all the students have achieved during these courses. It has been incredibly rewarding to see them all grow and develop through our time together and I hope and believe we are seeing the next set of future Atlanta entrepreneurs in the making. I also want to thank our corporate members, our startups, CapTech, TAG-ED, Year Up, PowerMylearning, all our volunteers and of course our Outreach Lead, Valarie Mackey, all who collectively breathed life into this initiative, provided the resources and the passion to make this happen. This was truly a community effort that I am honored to be a part of. I look forward to continuing the journey together.” – Anthony Newstead Global Group Director, Emerging Technology & Strategic Innovation, Co-Founder Atlanta BridgeCommunity
The High School Future Entrepreneurship Program is a four-week summer coding camp focused on front and backend web design and development, app design, 3D printing and graphical interface design, open to any 10th– 12th grade student attending a Title 1 Atlanta Public School.
Non-profit organizations, Technology Association of Georgia – Education Collaborative (TAG-Ed) and SteamSport, facilitated the summer camp. Kristina Smith, Exploring STEM Careers Pipeline Program Manager of TAG-Ed, created the application process and worked with schools to recruit the students. Kristina teamed up with William Oliver, Executive Director of SteamSport, to create the curriculum and run the camp. Instructor, Tony Tatum and Teaching Assistants – Sydney Hubbert, recent Spelman graduate; and Ashley McCray, recent Clayton State University graduate, taught the technical curriculum and shared life experiences with the students to support their personal growth.
Twenty students from nine different high schools completed the High School Future Entrepreneurship Program. Participants crafted a pitch for products or services each week – collectively coming up with more than thirty ideas over the course of the program. From solar panel blinds to a sneaker exchange app, the students presented the best of their ideas to an audience of city officials, venture capitalists, corporate partners and parents in a showcase event.
The camp was held at John Hopkins Community Center in Atlanta and featured Friday field trips to BridgeCommunity member corporations and startups to connect the camp curriculum to the real world.
Students visited BridgeCommunity startup, GridQuire Labs, where they learned from CEO, Andy Katz, new marketing tips and how to present an idea, both verbally and visually, to an audience of potential investors. “I have been an entrepreneur for over five years. Today was one of the top 10 days. Thank you for letting us host these wonderful, smart kids.” – Andy Katz, CEO GridQuire Labs
At The Weather Company, students were welcomed by Chris Huff, Executive/Head of Engineering – Waston Marketing, and team for a tour of their digital space followed by a Q&A panel focused on how The Weather Channel’s data supports commonly used apps, websites and products.
SunTrust hosted the final field trip, giving students an overview of the role that technology plays in the finance industry. After presentations from the Marketing, User Experience, and Design Accelerator groups; the students used their newfound user experience knowledge in a user experience design thinking exercise that tasked them with ideating and mocking up a personalized web experience.
Outside of field trips, the program enlisted the expertise of amazing professionals to visit the camp classroom and speak on various topics.
Michael Connor, Group Director of Commercial Software of Coca-Cola Freestyle, kicked things off with an engaging presentation and conversation about Artificial Intelligence.
Irvin Bishop, Global Digital Leader of Brands, Global Campaigns & Partnerships at Coca-Cola, taught the students about digital marketing and the importance of building your career from things that you are passionate and excited about.
Tonia Osby, Chief Operating Officer of BridgeCommunity cohort startup, PayLow Rate, conducted a fun and interactive exercise on User Interface Prototyping – introducing the students to a new UX Design app that they later utilized in prototyping their final products.
Andrew Gowasack, CEO of BridgeCommunity cohort startup, TrustStamp, spoke on the ever-important topic of social and professional networking while Heather Turney, Culture and Innovation Manager of Porsche Cars North America, wowed the students with a presentation on public speaking. Both Andrew and Heather gave the students practical tips for establishing a professional presence.
Following the camp, students attended a business basics and life skills course held at The Coca-Cola Company’s Technology Offices.
The Young Adult Future Entrepreneurship Program hand selected student alumni from Year Up workforce development training to learn Amazon Alexa voice programming on the Echo Dot, cloud skills and business basics. Over two and half months, student teams were charged with creating a new Alexa functionality.
CapTech Consulting, Inc. built the technical curriculum and generously taught the students pro-bono. The business basics classes for both the high school and young adult programs were taught by volunteers from area companies and our BridgeCommunity cohort member corporations and startups:
- Dane Bamburry, Sr. Manager, Business Platform Services, Solutions Architecture & Systems Administration at Cox Enterprises, taught a class on negotiation techniques.
“The Atlanta BridgeCommunity program is a positive disruptive force in the on-going challenge to develop the next STEM generation. I was honored to have the opportunity to engage with these intelligent young minds in a session focused on negotiations from a corporate and entrepreneur perspective. What impressed me the most was their level of engagement, innovative thought process, and drive which compelled me to attend their showcase presentation. The showcase far exceeded my expectations and I can say with a high-level of confidence that these students are well on their way to becoming major contributors in STEM field.” – Dane Bamburry, Sr. Manager, Business Platform Services, Solutions Architecture & Systems Administration at Cox Enterprises
- In addition to hosting a field trip for the high school program, Andy Katz, Founder of GridQuire Labs – a member of the BridgeCommunity startup cohort, came back to teach the young adults about startup funding and sales.
- DeWayne Griffin and Jeff Scott from State Farm spoke to the students about innovation trends and topped off their involvement by giving a book to each student as a gift for their completion of the program.
- Mark Labs CEO and Founder, Kevin Barrow, helped the group understand how to set up their business.
The Future Entrepreneurship Program Showcase highlighted the young adult’s Alexa-centric business ideas. The winning team, myPulse, is a fitness app that gives a Fitbit user an activities overview with goal comparison and a detailed description of their heart rate with facts on how to improve heart health.
“Thank you so very much for including Year Up students in the Young Adult Entrepreneurship Showcase at the Coca-Cola Company Headquarters. The event was absolutely amazing and our young adults learned many valuable lessons through their participation in the program. They are now thinking bigger about their future— not just a career, but possibly launching their own technology business one day in the future! What a great partnership… Year Up gets them started with a career and your program gets them started in business! This is truly a life-changing experience for our young adults and I do hope that the Atlanta BridgeCommunity will continue offering this opportunity for more of our students and young adults.” – Kim Williams, Executive Director, Year Up – Atlanta
The App Development Elective Class is a partnership between PowerMyLearning and Arthur M. Blank’s Family Foundation to run an app development elective class in Washington High School during the school day. There are approximately 20 students taking the class currently with capacity to teach 50 more students next semester.
“It has been a privilege to come together with the Atlanta BridgeCommunity to create the overall Future Entrepreneurship Program. Being able to see the students on day one of the program with limited to no knowledge in the topic areas to being able to confidently pitch a viable product/solution is inspiring. These are our next entrepreneurs and our next innovators taking companies to the next level.” – Valarie W. Mackey, WrightNow Solutions