It was the fall of 2014 and we were finally ready. Nearly 10 years after getting my MBA in Entrepreneurship from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, we had finally built up enough savings and it was time to leave the corporate world to embark on the new, uncertain path to building a new company. But my home in San Antonio, TX wasn’t the right fit for the new venture – lacking in both a strong personal and startup network – we needed to move.
But where? Since I’m in the cloud computing space, the Bay area in CA is an obvious first choice, but after looking at how quickly we would burn up our savings, it seemed too risky. We could go back to Dallas and I could make great use of all the school and business connections there, but the tech startup scene is only just emerging and more importantly, our family was really feeling a need to reconnect with our roots in the South – so we took a look at Atlanta.
At first glance, the main redeeming qualities for Atlanta were the major airport and the relatively reasonable cost of living. I figured worst case, the flights to San Francisco and Seattle would be reasonable and we’d be within a day’s drive from our families in Alabama and Florida. But after beginning the process of inserting our family into the fabric of our local community we found that, almost by luck, we had found the ideal place for us to start our tech company.
Soon after moving to Alpharetta, the fastest growing large city in GA and the home of great schools for our 2 sets of twins (as well as a number technology companies large and small), we joined Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC). Our membership turned out to be a great way to get engaged with Atlanta’s technology community and an amazing source of resources.
I quickly realized that Atlanta had a vibrant technology startup scene with Tech Square, Atlanta Tech Village and lots of startups – especially in the Mobile, Fintec, Security, and, increasingly, the IoT space. And unlike my experience in the Bay area, there’s a strong faith based component to our technology communities with organizations like High Tech Ministries, which was an unexpected but welcome bonus to being part of the Atlanta technology scene. The other thing we have going for us is the large number of innovative large companies in Atlanta, companies like Coca-Cola, SunTrust, The Weather Company, Intercontinental Hotel Group, UPS, Cox Enterprises, Delta, NCR and many others that could serve as early adopters of new technologies.
Atlanta’s strong community of large companies is a clear benefit for B2B startups focused on businesses, but there’s a catch – corporate cultures can be risk averse, slow to move and difficult to navigate, and this is a real challenge for startups. Enter Coca-Cola’s BridgeCommunity. This program, sponsored by 7 Atlanta companies, was created to bridge the gap by partnering startups with Fortune 500s for pilots and the commercialization of new technologies. It wasn’t easy for us to get in – we went through 2 rounds of selection, and out of more than 200 startups, we were one of just 22 selected. Now, as a BridgeCommunity startup, we are in a great position to build deep corporate relationships and potentially land one of Atlanta’s giants as our customer – a win that would catapult our startup to the next level.
Atlanta provides a unique place for startups. For us, the combination of faith and family, the vibrant startup scene, and the strong corporate business economy have proven to be an ideal fit. I know that we’re losing large numbers amazingly talented Ga Tech, Ga State, KSU, Emory and other grads to competing tech hubs, but as they mature and want to start families while still participating in world class innovation, they’ll realize that coming home to Atlanta is a great option. Our company is still early, but with the help of our Atlanta community and the BridgeCommunity, Convergent is in great shape to be a huge success.
Author, Tyler Johnson, is the CEO of Convergent – Convergent’s Onto™ Integration Fabric accelerates innovation by helping companies rapidly create new ways to engage customers. With their platform, in a few days you can brainstorm new ways to engage, build multiple prototypes with data from anywhere, and test each approach on a customer sample. It’s now cheap to throw out ideas that fail and rapidly scale ideas that work. Convergent is a member of the 2017 BridgeCommnity startup cohort.