Where are Atlanta's Technical Co-Founders?

Atlanta seems to lack technical co-founders and it's not for a lack of talent. Where are they all?

Posted by Tejus Parikh on November 4, 2014

Atlanta lacks neither talent nor ideas. The cost of living is low, which has a similar effect on opportunity cost. So where are all the technical co-founders? One thesis, articulated by my friend Rob Kischuk postulates there are not enough interesting problems suitable for the engineering talent (Edit: not exactly correct). I think this idea is close, but off the mark.

"Boring" problems can be made interesting. There is nothing inherently exciting about creating an online rolodex, sending an email, or broadcasting a message. It's the challenges of doing it well, with a great experience, and at scale that make these problems interesting.

I think the issue is not the problems, but the management teams behind the companies. One glance at the LinkedIn lists for Atlanta's marquee technology employers shows multiple engineers with the ability and experience to be the person in charge. However, these people not only stay put, but stay together after an organization collapse. Engineers stay loyal to managers that shield them from the crap. The foray out of the bubble is filled with unreasonable deadlines, infighting between sales, confusion in marketing, and the ever present stench of a death march. All this from a cramped desk in a "collaborative space" where the only nods to developer comfort is cheap pizza for the late nights and ping-pong tables.

Atlanta's business-first culture has a lot of benefits that do not reach their full potential because of the damage poor engineering culture has done to the ecosystem. People who can build businesses remain separate from those that can build products. Engineers have to feel that being part of a new company is both a good career and good personal move.

What it will take are more product-first businesses run by engineers. When the needs of the company exceed the current ability of the technical founders, they need to be given support, instead of replaced. Obviously, this requires a huge change in mindset. However, I see some positive trends. For instance, Tech Square Ventures looks like they are operating within this thesis.

Adopting this model will not only provide better places to work but stronger companies that will return more to investors and create more jobs. The biggest Silicon Valley companies, such as Google, Intel, Apple, HP (when it was successful), and Facebook, are focused on creating great products. This has allowed them to build the high margin, high value companies that would greatly benefit the south east.

Original image is CC-licensed [original source]

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Tejus Parikh

Tejus is an software developer, now working at large companies. Find out when I write new posts on twitter, via RSS or subscribe to the newsletter: