In a recent conversation with a local VC we both commented on how the VC-backed software industry places a premium on ex-management and executive talent from large West Coast firms, but considers individuals that reached the same status in Atlanta as detriments. These are my thoughts on why that is today and the changes on the horizon that will improve that dynamic.
The top Atlanta corporate employers (Delta, AT&T, Emory University, Cox Enterprises, etc.) are not organizations where revenue is tied to technology innovation (Emory excluded, of course). These are established businesses with strong product-lines. The most talented managers are ones that excel at the efficiency, cost-mitigation, and execution that are the drivers behind the fundamentals of these businesses. These skills are very valuable, but opposite to the needs of startups that are still seeking product-market fit.
These companies do innovate but the innovations is often hidden behind the successful traditional businesses. By the time the the innovation becomes mainstream, it appears to outsiders as another successful business product line.
When many of us in the industry first heard about Google, bought our first Mac, or signed up for Facebook, these companies were still upstarts
The current crop of very successful Silicon Valley companies have grown up right in front of our eyes. When many of us in the industry first heard about Google, bought our first Mac, or signed up for Facebook, these companies were still upstarts, not the giants they are today. We know the innovation that's occurred because we've been part of it from the beginning.
Strategic risk taking is learned skill that is essential to returning multiples on growth that fuels the success of a startup. Silicon Valley innovation has been more visible, making it easier for talent evaluators to understand the contributions of an individual.
The increasing number of successful startups and the rise of innovation centers are two positive trends that will make it easier for startups to trust the high-quality individuals with big company experience. Atlanta is home to a number of successful startups (especially in the fintech and security space) that are giving their talented employees the opportunity to drive innovation. These startups are on the path to becoming big companies and their leaders boast the same accomplishments of notable West Coast firms.
Atlanta's early stage technology ecosystem will only hit full stride when companies begin to beget more companies
This alone has proved that Atlanta is a great place for building something new. This has lead to the trend of large established companies that opening innovation centers in Atlanta to drive new products and technologies. New product initiatives within large companies can be similar to a startup's disruption and high growth again providing a pool of people with more than just the core startups skill set.
Atlanta's early stage technology ecosystem will only hit full stride when companies begin to beget more companies. A larger share of the local talent being considered startup blue-chippers will accelerate that growth and prove once again that Atlanta is a great place to build a company.
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