For the past few years, I have been a bit of a digital nomad. I lived out of a backpack as I hopped between startup ecosystems from Warsaw to Tokyo and met with promising tech founders to explore how we can help them.
I lead what we call Startup Connections for Google for Startups. Our mission is to level the playing field for startup founders and their respective communities, helping them succeed by connecting them with the best that Google has to offer.
This year brought me back to Atlanta. I studied at Emory many moons ago, but upon my return, I got to experience a side of Atlanta I had not seen before. Navigating through communities like The Gathering Spot, Atlanta Tech Village, and the ever-buzzing Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, it didn’t take me long to see a flourishing community with many of the same ingredients that make Silicon Valley strong — a healthy mix of business and technical talent, for example — as well as key strengths that the Valley notably lacks, like the racial and gender diversity of its entrepreneurs.
An Existing Connectivity Infrastructure
I navigated my way into the Atlanta startup community through the generous introductions and facilitation of founders and investors like Michael Cohn and Joey Womack. They made my immersion almost effortless and I quickly experienced firsthand how willing founders were to help each other out with an introduction, a download, a suggestion, or even a couple hours of hands-on mentorship.
The connectivity infrastructure was already in place. Much of my work was done for me.
I learned that I could be most effective by leaning on that existing infrastructure to bring some new resources to the table and help founders in Atlanta solve some universal challenges, such as:
- Connections to fill expertise gaps: DuMarkus Davis, CEO and Founder of Musicbük, found an early supporter and confidant in Seth Radman, an Atlanta-based serial entrepreneur who has mentored several early-stage founders, especially those overcoming the challenges of managing and launching a technical product. At the Google for Startups Pop-Up this fall, DuMarkus and Seth had already begun work on the product, and we additionally connected DuMarkus with Googler Naheel Jawaid. The two of them hit it off, going over a number of UX iterations that ultimately informed the final version of the music lessons booking platform that launched at A3C this past October.
- Connections to strategize and execute on business development: Barbara Jones of Freeing Returns said Atlanta-based founder, venture capitalist, and Techstars Managing Director Barry Givens “gave [her] great advice on how to sell for both the product and services company,” which inspired and encouraged her to “continue bootstrapping and to build revenue through consulting.” Barbara says that Barry’s advice built a foundation that enabled Googler Jason Leder to then“connect on partnerships that would help Freeing Returns secure more customers [as] he has great contacts with not only retailers, but strategic partner applications to help us build out feature offerings for our enterprise customer target market.”
- Connections to strengthen, and communicate, purpose: Aquagenuity CEO and Founder Doll Avant credits Google’s daily internal newsletter Editor-in-Chief Carly Schwartz for helping her “create a content strategy that could make the issue of water quality top of mind for people, transforming the Aquagenuity water quality platform from just another app into a movement.” They collaborated on a multilayered, actionable approach to PR and content creation that will impact the debut of the company’s consumer app this fall at the Smart City World Congress in Barcelona.
- Connections to drive growth and unlock new opportunities: Courtney Anderson, founder of Vibe Ride, credits Atlanta native Justin Dawkins’ Google Ads workshop with suggesting updates to the startup’s website and nuanced ad language that will help the business create more effective ads for its target market. Building on this local connection, my San Francisco-based teammate Madison Jacobs provided feedback on Vibe Ride’s current marketing strategy and proposed an incentive-based model to utilize the fitness studio’s instructors as brand ambassadors, which the business will implement this year.
- Connections to support the mission: Roshawnna Novellus, CEO and Founder of EnrichHER, has found a great deal of support for funding women-led ventures through programs such as Techstars, Lighthouse Labs, and now Village Capital Finance Forward. Roshawnna says that the Google for Startups Pop-Up helped her identify “an entirely new customer pathway that has already been implemented and is showing stickiness with women wanting both social capital and business financing to help them grow.”
A Step Ahead and Moving Forward
Through my work, I’ve found that, worldwide, many startup founders’ challenges can most effectively be tackled by finding the right connections and laying the groundwork for a meaningful, substantive, and facilitated interaction. So many founders struggle because they have trouble finding the right connections drawing from the necessary skill sets and experiences they need to succeed.
In Atlanta, the ingredients are all right there— and its founders have noticed.
Amrit Dhir connects promising tech startups to Googlers and others who can help them. He draws from his network and experience in new business development and operations for some of Alphabet’s most innovative products and groundbreaking technologies: projects in Google Research and AI; X, the Moonshot Factory (formerly Google X); Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences); the Cultural Institute; and Google for Startups. In areas of business strategy, partnerships, and operations, Amrit offers advice, support, and insights himself. For challenges and opportunities beyond his immediate skill and experience set, he works with entrepreneurs to identify and refine their needs and then navigates Google for an expert who can help. As the Head of Startup Connections for Google for Startups, an initiative to level the playing field for startup founders and communities, he measures his success by the success of the startups he connects.