Diving into startups wasn’t Joey Womack’s initial career plan. He intended to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an accountant, and he was eyeing one of the Big Four firms after graduating from Florida A&M.
But he caught the ‘startup bug’ while thinking about ways to streamline his fraternity’s event promotion efforts. That idea grew into the tech platform DIGITALGUESTLIST, which launched in 2002. He moved to Atlanta in 2005 and kept growing the platform into a top 5 startup in its category.
Given his early track record, Womack could have kept building and founding tech startups. But it turns out alongside the tech entrepreneurship bug, he also caught the ‘social entrepreneurship bug.’
Social entrepreneurship — the concept of building a business specifically with the intention for it to have a positive impact on social issues or the environment — has gained traction over the years. But back in 2012, Womack saw the need to create a more intentional community to help diverse founders. What started as a Facebook group has grown to be one of the most prominent organizations in the Atlanta startup scene, Goodie Nation. And under Womack’s leadership, Goodie Nation has grown far beyond the Metro area, helping 600 founders across 33 states and 15 countries connect to the business resources they need.
The Goodie Eras
Today, Womack is at the core of the Atlanta tech scene as the founder and CEO of the social impact organization Goodie Nation and as a board member of Startup Atlanta. So as Goodie Nation gears up to celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2024, we asked Womack to walk us through the history and growth of the organization over the years.
Womack said it is best to think about Goodie Nation’s growth in three separate eras.
After hosting its first in-person event, Founder’s Therapy, in January 2012, the early origins of what would become Goodie Nation started in 2014 with the launch of Goodie Hack (a hackathon named after Atlanta’s own Goodie Mob).
“2014 to 2016 is what we call the hackathon era,” Womack recounted to Hypepotamus. The organization held three major hackathons, including one that took over the Google office in Midtown Atlanta.
“There was a lot of excitement. Lots of people attended, and there was a lot of hope,” he added. But like many well-intentioned hackathons, it was hard for the good work of a weekend to continue and grow in the real world. That kicked off Goodie’s “pre-accelerator era” in 2016. The earliest cohort in the pre-accelerator era included startups like Goodr, Mini City, and Civic Dinners (now Inclusivv) that are still in operation today.
Starting in 2019, with the help of a grant from the Kapor Center, Goodie Nation launched into its “post-accelerator era,” where founders, regardless of their background and location, can grow their businesses and get ready to pitch investors. Today, Womack said a large majority of founders that join Goodie Nation are building early-stage and seed-stage software platforms, but there are a growing number of people building CPGs (consumer product goods) coming to Goodie Nation for business support.
Goodie Nation’s in person events have also grown, with this year’s Intentionally Good Summit taking place alongside Venture Atlanta.
As Goodie Nation has evolved over the years, Womack said he is dedicated to “taking care of founders holistically.” That includes supporting founders as they figure out their next chapter with the #STAYINTHEGAME initiative, or connecting founders to national funding opportunities through Google For Startups Black Founders Fund and Latino Founders Fund.
As Goodie Nation gears up for 2024, Womack said it is time for the organization to start thinking about its next era. For Womack, that means finding more intentional ways to plug in the entire startup and innovation ecosystem – investors, other capital providers, and large companies – with startup founders who can use their help to grow into the next big thing.