Much can be accomplished in just one year, just ask ATDC and Worldpay. With a $1 million dollar backing from the global payments giant, the ATDC FinTech Program guided 20 budding startups towards their FinTech fantasy. Of those 20, 8 have already successfully raised $16.8 million in funding. With Georgia’s known reputation as a powerful FinTech force, the incubator hopes to accelerate the industry by creating new jobs, attracting more investment opportunities, and bringing innovative solutions to the market.
Hear ATDC FinTech Head & Catalyst, Michelangelo Ho, discuss why their partnership with Worldpay is paying off and how they’re laying the groundwork for a sound FinTech foundation.
Can you tell us a little bit about what the ATDC FinTech accelerator is accomplishing?
Establishing the program has created a dedicated FinTech pipeline of startups and an ecosystem where entrepreneurs can build and scale their companies by accelerating the collaboration between startups, investors, and corporate partners.
The ATDC FinTech accelerator started with a $1 million corporate gift from the US unit of Worldpay — which is headquartered in the UK — to Georgia Tech. The company recently decided to move to Midtown in part to take advantage of all the amazing talent we have and all the innovation that’s coming out of Tech Square.
Since 1980, ATDC has helped curate startups into companies and there are a lot of different verticals with some structure around it, but our ATDC FinTech program is by far the most formalized. The FinTech program is comprised of people with specific industry experience who can provide mentoring and connections for our companies. So that was part of the genesis, the need for a corporate company to get engaged with the Atlanta area and with us at ATDC to formalize the ATDC FinTech vertical.
Do you think FinTech is more formalized because of the Worldpay accelerator or are there other factors at play?
Certainly having Worldpay sponsor the program so we can hire dedicated staff with FinTech expertise helped accelerate the program. Right now we easily have more than 20 FinTech companies in the program, eight companies looked for funding and received it, each round was more than $2 million per company so that’s a pretty impressive accomplishment in just one year.
The state of Georgia also has a strong FinTech community. More than 70 percent of all payment transactions in the U.S. are processed through Georgia-based companies. So Georgia by itself is a powerhouse when it comes to the FinTech industry. In Atlanta, we have many strong companies at the corporate level and we have an amazing environment for entrepreneurs to build FinTech companies. So, in my mind, it was just a matter of time before our ATDC FinTech vertical was taken to the next level. And it made perfect sense for a company like Worldpay to come to us as one of the leading incubators in the country to collaborate.
How does this accelerator differ from other accelerators and how do you hope to see it continue to flourish?
We are different because we are affiliated with Georgia Tech, which is a tremendous resource. Though we have some corporate sponsorships, our funding primarily comes from the state. Because of that structure, we don’t take a financial interest in our startups, but that also allows us to give objective and comprehensive feedback and guidance to our startups along with our vast resources that are designed to help entrepreneurs build scalable and successful companies. Additionally, the ATDC is Georgia’s incubator, so we are open to anybody in the state and entrepreneurs don’t need to be affiliated with Georgia Tech to work with us. ATDC’s incubator model also works with companies for a longer term than the typical 3-month-accelerator, or only working with a cohort of companies for a few weeks. We work with a much broader set of entrepreneurs and startups. In fact, we help many entrepreneurs who only have a concept on paper and help them all the way to $1 million in annual revenue. I’m impressed every day with how many resources we provide and how much we can all accomplish together.
Can you talk a little more in depth about the types of resources you are able to provide?
First of all, we hire really seasoned, well-known people who are proven entrepreneurs and they come in to help mentor our companies on a very deep level – during all the echelon stages a company will go through.
Worldpay senior executives also provide mentorship and advice on payments integration and go-to-market strategies and access to their global technology resources.
For example, since Worldpay is the premier sponsor of the program, our companies can get discounted payments processing from Worldpay and they can get access to Worldpay’s customers if the fit is right – which has actually happened already. A company called Split, which is a mobile payment product in the restaurant industry, is going to be part of the Worldplay offering with access to its customer base. That’s pretty critical when you’re trying to build a company from zero to have the grand association with a big company like Worldpay.
We also help make connections between our startups and investors and Fortune 500 companies. Additionally, we have a strong educational focus. We created a FinTech curriculum and speaker series tailored to entrepreneurs so they understand early on the complexities involved building a viable company. We facilitate CEO/founder activities to foster camaraderie and peer learning. Moreover, I am heavily involved with other organizations to help coordinate efforts to strengthen the ecosystem.
In the case of FinTech here in the state, there are almost 20 different FinTech segments that entrepreneurs are working on – payments is only one of them. We also have lending, big data, fraud, security, and more, so we see a lot of activity going on. We have built relationships with many corporate partners that bring expertise within these areas of FinTech and are able to connect directly to our companies to provide support and guidance.
How was it for you to have the top 3 company winners of the FinTech Innovation Awards named the best in the industry and all part of ATDC?
It was amazing! It’s another validation that we are doing something right, that something is working. I’m pretty proud of those companies – 2 of which came to us with only a concept and built their way to the top.
How has this program been for the Atlanta FinTech community? Where do you hope to go from here?
I think we are seeing growth on a daily basis. Right now, we have a double-digit waitlist of companies that want to join the program and it’s a very competitive to join. I believe the future is really promising because we’ve seen all this FinTech entrepreneurial activity and that’s really what you need. If you have the ideas, the people, and the talent, those are what it takes to create a successful ecosystem.
This program is definitely a win-win situation, not only for ATDC and Worldpay but also for the community. I meet about 10 to 15 different FinTech companies on a weekly basis and they have very interesting ideas and I know there is so much more potential. The more we do this and the more we grow the program, the better off everyone will be. The sky’s the limit.