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From The Outside Looking In: How Out-Of-Town Investors View Atlanta Startups

by Maija Ehlinger

450 investors, representing 300 funds, were in Atlanta this week to meet one-on-one with founders and hear pitches from 83 promising startups on stage at Venture Atlanta 2023. 80% of those funds came from out of town to participate in the conference and the dozens of pre and post-event gatherings across the city. 

With so many new faces in town, we had to ask: How do out-of-town investors feel about the Atlanta startup scene right now? 

It has been a generally sluggish year across the venture capital world, with the number of total startups receiving funding having dropped significantly year-over-year. But if the energy across Venture Atlanta is any indication, investors from across the country see a lot of potential in the city right now. 

For many investors we spoke with, Venture Atlanta has become a can’t miss event. 

Melissa Withers, managing partner and co-founder of RevUp Capital up in Boston, said she’s been traveling down to Atlanta over the last several years due to the region’s “volume and quality of startup activity.” She credits people like Dave Payne, David Lightburn, Daley Ervin, Michael Cohn, and Allyson Eman for connecting her into the Atlanta startup ecosystem back in 2018. 

Over the last several years, half of RevUp Capital’s new portfolio companies are from the Southeast. Withers said events like Venture Atlanta make those connections possible. 

There’s incredible diversity in terms of company type and industry focus. The investment community is also surprisingly collaborative, given how competitive things can get in other parts of the country,” Withers added. “As for Venture Atlanta…For an out of town investor, there’s so much efficiency in going to an event like that, where I can interact with people from across the region in one spot, across a compressed time frame. It helps me keep my connections fresh and active. But really, it’s about more than business for me. The people I have met in Atlanta, Raleigh, Nashville, Charlotte…these people aren’t just network connections, they’re friends and colleagues who I trust and admire. It’s a pleasure to be a part of this ecosystem and I am grateful that I found my way here.” 

Investors and founders talking at Venture Atlanta 2023

Flyover Capital, a Kansas-based early-stage fund, was also in town for Venture Atlanta 2023. But the team is  no stranger to the city. Two promising local companies, supply chain startup Verusen and insurtech startup Layr, are already in Flyover’s portfolio.  

Partner Dan Kerr told Hypepotamus after the event that Venture Atlanta is “one of the best connecting points for those of us investing outside the traditional coastal tech hubs.”

Robert Templeton with North Carolina’s IDEA Fund Partners, was down in Atlanta this week to broaden connections with the local ecosystem.

“The scale of the conference was sufficient to attract a top tier list of investors and founders throughout the southeast, yet it was also intimate/approachable enough to foster meaningful conversations. Additionally, we loved the opportunity through the Tuesday Venture Crawl to physically visit locations and leaders in the ecosystem we had previously only had experience with over Zoom,” he added.

Being in Atlanta is important as the IDEA Fund Partners works towards their wider investment strategy.

“At IDEA Fund, we have a goal of 50% of our current fund being invested in female, Black, and Latin@ entrepreneurs, and we think Atlanta is an ideal ecosystem to help us achieve that goal,” Templeton told Hypepotamus.

We spoke to investors who were ready to write a handful of checks before the year wraps up. We also met others who were in town to build up their pipeline of up-and-coming investors. 

Joey Barrick, an Atlanta native and Georgia Tech electrical engineering graduate, was back in town to start conversations with tech startups in the environmental and sustainability space for Durham-based SJF Ventures.

“We’re looking for companies that as they grow, so does their impact,” Barrick told Hypepotamus at the conference. 

While he said Atlanta isn’t the “biggest hub for climate tech” right now, he views Venture Atlanta as an opportunity to build relationships with startups in the area. 

“It’s a slow burn,” he added.

For startup founders, Venture Atlanta has become an important way to get connections with a new crop of potential investors. 

“This is a B2B town. It’s good to talk to investors face to face who have a wider investment strategy,” one founder told us on background. She said her most promising conversations were with firms in California, New York, and Florida, adding that they seemed more receptive to funding startups still in the very early stage. 

Were you a founder or investor at this year’s Venture Atlanta? Keep us posted on how the event went and what opportunities it opened up! 




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