Engage Ventures, the venture fund backed by 10 major corporations that launched earlier this year, has announced its first cohort of startups. Eight companies will begin the program, which serves to connect the largest grouping of corporate players in one independent fund, today.
Based at the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) at Georgia Tech, Engage launched in partnership with the City of Atlanta, the Atlanta Committee for Progress, and Tech Square Ventures. Its corporate backers, whom each gave $1.5 million towards the total $15 million fund, are AT&T, Chick-fil-A, Cox Enterprises, Delta Air Lines, Georgia-Pacific, Georgia Power Foundation, Inc., Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), Invesco Ltd., The Home Depot and UPS.
“As an entrepreneur, I’m excited to help launch the Engage Ventures program with this inaugural set of companies from a diverse range of sectors,” says Intercontinental Exchange founder, Chairman and CEO Jeffrey C. Sprecher. “The program is geared toward unlocking these companies’ value and their potential so they can invest, hire and grow. My colleagues at ICE and I look forward to contributing to these efforts.”
The eight startups include six from the south and two from Chicago. Two, Sudu and Cyrano, are already ATDC companies.
Along with receiving Tech Square office space and $75,000 in capital, founders receive access to an impressive roster of Fortune 1000 executives from the enterprises that back the program. Engage Managing Director Thiago Olson says that this feature of the unique program is what attracted entrepreneurs that might not normally go through a traditional incubator-type program.
The common thread running through all of these companies is that we looked for those that we, and our corporate partners, can help,” says Olson. “So whether they’re Fintech, logistics technology, or consumer goods, we can give each and every one of these companies a unique advantage in their market.”
For example, the founding team of Atlanta-based Cyrano, a video communications platform for internal teams, includes the founder/CEO and CTO of Vendormate, which was acquired in 2014 for over $200 million. Additive manufacturing company Fast Radius, which connects 3D manufacturing companies with enterprises who need their technology, already has a partnership with UPS.
“We’re excited about being part of Engage because it represents one of Atlanta’s best qualities: organizations coming together to support a common cause,” says Cox Enterprises COO Alex Taylor. “We want startup founders to know that our city is a great place to start and grow businesses. At Cox, Engage connects us with entrepreneurs and provides ways to pilot new technologies.”
The entrepreneurs will now begin working on their market strategy, investment preparation, and potential partnerships with these global brands.
The Engage program runs for three months and will conclude in October with a private pitch event.
Meet the Engage Companies:
Bee Downtown (Durham, NC): Rebuilding the vital bee population with a sustainability and employee engagement solution for enterprises
Cyrano (Atlanta, GA): Leadership communications platform using video to better connect and engage employees
EmployUs (Raleigh, NC): Platform to help companies hire more referrals by automating the employee referral process
Fast Radius (Chicago, IL / Atlanta, GA) On-demand additive manufacturing and production for enterprises
Gauge Insights (Atlanta, GA): Consumer insights platform for companies to obtain feedback from customers in minutes
Sudu (Atlanta, GA): On-demand and scheduled trucking services that connects companies that ship freight with a network of trucks and diverse carriers
The Mom Project (Chicago, IL): Marketplace and community that connects enterprises with diverse female talent
TransRisk (Chattanooga, TN): Financial instruments and market data platform for the trucking and logistics industry