Guest Post from Felix Hu, co-founder of Umenta and Georgia Tech alumnus.
Earlier this month, Stephen Fleming wrote a great defense of Atlanta’s startup successes, but I feel like he did a huge disservice to the startup community by describing Atlanta as a place to “build startups for grownups.” Two years ago, Jon Fasman at The Economist chronicled his family’s move to Atlanta and called us a “pleasant city to live in”. How quaint. No offense to grownups, but Atlanta is lot more exciting than Fleming and Fasman make it out to be. The city center has seen a lot of rapid positive change in the past decade. Atlanta is affordable AND it’s a fun place for young talented people in the startup community.
Recently, I’ve had good conversations with some of my Tech alumni friends who are considering moving back to Atlanta to build a startup, many of them in their mid to late 20s. They’ve been working in industry for 5+ years and are needing a change. They hear that our startup scene is budding. Sure, Atlanta’s cheaper, but are the resources here? Yes, and the intown amenities are a lot nicer, too. Piedmont Park is larger with more entry points. The Eastside Trail connects cyclists and pedestrians between Midtown and Inman Park. Ponce City Market. Condos and apartments are shooting up like grass and you don’t have to fight for it. Omg. Finally, almost too many real, non-chain restaurants in Midtown. Festivals you feel guilty not having time to attend. Gay bars galore. And Church! This, my friends, is a sign of a great city for young people.
While it’s true that many successful startups in Atlanta are B2B’s founded by “grownups” with families, any startup ecosystem requires more than that. It’s about people. Silicon Valley has Stanford– We have Georgia Tech, one of the top research universities in the world in the heart of Midtown and we’re supposed to just let those graduates leave for the Valley? Our companies and our community need a lot of these fresh, optimistic and passionate minds. Acquiescing that our startups are “unsexy” is not going to help our case when we’re competing for talent or trying to retain the talent that we’ve cultivated. Per David Cummings, we may need B2C’s to help us foster this growth.
I feel like we’re on the right track with everything going on at Flashpoint, ATV and Hypepotamus, and with so much help from Stephen Fleming, himself. By 2014, ATV’s completed renovation will be a venerable beacon within the city for entrepreneurial activity. The plans are gorgeous and exciting. If Buckhead isn’t your thing, there are a dozen other coworking spaces across the city. Need money or resources? You might find your match at the monthly Atlanta Startup Village (one of many tech meetups), where hundreds of folks gather to talk shop and eyeballs are watching. Alternatively, Georgia is one of the few states where equity crowdfunding is allowed. And at long last, somebody’s lightbulb went off (or on?) and realized that Atlanta doesn’t have the reputation for innovation it deserves and they’re finally doing something about it. The pieces just need to be aligned.
It’s rooftop pool party season in Midtown Atlanta. Come visit and we’ll grill out! Talk business and big ideas. Work hard, play hard. Grownups invited.
Felix makes some great points here. And for the twentysomethings: you can buy a condo in Midtown for less than renting half an apartment in San Francisco…
True story! I’d be curious to know the split between likely to rent vs buy in this demographic.
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