Earlier this summer, Cox Enterprises and global accelerator Techstars announced that they were extending their partnership to launch a second Techstars program in Atlanta, this one focused on social impact companies. Techstars Atlanta, an industry-agnostic accelerator powered by Cox, is currently in its fourth year.
Now, the new startup program has a leader: Barry Givens will serve as Managing Director for the next three years of the Cox Enterprises Social Impact Accelerator powered by Techstars.
Givens is a Georgia Tech graduate who worked as an engineer and product manager prior to founding a technology startup in 2012.
Monsieur, a robotic, AI-powered bartender, launched at Techcrunch Disrupt Battlefield in 2013. As CEO, Givens raised over $4 million from investors like BIP Capital, Base Ventures, TechSquare Labs, and NFL and NBA players.
Monsieur saw a successful exit in 2017, after a life cycle that Givens says will help drive his approach to the MD role.
“We started from scratch, raised money, overcame issues and eventually had an exit. When you’re helping a company, you need to be able to meet them where they are,” he tells Hypepotamus.
“Going through everything I went through as an entrepreneur, understanding the mental toll that this takes on a founder, I bring all of that experience to the table.”
The MD is expected to bring tactical advice, as well as his support, to the ten companies that will join the program each year.
“One of the things I had to learn very quickly at Monsieur was product-market fit, which is something a lot of founders struggle with. You have an idea and you think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. But then, you need to walk through really understanding how to actually apply that to an industry, to a customer, in a way that they’re going to pay you to do it.”
Since Monsieur’s exit, Givens has been serving as a mentor and resource to founders, a diversity advocate, and a founding partner at minority-focused venture firm Collab.Capital, which he founded with Atlanta entrepreneurs Jewel Burks Solomon and Justin Dawkins.
Givens will remain with Collab during his tenure at Techstars. They are currently raising a pre-seed fund that they hope to begin investing out of before the end of the year.
“We’re closing the friends and family gap for black entrepreneurs,” he says.
He’s bringing that diversity-first perspective to the Techstars program, where he hopes to play a larger role in shaping the organization’s diversity initiatives.
“With Techstars, I’ll be working to bring different voices into the room,” Givens says.
“The more I spoke to Techstars, the more that I realized that a lot of my values are aligned with what Techstars wants to do.”
Social impact can mean a lot of different things, so Givens has broken it down into three categories: people, communities, and planet.
“If you’re doing anything to affect change on any of those levels, I’ll take a look at your company,” he says.
Startups might be addressing anything from financial access to education to healthcare, homelessness, hunger, environmental issues and beyond.
“I really want to focus on problems that we can solve here in Atlanta,” says Givens. “We have a lot of issues here that, if we solve them here, they can scale fairly rapidly outside of this market also.”
“Social responsibility is embedded in our business strategy, and the Social Impact Accelerator is a natural extension of who Cox Enterprises is as a company,” said Maury Wolfe, Cox’s senior director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Public Affairs, in a blog post. “We’ve found a like-minded advocate in Barry Givens to lead this effort and further amplify our mission be a force of good in our communities.”
The three-month-long program will kick off in January of 2020.