In case you couldn’t tell from the name of his first successfully-exited company, Peachtree Software, Ben Dyer is an Atlanta native. Following the sale of the software company, which began as the city’s first true computer retailer, in 1981, Dyer founded and sold multiple technology startups, began venture investing, and serves as an advisor to startup founders and students around the country.
Though Dyer moved to Austin 7 years ago, he’s stayed connected through Atlanta and his alma mater, Georgia Tech. And now, he’s coming back to the Peach State for good to lend his experience to startup center and early-stage venture fund TechSquare Labs, with the new title of ‘Partner’.
Dyer, who authors a ‘field guide’ about technology entrepreneurship in the South and is in the process of writing a book on the topic, says the timing and team at TechSquare Labs made the opportunity hard to pass up. The incubator and venture fund focuses on early-stage technical companies, serves as a Google for Entrepreneurs hub, and landed its first institutional investor this year with $1 million from state-funded Invest Georgia.
Dyer also worked with TechSquare Labs co-founder Allen Nance at a former technology startup — as his employer.
“I was Allen’s first employer after he graduated from college at my company Intellimedia. I watched him accomplish great things there and grow rapidly and become a real contributor,” says Dyer. “I followed his career for a long time and I’m very proud of what he has accomplished — and hey, I’ll take a little credit for helping him get started. But he’s just a wonderfully motivated person and very good at what he’s doing.”
Dyer currently advises startups in the data analytics, marketing software, digital health, and IoT sectors and says he’s confident his advising experience will be utilized at TechSquare Labs.
“I’ve been essentially functioning as something like a one-man incubator for companies around the country,” says Dyer. “I try to get them a complete start and advise them until there’s an eventual point of accomplishing my mission of getting them off the launchpad and into flight.”
“I think Allen and I will probably have pretty similar ideas about most of what we look for, about what we advise people to do. Frankly, we’ve worked together long enough and have collectively so much experience doing this that I don’t expect to disagree ever about what’s the right thing to do. We certainly share the same mindset about trying to work with companies that have consequence to them — that are worth spending time on.”
Dyer will focus not only on advising and mentoring companies in TechSquare Labs’ portfolio and co-working space, but also on deepening the startup hub’s relationship with the Georgia Tech startup community. He serves on the board of the Georgia Tech Research Corporation and the Georgia Tech Foundation and has been recognized as a distinguished alumni.
“I will say categorically there are a number of interesting things to do there that could greatly boost what TechSquare Labs is doing, just generally boost everything that’s going on there that’s Georgia Tech-related. I’m trying to contribute to all of that,” says Dyer.
He also says he’s looking forward to being back in Atlanta during a high-growth period for startups. The recent Deloitte Technology Fast 500 index shows the highest number of Atlanta companies listed in the history of the report, with 19 companies from the metro region ranked amongst the fastest-growing companies in the country.
“When I left the Recession’s heavy toll on banking and real estate couldn’t help but have some dampening effect on the technology sector. But Atlanta has rebounded to be stronger than ever,” says Dyer. “I’m very impressed by what I see happening there, of the quality of the companies coming out of all incubators in the city including TechSquare Labs and ATV and ATDC.”
“I think Atlanta is a superb startup environment in many ways and I’m happy to be jumping back into that. There’ll be no shortage of opportunities there.”
Dyer is making his official transition back to Atlanta this month and plans to be in the full swing of things at TechSquare Labs by early in the new year.
“I used to have a vice president of ‘whatever needs to be done next’ at several of my companies, and I think that’s probably my initial role. I’m very comfortable working with Allen and Paul in a role like that and then we’ll just see how it evolves over the next few months and few years,” says Dyer.