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Blake Patton | Venture Atlanta and the Entrepreneur Explosion

by Kiki Roeder

Last week, within the glowing blue light of the Georgia Aquarium, early stage and venture spotlight companies shared their product stories at Venture Atlanta, the premier technology and investor conference of the Southeast.

Over 150 investors, including 75 funds from out of town, came to hear pitches at Venture Atlanta, an event that since its origin in 2008 has helped raise over $1 billion in capital for Atlanta-area entrepreneurs. (Yes, that’s an impressive $1,350,230,000 and counting.)

BlakePattonHeadshot“Venture Atlanta represents the best of Atlanta – the spirit of cooperation in our ecosystem,” said Blake Patton, Chairman of the Venture Atlanta Board of Directors and Managing Partner of Tech Square Ventures in his recent interview with Hypepotamus.

“It is unique among investment conferences in that Venture Atlanta is a nonprofit organization purely here to help entrepreneurs connect with the capital they need to grow their companies. We put a lot of energy and effort in coordinating a two and a half-day agenda to attract investors, highlighting the reasons why they should be here, and assuring they will leave well-connected to our startup ecosystem.”

Venture Atlanta 2015 featured an impressive lineup of events, including an insightful FinTech panel (highlighted by Forbes here) and keynotes Lori Greiner of SharkTank fame, Niraj Shah, CEO of Wayfair, and Jeff Sprecher, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange, Inc. and Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange.

Companies Impress at Venture Atlanta

The stars of the event, undisputedly, were the compelling 30-plus entrepreneurs (and one hip hop superstar – Ludacris) who took to the Oceans Ballroom stage. 

“I think this year’s crop of companies did an amazing job – I’d be hard-pressed to single out any particular one. What was great about some of the stories shared on stage was seeing the companies that have significant traction, like Salesfusion, Terminus, HM Wallace and Insightpool, tell their stories in compelling ways. Then you had early stage, emerging companies, who investors in attendance have not really heard of before, sharing their narrative. I think all demonstrated the talent of the Southeast really well.”

Venture Atlanta is committed to the entrepreneur community. The organization receives hundreds of applications each year with every submission carefully reviewed by a selection committee. The chosen companies are then groomed for success:

“What makes Venture Atlanta unique is once we go through the process of selecting companies, we begin coaching them and do everything we can to maximize their chance of connecting with potential investors at Venture Atlanta. What I hear from entrepreneurs is that they really appreciate that coaching process. It helps them arrive at the conference ready to tell their stories and connect with the right investors for them.”

Patton, a technology entrepreneur and investor with over 20 years of experience in venture-backed companies, is a bit of an expert on the Atlanta startup community. Prior to founding Tech Square Ventures, Patton was General Manager of the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) at Georgia Tech – recently named by Forbes as one of the “Top 12 Incubators Changing the World”. Before ATDC, he served as President & COO of Interactive Advisory Software; CEO of iKobo; and EVP of iXL, an e-business consulting firm he joined through the acquisition of Swan Media.

Atlanta Burgeons as a Growing Tech Hub

Patton expressed excitement at what he deemed an “exponential increase in startup activity here in Atlanta.” He noted: “We finally have the ability to build management teams and to scale companies. We have entrepreneurs who have done it before and are able to support, invest and mentor, as well as build companies for a second time around. I think that is a big contributing reason for the recent entrepreneur explosion.”

While access to capital is still a challenge in the Southeast, it is improving. “Investors are definitely taking notice of the buzz happening in Atlanta, and it is because there are some good high profile exits. Those entrepreneurs become great ambassadors of what is happening here.”

Venture Atlanta has helped fuel that advocacy. It formed when Atlanta CEO Council, Metro Atlanta Chamber, and Technology Association of Georgia joined forces seven years ago. Since then, it has become the forum for Georgia’s top technology innovators and top-tier investors.

With the event a week behind us, many of its featured companies will be negotiating deals for investment. For entrepreneurs outside the Venture Atlanta spotlight, Patton gives some sage advice on how to secure funding. The answer – network within the Atlanta community:

“My number one tip for those looking for investors is to connect through other successful entrepreneurs. The great thing about Atlanta is that the people you need to reach to be successful are relatively more accessible than they are in other locations. Take advantage of how fortunate we are to have access to people who have done it before.”

Discover More

Miss the hottest conference in town? Check out the Hypepotamus Storify “Venture Atlanta 2015” page, which features curated tweets and images, and see this great recap video created by Atlanta-based video production company Friendly Human:

[Photo Credit: Maria Joyner]

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