Home CommunityContributors GT’s ED of Innovation | Why ATL is not Silicon Valley

GT’s ED of Innovation | Why ATL is not Silicon Valley

by Tricia Whitlock

Optical physicist, laser fabricator, software developer, field engineer, product manager, corporate trainer, marketing executive, entrepreneur, author, venture capitalist, board member, investment banker, angel investor, adjunct university faculty, commercial landlord, and now academic bureaucrat and economic developer… Stephen Fleming is a 21st century renaissance man. Today he serves as the Vice President of Economic Development and Technology Ventures, and Executive Director of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech.


valley-shirt-pocket-300x245 If you have seen Fleming in his office, strolling through ATDC , or at a startup event you would have noticed a tiny anti-valley pin on his lapel.  Ever wondered what it is all about? Read his blog post “Five Years of Not in the Valley” and get his two cents on the strengths of our startup ecosystem versus Silicon Valley’s.


Here’s some highlights & choice quotes:

  • We’re not Silicon Valley, and I’m OK with that. Silicon Valley is different. It’s not good, it’s not bad, but it’s different. You can build teams overnight. And you can see your team disappear overnight. You can raise ridiculous amounts of money (Uber). You can lose ridiculous amounts of money (Color)…. That’s not Atlanta. Atlanta is about building real companies for real customers who generate real revenue. That may not get you coverage in TechCrunch, but it’ll make you very popular with your bank.”
  • We can build a better Atlanta. And that’s probably the most important message of my little button. Let’s not obsess over a geographical oddity that’s not terribly relevant to our world. Let’s obsess over identifying customer problems, solving them, and getting paid. And if we do that a little better this year than last year… and a little better next year than this year… and keep doing it year after year.”
  • We shouldn’t try to copy Silicon Valley.There’s a lot we can learn from Silicon Valley. There are great lessons to be absorbed from what has worked, and what hasn’t worked. I teach seminars on it. Let’s learn, and adapt that learning to our unique environment.”
  • You don’t have to move to Silicon Valley to be successful. As I’ve pointed out before, Atlanta has seen over $60 billion in technology company exits since the mid-1990s. That’s a whole lot of wealth creation. No, we haven’t had a Facebook, or a Google… but I’m not sure that we need to. With a steady drumbeat of $100 million acquisitions seemingly on a monthly basis, there’s clearly a lot of success happening here. In fact, I’ve argued that in one particular view, Atlanta may be a better location for your startup than Silicon Valley… and that’s if you’re old enough to want to get married and have a nice house and a couple of kids and maybe a dog. Atlanta is where we build startups for grownups. And with the average entrepreneur in America being 40 years old, that’s not such a bad thing, is it?”


[Photo credit: Fleming (pin),  http://www.gtresearchnews.gatech.edu/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Stephen-Fleming.jpg?phpMyAdmin=387c4b701e2at54367afa (featured)]

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