Steven Cook is an Atlanta entrepreneur with a passion for people and innovation. He has over 30 years of experience as a global brand marketer for 3 Fortune 50 companies, P&G, Coca-Cola and Samsung Electronics where he was SVP, CMO for North America, making him a CMO thought leader. Steven’s enthusiasm for people is evident throughout his ventures. He is one of Atlanta’s top entrepreneurs and is actively engaged in teaching, supporting, and learning from young entrepreneurs to help them succeed and to support Atlanta’s growth as a leading innovation hub. As an entrepreneur, he founded FortuneCMO in 2008 and has worked with countless startups and VC’s, using his CMO expertise to inspire innovation and growth. He is also currently part of the Palo Alto-based CMO Advisory Board and the London-based CMO Exchange Advisory Council alongside serving as an Executive Advisor for Forté Ventures, the CMO of Fision, and a Board Advisor for PEAR’d.
How did you become an entrepreneur?
I’ve worked in 3 Fortune 50 companies and was an intra-preneur in all of my jobs over the past 30 years. In fact, I started the 1st Global Innovation Department at The Coca-Cola Company, spanning 200 countries. I’ve always had the entrepreneurial spirit, but exercised that passion inside of large companies. A few years ago, I decided that it was now or never to truly become an entrepreneur and get involved with startups and VC’s while harnessing my global brand marketing and business development experience.
What is your why?
I have always had a passion for mentoring. I’ve always had a passion for innovation and I have a lot of experience around innovation with big companies and startups. I truly believe that the next generation of business leaders in the USA has to be more innovative and entrepreneurial than the generations that preceded them. I believe that the world is moving faster, the world is flat, it’s getting harder and harder to be successful, and you have to have an entrepreneurial risk taking—yet smart—approach. Why I got involved with PEAR’d and most everything that I do with young entrepreneurs is to share my experience, being a sounding board for their ideas and to assist them in any way possible to accelerate their learning curve and commercial implementation.
What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of the Atlanta entrepreneurial ecosystem and how would you like to see it develop?
The Metro Atlanta startup/entrepreneur ecosystem has a number of strengths.
1: Metro Atlanta has a significant concentration of incubator and accelerator organizations focused on mentoring entrepreneurs and startups, like ATDC, Atlanta Ventures Accelerator, Flashpoint, Atlanta Tech Village, Tech Square Labs, TAG, TiE, and others.
2: Metro Atlanta has world-class education facilities attracting smart young people with quite a few of the universities having entrepreneurship majors or strong entrepreneurial coursework and incubators.
3: Metro Atlanta/North Georgia has 16 Fortune 500 companies. Many of them are working to develop a more entrepreneurial culture and innovation functions in their companies to drive growth. So, there is demand for talent with an entrepreneurial mindset and experience in the Fortune 500 community.
4. Recent significant startup exits for companies like AirWatch and Pardot are raising Atlanta’s startup profile. Atlanta has had over 100 exits with a value of over $60 Billion in recent years.
5. Atlanta is a world-class center of excellence with very strong concentration in wireless, financial tech, health tech enterprise software, analytics, logistics, film and music entertainment and broadcasting, sales and marketing automation. Startups in these verticals are going to want to be close to this expertise, talent and customers.
6. There’s access to capital from Venture, PE, Seed funds, as well as Angels. Atlanta has some real powerhouses like Buckhead Investment Partners, Forté Ventures, Mosley Ventures, Noro-Moseley, Atlanta Ventures, Tech Square Labs, Tech Square Ventures, and others. Atlanta still needs to grow its venture funding base; however, if you look at the exits of the last several years, the number and valuations have been accelerating and growing. I think this gap will close in the next several years.
Lastly, one of my fellow PEAR’d Board Advisors, Manish Shah, just shared with me ‘The Guide to the Atlanta Startup Scene’ published this month by Paul Judge at Tech Square Labs. This whitepaper highlights more about the Metro Atlanta startup community and why we are the place to start a startup.
What impact would you like to have on the Atlanta startup scene?
One of the things I’m doing along with being a Board Advisor for PEAR’d is working with TiE and TYE University (TiE Young Entrepreneurs University). TYE University is a startup itself—now in our 2nd year in Georgia universities—and is a program to work with university students who have a passion to learn how to be an entrepreneur. We mentor them for a year, getting them to the point where they have completed business plans and they pitch to judges including VC’s and seasoned startup CEOs. With TYE University, we need sponsors and we need other metro startup resources. I would like to be as helpful in the entrepreneurial space as a mentor, sharing what I know and being part of some exciting startups myself—as I am right now.
Read the entire piece from pear-a-digms, a thought leadership blog focused on cultivating a culture of connected productivity entrepreneurs, students, business professionals, business owners, and everyone in between.
The Author: Kristine Santos. Entrepreneur. Anthropologist. Writer. Runs social media and blogging for Atlanta-based startup PEAR’d, a virtual collaboration ecosystem for entrepreneurs. A vegetarian who’s learning how to sew and wants to know all about your startup. Let’s talk on Twitter@PEARdUP
[Photo Credit: http://www.fortunecmo.co/about.html screen shot]