Blake Patton has seen the rise of Atlanta’s tech ecosystem like few others.
As managing partner and founder of Tech Square Ventures, which through two separate funds has already invested in 51 startups such as Cypress.io, Pointivo and Goodr, Patton has led the strategic early-stage venture fund to be one of the most active in the state of Georgia and the wider Southeastern U.S.
Now, with the launch of Tech Square Venture Fund II, which has already closed its first round of $26 million toward its goal of $75 million, it appears the investment action coming from Midtown Atlanta will increase exponentially.
Focused on making Seed and Series A investments in enterprise and marketplace technology startups, tech-enabled services, and university spin-outs, Tech Square Venture Fund II is TSV’s largest fund to date, and backed by noteworthy LPs that include Invest Georgia, Cox Enterprises and Georgia-Pacific, among others. And with a focus on the Southeastern U.S., which Patton says he considers Texas to D.C.” as boundaries, the aim is to be as impactful as possible on the early side of things.
“We are very focused, very committed, very passionate about the Southeast,” Patton says in the exclusive video interview with Hypepotamus. “When I started Tech Square Ventures, it was largely around that conviction that this is one of the fastest-growing innovation markets, and the level of investment didn’t match the opportunity here.”
Founded in 2014, Atlanta-based Tech Square Ventures is one of the most active early-stage venture firms in Georgia and the surrounding region, with 40 percent of its portfolio companies based in Atlanta, among 70 percent that are based in nearby states. So far, their portfolio of companies has produced three exits, created 1,400 jobs (more than 300 in Georgia alone), and raised more than $400 million in additional funding.
Also notable is that women and people of color account for more than 20 percent of the firm’s portfolio companies.
Patton says the new fund will start making investments immediately. “This is really us being able to level up, invest in these early-stage companies and stick with them. That’s what we’ve learned working with the companies here locally — helping them get to that first couple million in revenue and being a partner in that journey.”
A big part of that journey, Patton says, is getting startups to the go-to-market stage and helping them strategize for the future. “We’ve essentially built our whole platform around helping entrepreneurs get access to customers and markets,” he says. “That’s what we do uniquely well.”
Patton gives his relationship with Georgia Tech, his alma mater, credit for much of what he’s doing now. He still teaches entrepreneurial finance at the university today, and spent three years as interim general manager and entrepreneur-in-residence at ATDC. Having been a founder and operator for years, and helping lead internet service company iXL to an IPO as executive vice president, he now sits on the board at several companies, including Cypress.io, Sequr, and Pointivo, where he serves as chairman.
As Patton explains in the video below, being surrounded by a wealth of talent and innovation at Georgia Tech, he’s seen many ideas go from potential to realization over the years. The successes, as well as the struggles, appear to have motivated him to get more deeply involved and help implement changes bigger and broader than may have been previously possible.
“Big company innovation, university research and the startup community were separate activities,” Patton says of his experience watching technology take hold in Atlanta since his college years in the late 1980s. “What we’re seeing is that activity starting to come together and overlap, and that’s so exciting.”
Watch our full interview with Blake Patton below, as he shares what Tech Square Ventures has learned between Fund I and Fund II about investment strategy, along with the importance of startup leadership, and his advice — as someone who survived the dot-com bubble and The Great Recession — for startup founders dealing with today’s challenges.