Atlanta’s startup ecosystem brought investor Melissa Pegus to the city in 2021. Now, she’s taking a new position to help grow that ecosystem even more.
Pegus has been tapped as the Managing Director for Techstars Atlanta Powered by J.P. Morgan, the latest accelerator to open up in the city.
The new program, backed by an $80 million investment by J.P. Morgan, will support diverse entrepreneurs across the country. While the program is open to founders of all backgrounds, it is designed to provide equitable access to funding and support for entrepreneurs who are Black, Hispanic and Latino, Indigenous American, and Pacific Islander.
27% of Techstars’ existing portfolio companies have self-identified diverse founders, according to numbers released by Techstars.
J.P. Morgan is no stranger to the Techstars community. The financial services giant launched a pre-accelerator program, called the Techstars Founder Catalyst Program, late last year.
The new JP Morgan-powered program will run twice a year, with the inaugural cohort launching this September. The Atlanta accelerator is launching in tandem with similar programs in Chicago, Detroit, Miami, and Washington D.C., with additional cities joining in 2023.
Cox Entreprises powers the other two Techstars programs in Atlanta, which both run out of Ponce City Market.
This new program will be a hybrid experience. For Pegus, the hybrid approach is about best meeting the needs of founders from diverse backgrounds.
“With the in-person components in Atlanta, I’m really going to take the opportunity to create various local retreats for founders so they can explore all of what makes the city special and a great place to build your business. But there will be chunks of the program where founders can work remotely from wherever is best for them and for their business. It’s about acknowledging that diverse founders often have less runway than others and so it is a big lift to pick up and move to a city you may not live in. So instead of forcing [founders] to be in one place for three months, we really want to you know, have the accelerator rise to meet the founder wherever they’re building.”
Pegus is bringing her experience as a startup operator to the Techstars community. And she feels it is the right next step for her own career trajectory.
“As I was thinking about what the evolution of my career in venture capital looked like, I was looking for opportunities that would let me both share sort of all of those stories and challenges that I had as a startup operator as long along with being an investor,” Pegus told Hypepotamus. “Prior to joining Techstars, I spent the last 13 years in the startup space working with seven startups. Six of those resulted in exits, which were great. But I think oftentimes we only talk about the successes, but there were a lot of failures in there too. And so I am generally trying to be a rising tide and share all of those experiences with startups and help them fundraise, which we know is traditionally most difficult for founders that come from diverse backgrounds.”
Given her previous experience, Pegus is particularly interested in helping founders who are building in the “commerce, consumer, and creator economy” verticals.
“These [areas] are really material for Atlanta as well because we are one of the most creative cities in the US. We are a city of makers. This is a city of great consumer brands, from Fortune 500 brands all the way down to people who are launching new brands every day.”
Pegus said she is excited to work with post-product startups that are focused on “sales and scaling and trying to fundraise.”