That’s all the time founders have to share their startup story on the Venture Atlanta stage this year.
Now, that might not seem like a lot of time for a founder to pitch their idea, product, team, and vision to a room full of potential investors. But it is a good amount of time to pique the interest of investors in town.
83 startups across cybersecurity, SaaS, and consumer marketplaces have been selected to participate in the conference this year. Each of those founders look to follow in the footsteps of Venture Atlanta’s impressive alumni roster, which includes well-known companies like Stax, Salesloft, Terminus, Kabbage, and Flock Safety.
In fact, startups selected for Venture Atlanta have gone on to raise over $7.5 billion in funding, and realize $17 billion in exits over the last fifteen years. Despite the gloomier fundraising climate this year, these startups are actively seeking investments and ready for investor introductions.
What’s New This Year
Venture Atlanta has transformed over the last several years. The number of investors involved has skyrocketed, says CEO Allyson Eman. This year, 43 firms were involved in selecting startups and coaching the founders to ensure their pitches are ready for the mainstage.
The look and feel of the conference has also changed. The suit and tie look has been largely been replaced by the founder-esque uniform of logo t-shirt, blazer, and jeans. And those gearing up to attend Venture Atlanta will notice a few key changes to this year’s run of show, Eman added. Yes, activities like pickleball and hiking are being added to the itinerary. But the main change is that the schedule has been revamped to highlight the three-minute pitches. All founders will pitch on Day One, while 10 showcase companies will pitch live for a $500,000 investment on Day Two.
And so a week out, the founders selected for Venture Atlanta in 2023 are polishing up their slide decks and perfecting their opening lines to ensure their pitch leaves an impression. We wanted to get a sense of how founders are preparing…and give you a little sneak peek into what to expect at Venture Atlanta 2023.
Here are some teams to keep an eye on:
The Player’s Lounge
As a former UGA football standout and NFL running back, Keith Marshall knows how to shine while on a big stage. But he has also mastered the art of the pivot. After his football career, he moved into the business world before ultimately moving into startups with the launch of The Player’s Lounge.
He’s led that startup platform, which connects athletes with their fanbases, through pivots to keep up with the ever-changing world of digital engagement. Now its “engage-to-earn model” and focus on college partnerships has attracted an impressive list of partners, including the University of Tennessee and Clemson University.
Marshall told Hypepotamus that he is excited to take the Venture Atlanta stage with other “marquee up-and-coming companies in the Southeast” as he looks to close out a $3.5 million round.
Ahead of the pitch, he’s focusing on making sure the pitch connects on an emotional level.
“Typically when I pitch, it is more of a conversation. We have 30 minutes where we’re walking through certain elements of the business, getting [the investors] familiar with myself with my co-founders, and the various opportunities in front of us. At Venture Atlanta, you’ve got three minutes. You want to be able to paint a big grandiose vision and connect on an emotional level. That’s been different for me because I’m so used to getting into the weeds.”
The tech-enabled floral delivery startup Poppy is no stranger to the Venture Atlanta stage. The team pitched in 2021, but CEO Cameron Hardesty said that the team wanted to apply to pitch again in 2023 given the “breakout year” the startup has had.
An overhaul of the sales and UX has resulted in “a 3x improvement in our conversion rate from Q4 of last year to today,” Hardesty told Hypepotamus. “That dropped our CAC (customer acquisition cost) by 50%. So we’re generating a lot more profit than we were this time last year which has put us on a path to hit just over $6 million in sales this year, and generate positive cash flow starting next April.”
Poppy also reorganized so that the sales team – now filled with people who know the floral design industry – report directly to the VP of Technology.
With that momentum, Hardesty decided it was the right time to launch a new round of funding and is looking to have more conversations with investors next week at Venture Atlanta.
We asked Hardesty what she is focused on in the week leading up to the conference. Her answer: Getting the pitch down to “just the basics.”
“Our business model is really different from any floral ecommerce that has come before. Explaining that we own the customer transaction, that we buy directly from farms, that we work with a network of 500 independent floral designers in our fulfillment network takes time,” she added.
The team has built out a newsletter-based business where the focus is on delivering local news in a conversational tone. The big difference: No politics, crime, or divisive topics.
“This unintentionally created a brand safe environment for advertisers, which was something that has become even more important in today’s world,” Heafy told Hypepotamus.
Heafy knows that he is facing an uphill battle while trying to scale an ad-based business, since that can be “less desirable” for VCs. But after spending the last year focusing on profitability, the team is out on the fundraising circuit and ready to close their Series A with connections forged at Venture Atlanta.
“We believe that Venture Atlanta is the most relevant venture capital event that happens in the Southeast at this time. It was not an option to not participate and attend. We knew that we needed to be there.”
You can get to know all the companies selected here!