Time and time again, I’m asked by entrepreneurs, investors, advisors, executives and others why we decided to launch Leaders Fund in Atlanta. Being an Atlanta resident for over 27 years, I’ve seen Atlanta grow from a small regional tech hub to a globally recognized tech ecosystem. As I explain why we chose Atlanta, heads knod and others begin to realize, like I do, that Atlanta has all the ingredients necessary to build storied technology companies. Today, I am more confident than ever that great things are about to happen in the Atlanta tech ecosystem and here’s why:
1) World-class talent pool: Metro Atlanta is home to a network of universities such as Georgia Tech, Emory University, University of Georgia, Georgia State University, and Kennesaw State that are producing swaths of some of the best technical talent this country has to offer. It has become a fruitful well which technology companies can tap to build out their engineering teams. With thousands of fresh tech grads from these universities joining the existing talent pool every year, Atlanta was named the fifth best city in America for tech talent by CBRE. This talent pool remains comparatively affordable as the median base salary of a software engineer in Atlanta is $85K, compared to $120K in SF. In addition, with projects such as the Beltline, Atlanta is transforming and developing into more of an urban core which attracts young, well-educated, talented entrepreneurs.
2) Community of successful entrepreneurs: Our technology ecosystems are bolstered by the resources, experience, and support of local entrepreneurs who have built, scaled, and sold companies. Atlanta has an impressive history of 126 venture backed companies which have exited since 2000, resulting in an expansive and supportive community of experienced entrepreneurs which impacts the ecosystem in many ways. These successful entrepreneurs invest both their capital and time into younger companies. They mentor the next generation of leaders, and also start new companies with the knowledge they’ve obtained from past experiences. As world-class companies in Atlanta continue to be built and sold, we’re excited to see this community continue to grow.
3) Attractive cost of living: Although Atlanta property prices have been on an upward climb recently, they remain affordable in comparison to other core startup hubs such as Boston, NYC, and SF, alleviating cost pressure for entrepreneurs. For example, according to CBRE, the average apartment rent in Atlanta is $1.1K/month, whereas the average rent in SF is $2.8K/month. Similarly, companies can rent out offices for $24 PSF in Atlanta, compared to $61 PSF in SF, resulting in the cost of running a business in Atlanta being 88% of US benchmarks.
4) Growing infrastructure: Atlanta’s technology cores in Buckhead, Midtown, Downtown, and Alpharetta have created pockets of bustling startup activity. Technology incubators and communities such as the ATDC (connected to Georgia Tech), Atlanta Tech Village (started by the founder of Pardot, David Cummings), TechStars Atlanta, Switchyards, Ponce CIty Market and the recently launched Boomtown/The Farm, amongst many others, help promising young companies iterate, raise money, and build for success.
5) Fortune 500 company concentration: 15 Fortune 500 companies are based in metro Atlanta, including The Home Depot, UPS, Coca-Cola, and Delta Airlines. Similarly, other top companies such as Amazon and Microsoft have large presences in the region. The concentration of these companies in Atlanta allow our young and growing technology companies to be agile: pilot, evolve and refine their products quickly; as well as tap into large talent pools.
6) Efficient transportation hub: Atlanta’s Hartsfield airport is the busiest airport in the world as it handles >100M passengers per year and is within a two hour flight of 80% of the U.S. population.
7) Deep functional expertise: Atlanta has a particular advantage in solving real business problems in specific functional areas including:
Sales/Marketing: Atlanta has spawned incredibly successful companies such as Mailchimp, Pardot, Silverpop, and Vitrue, etc. and has a large number of fast-growing Sales/Marketing companies such as CallRail which we recently invested in, as well as Salesloft and Terminus.
Fintech: 70% of all North American credit card transactions are processed in Georgia. Furthermore, Georgia is the third largest state in the USA for total fintech revenue, trailing behind New York State and California, making Atlanta an ideal place to launch a fintech company.
Logistics/Supply Chain: A recent Deloitte study found that 20% of the top 100 IT logistics providers maintain a presence in metro Atlanta, tied only with NYC. Georgia is also a thriving hub for US transportation, with 12,300 logistics providers that employ over 150,000 workers creating a strong base to launch a logistics/supply chain company.
Cybersecurity: Over 115 companies like VMware Airwatch, Verisign, Pindrop Security, etc, and government agencies such as the National Security Agency and Central Security Service are based in Georgia, resulting in a strong cybersecurity talent pool in Atlanta.
For all of these reasons and more, the Leaders Fund team and I are excited to be investing in Atlanta. We recently announced our first investment in Atlanta in CallRail, (a leading call tracking solution that helps marketers understand who their callers are, where they’re calling from, and why they’re calling) and are excited to continue backing visionary founders building innovative B2B SaaS companies.