Focus on Startups: Venture Atlanta Brings Entrepreneurs And Investors Together
|ANALYSIS FROM MARGARET WEICHERT
|Global Payments’ Acquisition Ups The Ante At The POS|
More than 750 entrepreneurs, investors and startup-watchers from around the U.S. and Europe gathered at the Georgia Aquarium October 17-18 for Venture Atlanta. Representing a range of industries including payments, mobile technology, healthcare, security, and analytics, companies came to network, share pitches and listen to startup veterans like former AOL CEO Steve Case and former Radian CEO John Heyman. Legendary Atlanta investor Sig Mosley of Imlay Investments summed up the event saying, “Venture Atlanta is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to present to investors from Atlanta and out of town, and find out what investors are looking for.” Now in its fifth year, the Venture Atlanta event has helped startups raise over $1 billion in capital, and establish Atlanta as the entrepreneurial hub of the Southeast.
Steve Case, now CEO of Revolution Capital, agreed to headline as Venture Atlanta’s keynote speaker, and began his remarks saying, “Atlanta is a great entrepreneurial region,” and has the key ingredients to make a startup ecosystem successful, namely strong research capabilities, investors and capital, great educational institutions, and a diverse group of solid corporations. Case talked about his experience as a startup CEO at AOL and as an investor in notable payments startup Revolution Money, as well as his timely work with the bi-partisan efforts of Startup America. “The story of American entrepreneurship is more diverse than Silicon Valley,” said Case, and went on to add that “80% of the investments [Revolution Capital will make] will be outside Silicon Valley.”
Payments players were well represented in the Venture Atlanta crowd, taking advantage of opportunities to network with FinTech investors including TTV, Edison Ventures, Revolution Capital, Battery Ventures, Imlay Investments, Noro-Moseley, New World Ventures and others. The payments industry was represented by entrepreneurial presenters Ashish Bahl of Acculynk and Rob Frohwein of Kabbage (winner of the PYMNTS.com Innovator Award). These entrepreneurs were joined in the audience by executives from leading Atlanta companies like First Data, PNC Bank, UPS, Home Depot, the Weather Channel, SAP, and Reliance Health.
Acculynk’s Ashish Bahl (pictured on the far right with First Data’s Barry McCarthy, l., and Steve Case from Revolution Capital) is advocated the benefits of attending the Atlanta event saying, “Atlanta is an emerging and increasingly concentrated tech and payments corridor. A lot more companies are getting plugged in and doing business together here.” Payments industry alum Dan Dreschel, now with HireIQ, echoed these sentiments saying, “It [Venture Atlanta] is great for the companies and for the city. The mentoring [here] helps early stage companies hone their pitches.”
Ultimately though, the event was about one thing: making real business deals to drive entrepreneurial growth that makes a major contribution to overall U.S. economic growth. Dave Gould of Tech Operators said that in the five years that Venture Atlanta has been around “We’ve found real deals here that have been good deals for us.” Entrepreneur Paul Judge of Pindrop Security, a two-year veteran of Venture Atlanta, added, “I think some real business happens here. Last year we raised money from high quality investors [New World Ventures and Sigma Partners] we met here. And now we’re back raising a Series C.” Tino Mantella of the Technology Association of Georgia added,” The event has exceeded expectations, with high quality presentations and a high energy crowd. More than $1B in capital has been raised here, and that trend will continue.”
As a transplant from the Bay Area to the Southeast, it was great to see this type of event bring together here in Atlanta such a powerful group of people invested in entrepreneurship and the “startup ecosystem.” In addition to Acculynk and Kabbage, my “best in show” picks for the PYMNTS.com audience were Pindrop Security, Springbot, Mobilewalla, and eCommHub. Finally, I think Steve Case said it best when he said, “the entrepreneurs that built the economy that powered the nation are also American heroes.”