I recently connected virtually with an investor based in San Francisco. He said the area has an extensive network of investors with early-stage experience who are willing to invest when a company is two people and an MVP. There’s a deep bench of subject-matter experts who have firsthand experience with a company going from an idea to a material liquidity event (I define that as $250+ million). And because there’s a lot of capital available for entrepreneurs, investors compete.
He’s visited Atlanta a few times, attending events like Venture Atlanta and trying to get to know more about the city’s startup ecosystem. His first observation was that his assumptions were completely wrong. He assumed the Atlanta community of investors would be more diverse than San Francisco’s, but he found them to be similar. He thought the ecosystem would be united, with everyone working together. Instead he found the city to be somewhat fragmented by geography. Overall, he likes Atlanta and thinks there’s lots of opportunity here. Unfortunately, he found it difficult to locate great Atlanta companies to invest in without physically being in the city.
I think most of his observations are accurate. The city can be challenging to navigate if you don’t live here. However, I believe Atlanta’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is on the cusp of something big. Just a few things are needed for it to be top-tier.
Every city has unique qualities that make up its identity. Copying a successful city won’t yield the same results. That said, I believe there is a pattern to success. Certain foundational elements are common to cities with strong entrepreneurial ecosystems, and they should be implemented by cities that want to replicate that success. Here are some of them:
- Abundant knowledge about the entrepreneurial journey that’s readily available to everyone regardless of their background
- A desire to establish bidirectional relationships with people, even if it means going outside one’s comfort zone
- Available capital and mentoring for talented and capable entrepreneurs of all backgrounds
I’m hopeful that Atlanta (and other cities) will add these foundational items. Doing so could change the trajectory for the city and all the people who call it home!