(Photo by Flickr user Jack Kennard, used under a Creative Commons license)
I never thought I’d stay in the South.
After four years of riding the tech boom and bust in New York City during the late ’90s, I moved to Atlanta in 2002. My plan was the hide from the economy for a while, to get my MBA, then head back to New York. But life takes unexpected turns. I made great friends in this city, married my wife, and eventually cofounded a company called Cloud Sherpas in 2008.
Nearly 15 years after I moved to Atlanta, I’m running Techstars Atlanta, in partnership with COX Enterprises. It’s the startup accelerator’s first program in the Big Peach and it kicked off earlier this month, featuring a class of 10 startups hailing from Tel Aviv to Los Angeles and three from right here in Atlanta. They’ll be based in Ponce City Market during the three-month, mentorship-driven program. After getting its start in Boulder, Colo., and expanding to over 20 accelerator programs spanning the globe in locations including Tel Aviv, Cape Town, London and Berlin, some may wonder why Techstars decided to open up shop in Atlanta.
Well, Techstars knows what I know: I’ve been in Atlanta for 14 years and have seen the tech community flourish in that time. From serving as CEO of Cloud Sherpas to mentoring startups that work from the Atlanta Tech Village coworking space, Atlanta is a hot (emphasis on hot) market to grow an early-stage business.
Here are some questions I often hear from out-of-towners around the Atlanta tech scene:
Why is Atlanta so appealing to early stage companies?
San Francisco and New York City are popular locations to build a startup due to the close vicinity of capital and nearby talent, but the cities are incredibly expensive to live in, especially for early-stage startup founders.
According to SmartAsset, the total cost of living in San Francisco is 62.6 percent higher than the U.S. average. Numbeo compared the cost of living in each city and reported that you would need around $4,243.22 in Atlanta to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with $7,900.00 in San Francisco.
When Techstars decides to bring an accelerator program to a new city, cost of living is crucial. We are constantly seeking entrepreneurs from around the world to join our programs so we can further enrich existing tech hubs with an influx of great minds.
Sure, everyone knows that San Francisco is crazy expensive but isn’t that where the talent is?
Atlanta is also home to top-notch engineers, designers, marketers and sales leaders. Atlanta was named as a top 10 U.S. technology mecca by CBRE in their latest Tech Talent report. In Atlanta, 74.5 percent of tech workers identified as software developers/programmers, 40.5 percent said they worked in computer support/systems/databases.
Atlanta now ranks 9th among 50 markets, with a 46.7 percent growth in total tech occupations since 2010, according to CBRE. Atlanta is also multiple steps ahead of the national average, which maps a 27 percent increase in tech job growth during the past five years. Other factors lending to the increased tech job growth include the high concentration of millennials and the city’s third place rank for educational attainment of workers.
So, Atlanta is cheap and there’s plenty of talent. What else?
Atlanta is home to numerous Fortune 500 companies (18 in 2016), giving early-stage companies an “older sibling” to look up to and learn from. While startups hope to one day find themselves amongst the Fortune 500 elite, others hope to work closely or even be acquired by these companies.
Techstars has partnered with COX Enterprises for this exact reason. COX adds powerful industry expertise by offering hands-on mentorship and business development opportunities to accelerate startups. The Techstars Atlanta class will engage daily with a network of COX executives and employees who will aim to open doors that are otherwise difficult to access.
Be sure to catch the Techstars Atlanta Demo Day on Nov. 1 at The Tabernacle to see what these companies have accomplished during the program. Maybe they’ll be like me and decide to stay.