When talking about Atlanta, startups, tech, and becoming a top tier tech startup city, the first question is: “What do we need to add for the ecosystem to go faster?”
My answer: Atlanta needs more full time entrepreneurs.
We have a lot of hobbyists. These are folks who are living off their spouses income, showing up to every startup community event, active in social media, blogging even… but they are in the same place with their startup that they’ve been for the last 2 years. They say they aren’t able to raise money or they justify it by saying there isn’t enough capital in our city. I consider these folks hobbyists.
We have a lot of wannapreneurs. Sadly, I see at least one of these per day. It’s the guy (and yes, most are guys) in the corporate job, hooked on the crack salary – with a mortgage, club membership, car payments – and isn’t willing (or able) to make the dramatic changes that need to happen to do something meaningful. These guys are miserable in their job, climbing the ladder, have the skills needed to be a startup entrepreneur, but aren’t able to pull the trigger. Often they come to me with this sad argument: “If I can just raise money, then I can afford to go full time on my startup.” Every time, they almost pull off the surprised face when I tell them that they won’t be able to raise money until they are in full-time.
We have lots of one-hit wonders. I think this is the most promising group of potential full-time entrepreneurs. It’s the original team members of great Atlanta startups. They jumped into a startup 10+ years ago, stuck with it to make it wildly successful and now it’s a big company. Now they have their stock options and big salaries but often have the itch. These are the people who have done it before and can usually do it again. Mindspring, Pardot, ISS, Airwatch, Mailchimp, Weather.com, Firethorn, CNN, Radiant Systems… the list of successes in Atlanta is long, and the founding core teams are often still around with the skills to do it again.
We need to recruit outside the state. This is something admittedly, that I need to do better. We all need to make an effort to attend the events like Southland in Nashville and other regional events to promote the amazing resources in Atlanta for tech startups and full-time entrepreneurs.
I know with all the excitement we are moving in the right direction, but it’s important to acknowledge our biggest limiter: the number of full-time entrepreneurs. Not ideas. Not capital. Not talent for the growth team. We have plenty of those.