Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Let’s Build a Startup Rainforest in Atlanta


Recently, I finished reading The Rainforest by Victor Hwang and Greg Horowitz.  These guys are VCs that did an amazing job of writing a book that applied depth of ideas behind why Silicon Valley delvers such output of startup innovation while other communities (many with similar assets) fail.   The authors apply biological models to economic systems to see what we can learn from why the rainforest thrives.    I don’t feel I can do the ideas justice in just a single post so I’ll be my thoughts on how Atlanta, and our very own Atlanta Tech Village, can create a rainforest of innovation and a thriving startup ecosystem; so this is the first of a series let’s call “The Atlanta Startup Rainforest.”

From The Rainforest book:

Rainforest Axiom #1… While plants are harvested most efficiently on farms, weeds sprout best in Rainforests.

The idea here is that the agricultural mindset of planting seeds, keeping the weeds out, then harvesting your mostly predictable crops is the opposite of what we want to happen in an Atlanta startup ecosystem.  What we need is for new species to form regularly. We need surprises.  We need predictable unpredictability!  We need great companies that, at their birth, are indistinguishable from those that will fade back into the elements.  We can’t predict what will work, who will thrive, who will fail: nor should we try. We should be encouraging a system that encourages everyone to give it a try.

In our Atlanta Startup Rainforest, we can’t control the specific process of each individual company being planted and growing, but what we can do is manage the system. We want to be sure that all the right elements are in place for the system to create new sparks that turn into flames. (Hmmm… perhaps I’ll avoid “fire” metaphors for this “forest theme.”)

The South has many of the elements in place to become a rainforest of innovation. Great people, financial resources, great universities, low cost of living, an attitude of sharing and helping one another. Broad connections and deep relationships are common in Atlanta, introductions happen easily, infrastructure is solid, policy is sound (with room for improvement and headed in the right direction).  Our job as leaders of the rainforest are to continue to manage how these elements are connected within the system.   More to come on all this as we continue to explore this idea.

Please… If you know anyone working in, on, and around the Atlanta startup scene, I encourage you to pass this along and ask them to subscribe via e-mail to this blog. It’s important that we work together in unity to explore these ideas and bring Atlanta to a Top 10 tech startup hub in the US.


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