Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Reasons of Success (so far) of the Atlanta Tech Village

 

I’m on a plane traveling to Omaha to give a presentation this evening to the mentors and teams in the Straight Shot Accelerator about the Atlanta entrepreneurial community. It’s awesome that communities like Omaha are looking to Atlanta as a success story and asking what they can learn from great projects like the Atlanta Tech Village.

While Atlanta hasn’t proven itself as a top tier tech startup hub, we’re on the way. We’re doing, talking, and thinking about the right things.  The dialog is healthy.   The Village, as a leader in the effort, is successful thus far as a community within the community; so I will be sharing with the folks out West why I believe the first nine months have been so successful.

Why the Village is working really well so far (it just so happened that almost all of them started with the letter “C” naturally, so I finished it out):

1. Core Values.

I can’t stress enough that I believe the Village is working because we know and stick to our core values. This above all else, is a huge factor of success and will be our defining advantage. Be nice. Dream Big. Work hard, play hard, pay it forward.   We do everything we do with these values as our guiding light and it just works.

 

2. Community: “Meeting before membership.”

To join the Village, someone has to know you.   You have to either attend a group tour and get to know the group and the community managers leading the tours, or you have to come in with a good reference. This threshold for membership has kept the quality of the people high. Trust is strong, and friendships are blossoming every day.

 

3. Collaboration – openness and sharing.

Although it’s not a stated core value, there is a culture of sharing in the Village. When companies question the amount of glass going into the renovation or their ability to protect their competitive secrets, then we tell them they aren’t a fit for the Village. We believe that secrets provide little advantage for any startup and the best attitude is to be fully open and transparent, seeking feedback and advice at every corner.   You aren’t competing with the folks in the building, you are competing with the world.

 

4. Colossal Scale.

I blogged about this earlier. See it here. Bigger is better for a community.

 

5. Chaos Line

We believe that letting chaos happen is a great way to engineer serendipity. Obviously, we can’t fully embrace chaos, but our attitude is one of openness and experimentation more than tight corporate control. We push this line every day and are always seeking to find the balance between control and natural community chaos. Somewhere in there is a sweet spot where new ideas are born, new connections are made, and a community thrives.

 

6. Concentrated- Atlanta only.

I can’t count how many times people ask us when we’ll be launching the Charlotte Tech Village, Austin Tech Village, etc…   The answer is– that we aren’t focused on being a real-estate company for startups. We are focused on making Atlanta a top 10 tech startup hub.  The real-estate is just our tool to accomplish this.    Some coworking organizations that we’ve met with use community as their tool to fill up real-estate.   We are flipping that using real-estate as a vehicle to build community.

 

7. Control — We don’t answer to anyone.

I cannot tell a lie: It is really, really awesome that we don’t answer to a bank, investors, a Board, or even a landlord. We can do whatever we want. This gives us the freedom to screw up, a lot. And yes, we’ve screwed up a lot already and we fix it and we get better. If we were working towards quarterly Board meetings where our performance determined our next quarterly goals, we would not be as effective in our mission.

 

8. Celebrity.

Every community needs it. David Cummings is ours.   The name opens doors, attracts high rollers, big players, politicians, and reporters like you wouldn’t believe. Celebrity is definitely a key to our success.  Although the DC-Effect, as we call it, (where people were only joining the Village just to be around David), wore off after about 90 days, David still attracts the buzz and we don’t expect people to forget about his name any time soon.

 

9. Curated.

Similar to “meeting before membership,” curated community means that we want 80% of the community to be working on a product or platform that is a scalable tech company. We want to limit the service providers.    With everyone being mostly on the same page, you have shared attitudes about raising money, growth metrics, change the world mentality, and risk tolerance. We don’t have lifestyle companies with lots of folks pulling millions off their company and living large. We have scrappy, hungry entrepreneurs, creating products that change the world.

 

10. Concert.  Synergistic to other projects. (to keep the C’s going, I had to look up synonyms for synergy). :)

This is worth mentioning for other communities looking to learn. It’s an open and honest ingredient that works well for us. Atlanta Tech Village has the advantage of service multiple purposes. Because we have Atlanta Ventures incubated companies as well as the Atlanta Ventures Accelerator, there is a great synergy created by having 103,000 square feet of space that is filled up with 300 other entrepreneurs.   Yes, we would still be doing the Atlanta Ventures Accelerator if we weren’t doing the Village. The Atlanta Ventures portfolio companies all existed before the Village was even a twinkle in our eyes.

 

I’m sure there are other reasons for our success so far, and only time will tell which of these prove to be sustainable beyond the exciting first year or two of our existence, and I’m looking forward to finding out!

  • Xin Hong says:

    Great points! Especially the one “we don’t answer to anyone”. Working on your own terms to approach the problems, not to approach anything that brings the short-term money is probably the way t grow in the long run.
    However confused by “concentration”. How can an outsider to make connections with the Atlanta entrepreneur community? It sounds like this community is awesome, but is also super alerted to bring in someone who will potentially subtract the quality. Besides taking a group tour or know someone before hand, is there a more open and out-reach portal for people who honestly want to get involved?

    September 27, 2013 at 10:31 am

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