The Atlanta Tech Village is a “double-bottom line” enterprise, as David Cummings has written about several times. Meaning that profits will be measured in (A) the value we create for the Atlanta tech community by growing more successful startups and (B) the monetary value we create for the Atlanta Tech Village as a for-profit organization.
This is trickier than it sounds. Seriously.
Why? Because each goal challenges the other.
- If we focused too much on “B,” we could charge a ton of money to the startups, investors, and service providers that want to be in the village. Obviously, we have proven that there is demand. Economics 101 teaches you that when supply is limited and demand is high, you raise the prices! But that’s not the goal here – we aren’t trying to take cash strapped startups and raise their expenses. We want to make it easier for them to grow and thrive.
- If we focused too much on “A,” then we would ultimately give away the on-site memberships at cost (or less) and end up looking like a non-profit that would have to sustain itself by fundraising and sources like… gasp… the government.
The ultimate goal is to make connections that matter and add value, and find the ways to make profits in those connections. The win-win-win is the scenario that we seek and it will not be easy. This will be a journey defined by the ultimate balancing act.
- Startup WIN = low-cost, high-value that helps them grow
- Service Provider / Partner / Sponsor WIN = high-value services, visibility, connections, introductions, facilities
- Atlanta Tech Village WIN = the first two Wins + money on the bottom line at the end of the day
Smart associations have known this for years. Membership dues are not where you make money for R&D, growth, and exciting new programs. Dues are there to provide the basic necessities. The members are the organization. Revenue for growth must come from “non-dues revenue.” Things like educational programs (connecting experts to people who need knowledge), investments (connecting capital to members who can use it), affinity and revenue-share services (getting discounts for members who use specific services), and in the case of the Atlanta Tech Village – facility rentals for event space, happy hours, conferences, and more (given that the members’ use of the facility receives first priority.)
What an exciting challenge ahead – the great balancing act of 2013!