One of the interviews I conducted for Boise Startup Week (BSW) 2020 was with my good friend and Atlanta-based tech entrepreneur David Cummings.
When David moved to Atlanta after college in 2002, the city didn’t really have a tech scene—let alone a startup scene—which made it difficult to connect with local software entrepreneurs. That struggle sparked an idea: a coworking space exclusively available to software entrepreneurs. Picture a WeWork, but with targeted events, programs, mentors, and advisors—all there to support those in the tech industry and create what he calls “engineered serendipity”: the kinds of interactions that are hard to come by without a water cooler.
That idea became Atlanta Tech Village, one of the largest tech entrepreneurship communities in the country. Today, Atlanta Tech Village houses 300 startups, and its graduates have raised over $1 billion in venture capital.
What does a robust startup scene like Atlanta’s do for a city? There are two primary benefits, according to David:
An infusion of jobs for the region. With many big businesses outsourcing, offshoring, and automating jobs, the majority of net new ones in the US come from startups.
More per capita income. While main street jobs—running a local hardware store, or serving a community as a lawyer or a doctor—are important, jobs that export something are the ones that actually grow per capita income. That’s what tech companies do by their very nature, since their products aren’t limited by the boundaries of physical space.
David also shared his insights on how he helped grow Atlanta’s tech scene through Atlanta Tech Village, a co-working space in the city’s financial district. Having built a thriving tech community where there hadn’t been one previously, which has realized real benefits for Atlanta at large (read about them here), I asked David what the average person can do to help their local tech community thrive.
His response: “Figure out how to help an entrepreneur. Helping could be becoming their first customer, or providing an intro or warm lead to potential partners or investors... Pay it forward with no ulterior motive—just do it to better the community.”