North Atlanta offers a number of educational opportunities for students interested in entrepreneurship and who want to start their own businesses. The region has also begun to gain more recognition as a result of the growth of Metro Atlanta’s tech entrepreneurship ecosystem, as evinced through conferences such as Venture Atlanta, the yearly conference to connect tech companies in the Southeast with investors.
Digital Ignition is an incubator for startup companies based along the border of Alpharetta and Forsyth County. The incubator works with interns and promotes entrepreneurship among the next generation of founders and CEOs.
Chase Harper is a junior at the University of North Georgia. With a minor in Entrepreneurship, Harper completed an internship this past spring as part of his program with the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of North Georgia.
He finds taking courses in entrepreneurship and interning beneficial for his professional goals, which include starting his own company.
“You gain general knowledge and contacts. It’s a great networking opportunity," says Chase. “You gain internships through an entrepreneurship class. It opens you up to the opportunities that you have for potential employment opportunities when you are a newly graduated college student,” he says.
Located in Dahlonega, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation partners with North Atlanta businesses such as Digital Ignition to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Dr. Ruben Boling, who is Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, connects students with internship opportunities and, through the center, aims to develop a supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem in North Georgia and North Atlanta.
He also sits on the board of the Greater Alpharetta Technology Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to the growth of technology companies in Greater Alpharetta.
“What we’re doing is we’re preparing students and graduates to go out into that world and start their own businesses, but also go to work for startups, companies that are innovative and creative to what they’re doing and add value long term to the region and the area,” he says.
Venture Atlanta also provides opportunities for funding, key contacts, and growth for businesses in the North Atlanta footprint.
Officially entering its 11th year, Venture Atlanta is an annual conference that connects investors with promising tech companies throughout the Southeast. 30 companies from hundreds are selected to pitch to investors during the two-day conference.
“They receive marketing, PR support and invaluable coaching from CEOs and investors to help them refine their pitch and value proposition. Also, at the conference, we help facilitate one-on-one meetings between companies and investors,” says Allyson Eman, Executive Director of Venture Atlanta.
Alpharetta-based ChronicCareIQ, which automates the management of chronic care, was one of 32 companies selected to participate in the 2016 installation and has seen an upswing in revenue since participating. “The exposure was great for us. We presented in 2016 and were one of the newer companies they selected. Our revenue is already almost four times higher since then,” says Matthew Ethington, President and CEO of ChronicCareIQ.
Named the most active tech venture capital firm in Georgia by CB Insights, BIP Capital is one of the leading venture capital firms in the Southeast. BIP Capital’s portfolio includes companies throughout the Southeast including Huddle Inc., REACH Health Inc., and Gro Solutions, all based in North Atlanta.
“We’re in Atlanta because it has all of the ingredients to be on par with other VC centers like New York City, Silicon Valley, Boston. There is a foundation of great research, outstanding talent, corporate partners and an infrastructure to grow and scale businesses. These advantages now extend outside of the city into North Atlanta and North Fulton as these northern suburbs of the city continue their rapid development,” says Mark Flickinger, Vice President of BIP Capital.
Huddle Inc., one of the firm’s portfolio companies, is a high school ticketing firm based in Alpharetta. The firm recently raised $11 million in a Series A round from BIP Capital with the goal of market expansion and the growth of their digital ticketing platform. A leader in the paper ticketing industry, Huddle Inc. will use the funding to digitize its product through a new software platform called GOFAN.
Joey Thacker, CEO of Huddle Inc., says that North Atlanta is appealing because of the balance the region offers to investors.
“This area offers a great balance in a lot of different categories related to running a successful business. As it relates to talent, it is a good market to attract employees that have been a part of other successful startups or the growth cycle of larger companies looking to raise their families in the suburbs and schools this area offers, as well as entry-level talent returning from college to their home communities,” says Thacker.
The entrepreneurial ecosystem of North Atlanta includes businesses and civic organizations that promote entrepreneurship; proactive entrepreneurs; quality of life; a growing presence of venture capital; and educational opportunities for students. The region is also near the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which is a two-hour flight away from 80% of the United States.
These combine to promote startup activity in the North Atlanta region, an area that rests just outside of the major metropolis of Atlanta and is developing an identity to call its own as a suburban hub for entrepreneurship.