Atlanta: A tech hub to watch

Moderated by Rick Badie

Techie.com, a web magazine, recently named Atlanta one of the top 10 emerging tech hubs in 2014. Today, the magazine’s editor-in-chief explains why our region’s techie culture is considered one of the nation’s most innovative and creative. Meanwhile, an executive with AT&T Mobility writes about the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s new Mobility Task Force.

Atlanta: A tech hub to watch

By Dan Blacharski

The South is getting a lot of attention this year from tech entrepreneurs, and Atlanta is leading the charge for the New South.

Although there are plenty of companies like AT&T, Dell SecureWorks and First Data in Atlanta, the city is also home to more than 150 mobile tech-related startups and one of the most exciting small-business entrepreneurship communities in the country. Atlanta is 12th in the nation for number of tech start-ups. There have been several new co-working communities, start-up incubators and funding organizations working together to develop and retain home-grown talent.

One of the biggest players is Atlanta Tech Village, a co-working environment for emerging tech companies. The Tech Village has grown from 20 members to 300. Founder David Cummings had cash to spare after his company was sold to Salesforce.com. He bought a midrise office building in the heart of Atlanta and (developed) one of the largest entrepreneurship centers in the country.

Cummings said he vets Village prospects based on core values: “Be nice, dream big, pay it forward and then work hard and play hard.”

One of the biggest areas of emerging technology is mobile tech. The Metro Atlanta Chamber’s new mobility initiative is adding fuel to the fire. Mike Zeto, co-chair of the Chamber’s Mobility Task Force, came to Atlanta after launching a tech company based on mobile technology. Having raised some angel money, he knew he had to go somewhere with development talent.

“We started to look at all the usual suspects,” he said. “I had been in technology for 15 years and had contacts in Boston, out in Silicon Valley, and there was a large mobile ecosystem in Austin. I was referred by a friend to Atlanta. I met some of the folks at the chamber and some of the large companies, and I started to see that from a cost-of-doing-business perspective, and being an entrepreneur and making the money stretch, Atlanta was the best place to do that. You had a market with a lot of Fortune 500 companies, access to talent, and an airport that you can easily get anywhere else in the world you need to go, and a community that’s really business-friendly.”

Along with the tech community, Atlanta has an important ingredient for start-up culture — a great music and food scene.

“There’s a very vibrant live music scene,” Zeto said. “It’s obviously a big sports town. The restaurants are fantastic, and this is turning into a foodie heaven. You’ve got that cultural aspect that an entrepreneur likes, but at a much lower cost of doing business and living. And one of the things that I’ve found, both working for companies here in Atlanta and owning a company and having employees, is that there is a level of loyalty here in Atlanta in this tech scene that you will not find in Silicon Valley, and I guarantee you that.”

Dan Blacharski is the CEO and editor-in-chief of Techie.com, where this article first appeared.

Atlanta drives mobile innovation

By Ralph de la Vega

There’s a momentum in Atlanta fueling ideas and innovation. Atlanta has a robust ecosystem driving mobile innovation and real-world application.

Mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets and other Internet devices, have transformed how we interact. Smartphones are projected by 2016 to be in the hands of 1.3 billion people worldwide. By 2020, there could be 50 billion connected devices.

Atlanta’s culture encourages growth. In the past year, Georgia has claimed headlines with major mobile technology announcements and created an estimated 24,000 jobs in mobile app development alone. The result: an estimated economic impact of more than $1 billion. Add to that Atlanta’s low cost of doing business among the top 10 largest metro areas in the U.S., and you have the right environment for businesses interested in mobility.

Atlanta’s culture of innovation, along with its 66 universities and colleges, was a big reason AT&T opened its fourth Foundry in Atlanta. The Atlanta Foundry is dedicated to identifying, developing and accelerating the development of projects in new wireless services, like connected home, car and other consumer electronics.

Five months after opening the Foundry, we cut the ribbon on our connected-car innovation center, the AT&T Drive Studio. This garage is going to be one of the premier places for connected-car innovation in the world. The 5,000-square foot facility is equipped with the latest technology, two vehicle bays, and a speech lab to test and develop technologies to enhance the driving experience. Connected-car experts from all over the world will come to collaborate and build the future of the automobile.

We also have introduced two new services in the past year. AT&T Digital Life, based in Midtown, is our new all-wireless and all-digital home security and automation service. Last year, we launched Aio Wireless, our new no-annual-contract wireless brand in Alpharetta.

Additionally, startups are creating the latest products and gadgets at Atlanta Tech Village and university incubators. Atlanta is headquarters for leading mobile marketers like Delta Air Lines, UPS, Coca-Cola Co. and Home Depot, as well as mobile content providers and distributors including The Weather Channel and CNN.

Moreover, a nucleus of the world’s leading information security companies, like IBM Internet Security Systems and Cybertrust, call Atlanta home. Rounding out our range of technology strengths is the presence of major payment processing companies like First Data, Equifax and Fiserv – all working on mobile solutions.

Through the work of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Wireless Mobility Task Force and Steering Committee, business leaders, universities and other stakeholders are focused on making our mobility goal a reality. Partnerships the chamber launched in the last year have helped develop a mobile infrastructure that results in new jobs across our mobile ecosystem.

Atlanta is a city where mobility meets the real world, and where enterprising leaders are at the forefront of mobile advances.

Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility, co-chairs the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Mobility Task Force.


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