“The only thing that is constant is change.” – Heraclitus of Ephesus, Greek Philosopher
As entrepreneurs, we learn to thrive on change. We build our businesses around changing an industry or our customers’ lives.
At the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), one of the longest-running and largest technology incubators affiliated with a major research institute, change is also a constant. We continually look to improve and expand our educational offerings. We continually add more programs designed to connect our entrepreneurs to one another, as well as to funding, customers, employees, and to the resources available at Georgia Tech. And, by design, we continue to add new staff members, mentors, and, most importantly, new customers — you our startups.
In my four years at ATDC, I have seen tremendous growth and progress in our mission as the technology incubator for the state of Georgia.
Consider that the ATDC of 2015:
- Served more than 1,200 entrepreneurs in Georgia through educational and social programming. Coached 86 Companies at a deeper level through our Accelerate and Signature Programs.
- Offered more than 320 educational and/or social events.
- Operated in five locations across the state: Alpharetta, Atlanta, Athens, Augusta, and Savannah and held special events in two other parts of metro Atlanta.
- Had a staff of 20 including: 12 Entrepreneur-in-Residence/Catalysts who are all “recovering entrepreneurs” who took time away from their careers to coach companies.
Compared with the ATDC of 2011 that:
- Served a little more than 500 entrepreneurs in Georgia through education and social programming. Coached 19 Companies at a deeper level through our Select Program (now Signature).
- Offered 58 different educational and/or social events.
- Operated in two locations: Atlanta and Savannah.
- Had a staff of seven including: 5 Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
Each year brings an ever-increasing demand for our services and we are expanding existing programs or adding new ones to help our entrepreneurs launch and grow successful companies.
2015 was especially exciting with the launch of three new ATDC initiatives:
- The FinTech Program sponsored by Worldpay US. We’ve taught the first class in the FinTech Curriculum, held a very successful FinTech Hackathon, and are working with more than 30 FinTech companies in our pipeline.
- The Advanced Manufacturing Program in partnership with the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) and Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP). We also launched our ATDC Design Studio with funding from GRA and began to teach our complete Advanced Manufacturing Curriculum (6 classes).
- The ATDC Accelerate Program. This program was designed for companies that have “graduated” from our Educate Program, but are not quite ready for Signature. These are typically companies with one to four founders who are past the customer discovery phase, and are now building their first product, finding their first customer, and raising a seed round. This new program provides them with a deeper level of coaching designed to help them progress faster. We currently have 55 companies in the program. They have raised $4.4 million in capital since the program’s July launch.
We ran two pilot programs based on our Entrepreneurs Education Series:
- The ThincUGA/FourAthens/ATDC Accelerator. This past fall, 21 student teams started a 10-week accelerator program that took them through Customer Discovery, Financial Literacy, Telling their Story, and Investor Readiness. The program wrapped up with a Demo Day where the winning team was awarded cash and prizes. ATDC staff and mentors taught the curriculum and mentored the companies. At least two of the companies are continuing on and are active with ATDC today.
- The ATDC Savannah Boot Camp. This past fall nine Savannah entrepreneurs started a 10-week boot camp similar to the ThincUGA/FourAthens/ATDC Accelerator. Seven companies graduated from the boot camp and 4 of them are ATDC Accelerate Program members.
Both programs were deemed a success and will launch their next cohorts in February.
In 2015 we continued to improve our facilities and perfect our existing programs:
- Our Facility. Our headquarters in Midtown Atlanta is currently in the final stages of its renovation. We look forward to using our new lobby, classroom, staff offices, and new seed space and suite space for companies. Watch for a ribbon-cutting ceremony later this winter.
- The Entrepreneur’s Education Series. We turned our 11-class core curriculum into a non-cohort-based accelerator program. Entrepreneurs can join any 2nd or 4th Tuesday of the month by taking the Customer Discovery Class. The whole program takes four to six months to complete, depending upon the entry point into the cycle and the entrepreneur’s commitment. We served 231 entrepreneurs in 2015 through this program.
- The ATDC Signature Program: Our flagship program that we have been offering for 35 years. In 2015 we graduated a record number of companies: 13. So, we are in a rebuilding year. We’ve accepted 5 new companies into the program since graduation in April giving us our current 31 Signature companies. Twenty-three of these companies are co-located with us in Midtown, four are at the Atlanta Tech Village, and the others spread across metro Atlanta. Our Signature companies raised more than $50 million in capital in 2015.
- The Industry Connect Program. This initiative connects our ATDC Signature and ATDC Accelerate companies with the world’s largest multinational firms. In 2015, we hosted more than 65 Fortune 1000 companies and facilitated more than 350 connections between those firms and our ATDC Signature and ATDC Accelerate companies.
Due to the nature of what we do, we said goodbye to some friends in 2015. I already mentioned the 13 ATDC Signature graduates: Azalea Health, Biofisica, Clinigence, CN2, IdeaString, Rigor, Sila Nanotechnologies, Social123, Softwear Automation, Soneter, Springbot, Verdeeco, and VoApps. I know that they are on to bigger and better things, but it’s still strange not seeing them daily. We had six Entrepreneurs-in-Residence leave us to continue their entrepreneurial journeys: Dan Ciprari, Scott Ryan, Justin Barnes, Richard Berman, Blake Ellis, and Pete Santora. Thank you for your service!
And last, but not least, we are saying goodbye to our leader, Stephen Fleming. Stephen has been my friend and mentor since before I came to ATDC. I thank him for his commitment to ATDC, Georgia Tech, the Atlanta startup community, and economic development in Georgia. He will be greatly missed.
So, what’s in store for 2016?
To paraphrase Heraclitus, the only constant is change. The one thing that will not change is our unwavering commitment to serve Georgia’s entrepreneurial and startup community to help it grow and thrive. Look for us to continue to evolve and expand our programs and offerings to support our companies, our sponsors, our community partners, and economic development in the state of Georgia.
Happy New Year!