In February, we hosted the reception for the fourth annual “Tech for All” Policy Conference. This effort, launched by Georgia State Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, brings the spotlight on the state’s technology ecosystem and making it accessible to all.
This year’s two-day conference, which was sponsored by the Technology Association of Georgia, focused on supporting diversity in technology. We all know that this is an ongoing issue not just for the tech ecosystem in Georgia but other centers of innovation across the country.
When ATDC was founded 43 years ago, our mission then — as it is now — was to help technology entrepreneurs learn, launch, scale, and succeed here in Georgia. For me as ATDC director, embedded in that is ensuring that we incorporate access and inclusion as foundational components of our mission.
There’s not a week that goes by where I don’t have a conversation with someone in our startup ecosystem about opportunity.
All of us want opportunity. Opportunity to contribute our talents, ideas, and vision to make an impact and make our corner of the world — Georgia — better for it.
We all know great ideas can come from anywhere and everywhere, but access to those ideas and being intentionally inclusive is still a problem in the technology space. It’s something that’s critically important to Georgia Tech, and it’s important me, our mission at ATDC as well as the Enterprise Innovation Institute, which is Georgia Tech’s economic development unit.
When I think about startups and new companies, it’s all about innovation. But we can’t have true, meaningful innovation without inclusion. It what’s driving many of our efforts at ATDC here in Atlanta, as well as across the state where we operate with our partners, in cities including Columbus, Albany, and Savannah, just to name a few.
In the past few years, we have taken deliberate steps to ensure that diversity and inclusion are integral to our mission not just because it’s important to Georgia Tech and ATDC, but because our ecosystem is all the better for it.
Working with one of our sister programs here, the Georgia Minority Business Development Agency Business Center — led by Donna Ennis — we were able to support focused pipeline building and development of minority and underrepresented entrepreneurs in our portfolio. That effort —MBDA @ ATDC — launched in 2021 helped ATDC increase its diverse founder portfolio from 7 companies back then to 29 today, that are founded by minorities or women. Those 29 represent just over 20 percent of our total portfolio of 143 startups.
It was because of MBDA @ ATDC, that these founders were able to raise $5 million in capital — because we know access to funding is critical to startup success. These companies also created 51 jobs right here in Georgia.
Another major effort, led by ATDC senior catalyst Nakia Melecio is with the Morehouse School of Medicine, where he is working with that school’s faculty to help them commercialize their research. That effort has yielded two companies and evaluation meetings with more than 200 graduate students and professors since 2020.
I think we can all agree there’s much more work to be done, but thanks to the efforts that we’ve undertaken, partnerships with organizations such as TAG, and the support of state leaders, we are building the roadmap to a more inclusive technology ecosystem. That’s not just great for our minority founders, but the broader Georgia ecosystem overall.