What the Atlanta Tech Village Means to the Atlanta Startup Community

Disclosure: I build a company in the Atlanta Technology Village.

An earlier post titled, What Pardot’s $100mm Acquisition Means for Atlanta, ended with: “Pardot’s acquisition is a big deal and it’s importance will only become clearer with time.”  That time has come sooner than most expected. In the past few weeks, Pardot’s co-founder, David Cummings, purchased Ivy Place — the circa 1986, hedge-fundy looking building at the corner of Lenox and Piedmont. It aptly has large, white letters spelling out “The Private Bank,” twice, on each corner of the building overlooking Buckhead.

In an inexplicable turn of events, a building architected for private wealth managers, investment bankers, and multi-generational law firms, is now about to be overrun with some of Atlanta’s most ambitious entrepreneurs. Any doubters should look no further than the Twitter stream of Atlanta Tech Village tenant @Urvaksh  — the personable Atlanta Business Chronicle writer (scoop master) who’s snark is masked by his authentic jollity towards life and hard-to-find information (send scoops his way).

Ivy Place transitioning to the Atlanta Tech Village is more than just a change in name. The dichotomy of young, ambitious tech entrepreneurs versus the traditional corporate types is a cultural clash that can only be compared to the scene of the opening resident party at the The Mansion (on Peachtree), where Atlanta’s most successful hip-hop artists shared drinks with the city’s old-money establishment.

Buckhead is known to most as Atlanta’s most affluent neighborhood. The Ritz, the St. Regis, our city’s best steak houses are all within a mile or two of the Atlanta Tech Village. Wait, what? It would make more sense to put a Racquet Club in old Ivy Place than it would to put a Tech Village.

Or would it?

In the summer of 2009 when Mayor Kasim Reed and City Council President were battling against each other in the race for mayor, they both kept using a similar line, stump speech after stump speech. “Real estate is to Atlanta what finance is to New York.” It’s the back bone of commerce in our city. Unquestionably, it’s true.

Of course, even Tom Wolfe nailed the depiction of Atlanta through an aging real estate tycoon who’s willing to bet the farm, actually plantation, on one real estate bet after another.

Constructing a building doesn’t put people in them. Jobs do. Jobs from entrepreneurs who create a product, take it to market, and scale it (see: Airwatch).

Entrepreneurs in this country run it; they always have and always will. Go back to Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Ford: all entrepreneurs, all builders. Today, Jobs (R.I.P.), Zuckerberg, Bezos, and Brin, are all household names because of the way they affect our daily lives.

That’s why every lawyer, banker, financial planner, insurance agent and more, want to see us win. They’ll put up with us “riding segways around the office” (hattip Urvaksh) or wearing jeans and a t-shirt to a meeting because they want us to succeed. If we win, they win. It’s simple.

So where does the Atlanta Tech Village leave us? In a cultural shift for sure. The other is a monetary shift.

Yes, Buckhead doesn’t foster the most creative vibe. However, there’s one thing Buckhead has that all startups need: capital. David’s decision to purchase the building in the heart of Buckhead and soon to replace the haughty and exclusive “The Private Bank” sign with a more open and friendly “Atlanta Tech Village” is down right courageous.

Most building purchases in Buckhead go through the traditional process of running it by the Buckhead Coalition, getting a feel of the community, figuring out who the players are, etc. before the project is started.

David bought Ivy Place in two weeks and I doubt he asked permission from anyone.

My past 3 days in the Atlanta Tech Village have been invigorating. Add to the fact that three venture capital/seed stage funds have stopped by and introduced themselves as they all toured the Atlanta Tech Village. Each one plans on getting space in the ATV.

More of Atlanta’s wealthier residents will finally see that technology in Atlanta isn’t something only done in the lonely hallways of Tech Square. Now it’s right in front of their nose and a few more successful exits will make them wonder what they’re missing out on.

I’m not sure if it’s because years and years of old money have dominated Atlanta business or if it’s just that our finest era of innovation was soon after Sherman burned our city down, maybe they’re two in the same. However, Atlanta is about to see the biggest cultural and economic disruption right in the heart of the city’s oldest and wealthiest guard: Buckhead. It’s exciting because everyone will thrive and that guard will embrace all of the business we bring them.

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16 comments
  1. Well said, my man! I dig it…I’d love to come tour the new launching pad when you have some time one day. Let me know.

    See you tomorrow night? I’m going to try to make it Thursday night as well if I can.

    Wes Vaughan
    Advisor
    [Cresa]

    Cresa Atlanta
    The Tenant’s Advantage

    3475 Piedmont Road, Suite 900 | Atlanta, GA 30305
    404-446-1599 direct | 404-668-9019 cell
    http://www.cresa.com

    [LinkedIn Profile] [Twitter Handle]

    • Stop by any time man. We’re right across the street from you! See you soon.

  2. melonakos said:

    Great post and sounds exciting. I agree with everything except the “lonely hallways” dig, cause I’ve enjoyed my hallway interactions in Tech Square. I’m going to visit this week to see if there’s a fit for AccelerEyes. Our 3 years at ATDC just finished up and we’re looking for a new place :)

    • Thanks John.

      I’ve worked in the ATDC for 2 1/2 of the past three years and I’ve never met you in person. They are lonely. It’s not a dig, it’s reality.

      On another note, I really do you like your tweets and would love to meet you in person. Stop by when you’re touring the ATV!

      Best,
      Jon

      • More my fault than yours that we’ve not met. I’ve been heads down for a long time to fight a legal battle for AccelerEyes and just recently came up for air. Looking forward to meeting you and several other Twitter people. Will ping you on Twitter when I come by ATV.

  3. Good stuff, Jonny. I need to visit the village soon.

    One idea that needs to die mercilessly is the premise of Atlanta as a “Real Estate town”. New York is a global leader in finance. It is an industry they export around the world. Real estate in Atlanta is a navel gazing shell game. By definition, we can’t export real estate.

    To your point, JOBS fill vacant office space. Real estate can NEVER sustainably drive growth, it can only benefit from it. We need to tell the story of Atlanta startups better to but this real estate idea to rest. Yes, some people will make a lot of money on buildings, but staking any iota of our city’s future on any industry that can’t be exported globally is foolishness.

  4. Excited about ATV and hope to spend some of my time there. And I agree about the “lonely halls”. Working on it; but, there is only so much one woman can do. ;-)

  5. Jen, you are amazing! See you Thursday at Atlanta Startup Village! And agree, we need to get system in place where we get y’all to the ATV regularly.

  6. MariaJoyner said:

    Great post Jon. While building a startup in a financial district isn’t traditional, it is fantastic medicine for the Atlanta startup community. Putting startups smack dab in the middle of the financial district not only increases exposure, investment potential, and adoption, but also ACCEPTANCE by Atlanta’s old money. I hate to say it but, at times, startup-ers in this town are treated more like circus clowns than business owners. Old money buy in could lead to a shift in the Atlanta investing scene. It is an awesome time to be an ATLien.

    • Yes! For sure. Hopefully see you Thursday!

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