Last week’s big Atlanta tech news was the acquisition of marketing automation software company, Pardot by ExactTarget for $95.5 mm. This isn’t just another acquisition in the tech world, it’s much more. The difference resides in the people involved, the cultural shift taking place in our city, and the ripple effects from such an event.
Pardot was founded by two Duke graduates, David Cummings and Adam Blitzer, back in 2007. The bootstrapped revenue machine was built with a lean and agile approach. Add to the mix a reoccurring revenue-model and a tight sales and marketing process, before they had time to look up, Pardot worked it’s way into the the Big 3 of marketing automation software giants.
The Young Pioneers
Fortunately for our city, there isn’t a more passionate person who could have come across a large exit. David Cummings has been writing about the Atlanta Startup Community for years. He’s navigated our city’s biggest weaknesses and learned how to leverage our greatest strengths.
Blitzer knows how to operationally build something from scratch into a multi-million dollar behemoth. In his constant state of humility, Blitzer will out execute the competition as consistently as JJ Redick from the line.
Even during Pardot’s rise, Cummings was able to help invest and/or co-found four other companies: Rigor, SalesLoft, Spectate, Clickscape and keep Hannon Hill steadily growing. Although chilling yacht-style in the Caribbean is probably in David’s near future, his drive and ambition are deeper than just a successful purchase of a software company i.e. he’d likely get bored after the 2nd week on the yacht. Who knows what David’s next plans entail, but if his passions indicate his next move, he’ll be even more involved in the Atlanta Startup Community.
Atlanta’s Cultural Shift
Pardot’s $100 mm acquisition is the beginning of a cultural shift in Atlanta. Cummings and Blitzer have made technology relevant in Atlanta again. Currently, our city’s money is baked in with real-estate deals, big banks, and insurance companies. With Pardot’s acquisition, Blitzer and Cummings might as well have taken an ad out in my favorite periodical growing up, The Buckhead Reporter, and addressed it to every MBA/Bain Associate/Investment Banker/Financial Planner and written, “This tech stuff can be done. We did it. The talent is here. Heck, we even bootstrapped this bad boy through a damn recession!”
Let’s not forget they built Pardot into the “Best Place to Work in Atlanta” ranked by AJC. While the investment banker analyst out of college is likely pounding through 100-hour work weeks and spread-sheet jockeying discounted cash flows projections, the average Pardot worker is getting daily massages, tele-commuting from work twice a week, enjoying free breakfasts every morning, and that’s just the beginning.
Now, as students graduate from Georgia Tech, Emory, UGA, or GSU, they’ll consider building a technology business. Why? Because it’s been done. The Atlanta startup blueprint is alive and can easily be traced (hint: David writes every night how to do it). The question has changed for all uss: it’s not “if” but “when.”
The Atlanta startup dream is no more, it’s a reality.
The two Duke classmates, who started the company 5 years ago, are more than keeping up with the Joneses and hopefully in the years to come, this story can written again and again about the Atlanta Startup Community.
The Ripple Effect
We’re a small community in the South — a tight-knit group. Years ago, Atlanta startup writer, Russell Jurney, wrote a post for TechDrawl on the cultivation of Atlanta’s security cluster. Take a look below at the image of Atlanta’s Security Cluster; many more can be added to today including Social Fortress and Pindrop Security. Five or ten years from now, you’ll be able to draw one very similar with the acquisition of Pardot at the center.
These companies were all connected and started with the help and success of others: this is the beauty of a startup community. As more startups succeed, so will others – it’s not a zero-sum game. Talent will be drawn into the community, more products will be created, investors will see the potential returns, large corporations will start paying attention, use us, and acquire us. Who’s to say it’s impossible, just look at last week’s news.
Maybe it’s the optimism required in an entrepreneur, maybe it’s because success has never seemed closer in the Atlanta Startup Community, or maybe it’s because the Falcons are 6-0, but whatever the reason, now is the time to enter the Atlanta Startup Community. It’s small enough where your idea, product, and startup will be heard, yet robust enough where one can bootstrap a company into a significant exit. People are here to help. Technology is cool again. If you don’t think so, I’ll give you 95.5 million reasons why in another post. Pardot’s acquisition is a big deal and it’s importance will only become clearer with time.