Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the CEOs of 10 of Atlanta’s leading corporations today jointly announced the launch of Engage, a mentorship-driven accelerator program and venture fund.
The Atlanta-based Engage accelerator is open to startups across the country, with a focus placed on mentoring and market access strategies. Applications will be available in early 2017, with programming scheduled to begin in the spring. Up to 48 startups could go through the program in the first three years.
Mayor Reed proposed the fund following his 2013 visit to Silicon Valley, where he met with venture capital funders and tech sector entrepreneurs. Mayor Reed recognized the need for a dedicated stream of funding for startups based in Atlanta, the State of Georgia and the Southeast region, to support entrepreneurs and emerging technologies as well as support the city’s overall competitive edge.
“Atlanta is the Southeast’s technology, innovation and entrepreneurship capital, with the third-largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the country,” said Mayor Reed. “We must take advantage of these unique assets to further stimulate our growing ecosystem of start-ups and growth-stage companies, connecting them to capital, talent and mentorship. This new venture fund and accelerator program will offer an unmatched opportunity for entrepreneurs in Atlanta and the region, and I am confident its success will lead to greater interest and investment in our emerging technology companies.”
The 10 corporations have committed a total of $15 million to the venture fund and will actively support the accelerator through mentoring, education and collaboration. Engage will offer programming and other services through its affiliation with the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), which was established at Georgia Tech by the state of Georgia in 1980 to launch and build technology companies.
Following the trip to Silicon Valley, Mayor Reed asked for the support of the Atlanta Committee for Progress (ACP), a coalition of leading CEOs and university presidents which supports important mayoral initiatives. The ACP focuses on critical issues facing the city, and one of its key priorities is furthering Atlanta’s development as a leading technology hub with increased access to funding for startups in the area. In addition to getting direct support from the founding companies, Engage entrepreneurs will be connected to more than 30 companies that are ACP members. You can learn more about the ACP at www.atlprogress.org.
The founding companies contributing capital, expertise, time and resources in support of Engage include AT&T, Chick-fil-A, Cox Enterprises, Delta Air Lines, Georgia-Pacific, Georgia Power Foundation, Inc., Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), Invesco Ltd., The Home Depot and UPS. Executives from these firms will serve as mentors to the companies receiving financial support from Engage.
“The robust level of participation from the city’s leading corporations will help ensure Engage’s success by providing a world-class incubation program for high-potential start-ups,” said Martin L. Flanagan, president and CEO of Invesco and a member of the Atlanta Committee for Progress.
Educational programs, mentoring and follow-up services will be administered by ATDC at Georgia Tech, the state’s technology incubator.
“Georgia Tech is committed to continue working with both large corporations and startups to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Atlanta and throughout the Southeast,” said Georgia Tech President G. P. “Bud” Peterson. “By engaging the business community to maximize our collective strengths, we can attract and grow new companies, foster economic development and retain talent in Georgia.”
Each of the 10 founding companies committed $1.5 million to a venture fund that has been formed to make equity and equity-related investments into companies admitted to Engage. The fund will be managed by Tech Square Ventures.
“By combining mentoring from executives of Atlanta’s top companies and experienced entrepreneurs with programming from ATDC, Engage will give entrepreneurs unparalleled market access and connectivity to help them bring their ideas to market,” said Blake Patton, managing partner of Tech Square Ventures. Mr. Patton is former chairman of Venture Atlanta and a former general manager of ATDC.