Greenzie, a robotics company that makes self-driving lawn mowers, is just one of the startups to sprout from the Atlanta Tech Village in Buckhead.
“Think about the self-driving cars but with lawn mowers,” said David Cummings, the village’s founder/owner and a Greenzie co-founder. “Another area that’s got tremendous potential is artificial intelligence, machine learning. … There are a number of companies at the Atlanta Tech Village tied to that.
“There’s a dry-cleaning machine for the office or house. Think of a machine the size of a refrigerator. The commercial applications are (for) hospitality, the entertainment industry such as film sets, all built-from-scratch technology. … Another really popular one is Bark, which makes social media monitoring software the parents buy to see what’s going on with their kids on social media. It’s doing very well.”
Cummings spoke on that topic and more at the Buckhead Business Association’s April 22 meeting, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2012, after Pardot, the marketing software company he and Adam Blitzer co-founded, was sold to ExactTarget (which was later acquired by SalesForce) for nearly $100 million, he bought the Ivy Place building for $12.5 million and converted it to the village. Cummings was only 32 at the time.
The previous year he co-founded SalesLoft, a sales engagement platform company that has raised over $250 million in equity, created 500 jobs and is valued at over $1 billion. Today Cummings sits on its board. The village’s success stories include Terminus, a marketing and sales technology company founded in 2014 that has raised $135 million in equity and created 250 jobs.
But Cummings said the village’s top startup success story is Calendly, a scheduling software company founded by Tope Awotona, a Nigeria native who graduated from the University of Georgia.
“He started Calendly and moved into the Atlanta Tech Village in 2014 and built one of the most easy-to-use calendar software companies,” he said. “It has $350 million in equity and is valued at over $3 billion.”
Cummings said he’s proud of what the village has created and seeks to build on that success.
“We’ve had over 1,000 startups at Atlanta Tech Village. … We’ve created over 8,000 jobs from the startups in the building and the ones that have graduated (and moved to other parts of Atlanta),” he said. “Over the next 10 years, our goal is to create 20,000 more high-paying tech jobs in Atlanta by way of startups that start, grow and graduate from the Atlanta Tech Village. So we’re well on our way.”
During the meeting’s Q&A portion, Michael Moore, the association’s president, asked Cummings about his startup investments through venture capital.
“We look for ones that have 10 paying customers that are raving fans,” he said. “We invest really early. … We want to help them scale and become the next SalesLoft or Calendly. We invest $100,000 to $1 million (per startup) and invest in three to four companies a year.”
The village also tries to help young tech entrepreneurs get jobs.
“We have a job board, we host career fairs twice a year for graduates and colleges students and even got some high school students locally internships at the Atlanta Tech Village,” Cummings said.
In response to Julianne Collins’ question about what the village does to help individuals who have lost jobs due to automation such as robotics and artificial intelligence train for new ones, he said, “We’ve done a number of classes to help with tech skills, and we host a number of nonprofits that have classes and events. During the summer normally we have programs. Kids who code is a really popular one.”
Also at the meeting, the association handed out its 2021 Buckhead Businesses of the Year awards. This year three businesses tied to win the honor: Le Colonial Atlanta, a Vietnamese restaurant that has provided meals to first responders; The Burgess Hotel, a modern boutique inn that has given police officers rest and breaks; and Penley Art Co., a studio/gallery/store owned by nationally known artist Steve Penley, who in one year donated $500,000 of his art pieces to charity auctions.
At the April 29 meeting, The Entrepreneur Award was presented to Jennifer Morgan, founder and owner of Eleanor’s Place, a members-only co-working and social space for women.
Normally the association’s awards are presented at its annual luncheon in January, but this year’s event was cancelled due to the pandemic. More awards will be announced at the organization’s meetings in the coming weeks.