Jan 172014
 January 17, 2014  Posted by at 5:16 am No Responses »

I get asked from time to time what the standard ‘deal’ is for transferring technology out of universities.  I am not an expert on this topic, but have seen enough deals out of Georgia Tech and talked with enough folks at other universities to know that the answer is all over the map.  I’ve also seen enough to think the current system is broken.  Many times IP is years away from being ready for commercialization – either because further development is required or because of market timing.  To encourage more startups from research activity, universities should approach commercializing this IP more like venture capitalists.  Change the system to capture more upside on the ‘hits’ and place less emphasis on protecting small returns across the board.

While heading ATDC (the Advanced Technology Development Center at Georgia Tech), I don’t think I saw any two deals that were the same – but they did have similar structures.  The deals are structured as licensing deals, with varying degrees of exclusivity.  The terms were influenced by several factors including:

  1. Who is licensing the IP?  For example, terms might be different for a company that funded the research than they would be if a professor and student were starting a company.
  2. Value of the IP.  How large of a market opportunity the IP might impact.
  3. Degree of exclusivity.  The more exclusive, the higher the cost.

They all consisted of the first two basic components below, and sometimes the third:

  1. An upfront cost.  This cost was about re-capturing the expenses to date protecting the IP being licensed.
  2. A royalty.  The royalty was usually a % of revenue.  There is sometimes a ‘cap’ that once you’ve paid a certain amount, no further royalties were due.  There was also sometimes a minimum associated with a timeframe such that if the minimum wasn’t hit, the licensee either had to make up the difference or lose the license.  That enables the university to license it to a party that may produce better results.
  3. And sometimes there was an equity component.  It varied to such a degree, I’m not sure what it is based on.

The time, uncertainty, and friction it takes putting these deals in place is a significant dis-incentive for professors and advanced degree students to commercialize their research (or outside startups to license the technology).  The individuals in the licensing office have an impossible task in trying to assess the value of such a broad range of IP.  It is a very inefficient market – the outside world usually has little or no visibility into what IP the university is sitting on.  Outside of life sciences and biotech, research universities report very modest returns on these efforts and only a small percentage of the patents are licensed.

A better method would be to offer licensees the option of exchanging equity for these fees and royalties.  Like venture capital, universities may be better served in having unlimited upside in the ‘hits’ rather than protecting small returns for the ‘misses’.  In many cases it would reduce the legal costs on both sides of negotiating the transactions.   This would have the benefit of fostering more positive relationships with the licensees than the current model where they feel they ‘paid for it’.  This may lead successful benefactors of university research to be more likely to make significant contributions to the university.

With increasingly tight university budgets, the upfront investment in moving to this method may be the biggest barrier.  Short-term cash flow from these activities offsets the expenses of the technology transfer activities.  This would also require a different mindset and skillset in technology transfer offices.  Rather than just measuring success on how many patents are licensed, measure success on the number of (successful) companies created out of research activities.  I believe this would increase commercialization, be a more sustainable model, and put more money in university coffers.

If you know of any universities doing this I’d love to hear about them!

Oct 012013
 October 1, 2013  Posted by at 8:40 pm No Responses »

Last night, Dr. Thad Starner gave an awesome presentation on wearable computing at the Atlanta CEO Council event.  Thad is a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing and is more recently known for his role as Technical Lead on Google’s Glass project.

Thad is a pioneer in wearable computing.  He actually coined the term ‘augmented reality’ in 1990 to describe the work he was doing at MIT at the time.  I’m particularly fascinated with his work as Thad is a friend and my former neighbor.  He’s one of the brightest people I know.

Imagine seeing a prototype of Google Glass 12 years ago.  That’s what I had the opportunity to do when I first met Thad in my driveway.  If you created a ‘mad -scientist’ character for a movie – they would look just like Thad.  He had unruly hair in a pony tail and was wearing black thick-rimmed glasses with a gadget attached.  When we got around to exchanging contact information, his eyes started shifting and his hand bounced around in his pocket.  Before I could ask him “what’s wrong,” he explained he was entering my contact info into his computer in the messenger bag slung over his shoulder – viewing the screen in his glasses and controlling it with a custom input device that he had in his pocket.  I was blown away.

Fast forward to 3 or 4 years ago and Thad came over (wearing his ‘glasses’) to ask us to keep an eye on his house – he was going to be in California for a while working on a secret project for Google.  Once the rumors of Google Glass began circulating, I knew right away what his ‘secret’ project was!

Hearing his story last night and reflecting on my own experience watching the evolution got me thinking about a few take-aways on commercializing innovative technology:


Thad had been wearing ‘Google Glass’ for over 15 years but the market wasn’t ready for it.  When he began his research, the addressable market was zero and it’s future potential was unknown.  Advances in wireless made the device less cumbersome but more importantly – we had become used to convergence, mobile computing, and having instant access to information.  Startups often face the issue of timing.  All of us have heard someone say “I had that idea a while ago” when seeing a new innovation – but the entrepreneur that brings it to market at the right time wins.  Apple’s first stab at a tablet, the Newton, failed because it was too early.  It was too large to succeed as a personal digital assistant and the internet and applications that fueled the success of the iPad were 20 years away.


Thad has been working on wearable computing technology for 20 years.  He saw beyond the smart phone and PDA and sought to make technology even more accessible and usable in real life scenarios.  We often preach “solve a problem” – but Thad was able to envision an opportunity before the rest of us.  When I first met him in my driveway, mobile computing to me meant the BlackBerry I had in my pocket.  He had been wearing his glasses for over 5 years by then!


Thad didn’t just pioneer this technology, he LIVED it for almost 20 years.  He (and his team) used it in every day life.  They “ate their own dog food” and as a result had figured out many of the challenges by the time the market was ready.  When he developed the technology I don’t know if he envisioned asking it for directions, SMSing uninterrupted, using it as a ‘teleprompter’ for this presentation, or using voice control to have information instantly available in a conversation – but he was clearly convinced the applications would evolve.


Thad already knew Larry Page so the connection was natural.  But more importantly, to hear Thad tell the story, it was a perfect fit for the commercialization phase.  Google was born out of their work at Stanford and had commercializing academic research in it’s DNA.  Larry and Thad both valued the goal of shortening the time between “intent and action” and focused on tasks that using the technology would make not only easier – but instant.  They also shared the view that actual usage in the field was critical during the development cycle.  Not only did Google have the resources, distribution, and relevant IP – but the shared vision and passion to make it a reality were critical for commercializing the technology.

As captivating as his Google Glass story was – he seemed equally excited to tell us about his latest work exploring wearable computing for ‘passive haptic learning.’  His team has developed a wireless glove that can literally teach you the muscle memory needed to play a song on the piano just by wearing the glove while you go about your everyday life (check it out here).  The potential applications for physical therapy and recovery are mind-boggling.

The audience of mostly tech CXO’s was blown away by his presentation.  I’ve learned a ton watching him evolve and then commercialize his technology.  Atlanta and Georgia Tech are lucky to have Thad here – I would bet this won’t be his last commercialization success!

Sep 252013
 September 25, 2013  Posted by at 8:49 pm No Responses »

Today’s Lunch-N-Learn at ATDC was John Yates giving his Top 10 Points for Raising Money From VCs:  How To Do It Right From a Seasoned Veteran

John is one of the most experienced startup lawyers in Atlanta and he shared his views on what VCs were looking for in Series A rounds.  He based the presentation on the 10 ‘Investor Scorecard’ criteria he uses with his clients to assess their readiness to raise funds.

Here’s a summary of John’s tips:

1.  Market Size

Select a large and growing market and master it – conduct your market research on competitors, market size and customer profile.

 2.  Protectable Product / Service

Build a protectable product/service – articulate bariers to entry and remember patent protection under the America Invents Act.

3.  Management Experience

Locate a seasoned entrepreneurial friend – and make him/her a member of your management team, investor or Advisory Board

4.  Investor Quality

Find a small group of impactful angel investors to support the initial funding – avoid large numbers.

 5.  Cap Table

Don’t mess up the cap table – avoid investor terms or valuations that may preclude future financings

 6.  Ability to Pivot

Be prepared to pivot/morph the company’s business model – and display a willingness to do so, if needed

 7.  VC Targets

Carefully select VC targets and learn as much as you can about them and their key metrics before meeting – note the differences in funds in Silicon Valley, Boston, NYC, Atlanta/SE

 8.  Financial Experience

Master the financial numbers – and practice answering the tough financial questions

 9.  Sales Forecast

Prepare a believable sales forecast and be able to defend it

10. Presentation Style

Practice your investor presentation with colleagues, advisors and friendly VCs in advance

Sep 242013
 September 24, 2013  Posted by at 9:16 pm No Responses »

I had a discussion with an entrepreneur today that was facing a challenge.  A potential customer was asking for his startup’s financials as part of their due-diligence.  It’s a conversation I’ve had many times with ATDC companies.

Potential customers or distribution partners sometimes ask startups selling mission critical and enterprise applications for their financials.  The fear for early stage startups is their financials will kill the deal – either by exposing a lack of customers (size), or exposing the financial instability of a startup (weak balance sheet and losses).

There are a few ways of dealing with the request.  But before diving into those, one of the keys to success in those early deals is being relatively transparent that you are an early stage company and emphasizing the benefits of being an early customer.  Being upfront about this has worked very well in ATDC’s Industry Connect program where we connect our startups with Fortune 1000 and established companies as early (paying) customers.  Innovative companies realize it is less expensive and easier to be early than to bear direct and indirect costs of catching up with a competitor leveraging that advantage.

The other key is understanding the nature of the request.  The question really comes down to addressing risk and sometimes internal procurement requirements.  In cases of internal procurement requirements it is necessary to have a senior ‘sponsor’ to help overcome the old additive that “you never get fired for hiring IBM”.  Addressing the risk is often more straight-forward, either by picking appropriately scaled initial implementations or by addressing continuity of operations in a worst-case scenario.  In some cases letting the customer know that you are privately held and do not release that information, in conjunction with addressing the risk issue may get you past the request.

When that isn’t enough, here are a few tactics that I’ve seen work:

Establish a source code escrow – Offer to deposit your source code with a third-party.  Escrow providers have a process for releasing the source code to the customer under certain pre-defined events that would limit the customers ability to maintain the applications.  Some escrow providers offer (and customers sometimes require) additional integrity testing and validation services where they validate the source code, perform a ‘build’, and create documentation for a deployment plan.

Dedicated instance - The source code escrow is the most common way of addressing the risk – but as more applications are moving to the cloud and often depend on connectivity to other services or data sources, savvy customers realize having the source code may not be enough.  All of their data may be in your application.  In these cases a ‘dedicated instance’ of the application running in a third-party hosting environment with the customer listed on the contract for access may be the best solution.  This only works for applications that are priced high enough to afford the extra expense.

Investor letters – In one of my companies we had our investor (in this case Total Technology Ventures) provide a letter of financial support that we submitted with our financials.  The letter was non-binding, but expressed their support and plans to continue to fund operations.

‘Affiliate of’ – In another startup we sold to banks and they were legally required to review our financials.  We explained we were a startup but had solid financial backing.  We positioned ourselves as an ‘affiliate of’ our lead investment firm and they accepted the investment firm’s information as a substitute.

Pot sweetener - A tactic I learned working with Bert Ellis and Bill Nussey that we used successfully at iXL was to offer an incentive – either in pricing or in warrants for early ‘big logo’ customers.  This was essentially a more aggressive form of transparency.

These tactics should only be used when the rest of the deal is in place – all the issues have been addressed and they are ready to purchase.  In the end, the best strategy is transparency and getting them to work on your behalf to get through the procurement process.  If you are selling a ‘pain-killer’ and have senior executives involved in the decision process, more often than not you will be able to navigate through the issue by addressing the underlying risk of continuity of operations and picking a suitably scaled initial deployment.

What else?  What has worked for you when you’ve been asked to provide your financials?

Sep 172013
 September 17, 2013  Posted by at 10:06 pm No Responses »

Today I was a guest at the Georgia Research Alliance Board of Trustees meeting at Coca-Cola’s Headquarters.  I was invited to share my thoughts on GRA’s new Industry Fellows program.

The GRA is an incredible resource for Georgia.  It is a public-private collaboration among business, state government, and 6 Georgia research universities (Georgia Tech, Emory, Georgia State, UGA, Clark Atlanta, and Georgia Regents University).  GRA recruits world-class researchers to these universities through the GRA Eminent Scholars program and helps commercialize research out of the universities by providing grants, loans, and investments in university-based technology.  Check out some of the stats on their success here.

GRA recently conducted a study of the success rate of the ventures they have funded.  They are significantly beating the odds for early stage ventures.  That’s impressive given the deep science and very early stage nature of these startups.

They also looked at the failures and studied why they were unsuccessful.  No surprise – a leading cause was not having the right team.  In response, they created the Industry Fellows program to pair up experienced entrepreneurs and industry executives with the GRA companies to help mentor and connect them with early team members.  Mike Cassidy, the CEO of GRA, called it “the eHarmony of Georgia’s technology sector”.

GRA has a heavyweight Board of Trustees (Check them out here).  I focused my comments on why leveraging experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts in the customer discovery and business model creation process is a ‘best practice’.  Here’s a summary of my presentation:

  • First year companies in ATDC’s 3 year incubation program quickly learn that building a successful company requires more than an idea and an innovative technology
  • To succeed they must develop a business model and gain access to 4 resources: customers, capital, talent, and coaching.
  • ATDC leverages experienced entrepreneurs and industry executives through our Entrepreneur-In-Residence (EIR) and Mentor programs to help the companies discover a scalable business model and gain access to those 4 resources.  CEOs tell us it is the most valuable part of the ATDC experience.
  • The Industry Fellows program has the opportunity to do the same for researchers and GRA companies.
  • GRA companies entering ATDC are often still in ‘project mode’ – taking on projects to fund their activities and research rather than discovering a scalable business model.
  • Injecting mentoring earlier in the process will increase the pace and rate of success
  • GRA provides critical seed funding for early stage university-based startups (something that is in short supply in Georgia) and the Industry Fellows program will help the companies get farther on the funding provided by GRA.
  • In a startup you are betting more on the team than the technology
  • Since researchers are almost never the ones that will go on to build the company, the Industry Fellows program will help them connect with potential CEOs and early team members.  Keith McGreggor, Director of VentureLab at Georgia Tech, says that is the hardest part of what they do.
  • Georgia is fortunate to have world-class research universities, but entrepreneurs don’t know how to access the innovation on campus.
  • Entrepreneurs will be excited to join the Industry Fellows program since they are wired to ‘give back’ and value networks that give them access to sources of innovation that will lead to future startup opportunities.

As a bonus – Governor Deal also attended the meeting.  Here are a few highlights from his comments:

  • He talked about why GRA is important to Georgia’s economic development efforts.
  • He mentioned 3 emerging sectors he sees: immunology, cancer research, and internet security
  • He mentioned 3 GRA startups by name: Damballa, Urjanet, and MedShape
  • GRA’s 60+ Eminent Scholars have attracted over $200 million in funding to Georgia and employ over 1500 scientists and engineers
  • He talked about why the Affordable Care Act would impact Georgia more than some other states.  He encouraged startups focused on better and more affordable healthcare.
  • As a parent, my favorite part was Gov. Deal “let out a secret” that they were looking to follow the Eminent Scholars model and create an Eminent Teachers program for K-12 education, calling it “the greatest opportunity for the least amount of money”.  I agree – it’s an awesome idea.  See Maria Saporta’s Atlanta Business Chronicle Article on this here.
Aug 212013
 August 21, 2013  Posted by at 2:37 am No Responses »

Warning:  Way off-topic post!

fulton_splash5I reported bright and early this morning to the Fulton County Justice Center on Central Avenue in Downtown Atlanta for jury duty.  It was the first time I’ve ever been summoned for jury duty.  My guess is moving around 5 cities, including one overseas, kept me off earlier lists.

In the days leading up to this morning, several well-meaning folks offered advice on what to say to ‘get out of it’.  As bad as the timing was for me, I wasn’t going to duck my responsibility.  I’m glad I live in a country with trial by jury!  Jury duty seems to be a pretty small sacrifice as far as civic duties goes.  Certainly smaller than the sacrifices my brother has made serving in the Army with two tours in Iraq!

After a boring day that felt exactly like waiting around at the airport, I was released without being called for jury selection.  As a change of pace, I thought I’d post a few things you might want to know when reporting for jury duty in Atlanta:

  • On the summons they have a phone number you can call the night before to see if your group has to report.
  • They have free parking by the baseball stadium and busses to get you to the courthouse, but I drove and just parked in the Underground pay parking deck across the street.
  • The 8am reporting time appeared very flexible.  Arriving as late as 8:45 seemed fine.  I arrived 10 minutes early and stood in line for 25 minutes to get in.
  • I’m not a great judge of crowds – but it looked like 300-400 people were summoned.  With 10 State judges and 20 Superior Court judges, it appears they had enough people for all 30 to request a jury today.
  • When you are summoned, you are asked to fill out a form and return it.  Don’t do it.  Instead – fill it out and bring it with you.  Ironically, those that didn’t send the form ahead of time were pulled out of line and taken to the front to fill them out and turn them in, leaving us poor suckers that followed directions standing in line for 25 minutes to check in.
  • Bring your drivers license.  You may not need an ID to vote, but you do for jury duty.
  • Dress was all over the map.  I wore jeans and a button down and didn’t feel at all out of place.
  • You can bring laptops, iPads, and smart phones.  They have free wifi.  You’ll be glad you did as you’ll do a lot of sitting around and waiting.  Seats near a power outlet were scarce, but bring your power cords, as there are a few outlets for recharging your devices.  You aren’t allowed to make or receive calls on your mobile phone.  They did have TVs, but they were tuned to daytime TV.  Nothing quite as uncomfortable as watching a segment on ‘labiaplasty’ with 400 strangers.
  • Bring headphones.  I had over a dozen people asking me how to connect to wifi or talking non-stop (mostly complaining about being there) until I put my headphones on.
  • Bring snacks.  They have a vending machine that always seemed to have a long line and the cafeteria was closed during our break.
  • Don’t ask me how I found out, but the cheese and cracker spread in the ‘Learning Center’ is not for jurors.

As for what to expect if you are picked for jury selection, or chosen to sit on a jury – I can’t help you there.  My civic duty ended when they called my name out shortly after lunch, thanked me for my service, and let me go home with a promise to not be called for jury duty for at least 18 months.

Aug 102013
 August 10, 2013  Posted by at 3:37 am No Responses »

Earlier, I wrote a blog post about ‘pillar companies’ (read it here).

Pillar companies are the trees in the startup rainforest ecosystem – large, local, (mostly) publicly traded companies.  They are big successes that produce lots of talent, wealth, and companies willing to bet on other startups’ products.  Talent that moves on to new ventures and builds a mentor network.  Wealth that fuels a healthy angel network and produces LPs for venture funds.

In the post I mentioned that recently Atlanta entrepreneurs often cash out before scaling.  I used the qualifier ‘recently’ because although Atlanta has clearly had it’s share of pillar companies, most of the examples were a decade or more ago.

So that got me thinking – what changed?  Conversations with other entrepreneurs and investors brought up a variety of theories, but they all revolved around a single factor – liquidity.

As this chart of tech IPOs over the past 30 years from the New York Times illustrates, the trend since the early 2000’s has been fewer and larger IPOs, requiring more revenue (with a few exceptions) to go public than in the past.


Some point to the increased cost of regulatory compliance as a result of Sarbanes-Oxley, enacted in 2002.  Others point to economic volatility since the 9/11 attacks.  Whatever the case, it is undeniable there have been fewer IPOs in recent history.

Having to take the company farther before founders and employees can take chips off the table changes the risk-reward equation.  Valuation comparisons based on a variety of metrics lead to different conclusions – but for rapidly growing technology companies, revenue multiple is often the best proxy for comparing valuations.  The range of multiples is all over the map, but with 2/3 of companies getting less than 4x multiples, who can blame an entrepreneur that builds a $10-$20 million company for exiting earlier with higher multiples to strategic buyers?  As one person I spoke with put it “these are smart people – they can take that and do it again – or just go play golf”.

I often hear it’s our culture in Atlanta that entrepreneurs cash out (earlier) and “live the good life” rather than do it again.  Given the multiple examples of Atlanta entrepreneurs that not only built pillar companies, but also continued to be active entrepreneurs and investors, I’m not convinced that is the case.  I think it has as much to do with the fact that most of the exceptions to this trend in recent years have been consumer technology companies.  Atlanta’s historical strength has been enterprise technology and the absence of these consumer tech exceptions that exist in other tech hubs may lead us to jump to the conclusion the trend is unique to Atlanta.

Both M&A activity and IPOs are increasing in pace again – so it’s unclear what this dynamic will mean going forward.  Companies like AirWatch, Bridge2Solutions, MailChimp, and SoloHealth remain in high growth mode and continue to scale so perhaps this will change.  In the current state, the private equity market will have to step in with investments that enable entrepreneurs to take some money off the table and fund the company for continued rapid growth if we are going to see more ‘pillar companies’.

What do you think?  Is cashing out early our culture in Atlanta – or is it a result of market conditions?

Aug 092013
 August 9, 2013  Posted by at 3:32 am No Responses »

This week I (literally) handed over the keys to ATDC to Mike Hersh.  It has been a huge privilege to man the helm at ATDC – a startup incubator at Georgia Tech that Forbes named one of the “top 12 incubators changing the world.”  I agreed to chair the search committee and take on the interim role in part because I bleed ‘white and gold’ and it was an opportunity to serve my alma mater.  But the main reason was I believe ATDC is an incredible resource for entrepreneurs in Georgia, is uniquely positioned to leverage Georgia Tech to drive innovation, and is a resource that has barely scratched the surface of what it could (and should) be.

When I stepped into the interim role, Stephen Fleming told me he wanted me to “do more than keep the seat warm.”  So I dove in headfirst.  Thanks to the support and ideas of the ATDC companies, we made a lot of progress in a short period of time and I can’t wait to see Mike take it to the next level.

My time running ATDC has been an absolute blast and one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my career.  Running ATDC means wearing many hats – coach, psychologist, economic development, landlord, and operator.  With so much going on in the Atlanta startup community, it was exciting to be at the center of it.  Without a doubt, the best part has been getting to know so many incredible entrepreneurs.  I learned a ton from all of our companies – new business models, industries, and technologies.  And I made some awesome new friends.

So why was I crazy enough to walk away from a job I love working with such amazing people?  The best analogy I can come up with is that heading ATDC is a bit like an alcoholic working in a bar.  I handed over the reigns to Mike so I can focus on my next chapter and where I want to be at this point in my life, on the other side of the bar – building an innovative company.

I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity and I owe so many people in the Atlanta startup community a debt of gratitude for all the help and support I received.  I will no doubt continue to stay active in ATDC and the Atlanta startup community.  Wherever this chapter takes me, I am better prepared because of my time leading ATDC.

Jul 312013
 July 31, 2013  Posted by at 10:17 am No Responses »

Last week we announced the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) is expanding our open membership program by launching the ATDC Entrepreneurs program.  The ATDC Entrepreneurs program is designed to help entrepreneurs in Georgia launch and grow successful technology companies.

What is the ATDC Entrepreneurs program?

Over the past few years ATDC has increasingly incorporated the ‘lean startup’ methodology in our education series and coaching.  We use the business model canvas to encourage continuous innovation and ‘pivots’ based on marketplace feedback.

Late last year the ATDC team set out to apply those same methodologies to our own business planning process.  We are applying it to both our cornerstone ATDC Select incubator for high potential startups as well as our open membership program.  As part of that process, we have listened to hundreds of entrepreneurs and ATDC stakeholders.  And boy did we get an earful – lots of great ideas, critiques, and kudos!

Based on your feedback, we are expanding our open membership program by launching the ATDC Entrepreneurs program.  The ATDC Entrepreneurs program replaces our open membership program.  While the previous open program served technology companies in Georgia – the new Entrepreneurs program is open to any individual technology entrepreneur in Georgia.  Membership is just $25 a year.

Why the ‘pivot’? 

Over the past several years we have learned that the programs we originally designed to be delivered in a customized one-to-one manner with a limited number of ATDC Select companies don’t always scale for hundreds of startups.  Expanding the ATDC Select incubator program takes a lot of  resources (and many entrepreneurs don’t want or need the incubator program) so we are developing the Entrepreneurs program to deliver on our promise of opening up ATDC to serve more startups in Georgia.  In addition, this will enable us to develop programming that can be shared outside our four walls with our partners and friends at other startup facilities and cities across the state.

We also heard a common complaint that individual entrepreneurs were not able to access our programming.  Since the startup process often starts well before a company is incorporated, we were excluding folks at a stage they would most benefit from many of our events and programs.  To increase access for individuals and students, we changed membership from company to an individual based model and lowered the membership fee to $25 a year (a big savings from the over the prior $50 per quarter).  Georgia Tech students, faculty, and staff can now join at no cost.

Why $25? 

Membership fees are not a significant part of how we pay the bills at ATDC, but we do need a registration process and small fee to know who our active customers are.  As membership increases, some events and programs where food and drink will be served will have a small ($10) fee.  We plan to seek sponsors to hopefully eliminate the food and drink charge for some programs in the future.  If you are a current member, your most recent membership payment will cover the first two years.

What’s the difference between ATDC Select and the ATDC Entrepreneur program?

The Entrepreneurs program will have access to most of the same programs and events that ATDC Select companies can access and can book office hours with our Catalysts and EIRs at any time.

ATDC Select, our flagship incubator program, remains unchanged.  The primary difference is ATDC Select is a 2-3 year incubation program for high growth potential companies chosen by a variety of factors including market, team, technology, capacity, ability to meet graduation criteria in 3 years or less, and most importantly – whether ATDC Select will benefit the company.  ATDC Select companies must also meet milestones towards graduation.

Think of Select as a PhD program – it’s an advanced program where we surround the entrepreneurs with resources to help them succeed, but it’s largely a self-guided experience with milestones to graduation.  Select companies are assigned a dedicated Entrepreneur-in-Residence, participate in programs and curriculum designed specifically for them (like the CEO Roundtable), and receive priority for space and some programs like Industry Connect.  ATDC Select companies also receive priority for space in the incubator.

As a result of our customer discovery efforts, we are launching new programs, growing our staff, and expanding our footprint on campus.  The new Entrepreneurs program will benefit from the resources of the incubator and Georgia Tech, as well as see new curriculum and programming designed to better serve the broader startup community.  We have also updated our website to make it easier to find the resources available to entrepreneurs and register for events.

We recommend entrepreneurs new to the program attend an info session, held the second Tuesday of every month.  We look forward to hearing your thoughts on how to make the Entrepreneurs program awesome and we’ll keep iterating to improve!

Jul 182013
 July 18, 2013  Posted by at 10:28 pm No Responses »

One of the more frequent requests I get in office hours at ATDC is entrepreneurs asking how to find technical talent – especially programmers.  Many come in hopes that we can make a quick intro to the perfect programmer.  Sometimes a specific person comes to mind and I introduce them.  But most of the time I share the following tactics:

  1. Post the opening on ATDCs Jobs Board (  Although we just recently launched it – we are working to make this a clearinghouse for opportunities with ATDC companies and steering candidates to this site.  The Jobs Board is run by Career Builders so your posting also appears on other jobs boards at no cost.  ATDC Companies that participated in the beta reported great results.
  2. Post your job on the Georgia Tech College of Computing jobs board (
  3. Several times a year ATDC gets a booth at the various career fairs on campus.  We collect resumes to provide to ATDC companies and rotate ATDC select companies in the booth throughout the day.
  4. Attend as many startup and technology industry events as you can and network.  Don’t just talk to the CEOs – seek out the CTOs and technical folks.  Great people usually know other great people – and likely know them well enough to know who might be interested.  Be ready ‘pitch’ your company.  Technical folks are in high demand so they can be choosy.  Make it clear why what you are doing is exciting.  Several ATDC CEOs have attended technology meet-ups (like the Ruby on Rails or Big Data meet-ups) even though they aren’t technical just to meet potential candidates.
  5. Think long term.  If you are an ATDC Select Company contact Joy Hymel about the Georgia Tech co-op and internship program.  Being located in Tech Square gives you a big advantage as students like the ability to maintain their campus life during their internship semesters (especially during football season).  Hiring interns that you can bring on full time when they finish school is a great way to build a pipeline of talent.
  6. Several ATDC Select CEOs have reported they run recruiting drip campaigns – keeping in touch with students and experienced talent and keeping them up to date on how the company is doing.
  7. The most overlooked tactic is participating in hack-a-thons like Startup Weekend.  These events are usually 2-3 days where ‘hustlers, hackers, and designers’ come together to come up with ideas for a startup and build a product or launch a startup.  It’s like a game of pickup basketball for startup junkies.  Yes – I know you already have a startup.  But participating in these events you will meet programmers from other startups and established companies that are looking for entrepreneurial opportunities.  For this to work, you have to roll up your sleeves and participate.  If you just go through the motions you are unlikely to inspire anyone to want to join you.   So get some extra sleep ahead of time and give up a weekend to expand your network and build lasting relationships with people who like to build stuff.