In January 2013, I released my fourth book, Kingonomics: Twelve Innovative Currencies To Transform Your Business & Future, Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This was during the inaugural Kingonomics: Unlocking Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Investment Conference held at 200 Peachtree in Downtown Atlanta.
During the conferences in Atlanta and Washington, DC during the 50th Anniversary of The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, we asked over one hundred entrepreneurs and speakers on what they believed was required to build a thriving inclusive and equitable startup community.
From this, we developed and launched our thesis via Opportunity Hub.
Unbeknownst to us at the time, we were perfectly aligned with Brad Feld’s Boulder Thesis, which states:
- Entrepreneurs must lead the startup community. Check.
- The leaders must have a long-term commitment. Check.
- The startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it. Check.
- The startup community must have continual activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack. Check.
After three years of building Atlanta’s inclusive ecosystem (and a merger later), we fine tuned our thesis to realize that the following constructs were necessary to sustain an inclusive technology focused startup ecosystem. These critical constructs include:
- Technical (and non-technical) talent development
- Entrepreneurial and business education
- Founders solving very hard problems
- Experienced mentors
- Credible pre-accelerators
- Credible accelerators and incubators
- Safe spaces to build and work
- Founder-friendly capital (debt and equity)
- Creating more early stage investors
- Corporate partners; and most importantly
- Entrepreneurs willing to invest their own money in building the ecosystem
In hindsight, Atlanta has done well. If you look at the metrics that matter, then you can honestly say that Atlanta is the world’s leading technology startup ecosystem for black founders. Today, there are four workspaces (nearly 100,000 s/f of workspace) majority-owned by African Americans. Black founders have collectively raised over $150 million in capital since 2013. This includes Dr. Paul Judge’s Pindrop and Luma, which raised $122 and $20 million, respectively. Federal and corporate funding for talent and ecosystem development have reached $8 million.
Yet, there is so much more to do.
Candidly, we’ve got to have more than four technology co-founders raising over $1 million each in seed capital in a four year period.
To this end, I am excited to put forth a list of 22 people in Atlanta that I believe are critical to the future growth, scale and sustainability of an inclusive innovation, entrepreneurship and investment economy for all.
I’m counting on them to deliver the metrics that matter - more technical founders, investments, customers, jobs, exits.
Welcome to the ecosystem.
Let’s #buildsomethingfromnothing, together.