ATDC, one of the nation’s largest, longest running, and best-known university-based technology accelerators, is expanding its mission. ATDC has been merged with Georgia Tech’s VentureLab and with the Georgia SBIR Assistance Program. By pooling resources, the new ATDC has increased the staff available to serve its expanded mission of helping Georgia entrepreneurs launch and build successful technology companies. The change will allow ATDC to greatly extend its reach to serve more technology companies along multiple growth paths and at all stages of development.
Founded in 1980, ATDC has helped create millions of dollars in tax revenues by graduating more than 120 companies, which together have raised more than a billion dollars in outside financing. However, according to Stephen Fleming, vice provost at Georgia Tech, “the startup market has changed dramatically over the past few years. Many startup companies do not want or need to pursue venture funding. Some are not even seeking traditional office space. ATDC’s new initiatives directly address the demands of today’s startup environment.”
ATDC will open its membership to all technology entrepreneurs in Georgia, from those at the earliest conception stage to the well-established, venture-fundable companies. “We’re interested in any technology business opportunity,” said David Sung, one of ATDC’s startup catalysts and a former partner with H.I.G. Ventures. “There are many ways ATDC can help startups, from business coaching and providing networking opportunities to financing through angel investment, government grants and contracts, corporate partnerships, and classic bootstrapping. We will support all entrepreneurs, whatever path they may take, through their entire growth process.”
ATDC will continue to offer traditional “bricks-and-mortar” incubation space on entrepreneur-friendly terms, both in midtown Atlanta and Savannah. The center will be expanding its recent “SeedSpace” offering of small single-office leases in Technology Square for the earliest entrepreneurs and will provide a variety of co-working spaces to promote casual interaction among entrepreneurs. Recognizing the sprawl of the Atlanta metro area, ATDC will offer programs outside the Perimeter where dense clusters of entrepreneurs can benefit from its services. ATDC will also take full advantage of social media to build connections with entrepreneurs across the entire state of Georgia.
Since 1999, the state-funded ATDC Seed Capital Fund has made equity investments in Georgia startup companies alongside angel investors and traditional venture firms. With this new merger, ATDC will also manage the Georgia Tech Edison Fund, an innovative investment fund established in 2007 which draws its resources from charitable donors who are interested in helping expand the entrepreneurial ecosystem surrounding Georgia Tech.
“ATDC has always been a focal point for entrepreneurship in Georgia,” said Sig Mosley, president of Imlay Investments and member of ATDC’s board of advisors. “With these moves, ATDC now is aligned to support the specific needs of the new startup environment. The open door policy is a strong, positive shift and reinforces ATDC’s leadership role in the startup community not just within the Atlanta metro area, but throughout the entire state.”
The merger of the three units will bring together a broader knowledge base to provide comprehensive services to Georgia’s technology entrepreneurs.
“By working at the very earliest stage with university spinouts — not just pre-revenue but pre-incorporation — we have learned a great deal about the coaching required by brand-new entrepreneurial teams that are still establishing their business model,” said Roberto Casas, previously assistant director of Georgia Tech’s VentureLab. “To date, we’ve focused on startups based on Georgia Tech intellectual property. By merging with ATDC, we’ll be able to offer similar services to any Georgia startup, whether connected to Georgia Tech or not.”
ATDC, the former Georgia Tech VentureLab, and the SBIR Assistance program are part of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) at Georgia Tech, which helps Georgia enterprises improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. Stephen Fleming, the former head of Georgia Tech VentureLab, was recently promoted to vice provost of Georgia Tech overseeing all of EI2. He will serve as the initial director of the new ATDC.
“Despite the economic downturn, it’s still a great time to build a startup company in Georgia,” said Fleming. “The last four years have seen an explosion of groups and organizations supporting the early-stage entrepreneur. With this expansion, we’re rebooting the franchise of ATDC as the hub of technology entrepreneurship in Georgia. We hope to work with everyone, at any stage, along any path, to accelerate more technology startups and weave them into the economic fabric of Georgia.”
All employees of ATDC, Georgia Tech VentureLab, and the SBIR Assistance Program will be retained in the consolidation. The new ATDC organization will continue to assist Georgia Tech faculty members and other research staff in forming new companies, and will continue to provide assistance to any Georgia small business seeking SBIR funding.
ATDC helps Georgia entrepreneurs launch and build successful technology companies. Founded in 1980, the Advanced Technology Development Center has provided business incubation and acceleration services to hundreds of Georgia startups — most of which are not based on Georgia Tech research, but which benefit from the close proximity to the university. ATDC currently has three facilities; two at Georgia Tech’s main campus in Atlanta, and one at Georgia Tech’s satellite campus in Savannah.
About SBIR Assistance Program of Georgia
The state of Georgia has one of the nation’s leading SBIR/STTR assistance programs which, since being established in 2005, has educated and helped hundreds of Georgia entrepreneurs access these sources of federal funds. With the program’s direct assistance, 150 companies have submitted one or more proposals resulting in more than $30 million in federal awards. By merging into ATDC, the program will be able to interact with more entrepreneurs across the state, including those who may have never considered applying for federal grants, and bring more of these awards into Georgia’s startup ecosystem.
In 2001, Georgia Tech became a founding member of VentureLab, a program of the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA). VentureLab helps build spinout companies around cutting-edge university research. With its emphasis on technologically-grounded business analysis, access to early-stage funds, and recruitment of experienced management, Georgia Tech’s VentureLab has launched more than two dozen successful companies and serves as a model for other universities seeking to commercialize their discoveries. GRA’s VentureLab Program now extends to four other research universities in Georgia; with an investment of some $13 million from GRA, more than 150 Georgia-based startups have been created around university intellectual property in the state. GRA also recently launched a new venture fund to make equity investments into these spinout companies.