Inspire Brands announced that it will be joining Atlanta, Georgia-based Engage, a first-of-its-kind collaborative innovation and corporate venture platform. Founded in 2018, Inspire Brands, based in Sandy Springs, Georgia, is the the second-largest restaurant company in the United States and its holdings include Arby’s, Dunkin Brands Group, Jimmy John’s, and Sonic Drive-In.
Engage — an offering of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, the economic development arm of the Georgia Institute of Technology — brings together industry-leading corporations, enterprise startups, and universities with the shared mission of elevating Atlanta and the Southeast as a leading technology and innovation hub. Through Inspire’s investment, the company will collaborate with B2B enterprise technology startups, work with entrepreneurs in pursuit of industry-changing ideas, and participate in Engage’s bi-annual Enterprise Go-To-Market program.
In addition to Inspire’s investment, Inspire CEO Paul Brown will join Engage’s board of directors, while the company’s chief growth officer, Christian Charnaux, has joined Engage’s advisory board.
The company sees the partnership as an opportunity to collaborate with Engage and help its portfolio startups scale while propelling innovation at Inspire. “Atlanta has built a reputation as a city that successfully incubates companies and attracts talent, especially in the technology sector,” Brown said. “Engage builds upon that reputation by bringing together early-stage ventures and established companies across Atlanta.”
Engage Managing Director Daley Ervin noted how Inspire Brands will complement what the venture platform and its existing corporate partners are doing and propel efforts even further.
“Inspire Brands enhances our industry coverage and helps our entrepreneurs access new markets in key industry verticals. By working closely with our corporate partners, we derive sourcing insights that allow us to invest in startups with an unmatched fit and applicability to their strategic and innovation roadmaps,” Ervin said. “We’re very fortunate to have partners like Inspire Brands, which leads its industry and is truly leaning in from the executive suite on down.”
Engage is strengthening corporate innovation and venture capital by introducing a collaborative venture investment model for corporations. “Adding Inspire Brands, the nation’s second-largest restaurant company, as a partner firm helps bring more disruptive startups in food service and customer experience verticals to Engage,” said Marty Flannagan, president and CEO of Invesco, and chairman of the Engage Board of Directors.
“Executives and senior leaders in our partnership will also benefit from the Inspire team’s unique insights in building long-term brands with rewarding customer experiences. This will further enhance the connective tissue between Atlanta’s ecosystem of startups, corporations, and universities — strengthening the virtuous cycle of attracting more disruptive startups across the board to the Southeast and further establishing Atlanta as an innovation hub.”
In addition to Inspire, Engage’s partners are AT&T, Chick-fil-A, Cox Enterprises, Delta Air Lines, Georgia-Pacific, Georgia Power Foundation, Georgia Tech, Goldman Sachs, The Home Depot, Intercontinental Exchange, Invesco, Invest Georgia, Tech Square Ventures, and UPS. The Engage Fund is managed by Tech Square Ventures. Engage’s exclusive partnership with Georgia Tech, one of the country’s top research and technology commercialization universities, provides unique access to its startup, innovation, and research initiatives.