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    ATDC Names Caroline Ford as Investor Connect Catalyst
    Caroline Ford headshot

    ATDC Investor Connect Catalyst Caroline Ford.

    Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute welcomes Caroline Ford as the new Investor Connect Catalyst at the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC).

     

    ATDC is the internationally recognized state-funded technology business incubator. It is a program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, the nation’s largest, most comprehensive, university-based program of entrepreneurship and startup development, business and industry growth, and international outreach.

     

    At ATDC, Ford will work to connect Georgia startups with investors. “We're the advocate,” she said, “as [our companies] negotiate or talk to venture capital or other private equity investors about investing in their business.”

     

    It’s a position that’s hardwired into her DNA, she said. Her father was involved in tech startups in her home state of Arkansas, and she worked in or founded several successful family-owned startups in the marketing technology space. That background gives her a strong understanding of the tech companies that are part of ATDC and adds to the excitement she feels about this new position.

     

    “I worked in an incubator in Arkansas,” she said, “and it was the most stimulating, challenging, invigorating workplace that I've ever been in — just the energy, the hope, the optimism. Everybody wants to be there, because everybody's got an idea. To me, it's like a microcosm of possibility,” she said.

     

    Her enthusiasm for the optimism and excitement of incubators – happy places, she called them – led her to write and present an academic paper Beyond a Social Capital Agenda: Exploring Metrics and Motives Inside Business Incubators in Arkansas, for a conference.

     

    She has also run Arkansas-based nonprofit organizations, including the Wolfe Street Foundation, which serves women in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction, and Dills House for Women, a transitional facility for underserved women struggling with addiction. It’s not her first time working on a college campus, either. She’s been an assistant marketing professor at Kennesaw State University and a part-time faculty member at Hendrix College in Arkansas.

     

    Ford holds degrees from cross-town institution Georgia State University, where she received a bachelor’s in French, a master’s in marketing, and an executive doctorate in business administration.

     

    In her quest to find her own happy place outside of work, Ford escapes underwater as a scuba diver. Her favorite spot: St. Maarten in the Caribbean. Her other passions include Orange Theory exercise classes, and last, but certainly not least, her two college-age kids.

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    Serena Williams Lobs Venture Funds to Enterprise Innovation Institute Client Lillii RNB
    Barbara Jones-Brown headshot

    Barbara Jones-Brown.

    ATDC and Georgia MBDA Business Center client Barbara Jones-Brown has received $3 million in venture funding, led by tennis great Serena Williams’ early-stage venture fund. The investment in Jones-Brown’s company, Lillii RNB Inc., will support Freeing Returns, a platform that analyzes product return data to detect fraud.

     

    Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, home to ATDC and the Georgia MBDA Business Center, first met Jones-Brown in 2015, when she and her team were the grand prize winners of the ATDC FinTech Hack Competition, sponsored by payment processing provider Worldpay.

     

    “I think at least four or five of the problems they wanted to solve during that hackathon were related to [retail] returns. We knew that space very well,” Jones-Brown said. “We took on all of the challenges they had around returns, we built all of that into the application that is now Freeing Returns, and that has gotten us this $3 million investment.”

     

    The hackathon was the beginning of a fruitful relationship with Georgia Tech. She has also worked with the Opportunity Hub at its home in Tech Square, received support from the ATDC following the hackathon win, hired Georgia Tech students as interns and employees, and now is a client of the Georgia MBDA Business Center. “We've taken full advantage of having Georgia Tech in the backyard,” she said.

     

    And while the resources Georgia Tech offers have been important – and were, in fact, the catalyst for the development of Freeing Returns – Jones-Brown has also participated in other entrepreneurial programs in Atlanta.

     

    “One of the great values of the Enterprise Innovation Institute is we engage in hand-offs — from external partners and to external partners, as well as within Georgia Tech,” said Enterprise Innovation Institute Vice President David Bridges. “We are a valued connector and capacity builder within the Atlanta and Georgia ecosystem.”

     

    That ecosystem came full circle in 2020. Jones-Brown was graduating from the Morehouse Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center’s Ascend Atlanta program, a small business support program for minority and women-owned companies funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co. Georgia MBDA Business Center Director Donna Ennis spoke at the graduation. Jones-Brown reached out to Ennis and became a client.

     

    “We're really helping her with capacity building,” Ennis said about the work her program is doing with Jones-Brown. “That's the coaching that she's getting and connecting her into different networks. We’ll continue to work with her to try to identify opportunities for her product.”

     

    Meanwhile, Jones-Brown has $3 million to spend. Part of it will support work her company is doing with Salesforce. She’s also recruited new talent into the company, leaders in the retail loss prevention arena, to work on predicting fraud rather than responding to it, she said. “We're adding artificial intelligence and machine learning to the data analytics that we're collecting. We will start getting better at predicting the fraud before it happens, so that we can alert retailers to potential fraudulent transactions.”

     

    And it all started with a hackathon at the ATDC.

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    Enterprise Innovation Institute to Host Spanish Technology Entrepreneurs for Training Series

    Georgia Tech Administration and Finance Vice President Kelly Fox (left) and Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology Director General Javier Ponce Martinez sign a letter of intent to create a training program for Spanish technology entrepreneurs. (Photo: Matt Hummel)

    In the fall of 2022, Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute will host 20 technology startup founders from the Kingdom of Spain in a training program designed to expose Spanish entrepreneurs to the startup ecosystem in metro Atlanta, Georgia, and the broader United States.

     

    The initiative stems from a collaborative effort between the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Innovation Ecosystems program and Spain’s Centre Para El Desarrollo Tecnológico Industrial (Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology) to develop the training program for Spanish entrepreneurs.

     

    As a part of Spain’s Ministry of Science and Innovation, the government office charged with fostering technological development and innovation of Spanish companies, the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology coordinates the funding and support applications for those startups’ national and international research and development projects. The Centre also manages, including managing Spanish companies’ participation in international technological cooperation programs.

     

    Innovation Ecosystems works with communities, governments, and organizations to help them launch, operate, and sustain successful entrepreneurship and innovation programs.

     

    From left: Georgia Tech Innovation Ecosystems Interim Director Juli Golemi; Kelly Fox; Javier Ponce Martinez; Enterprise Innovation Institute Vice President David Bridges; Centre Technical Innovation Director Carlos de la Cruz Molina; Economic Development Lab Interim Director Lynne Henkiel; and ATDC Director John Avery. (Photo: Matt Hummel)

    The early-stage startup founders, who are tentatively scheduled to come to campus for a week in September, would participate in a series of workshops being led by some of the Institute’s flagship ecosystem development programs, including the Advanced Technology Development Center, VentureLab, and the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business.

     

    Centre leaders — Director General Javier Ponce Martinez and Director of Technical Innovation Carlos de la Cruz Molina — visited the Georgia Tech campus to sign an agreement that establishes a framework for the training and curriculum, which includes an overview of the Georgia ecosystem, lean startup methodology, and innovating for sustainability.

     

    “This is an opportunity to get together to collaborate together towards the future,” Martinez said during the signing ceremony. “The future looking at sustainability issues, industrial, and social activities. This is the starting point, and a great starting point.”

     

    The organization has collaborations with other countries, but this is its first such effort in the United States.

     

    The Enterprise Innovation Institute — Georgia Tech’s economic development arm — is the largest, most comprehensive, university-based program of entrepreneurship and startup company development, business and industry growth, ecosystem development, international outreach in the United States. As a globally recognized model of university-based economic development, the Enterprise Innovation Institute has hosted a number of international delegations in recent years looking to engage with Georgia Tech and its programs, including from the Bahamas, the United Kingdom, France, Argentina, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and South Africa.

     

    “We are celebrating connecting globally and inclusive innovation and this agreement is at the heart of a space that is very important to the Institute,” said Georgia Tech Administration and Finance Vice President Kelly Fox, who signed the agreement on behalf of the Institute. “We’re honored that you are working with us, and we look forward to seeing how this grows from there.”

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    Lynne Henkiel Tapped to Lead Economic Development Lab

    Lynne Henkiel has been named interim director of the Economic Development Lab in Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute effective immediately.

     

    She succeeds David Bridges who, in November 2021, was named vice president of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, Georgia Tech’s economic development arm.

     

    Lynne Henkiel is interim director of the Economic Development Lab. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

    The Economic Development Lab – through three focus areas — assists governments, communities, foundations, entrepreneurs, and small businesses in fostering value creation by applying innovative ideas, technology, and policy to economic growth-focused initiatives. The Economic Development Lab has had projects in all of Georgia’s 159 counties and in 24 international districts and territories. In 2021, its projects resulted in $11.3 million in investments to its clients and 174 jobs being saved and created.

     

    Prior to becoming Economic Development Lab director, Henkiel led one of its focus areas, Innovation Ecosystems. That group works with communities, economic development organizations, and universities in assessing and planning local and regional ecosystems.

     

    “Lynne is the ideal person to run the Economic Development Lab given her background and expertise,” Bridges said. “She has been an integral component in creating and implementing our innovative ecosystems development through the application of research and education.”

     

    Henkiel, who has been with Georgia Tech for more than 20 years, is the primary awardee for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency’s (EDA) University Center award to Georgia Tech for the last two award periods. She also received the EDA Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) I6 award in 2014 among other funding grants. In addition, she is the developer for the incubation health assessments tool, community innovation assessment tool, and instrumental in developing the Georgia Tech Soft Landings program for international companies looking to expand into the U.S. market.

     

    Her career at Georgia Tech started with a focus on commercializing innovations from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the Stennis Space Center, and Marshall Space Flight Center.

     

    As part of her responsibilities in working with startup companies that licensed NASA technology, she collaborated with entrepreneurs to help them overcome many of the early pitfalls of they were likely to face, as well as develop educational programming to aid in their successes. She also managed the dual-use industry partnerships for the Marshall Space Flight Center, which involved working with large and startup businesses.

     

    Henkiel also created the U.S. Expansion Practicum course at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business, which partners MBA students with successful business owners — including Georgia Tech alumni — focused on U.S. business expansion. She has written several articles and is a sought-after ecosystem building expert who has delivered many presentations across the United States and internationally.

     

    She leads the Innovation and Technology Commercialization Professional course in China and is evaluating strategies to expand the course to include Spanish, French, and Arabic-speaking countries.

     

    Henkiel is an active member of the Technology Association of Georgia’s International Society Board, a board member of the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA), a member of the State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI) and a subject advisor to the New Space effort for the government of Chile.

     

    Henkiel holds a master’s degree in the Management of Technology from the University of Miami, and had an extensive career in finance with IBM prior to joining Georgia Tech.

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    Georgia MBDA Business Center and Siemens USA Announce Winners of Siemens Entrepreneurship Grants

    Gavin Ireland, founder of Georgia Green Energy Services, gives a presentation to Siemens and Georgia Tech leaders. (Photo: Allison L. Carter)

    Georgia Green Energy Services, an Atlanta-based firm in the electrical construction industry, was recently awarded $20,000 from Siemens USA as part of the technology company’s ongoing commitment to expanding vendor diversity in the supply chain.

     

    Founded by Gavin Ireland in 2007, Georgia Green Energy Services is one of nine Black-owned businesses across the country awarded the $20,000 Siemens Entrepreneurship Grant. The companies will join Siemens’ supplier database, which is comprised of more than 3,700 small and diverse businesses. That business segment represents more than a quarter of Siemens’ entire supplier base.

     

    “What Siemens is doing is important because it’s impactful for the community and for business owners to be able to see that large corporations are making make these investments,” Ireland said. “It means a lot to me. A lot of times, as minority businesses, we have to work with limited resources, so this investment in us is very important.”

     

    Siemens’ announcement was in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and the Georgia MBDA Business Center at Georgia Tech.

     

    The nine winning recipient businesses were selected from U.S. cities where Siemens has a significant footprint: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, and Sacramento. These grants, now totaling $320,000 over the past two years, complement the nearly $1 billion that Siemens USA spends annually doing business with small and diverse-owned firms.

     

    “What we’re seeking are those minority enterprises that deserve to be highlighted within the whole network — the people who are really making a difference and showing the way and working on things that are absolutely essential to our future,” said Siemens CEO Barbara Humpton during a recent visit to Georgia Tech’s campus, where the announcement was made. “This is about being in a network

    From left, Gavin Ireland, 2022 Atlanta Siemens Grant recipient; Leonard Wright, 2021 Atlanta recipient; Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton; Donna M. Ennis, director of the Georgia MBDA Business Center at Georgia Tech's ’s Enterprise Innovation Institute; Patric Stadtfeld, Siemens USA head of Supply Chain Management for the Americas; David Bridges, vice president of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, and Jennifer Pasley Georgia MBDA Business Center program manager. (Photo: Allison L. Carter)

    together and working together to create change.”

     

    In January 2022, MBDA Business Centers in those cities nominated 37 Black-owned businesses to apply for the Siemens grants. Nominees were selected based on criteria and specialties that aligned with industry demand: preventative and predictive maintenance, fire and security, electrical, construction, rail and transport, mobility solutions, and facilities and project management. The Georgia MBDA Business Center evaluated and selected the winners.

     

    In addition to Georgia Green Energy Services, the other selected businesses are:

     

    • Maven Construction - Boston
    • E-Fix Housing Solutions - Charlotte
    • GCC Enterprises, LLC - Dallas
    • Onyx Enterprise, Inc. - Detroit
    • Arbor Electrical Service, Inc. - Miami
    • Evans Electrical Services, Inc. - New York
    • A M Electric, Inc. - Philadelphia
    • AHI Construction, Inc. - Sacramento

     

    “Siemens continues to show its commitment to Black-owned businesses through the Siemens Entrepreneurship Grant,” said Donna M. Ennis, C.P.F., director of the Georgia MBDA Business Center and director of Diversity Engagement and Program Development at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. “The business community recognizes the importance of diversity and its economic impact on communities,” she said, noting that Georgia Green Energy Services is among the Georgia MBDA Business Center’s roster of clients.

     

    “Grants and commitments like these not only provide a critical mechanism to enhance businesses’ viability through these challenging times, but to grow and thrive.”

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