Inspire Invests in Engage to Further Fuel Innovation in Atlanta

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.

 

Paul Brown

Paul Brown, Inspire Brands’ CEO and co-founder.

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.

 

Engage Managing Director Daley Ervin.

“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.

Engage Ventures launches Expert Council to help corporate partners address challenges; find solutions

Daley Ervin, Engage’s entrepreneur-in-residence

Daley Ervin is Engage Ventures’ entrepreneur-in-residence. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

The Georgia Institute of Technology’s Engage Ventures has launched a roundtable series designed to get a deeper understanding and more insight into its corporate partners’ business challenges and connect them with potential solutions in its portfolio, as well as the Tech’s resources and capabilities.

 

The Engage Expert Council — comprised of corporate thought leaders and C suite-level information, cybersecurity, and information technology executives — aims to remove barriers by getting critical decision makers together to share best practices, identify emerging trends, and dissect business challenges.

 

Engage, launched in 2017, is a mentorship-driven accelerator and early-stage venture fund that targets high-tech startups from across the United States. Its core focus is on mentoring and creating go-to-market frameworks for its portfolio companies.

 

The $18 million Engage Ventures Fund I is supported by Engage’s corporate partners, which contributed $1.5 million each. The Expert Council is comprised of and open to executives of Engage’s 12 partners.

 

“Our corporate partners are in divergent industries ranging from retail, food, and logistics to finance, media, and energy. Even though they’re in different sectors, they’re facing some of the same challenges, in many cases,” said Daley Ervin, Engage’s entrepreneur-in-residence who conceived of the initiative. “This experts council effort will facilitate discussions where they can learn from each other’s experiences, allow us to better understand their needs, identify how our companies can solve their challenges, and be a conduit into Georgia Tech’s offerings.”

 

The first Engage Expert Council meeting was held Dec. 3 with a focus on cybersecurity. It featured Michael Farrell, co-executive director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for Information Security & Privacy (IISP) as discussion moderator.

 

Michael Farrell, co-executive director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for Information Security & Privacy (IISP).

Michael Farrell, co-executive director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for Information Security & Privacy (IISP). (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

“Cybersecurity is a top priority for companies regardless of industry, and Georgia Tech is a premier organization in this space,” Ervin said. “The IISP is at the forefront of cutting-edge research and innovation. I was excited to collaborate with Gloria Griessman, IISP’s director of commercialization and industry collaboration, to develop this initiative.”

 

Georgia Tech is home to 11 Interdisciplinary Research Institutes (IRIs) which are charged with bringing together a mix of researchers — spanning units all across campus – around one core research area. These IRIs also connect a large portfolio of basic and applied research programs, support world-class research facilities and laboratories, engage Georgia Tech students, and collaborate with government and industry research partners.

 

“The Institute for Information Security & Privacy is one of the largest and most unique research collectives in the nation for cybersecurity,” Farrell said. “Georgia Tech is world class in its depth and breadth in cybersecurity, and we apply these talents to society’s toughest challenges.

 

“Georgia Tech, including GTRI, has a long history of successful technology transfer to industry and government partners and the IISP is excited to offer this expertise I security and privacy to the Engage platform.”

 

IISP’s programs involve both hardware and software, span raw silicon to user interfaces, go from internationally published papers to classified programs, range in size from $300,000 to $30 million, and address aspects from information theory to user privacy to acquisition to international policy implications.

 

Farrell led a discussion on innovation and new technologies in the industry and how those changes could affect the business community.

 

Joining him in that discussion were:

 

  • Peter Swire, IISP’s associate director for policy and the Elizabeth & Tommy Holder Chair of Law and Ethics at Tech’s Scheller College of Business;
  • Sudheer Chavadirector of the Quantitative & Computational Finance Program and IISP’s associate director for risk management, and
  • Brendan Saltaformaggio, an assistant professor in Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the Cyber Forensics Innovation (CyFI) Laboratory.

 

The Engage Expert Council is comprised of corporate thought leaders and C suite-level information, cybersecurity, and information technology executives. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

The Engage Expert Council is comprised of corporate thought leaders and C suite-level information, cybersecurity, and information technology executives. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

Swire addressed how the European Union’s General Date Protection Regulation has created major challenges for global organizations, with new enforcement actions. Chava discussed cyberattacks, firm responses, and stock market reaction to these attacks.

 

Saltaformaggio explored emerging research in computer systems security and cyber forensics.

 

“The caliber of what Tech can provide to the corporate sector, in addition to our portfolio companies’ offerings, is what is driving this effort,” Daley said.

 

Engage plans nine more such council meetings in the coming year to focus on various topics including sustainability, robotics, and supply chain management.

 

Its fund partners include AT&T, Chick-fil-A, Cox Enterprises, Delta Air Lines, Georgia-Pacific, Georgia Power Foundation, Goldman Sachs Group, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), Invesco Ltd., Tech Square Ventures, The Home Depot, and UPS.

 

Engage is part of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), Georgia Tech’s economic development arm.

Daley Ervin joins Engage Ventures as Entrepreneur-in-Residence

Veteran entrepreneur and ultramarathoner spent more than a decade leading venture capital-backed startups around the world.

 

 

Daley Ervin

Daley Ervin has joined Engage as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence. (Photo: Allie Schonberg)

Engage, the strategic grouping of 11 major corporations in an independent venture fund and platform,announced today that Daley Ervin, a seasoned entrepreneur and executive, has joined as an entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR).

 

Ervin, who is Engage’s first named EIR, will focus on deepening corporate partner relationships and assisting portfolio founders in partnership development, go-to-market refinement, and the issues surrounding high-growth and scale.

 

“Engage’s mission is to leverage our platform to give entrepreneurs the opportunity to gain access to customers, distribution channels, and Fortune 500 scale,” said Engage Managing Director, Thiago Olson “Daley will bring immediate value to Engage, our portfolio founders, and our corporate partners, we’re excited to have him on board.”

 

Ervin has more than 10 years leading four venture capital-backed startups on three continents that raised a collective $4.6 billion. Most recently, he was Vice President of Business Development and Strategy for Amazon-backed Nucleus in New York. Prior to that, he was the General Manager and Head of North American Operations for Student.com, launched international offices for YPlan, and was part of the International Expansion Team at Airbnb.

 

“My belief in the Engage mission and seeing howcommitted the corporate partners are – from the CEOs down to operating teams – is what drew me to Engage. The partner appetite for more engagement seems to be growing rapidly. They want to build out an even more comprehensive platform,” Ervin said. “I am excited to help create opportunities for the Engage partners to connect and learn from each other by building out that platform.”

 

As a competitive ultramarathoner and extreme endurance athlete, Ervin set the United States’ pairs record having rowed 3,000 miles over 45-days across the Atlantic Ocean from Spain to the Caribbean in the “World’s Toughest Rowing Race.”

 

He earned his bachelor’s degree in business and communication from Arizona State University.

 

About Engage

Engage is a venture fund and growth platformthat gives entrepreneurs what they need most — customers and market access. Engage corporate partners contributing capital, expertise, time, and resources include AT&T, Chick-fil-A, Cox Enterprises, Delta Air Lines, Georgia Tech, Georgia-Pacific, Georgia Power Foundation, Inc., The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), Invesco Ltd., Tech Square Ventures, The Home Depot and UPS. These corporate partners, along with the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) and Tech Square Ventures, provide tools, hands-on support and resources.Engage is headquartered in Georgia Tech’s Technology Square. For more information, visit engage.vc.