Two weeks in, here are the 10 things I love about working in the Atlanta Tech Village

by jeffhilimire on October 2, 2013

ATV

The Atlanta Tech Village is the brain child of David Cummings, a friend of mine and co-founder of my new company, Dragon Army. And several other companies.

He purchased a 5-story building in Buckhead (corner of Piedmont and Lenox) with the idea of getting 600+ entrepreneurs in Atlanta stuffed into the same location and let the magic happen. The building is in the middle of major renovations – to be completed sometime in the middle of next year – but its already the best “place” I’ve ever worked without question.

Fastest wifi I’ve ever experienced? Sure. Ability to hang a giant Dragon Army flag and get properly ribbed by everyone about it? Yup. Free Octane coffee and snacks in the kitchen. Uh huh. But those aren’t the reasons I love this place.

10 Reasons I Love the Atlanta Tech Village

1. Everyone here loves their job. When you start a company or work at a startup, you love your job. LOVE your job. You aren’t doing it for the pay. Or the stability. Or the 40-hour work week. You’re doing it because you believe in what you’re doing so much that you’re willing to take your career and step off the cliff and risk not being able to figure out how to fly before you hit the ground. To do that you have to love what you do. Either that or you’re insane. Let’s go with job-love.

2. Serendipity. This is something David has talked about for a good long time and until I was here, I didn’t really get it. I’m sitting in the middle of seven other startups. If I reach my left hand far enough to the side I’ll touch Birdy who runs the startup, Rivalry. And if I laugh out loud, David from Clickscape will ask me what I’m watching. I’m surrounded by other startups. And the serendipity is flowing. Everyone wants to help everyone else because we feel like we’re all in this together.

3. We’re rich in smarts. Walking through the halls and seeing entrepreneurs like Devon and Lance doing their thing has made me realize just how much talent we’re surrounded by here. Even Johnson has a few interesting things to say now and again (zing). I was doing a tour with David and a friend recently and we bumped into one guy that is building a “bartender in a box” and then a minute later bumped into the guy that owns the Atlanta Silverbacks. Where else is that going to happen?

4. Atlanta has more startups than you realize. There are over 100 startups in the Village already, and we really only have two floors available for use. That’s just in this one building. It really has reminded me just how rich the Atlanta startup ecosystem is in town. And I understand that the waiting list to get into the Village is quite substantial.

5. It’s building some major startup momentum in Atlanta. There are seemingly dozens of events a week at the Village. Might be five startups practicing their pitch for a crowd, or a prominent VC doing a fireside chat, or a marketing event that brings together the business and startup community. And people are coming from all over the country to tour and see the Village for themselves.

6. The Village is helping connect Atlanta’s business community with its startup community. All you have to do is attend one of the events at the Village and you’ll see that there is a fairly mixed group of people intermingling that normally do not get much exposure to each other. As an example, before I left Engauge we had several client brainstorming sessions at the Village with the idea of being surrounded by innovation and technology. Some of our corporate clients would have never been exposed to this kind of environment otherwise.

7. It’s redefining an open office environment. I’ve long been a proponent of not sitting in an office. Over three years ago I declared that I will never sit in a personal office again. And at Engauge, we worked hard to create an open environment to foster collaboration and, yes, serendipity. But the Atlanta Tech Village blows away my preconceived notions of what “open” truly means. You really have to come and do a tour to understand this, because I didn’t appreciate it until I was working here for a few weeks.

8. It makes recruiting easier. Once people hear about the Village, and then certainly after they tour it, they want to work in this place. I can’t tell you how many interviews I’ve done where people have said that they just want to find a way to work in this building. One guy actually said the only reason he moved to Atlanta from the Valley was because the Village showed him that Atlanta had a strong enough startup ecosystem to give him confidence that he could live his dream in Atlanta. That’s pretty badass.

9. The talent expands past just startups. The Village tries to have a ratio of 80% startups and 20% “service providers” or contractors. Because of this, there is a terrific abundance of talent in the building to help these startups. For example, we’re working on a video for our first app and we were fortunate enough to work with Friendly Human – who are THE BEST video team I’ve ever worked with – and they’re on the 2nd floor which made it terrific to collaborate together. We’re also working on our second app and were in need of illustration work, and yep, there’s a very talented artist that works on the 2nd floor that we are using for that app. The 20% rule really helps with the ecosystem in the building.

10. The mission of the Atlanta Tech Village is pure. Here is the mission from the website:

Our mission is to support and inspire entrepreneurs to achieve success through a community that promotes faster connections between talent, ideas and capital. Together, we will fuel Atlanta’s rise to a top five tech startup center in the U.S.

I can attest that this IS exactly what David and his team are trying to do. They aren’t trying to get rich off of entrepreneurs (otherwise they’d charge more). They aren’t trying to profit on the backs of other startups (otherwise they’d take equity along with rent). They are truly trying to bring entrepreneurs together to make Atlanta a top five startup city. And I love that mission and if you know David, you know that’s why he built this place.

I feel especially blessed to have started Dragon Army at a time when I could grow it within the Atlanta Tech Village. I believe working here will have an incremental impact on our success, and I can’t wait to watch the Village grow around us.

If you work in the Village, what is it about this place that you love? What did I miss?

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