My take. At the end of the day costs do matter. Well not really the end of the day, but around the time you get married, have a kid or two, and enter middle adulthood. Quality of life issues. That is the argument of all places non SV.
Costs aside, I have a long held belief that immersion is critically important. This is based on my full-time two year business school experience. If you take a moment and suspend the thought that MBA's are the scourge of startup society, and some with good reason, my point is being fully immersed was part of the learning. A big, big part. At the end of the day this is the argument the pro SV camp is making. And it is valid. To achieve immersion you have to have density and no where is the startup density greater than Northern California.
So the question becomes is it possible to create a dense immersive startup community this side of the Heyward Fault?
Maybe. The jury is still out. Austin, Boulder, and NYC all seem to be making great strides. And going back to my B-School experience, is there really a big difference between Columbia and Indiana other than one program costs twice as much as the other? I don't think so. The same holds true for startup markets. If it is at least partially about ROI then the best may not be that when you take costs into consideration.
I was joined at the front of the room by VillageDefense which I regret to say I don't fully understand cause the demo had some technical issues; DudeRanch, a TripAdvisor for wannabe Cowboys and an interesting domainer story; Sidewalk District, which is going to need some serious UX work to to work; and Ionic Security, fresh off a $10 million Kleiner/Google Ventures round.
Mr. Cummings claims the meetup is the largest startup event in the South. Mr. Bird claims I am OG, which I think is a compliment. Regardless it is worth a trip if you want to see the new edge on the Atlanta startup scene.
Nice video from the Metro Atlanta Chamber highlighting the 2013 ATDC graduate companies and the strategic benefits of that technology hub. Great to see companies like BrightWhistle, KontrolFreek, PatientCo, and Urjanet, which I helped in some way, growing up.
While Atlanta Tech Village seems to be getting all the attention these days ATDC continues to be an important node in the Atlanta startup ecosystem. Kinda interesting that the fourth 2013 ATDC grad company, AccelerEyes, is now my neighbor at ATV.
I have written a bit about the stages a successful startup goes through in the past. Covering theories such as concept, seed, early stage and growth stages for those that were not reading in 2009.
One of the things I have always believed is that at some point, in the $50 million revenue range, a startup is no longer a startup and is really a small company. Maybe I was wrong. I now think sometimes it happens before that mark.
I am basing this on my current experience with nCrowd. Back in January when we announced the CrowdSavings acquisition All Things D reported that nCrowd had 70 employees. That number goes down a little as we rationalize the organization and up a little as we purchase the assets of Tippr. But for the sake of discussion let's use it.
If you use David Cumming's Employee Counts as a Proxy for Startup Revenue post with $150,000 (I have always used just a straight $200,000 myself) of revenue per employee for a venture backed startup without a recent large round of funding one could estimate that nCrowd has revenue of about $10 million. That estimate would be low, because our revenue per employee is higher, but it is no where near $50 million. and nCrowd is starting to feel more like a small company than a startup.
Why is this? The answer is three fold.
One, the way we have grown is partially due to organic geographic expansion and partly due to executing a rollup strategy that also quickened our geographic expansion. The latter has lead to more time being spent on integration then one would normally see for a company the size of nCrowd.
Two, due to the headwinds created by Groupon and LivingSocial, the financial markets are not receptive to investments in the local e-commerce space (and have not been for some time) so our actions are driven by profitability and building long-term value. This is not a bad thing, it just makes things feel a little more small company like than startup like.
Three, I personally don't get to spend as much time as I want talking to customers, growing our member base, and building product. The startupy stuff. My job is much more corporate whack a mole. I get involved in acquisitions, handle the duties that a company Secretary is required to do, the administrative things that our CEO does not have the time or inclination to do himself, and oversee parts of the technology integration of the assets we purchase.
This is all good. But it points out that some startups become small companies much before others and that the $50 million number I have been throwing out there could be a lot lower in certain circumstances. Sometimes a startup becomes a small company before you know it.
nCrowd is no longer a startup. It's a small company. And that is great progress.
Not me. Andrew Mason. The founder and CEO of Groupon. His letter to employees and the fact he publicly posted it because he knew it would leak are classic.
People of Groupon,
After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding - I was fired today. If you're wondering why... you haven't been paying attention. From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that's hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable.
You are doing amazing things at Groupon, and you deserve the outside world to give you a second chance. I'm getting in the way of that. A fresh CEO earns you that chance. The board is aligned behind the strategy we've shared over the last few months, and I've never seen you working together more effectively as a global company - it's time to give Groupon a relief valve from the public noise.
For those who are concerned about me, please don't be - I love Groupon, and I'm terribly proud of what we've created. I'm OK with having failed at this part of the journey. If Groupon was Battletoads, it would be like I made it all the way to the Terra Tubes without dying on my first ever play through. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to take the company this far with all of you. I'll now take some time to decompress (FYI I'm looking for a good fat camp to lose my Groupon 40, if anyone has a suggestion), and then maybe I'll figure out how to channel this experience into something productive.
If there's one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what's best for our customers. This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness - don't waste the opportunity!
I will miss you terribly.
The guy does have reason to be terribly proud. My take is that moving on is the best thing for both Groupon and Mason. The guy is set and it will be interesting to see his next adventure.
Have the courage to start with the customer. Good advice.
The good folks over at Hypotamus are hosting Startup Rally on February 18th. The event, which is being hyped as the largest gathering of startups in Georgia since 1895 (WTF happened then?) will take place from 3 - 7 in the Georgia Ballroom of The Biltmore.
My friend Michael Tavani has launched a video blog called On Doers. On Doers is devoted to the the founders the startups. The people that make things happen. The doers. The first episode is with David Cummings of Hannon Hill, Pardot, and now Atlanta Technology Village fame. Interesting stories behind the story. It is embedded below.
Seems I don't get much time to blog these days. To busy running a company to really give it much thought though I try from time to time. Have actually considered just shutting it down but can't bring myself to do that either.
Back in the day FoG was one of the places to be if you wanted to be a part of the Atlanta Startup Community. Not so much any more. But as is almost always the case there are other people to pick up the flag for a good cause. If you are interested in Atlanta technology startups these days here are the blogs you should be reading.
Atlanta Startup Blog. Brought to you by the good folks at Hypepotamus. Never participated in any of their events but intend to. Seems like they have something going on in the heart of the startup scene.
Atlanta Startup Community. Jon Birdsong of SalesLoft is the driving force behind this blog. He has some TechStars experience and great passion. SalesLoft is how housed at Atlanta Tech Village.
10,000 Startup Hours. David Cummings has been doing a daily post for quite a while. And as the guy that started Atlanta Tech Village after a big exit from his own startup David has a lot to say, the time to say it, and the cred.
Atlanta Startup Gossip. Sanjay Parekh seems to be trying to turn this into a community sounding board. If it works as well as Startup Riot he will succeed.
Rob's Blog. Rob Kischuk's blog. Rob would be the perfect technical co-founder if he was not running his own show funded by Mark Cuban. Dude ships elegant product. Rob does not write often but when he does he provides great insight into the Atlanta startup world.
I am sure this list is not exhaustive but these seem to be the places where I find myself keeping up with the goings on in the Atlanta startup community.
How about you, where do you go online to stay connected to the Atlanta startup community?
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The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone (with the exception of comments by others of course). They do not represent the opinion or position of any other person or entity. All postings adhere to my personal values.