Atlanta’s other secret: Our technology entrepreneurs live well and contribute

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a two-part series that advocates for metro Atlanta as a great place to start a technology company. Part One examined Atlanta’s robust community of entrepreneurs

By Guest Columnist STEPHEN FLEMING, a Georgia Tech vice president who manages the Enterprise Innovation Institute

As previously noted, most – not all, but most – successful entrepreneurs have experience under their belt before launching into their new venture. At this stage in life, they can benefit from the quality housing and other intangibles that Atlanta can provide.

The price of this home in Silicon Valley is $1.1 million, driven up by rising share prices and IPOs. Credit: valleyway.gawker.com

The price of this home in Silicon Valley is $1.1 million, driven up by rising share prices and IPOs. Credit: valleyway.gawker.com

In Mountain View, you can buy this 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath, 960 square foot, 70-year-old cottage on 1/6th of an acre for $1.1 million. It’s a lot better than a São Paulo favela … but, really, is that where you want to raise your kids?

Or, in my neighborhood in Midtown Atlanta, that same $1.1 million would buy you this 5 bedroom, 5.5 bath, 4100 sq. ft. house. Great neighbors, walking distance to Georgia Tech and Piedmont Park, great back yard for the kids and the dogs, pretty much the definition of successful urban living.

Or you prefer the suburbs? A little ways north of Atlanta, in Alpharetta (the “Technology City of the South“), your $1,100,000 will buy you this: two full acres with 5 bedrooms, 5+ bathrooms, 10,000 square feet, a wine cellar, a garage, and a pool. Some of the best schools in the Southeast. Nice place. Twelve times the acreage and ten times the house as our friends in Mountain View. (And a pool. Kids like pools.)

This house in Midtown Atlanta is priced at $1.15 million. Credit: trulia.com

This house in Midtown Atlanta is priced at $1.15 million. Credit: trulia.com

Or maybe you kinda like that Mountain View bungalow. Here’s a decent match for it — a little bigger, with an extra bathroom, and a whole lot newer — in one of Atlanta’s gentrified hipster districts.

It’s priced at $157,000. One-seventh the price of the Mountain View house. Seven-to-one ratios get my attention.

It’s not just the obvious fact that the cost of living is lower in Atlanta… it’s a whole lot lower. To the point where you live your life differently in Atlanta than you do in the Valley.

The Intangibles

Which leads to the factors that don’t fit well into a spreadsheet, but make a huge difference in your quality of life.

You know what’s cool when you’re 23?

This home in Alpharetta comes with two acres and a pool for $1.1 million. Credit: trulia.com

This home in Alpharetta comes with two acres and a pool for $1.15 million. Credit: trulia.com

Going to a party where everyone is the same age, and more or less the same background, and working in more or less the same industry, and talking about the latest TechCrunch cover story. It’s exciting!

You know what’s great when you’re 43?

Going to a party where you’ve got every age and race under the sun, working in all sorts of different industries and non-profits and what-have-you, and talking about your kids, or your boat, or the Braves’ prospects this year, or the new additions to Piedmont Park.

Atlanta has a (very) substantial technology ecosystem, but it’s not a technology monoculture. That’s important.

There are a lot of “painkiller” problems out there that aren’t Social/Local/Mobile apps. Some of those problems are decidedly unsexy, like ensuring ammonia buildup doesn’t slow the growth of chickens in poultry houses. Or monitoring hospital bills for erroneous charges. Or helping banks combat phone fraud.

This home in Grant Park is priced at $157,000, which one-seventh the price for a comparable home in Silicon Valley. Credit: trulia.com

This home in Grant Park is priced at $157,000, which one-seventh the price for a comparable home in Silicon Valley. Credit: trulia.com

Dig into one of those problems, start talking to customers (we have lots of real-world customers in Atlanta!), and build a B2B solution.

You probably won’t get much coverage from Pando Daily, but you can build one heck of a successful business, employ some great people, create a lot of wealth, and make a difference in the world.

And if you did move to Silicon Valley?

The median actor in Hollywood is a waiter. The median Silicon Valley entrepreneur is broke and disillusioned. If you’re 43 years old, and haven’t grabbed the brass ring of a multi-million dollar exit, and you’re still living in Mountain View in a million-dollar crackerbox… well, you’re just a darned fool.

You should be in Atlanta. Where we build startups for grownups.

The Enterprise Innovation Institute helps enterprises improve their competitveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It includes VentureLab; ATDC, GaMEP and many other acronyms.

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