Atlanta region’s tech startup community generates strong interest

By Saba Long

Ladies — who piques your interest — George Clooney, Ryan Lochte or Richard Branson?

Gents, how about Tyra Banks, Jessica Biel or Anna Kounikova?

You may recall the high school and college game “Bed, Wed or Dead.” Atlanta entrepreneur, Taryn Crouthers created a web version at this year’s Startup Weekend Atlanta. Her simple, addictive game won first place qualifying her to compete in Global Startup Battle – a competition featuring Startup Weekend winners across the world.

Tech enthusiasts came together the weekend of November 9 to create a web or mobile application within 54 hours. National successes include Zaarly – which has received $15.1 million in funding – and Foodspotting.

Local companies launched as a result of Startup Weekend over the past two years include TripLingo, TwitPay and NExpense – a company created by serial entrepreneur Jen Bonnet. Based in Virginia Highlands, TripLingo’s mobile app is a favorite for business travelers and has been used by the United States military to assist soldiers in learning Afghanistan’s local language and culture.

Taryn Crouthers signed up for Startup Weekend Atlanta in an attempt to meet local developers and programmers.

On the city’s startup community, she notes, “Atlanta has a great pool of technical talent to choose from, but one of the biggest challenges that many new startups in this town face is finding developers. I have personally experienced this challenge with SynkUp (a platform that uses calendaring data to facilitate mobile commerce). At SynkUp, we were able to fund our development through outside contractors to bring our product to market. However, in order to take the necessary next steps, we needed to identify individuals who would be long-term technical partners.”

Crouthers successfully pitched her “fake” startup idea to participants, managed a technical team to develop it and was ultimately selected by a panel of judges as this year’s winner. Within a week of launching, the game had been played more than 3,000 times and her team sees it as a viable, vibrant business opportunity.

BedWedOrDead.com and SynkUp are a couple of many Atlanta startup stories to pay attention to. Organizations such as Georgia Tech’s ATDC and Flashpoint, Venture Atlanta, Startup Chicks and Invest Atlanta’s Startup Atlanta program are bridging the gaps between the idea, funding and building a full-fledged company. Nationally, the region is gaining traction as an area to grow businesses.

Just this year, locally-based companies BLiNQ Media, Vitrue and Pardot were sold for millions of dollars each. San Francisco-based Square, maker of the small, white square that takes credit card payments on Apple devices, is opening an office in Atlantic Station. AT&T is considering the city for its fourth research hub and startup incubator – the others are located in Texas, California and Israel.

The area’s technology evangelists have been tirelessly spreading the gospel of how supporting technology and the startup ecosystem is good for the local and state economy.

Years later, the message is sinking in with the community beginning to receive support from both big business and government entities. As regional business and academic leader — Stephen Fleming repeatedly states,

Atlanta will never be Silicon Valley, and it doesn’t need to be. The region simply needs to break down the barriers and silos impairing small businesses from growing and cultivate a breeding ground for startup success.

Author’s note: You can vote for BedWedorDead.com in the Global Startup Battle from November 21- November 27 at https://www.facebook.com/startupweekend.

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