City of Atlanta hosts key tech ‘Startup’ events; launches first ‘Govathon’

By Saba Long

The growth and support of Atlanta’s technology community was on display this past week with nearly each day showcasing a segment of the City’s startup firepower.

Dubbing itself “the largest gathering of startups since the Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895,” Startup Rally kicked off Monday, Feb. 18 as an expo and internship fair. It also was the official launch of Startup Georgia.

The event featured a network of speakers, sponsors and technologists including Steve Case of Startup America; Sig Mosley, a well-respected venture capitalist; Scott Henderson, executive director of Hypepotamus; and even Jermaine Dupri of So So Def Recordings.

While Startup Rally incorporated a “come one, call all” atmosphere, the next day’s event was an exclusive, off-the-record discussion, organized by Sanjay Parekh, bringing together a handful of successful tech entrepreneurs exclusively for tech founders. Founders Fables reportedly covered topics such as what to do if you need to break up with your co-founder to what happens if a Fortune 500 company sues you.

Govathon: Invest Atlanta organized the city's first government - sponsored hackathon

Govathon: Invest Atlanta organized the city’s first government – sponsored hackathon

Parekh is also the brains behind the fourth annual Startup Riot that happened on Wednesday. The day-long event gave 30 startups six minutes on a stage — at the Tabernacle no less — to pitch and receive questions about their idea.

Prior to pitching, the presenters and attendees sat in awe at an incredible keynote from T.A. McCann, founder of Gist, a Seattle-based startup that he sold to RIM in 2011.

Although he was speaking to a room full of techies, the points McCann emphasized sounded like that of a zen master: “Make people’s lives better. Share with the community. Moments of truth allow you to recommit to your vision.”

He reminded those in the room that 80 percent of success is just about showing up and allowing yourself to experience those seemingly serendipitous moments that end up being career and life game changers.

After a few hours of pitches, two companies were declared the winner and runer-up, Excelegrade and Spensa respectively.

Excelegrade: Female-owned startup Excelegrade won this year's Startup Riot

Excelegrade: Female-owned startup Excelegrade won this year’s Startup Riot

Founded by Lauren Miller, a Harvard grad and former elementary school teacher, Excelegrade digitally administers assessments and assignments for a paperless and personalized education experience.

The “software as a service” currently is administered by teachers in Atlanta, Fulton, Clayton, Gwinnett, Fayette and other Georgia school districts.

“We believe the relations we have started to cultivate from Startup Riot and the prize package will prove to be invaluable,” Miller said.

The runner-up, Spensa Technologies, is an agriscience business that addresses crop loss due to insects. Our technology will fully automate the labor intensive insect monitoring process, saving the modern producer money and helping to reduce pesticide use,” said Kim Nicholson, Spensa’s chief operating officer. “The team is excited about the connections we made at Startup Riot and the opportunities we know it will create to help us bring our technology to the agribusiness world.”

Even the City of Atlanta had its own signature technology event — Govathon, a 15-hour  hackathon hosted at City Hall over the weekend. For the first time, the city’s development arm invited the tech community to help various city departments develop a variety of solutions — ultimately 17 applications were developed.

Third place went to the team that developed Curbb, a mobile application that anyone who has dealt with PARKatlanta would instantly appreciate. The app — should PARKatlanta allow it to interface with their systems — allows you to pay for your parking space on your mobile phone — no more scrambling for change or dealing with a finicky machine.

We often talk about the need for green space, but did you know Atlanta has 352 parks. Where are they, you may ask. Runner up, ParkFind categorizes each city park by location, available activity and other variables. Its a wonder Park Pride hasn’t already developed or commissioned the application.

Initially pitched by the Atlanta Police Department, public safety app Crime Blotter was easily the winner and overall one of the most well-received apps at Govathon. Generating digital police incident reports and crime maps and types for each recognized city neighborhood, it empowers residents and neighborhood associations by giving them a pulse on the public safety issues in their community.

Invest Atlanta representative Eloisa Klementich stated this is the first of many collaborations with the city and its technology entrepreneurs.

The beauty of these events is they showcase solutions to problems we were not aware we had.

To quote serial entrepreneur Keith McGreggor — they challenge you to “draw what you want to see, start what you want to run, play what you want to hear, write what you want to read and build what you want to use.”

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