Launching & Building Technology Companies
Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center is a Startup Powerhouse
When he enrolled as a Ph.D. student in Georgia Tech’s College of Computing five years ago, Vijay Balasubramaniyan never expected to become the CEO of one of Atlanta’s hottest young information security companies.
Today, the phone call fingerprinting technique he developed provides the foundation for Pindrop Security. The three-year-old company has attracted $12 million in investment from Andreessen Horowitz, one of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious venture capital firms. Pindrop already has customers among the top U.S. companies, including two of the nation’s five largest banks.
As CEO, Balasubramaniyan handles duties that are vastly different from his Ph.D. days, such as meeting with marketing and engineering staff and dashing off to customer meetings on the West Coast. In addition, he regularly checks a large computer screen that monitors potentially fraudulent calls going into call centers of the company’s customers.
From an office in Georgia Tech’s Technology Square, the company is building a business to help battle the multi-billion dollar problem of fraud committed using the telephone.
On March 27, Pindrop will be one of three companies celebrating their success with “graduation” from the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), Georgia Tech’s startup incubator. The ATDC was started 33 years ago to create technology jobs and economic growth for the state of Georgia.
Three companies show the technology diversity of ATDC
Pindrop Security provides solutions to protect enterprise call centers and phone users from fraud.
Headed by Georgia Tech graduate Kyle Porter, SalesLoft helps companies find prospective customers using information available on the Internet.
MessageGears helps clients customize their email marketing messages while keeping customer data securely behind firewalls.
“These three companies demonstrate the kind of diversity that we have in the ATDC,” said K.P. Reddy, an entrepreneur, author, and Georgia Tech graduate who serves as the incubator’s interim general manager. “If you look at any ecosystem – and we are part of a larger technology ecosystem – diversity like this is what drives its health.”
Making a difference for startups
ATDC assists companies spinning out of Georgia Tech, those headed up by Georgia Tech alumni, and companies that have no direct Georgia Tech connection. The common denominator is fit with the ATDC program.
ATDC emphasizes coaching, support from a community of entrepreneurs, and connections to a broad range of resources. The companies receive access to Georgia Tech resources – students, faculty, and research facilities. Additionally, they can connect to industry giants such as AT&T, which recently located one of its Foundries in Technology Square to be close to the startup community there.
“We are not trying move the needle 5 percent or 10 percent,” Reddy explained. “We are trying to make orders of magnitude differences for startup companies. We are able to help companies do much more than they could on their own.”
Everything an entrepreneur needs
Each of the 2014 graduates cites a different benefit from ATDC, which isn’t surprising, said Reddy.
“We are all about supporting entrepreneurs,” he explained. “It isn’t just about space. It isn’t just about coaching or mentoring. It isn’t just about investors or customers. We have all the things that an entrepreneur needs at ATDC.”
Among the newest programs are Industry Connect and Campus Connect. Industry Connect brings in representatives from Atlanta’s largest corporations to learn about startups that may have solutions to the challenges they face. In 2013, ATDC’s Industry Connect program facilitated more than 20 contracts between ATDC startups and Global 1000 companies.
Campus Connect helps ATDC companies leverage Georgia Tech resources, connecting them to one of the nation’s top ten 10 publicly-supported universities, with a science and engineering research program that is among the largest in the United States.
“There is a lot of brain power and a lot of talent at Georgia Tech, and we are leveraging that,” said Reddy. “Being connected to a top university really makes a difference.”
“If I’m looking for hash browns, I go to Waffle House. If I’m going to start a company, I go to ATDC.”
Beyond faculty and research assistance, the Georgia Tech connections also lead to great students. A recent career fair held with the Georgia Tech College of Computing and School of Electrical and Computer Engineering attracted 150 students, who learned about opportunities at 25 startups. Internships and new hires will likely result, Reddy said.
ATDC companies tend to fall into two categories: those with high market risk and low technical risk – such as social media companies, and those with high technical risk and low market risk, including many of the science-based startups spinning out of Georgia Tech. Those two groups help one another, and build a robust ecosystem.
“Our scientists have to learn how to market, and our marketers have to learn about science,” Reddy noted. “That’s where the ecosystem gets really strong.”
Reddy believes ATDC has a great reputation, one that should make it top of mind for any technology entrepreneur in Georgia.
“If I’m looking for hash browns, I go to Waffle House,” he added. “If I’m going to start a company, I go to ATDC.”
Video: What is ATDC?