A New Way to ‘Engage’ Startups

Georgia Tech, Mayor Reed and 10 corporations launch an accelerator program and venture fund to invest in and promote high-tech startups across Georgia and the Southeast.
Georgia Tech's Tech Square will be home to a new accelerator and venture fund called Engage.

Georgia Tech's Tech Square will be home to a new accelerator and venture fund called Engage.

A new mentorship-driven accelerator and venture fund targeting high-tech startups is coming to Atlanta. The national program, called Engage, launched today through a joint announcement from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and the CEOs of 10 leading global corporations.

The Engage accelerator is open to startups across the country, with a focus placed on mentoring and market access strategies. Applications will be available in early 2017, with programming scheduled to begin in the spring. Up to 48 startups could go through the program in the first three years.

The program will be supported through a venture fund, and 10 corporations have committed $15 million to date. In addition, the corporations will actively support the accelerator through mentoring, education, and collaboration.

Engage will offer programming and other services through a contract with the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), which was established at Georgia Tech by Georgia lawmakers in 1980 to launch and build technology companies.

The primary objective of the mentoring is to help startups with their go-to-market strategy. Engage will also help the startups connect with the resources and right people in the large companies.

“Georgia Tech is committed to continue working with both large corporations and startups to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Atlanta and throughout the Southeast,” said Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson. “By engaging the business community to maximize our collective strengths, we can attract and grow new companies, foster economic development, and retain talent in Georgia.”

Georgia Tech is recognized as a national leader in promoting entrepreneurial opportunities and economic development. Tech Square, for example, is home to more than a dozen corporate innovation centers. Engage will provide additional commercialization opportunities for Georgia Tech students, faculty, and research.

Engage is a key initiative of the Atlanta Committee for Progress (ACP), a coalition that includes the mayor of Atlanta, leading CEOs, and university presidents. The ACP focuses on critical issues facing the city; one of its key priorities is furthering Atlanta’s development as a leading technology hub with increased access to funding for startups. In addition to getting direct support from the founding companies, Engage entrepreneurs will be connected to more than 30 companies that are ACP members.

“Atlanta is the Southeast’s technology, innovation and entrepreneurship capital, with the third-largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the country,” Reed said.  “We must take advantage of these unique assets to further stimulate our growing ecosystem of start-ups and growth-stage companies, connecting them to capital, talent and mentorship. This new venture fund and accelerator program will offer an unmatched opportunity for entrepreneurs in Atlanta and the region, and I am confident its success will lead to greater interest and investment in our emerging technology companies.”

The 10 founding companies contributing capital, expertise, time, and resources in support of Engage include AT&T, Chick-fil-A, Cox Enterprises, Delta Air Lines, Georgia-Pacific, Georgia Power Foundation Inc., Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), Invesco Ltd., The Home Depot, and UPS. Executives from these firms – many of which are Fortune 500 companies – will serve as mentors to the companies receiving financial support from Engage.

What makes Engage unique is the interaction of these global companies with the startup ecosystem to help entrepreneurs build companies that will transform their markets. Rather than filling the specific needs of a single large company, Engage startups will benefit from the combined perspective of the founding companies.

“The robust level of participation from the city’s leading corporations will help ensure Engage’s success by providing a world-class incubation program for high-potential start-ups,” said Martin L. Flanagan, president and CEO of Invesco and a member of the Atlanta Committee for Progress.

Each of the founding companies committed $1.5 million to a venture fund that has been formed to make equity and equity-related investments into companies admitted to Engage. The fund will be managed by Tech Square Ventures.

“By combining mentoring from executives of Atlanta’s top companies and experienced entrepreneurs with programming from ATDC, Engage will give entrepreneurs unparalleled market access and connectivity to help them bring their ideas to market,” said Blake Patton, managing partner of Tech Square Ventures.

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