This article was first published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on January 19, 2018.
Atlanta Tech Predictions 2018
Five predictions forecasting strong Southeast technology growth and Atlanta's tech dominance.
By John Yates
Atlanta’s technology community enters 2018 with upbeat growth plans and optimism radiating from our city throughout the Southeast. The euphoria of hosting the College Football National Championship is being matched by Atlanta’s entrepreneurial zeal spreading to other cities in the region. Here are five reasons to be confident of a winning season in 2018 for Atlanta tech companies.
#1. Atlanta wins in the Amazon race (even if it doesn’t) -- Atlanta can stake a claim as a national tech center if Amazon selects the city for its 2nd headquarters. On the other hand, ATL also wins (in a different way) if another Southern or East Coast city is selected. The brain drain created by Amazon’s daunting presence may attract top talent away from other entrepreneurial ventures and increase the cost of talent throughout the city’s ecosystem. Of course, having Amazon’s 2nd headquarters in the Southeast would further legitimize the city and the region as the next leading US technology area. We still win either way.
#2. Atlanta becomes the hottest U.S. city for top technology talent -- Factoring in salaries, availability and accessibility, Atlanta can become the newest top city in America for technology talent. San Francisco/Silicon Valley, Boston and New York have tremendous available talent, but Atlanta should top the chart when considering affordability, livability and overall attractiveness. With the impact of the new Tax Act, look for these economic and financial factors to weigh more heavily in favor of Atlanta and the Southeast in 2018.
#3. Atlanta becomes a second home to a leading Boston/Valley venture fund -- It’s no secret Atlanta and the Southeast have a shortage of seed capital and series A investors. Venture funds in other sections of the country have noted the same shortage. So we predict at least one major Boston or San Francisco/Silicon Valley fund will choose to establish a Southeast beachhead (most likely in Atlanta as the region’s capitol) to focus on entrepreneurs and early stage companies in the region. It’s time for a major national fund to capture first-mover advantage in the Southeast.
#4. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Georgia’s new governor (in Nov. 2018) should develop a comprehensive long-term plan for solving Atlanta’s infrastructure/traffic problems -- Infrastructure problems, especially transportation challenges, pose the greatest threat to Atlanta’s rising prominence as a tech center. Atlanta should become a leader in innovative infrastructure planning and an example for the rest of the country. Our new Mayor should follow in the footsteps of Mayor Reed in building bridges with the Governor to continue the ascent of Atlanta and address our biggest obstacles -- infrastructure repair and traffic congestion. Our motto for 2018 should be “Progress though Innovation” and attacking traffic congestion should be at the top of our list of innovative projects.
#5. Atlanta becomes a pipeline of capital for other leading Southeastern cities – The new year will bring more investors to Atlanta from New York, Silicon Valley, Boston and Chicago. As these investors find portfolio companies in Metro Atlanta, their appetite will increase to locate other emerging and growth stage businesses throughout the region. Cities most likely to see an influx of venture and private equity investments will include Charlotte, Birmingham, Charleston, Orlando/Tampa, Raleigh-Durham and Greenville. All we need is for a fund to have one or two portfolio companies in the region and we can expect them to look for more reasons to reinvest in the Southeast (especially when it gets warmer down here).
This is the year for Atlanta to assert its leadership as a national technology powerhouse. It’s time for our tech leaders, government officials, venture investors and business community to coalesce around a common goal – to show the rest of the country how our city’s diverse constituencies can elevate Atlanta’s tech community and entrepreneurial infrastructure to the highest national level.