When the world came to a halt in 2020, there was only one direction to go from there: forward. Keep moving, keep persevering, keep dreaming, keep doing — that was the theme of Venture Atlanta 2021, and Momentum delivered.
We went full speed ahead into our 14th annual conference, held on Wednesday, October 20, and Thursday, October 21 both in-person and online. After the success of last year’s first-ever virtual event, it was clear that going digital meant we could reach more audiences than ever before, with people tuning in from countries like Japan, Canada, the Netherlands, and many more. And so, we merged the thrill and excitement of our in-person experience with the flexibility of online attendance.
This convergence meant Venture Atlanta Momentum would truly be the best of both worlds. Our attendees agreed, iterating the benefits (and their enjoyment) of both:
“Best event of founders and funders in the Southeast!”
“The pitches were fantastic!”
“Presenting on stage at Venture Atlanta and sharing ‘my why’ with hundreds of people was the ultimate honor.”
“This is definitely the place to be if you’re a hungry startup founder!”
“So many awesome startups and so much insightful content!”
“The Southeast venture scene was hugely welcoming. Did dozens of meetings both days.”
“Always a great event!”
The networking was unbelievable! One of the best conferences of the year.”
“Such an amazing lineup of companies!”
“Thank you, Venture Atlanta, for the opportunity to pitch in front of hundreds of investors. You are helping break barriers!”
“Gets better year after year!”
Venture Atlanta 2021 by the Numbers
- First-Ever Hybrid Venture Atlanta Conference
- ~675 In-Person Attendees, ~400 Virtual Attendees
- 64% Were First-Time Venture Atlanta Attendees
- 400+ Applications to Pitch
- 91 Selected Companies (20 Growth Stage, 25 Early Stage Venture, & 46 Seed Stage Showcase)
- Over 60% From Outside of Georgia (12 Different States Represented)
- 59% Led by Underrepresented Founders
- 80+ Sponsors
All of this would not be possible without our panelists, presenters, and investors. We’re honored to have such a remarkable, diverse group of participants who believe in driving forward momentum as much as we do.
Notable Moments from Venture Atlanta 2021 Speakers
Building a Unicorn in the Southeast
Tim Sheehan, Greenlight; Kabir Barday, OneTrust; Tope Awotona, Calendly; Eric Boduch, Pendo; Moderated By: Vanessa Larco, NEA
“Work with great people. Don’t sacrifice on the hiring side, whether it’s your advisors, your VCs, your execs… Hold out for those great people.” – Eric Boduch, Co-Founder and Advisor, Pendo, on advice for entrepreneurs.
“My fundraising strategy was really to never raise money. Somewhere along the way, I failed. Don’t just raise money to raise money — do it because there is a very specific thing you can get out of it. [Also] have fun and celebrate the milestones. I wish I had taken more time to savor them!” – Tope Awotona, CEO, Calendly.
Fueling Growth Through Alternative Funding Sources
Chuck Pettid, Republic; Josh Mangel, Pipe; Austin Dean, Spinta Capital; Moderated by: Frederik Groce, Wellington Access Ventures (WAV)
“One of my favorite things we’re doing at Pipe is building this platform that democratizes access to capital, so there’s no subjectivity. It’s all about your metrics as a company, and it doesn’t matter where you are or what you look like. In general, we are trying to make it easy for anybody to get access to capital, based solely on how the business is performing.” – Josh Mangel, Co-CEO, Pipe, on the diversity and inclusion of funding.
Sustaining Support for Underrepresented Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners
Dan Schulman, PayPal; Moderated by: Jay Bailey, Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
“When a community is struggling, we need to do more than just talk about it. We need to put our money where our mouth is. We need to put resources behind it. We need to help our communities so that we can all rise together.” – Dan Schulman, CEO, PayPal
“We’re growing trees and creating shade that we may never sit under, but we’re creating a better world for tomorrow. We’re deliberately looking forward.” – Jay Bailey, President & CEO, Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
The Evolution of the Startup Ecosystem
Ben Chestnut, Mailchimp; Marty Flanagan, Invesco; Moderated By: Katie Kirkpatrick, Metro Atlanta Chamber
“I love building my business in Atlanta. Looking back, the most fulfilling thing I can say about all of this is that we were able to build a great business — and we did it our way. We wanted to prove that we could build a world-class brand and treat people right, and I’m proud that we achieved that.” – Ben Chestnut, CEO and Co-Founder, Mailchimp, looking back on building his business over the last 20 years in Atlanta.
Resilience in the Face of Adversity
Arlan Hamilton, Backstage Capital; Moderated By: Suneera Madhani, STAX by Fattmerchant
“A lot of the companies we invest in, we invest early. The only difference between [underrepresented founders] is access to resources. I mean, the resourcefulness that goes into building a company that’s on par with another that has ten times the amount of money and resources is out of this world. Early capital [and the early confidence that comes with it] can make all the difference.” – Arlan Hamilton, Founder, Managing Partner, Backstage Capital, on the importance of early-stage funding for underrepresented and underestimated entrepreneurs.
Identifying Mega Opportunities in the Early Days From Two Midas List Investors
Jan Hammer, Index Ventures; Lauren Kolodny, Acrew Capital; Moderated By: Rachel Spassser, ACCEL-KKR
“It’s all about the team. At the end of the day, we all have choices. We’re ultimately allocating capital to many projects, but we’re human at the end of the day. So we choose to work with people we want to spend a lot of time with and ultimately help them build their company.” – Jan Hammer, General Partner, Index Ventures, on prioritizing the market, your team, and the technology during The Midas List panel.
“People first, always. Markets change, technology changes, and so many successful companies have pivoted from the early days, so you have to believe that the team is nimble enough to adapt and learn.” – Lauren Kolodny, Founding Partner, Acrew Capital, on prioritizing your team.
The Tangible Benefits of Investing in Diversity Early and Often
Robert Smith Founder, Vista Equity Partners; Moderated By: Jewel Burks Solomon, Collab Capital and Google for Startups in the U.S.
“Access to meaningful capital at scale gives one the ability to really invest in their business and expand. The second [facilitator of success] is access to knowledge. The ecosystem of shared knowledge is as critical as capital, and what I think makes us successful at Vista is that we’ve created that ecosystem; that environment and culture so that entrepreneurs can grow and scale their business.” – Robert Smith Founder, Chairman and CEO, Vista Equity Partners on what enables success during The Transformative Power of Technology panel.
Venture Atlanta 2021 Presenting Companies Lineup
From FinTech and healthcare to eCommerce and SaaS, our lineup of presenting companies was nothing short of impressive. The competition was fierce, and ultimately, we selected 91 companies out of over 400 applicants to present. What’s more, over 50 percent of selected companies were led by underrepresented founders, an important milestone for growing and supporting diversity in the Southeast’s startup ecosystem. Check out the complete lineup below.
A HUGE Thank You to Our Partners & Sponsors
They say it takes a village, and we certainly couldn’t have done it without ours. Thanks to the hard work of our 2021 Board of Directors and the support of our 80+ sponsors, we were able to host incredible in-person and virtual experiences for both investors and entrepreneurs alike. A special thank you goes out to our premier sponsor Invesco, our presenting sponsors Mailchimp and Stax, and our headline sponsors Cherry Bekaert, Southern Equity, and Truist.
What’s Next? Just Ask Our Venture Atlanta 2022 Chairman: Richard Fraim
We’re excited to announce that Rich Fraim will take the reins from Jim Douglass as the Venture Atlanta 2022 Chairman. Rich is a Partner at Knoll Ventures, an Atlanta-based early-stage venture capital firm that invests in pre-Series A technology businesses focused on B2B markets, and we’re thrilled to have his expertise at the helm.
Rich has been active in the southeastern technology ecosystem for more than 10 years and is currently involved with investments in Belongly, Brightwell, ConverseNow, Daupler, Fetch Trucks, Freede, Lendflow, Repvue, and VoApps, amongst others. In addition, Rich serves in leadership and mentorship positions with multiple local technology organizations.
Keeping the Momentum Going
As we reflect back on Venture Atlanta Momentum, we feel a great sense of pride in the forward movement of our participating companies, panelists, sponsors, and audience members. And, while we can’t be sure what 2022 will bring, one thing’s for certain: It sure feels good to be moving in the right direction.
Already can’t wait for next year? Stay tuned for our “Save the Date” — coming soon. Keep up with all Venture Atlanta news and announcements by subscribing to our newsletter or following along on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.