When Venture Atlanta first got its start in 2007, the city was a different place.
Entrepreneurs and investors were thin on the ground, and great startups were shy to make their home here. In its first year, our conference had only a few hundred attendees, and some 20 funds to work with. To anyone who was a part of it, one thing was clear: we had our work cut out for us as we strove to be a serious destination for venture capitalists and entrepreneurs.
Back in 2007, building a startup in Atlanta — or funding one — was met with skepticism. But from the beginning, Venture Atlanta (VA) has been singularly dedicated to connecting companies to capital and with every conference, the connections we’ve made have become more extraordinary.
Over the past 12 years, we’ve built an impressive program leading to $2.7 billion in capital raised and $14 billion in exits.
This success isn’t just reflected in the companies that have been a part of the conference, but also in the board of leaders and innovators who bring the event to life year over year.
With a great vision for the future of VA, Alex Estevez has stepped into the role of 2019 Chairman of the Board and leads a team of highly-motivated industry leaders, including newly-added members Thiago Olson, Jim Douglass, Dave Payne, Phyllis Newhouse, and Vanessa Larco. They will join the already impressive list of board members including John Ale, Mike Becker, Kelly Gay, Linnea Geiss, David Hartnett, Paul Iaffaldano, Raj Rajan, and Larry Williams, as well as Venture Atlanta’s Executive Director Allyson Eman, to chart what Venture Atlanta will mean for the tech scene moving forward.
As a personal investor in some of the leading U.S. software companies outside of the West Coast, including BetterCloud, FullStory, Pindrop, and UIPath, Estevez knows what kind of talent exists outside of the Valley.
“Atlanta is unique in its combination of industrial strength, educational infrastructure, and strong corporate community engagement, especially from so many Fortune 500 companies,” says Estevez, who became Chairman after two years on the Venture Atlanta board.
“This year we’re celebrating how Venture Atlanta will bring together these essential pieces to expand the number of attendees and attract a greater breadth of investors, all while maintaining our very high expectations for quality.”
Estevez, a venture partner with Accel Partners, a global leader in venture capital, plans to lead the board in executing its vision of becoming one of the top venture & entrepreneurship conferences in the nation. Estevez’s focus is reflected in the caliber and diverse expertise of the team members who will help spearhead his vision for the organization.
“Venture Atlanta has been incredibly successful with startups and earlier stage growth companies, due in part to strong leadership from past chairmen like Mike Becker, Phillip Lewis, Alan Taetle, and Blake Patton” explains Estevez.
“A big movement this year is for us to become more relevant with later stage entrepreneurs, businesses, investors and corporate development teams. In the end, our mission is to connect companies with capital, and our goal is to become one of the best in the country to do so.”
As a key player in Atlanta’s tech scene, Thiago Olson, managing director of Engage Ventures, got started with VA in 2015 and has watched the tech scene grow and evolve to encourage higher-caliber investors. As the conference helps propel the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Atlanta forward, the attention, interest, and investor dollars have increased across the country.
“I keep getting asked by friends and colleagues: When is the one time of year I should visit Atlanta? This conference makes that easy to answer,” says Olson, whose company manages a venture fund and growth platform with 11 leading Fortune 1000 corporations, and previously served as an Entrepreneur in Residence at the Advanced Technology Development Center, one of the first technology incubators in the country.
“In terms of corporate innovation, development, and landscape, the momentum is unparalleled.”
Dave Payne, startup founder, investor, and managing director of Techstars Atlanta, a company that aims to positively connect industries like telecoms, mobility, transportation, and finance, has similarly watched Atlanta’s opportunities through the years grow as a result of the conference’s impact.
“In the late ‘90s, Atlanta was under-sourced from a startup perspective,” explains Payne. “I had my startup success with Scoutmob, and I have real empathy for startup founders in the Southeast. Now, it’s a different story.
Where a founder in Atlanta was alone 20 years ago, Venture Atlanta has been an integral part of creating a much bigger community that’s respected and well-known in the region.”
Jim Douglass, partner of Fulcrum Equity Partners, plans to leverage his 25 years of extensive experience in operations management, strategic development, and high-growth financial services to do just that: grow the conference by attracting the talent that really deserves time on stage.
“There aren’t many conferences where you get really strong, centralized content in this capital spectrum,” elaborates Douglass, who, prior to joining Fulcrum Equity Partners, served as CEO of Vesdia, a pioneer in loyalty and card-linked marketing for financial services, airline, and hospitality companies.
“But the early funds, the middle players, and the $500 billion funds are all here to see what’s going on in Atlanta. That’s a great place to be.”
Phyllis Newhouse, CEO of Xtreme Solutions, Inc., and Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2017 National Technology Award winner, plans to bring not only more women and veterans to the table as part of the Venture Atlanta board this year, but also lead Atlanta further into the national conversation.
“Atlanta wants to be a city that is savvy enough to deal with global issues,” says Newhouse. “To do that, we have to bring in companies that truly understand the ecosystem, and then invest in the technologies that could make that big impact in our security or critical infrastructure. That’s where the opportunity is, and where we can focus on growing connections.”
So why Venture Atlanta, and why this year? The conference’s momentum is catching — and attracting the next wave of innovation from across the country. Vanessa Larco, a partner at New Enterprise Associate, will commute regularly from her hub in San Francisco to be a part of the 2019 VA board, bringing national interests and funds to the heart of this year’s conference.
“Venture Atlanta is where high-caliber deals are going to be made,” says Larco, whose prior experience includes a director of product management role for web and mobile apps at Box. “Atlanta is building an ecosystem of billion-dollar investments, and paired with the lower cost of living and capital-efficiency, it’s an ideal place for connecting the best founders with the best investors.”
But what are all of these connections truly worth? For our attendees, investors, and entrepreneurs, it’s been a result of billions of dollars invested in everything from AI and e-commerce to healthcare and energy. But the true value is more than the dollar-line. It’s also about the impact that the sharpest minds, biggest investors, and industry-leading companies can create together in one place.
“This is about meeting people, but it’s also about the deal activity,” explains Estevez.
“With the national caliber of board members this year, we’re in a unique position to provide value back to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, which is a real benefit not just for the conference, but for Atlanta and the entire region.”
Meet the 2019 Board:
Alex Estevez - 2019 Chairman
Mr. Estevez is a Venture Partner with Accel Partners, a global leader in venture capital with past investments in top companies such as Atlassian, Dropbox, Facebook, Jet.com, Lynda.com, Qualtrics, Slack, Squarespace, and Spotify. As Venture Partner, Mr. Estevez helps existing portfolio companies based outside of Silicon Valley with their growth opportunities and scale challenges. Read More >>
Thiago is the Managing Director of Engage, a growth platform and venture fund established in partnership with 11 leading Fortune 1000 corporations. Thiago is also a Venture Partner at Tech Square Ventures focused on early-stage technology investments. Read More >>
Fulcrum Equity Partners
Mr. Douglass is a Partner of Fulcrum Equity Partners and brings more than 25 years of operations management, strategic development and financial experience with high-growth financial services, marketing services, and healthcare companies. Read More >>
David Payne is a startup founder & investor who has been working on startups since the mid-90s in NYC, San Francisco, London and (for the last decade) Atlanta. He is currently the Managing Director of Techstars Atlanta. Before that, he founded Switchyards, one of the main startup hubs in Atlanta, and Scoutmob, one of the most successful consumer startups to launch from Atlanta. Read More >>
Xtreme Solutions Inc.
Phyllis W. Newhouse is the Chief Executive Officer of Xtreme Solutions, Inc., an end-to-end IT services and solutions provider, with offerings that range from IT business consulting to state-of-the-art cyber security consulting and forensic analysis. Phyllis co-founded Xtreme Solutions in 2002 upon retiring from the United States Army as a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer. Read More >>
New Enterprise Associates
Vanessa Larco joined NEA as a Partner in 2016 and focuses on enterprise and consumer investing. Prior to joining NEA, she was the Director of Product Management for web and mobile apps at Box (NYSE: BOX) where she worked on building the next generation of productivity apps. Read More >>
Mike Becker - 2018 Chairman
Vocap Investment Partners
Mike loves the entrepreneurial process and has over 20 years of investing, technology and operations experience, much of it working with growth stage companies. Prior to joining Vocap, Mike served as the COO of Triton Digital’s Applications & Services Division. Read More >>
John joined NMP as a Vice President in 2015. He supports the firm’s investments in software and information technology companies. John currently serves as a board observer for MacStadium, PureWrx, Red Canary, TapInfluence and TrendKite. Read More >>
Kelly Gay is the chief operating officer of Numerex Corp. (NASDAQ: NMRX), a leading provider of managed enterprise solutions enabling the Internet of Things (IoT). She was previously the president of Security Solutions at Numerex, where she led the introduction of new offerings in existing businesses, the acceleration of revenue growth, the expansion of strategic partnerships, and the launch of a new personal tracking line of business. Read More >>
Linnea joined PDI in 2018 and brings over 15 years of global experience spanning operations, investing, strategy and corporate development. Linnea oversees all product management and professional services operations and is responsible for developing and executing strategies and offerings to drive growth and competitive positioning across global markets. Read More >>
Metro Atlanta Chamber
As chief economic development officer at the Metro Atlanta Chamber, David leads the team focused on the retention, recruitment, and expansion of existing and start-up companies within key clusters, e.g., Mobility, IoT, Cybersecurity, Fin Tech, Digital Media, Supply Chain, Bioscience, and Health IT. Read More >>
With over 30 years of experience in building the value of market-leading companies, Paul Iaffaldano is managing director at BIP Capital, recognized as one of the most active and successful venture investment firms in the southeastern United States. Prior to joining BIP Capital, Iaffaldano also founded another highly successful venture firm, Accelerant Venture Capital, which merged with BIP Capital in 2017. Read More >>
Palaniswamy “Raj” Rajan
CTW Venture Partners
Palaniswamy “Raj” Rajan is currently the Managing Partner of CTW Venture Partners, an early stage venture capital fund which invests in and assists seed and early-stage entrepreneurs in all industries in Atlanta and the South Eastern United States who are engaged in disruptive innovations and technologies. Read More >>
Technology Association of Georgia (TAG)
Larry K. Williams, is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG). Williams, A recognized leader in economic development, brings more than 20 years of experience in global branding, international trade and finance, public and industrial policy, and administration and management to one of the largest state technology trade associations in North America. Read More >>
Allyson Eman - Executive Director
Allyson Eman has more than 25 years of marketing, communications, sales leadership and business development skills. In 2007, Allyson took on the role of Executive Director for the newly created Venture Atlanta annual conference. Allyson has worked with key business leaders from Metro Atlanta Chamber, Atlanta CEO Council and Technology Association of Georgia to build the premier venture capital conference in the South. Read More >>