Last week saw us host the latest BrandConnect dinner in Atlanta. These dinners are an intimate forum for brands to network and discuss corporate innovation among peers as well as with both startups and the investment community. It’s always fascinating to adsorb Innovation culture, challenges and attitudes across different cities and Atlanta is no different. Around the table we had representatives from some of the biggest brands in the city, Coca Cola and IHT, as well as from investors and accelerators such as ATDC.
The conversation was far ranging covering everything from the importance of an organization defining innovation internally to discussing the nuances of how brands should partner with startups and what are the pitfalls.
There were, however, two takeaways from this event that stood out for me.
The first takeaway was the unwavering belief that Atlanta was a genuine growing force in the technology startup landscape although recognizing that there is still a lot to do. To date Atlanta has built a really strong base of strong enterprise technology startups but that it has yet to create the real blockbuster consumer tech brand. There was a feeling around the table that this is now the real challenge for Atlanta to take the next step up. What is interesting is that the new Switchyards incubator from Michael Tavani has been established to address this very real challenge.
The second takeaway, highlighted in large part by Pete Santora from startup Thundrlizard.com, was the open mindedness for collaboration between potential competing parties in pursuit of helping startups survive and thrive. For example, many accelerators and VCs have corporate programs vying to attract the corporate dollars for their portfolio companies. However, there was recognition that the most important outcome, was for startups to find the right partners, regardless of where the introduction comes from. It doesn’t seem implausible that in the future there could, and probably should, be increased collaboration between all brand accelerators and VC in helping the entire startup ecosystem partner with the best possible brands.