Georgia Research Alliance Showcases Georgia Ingenuity

By Amanda Schroeder, Director, Public Relations, Georgia Research Alliance

Amanda Schroeder, Director, Public Relations, Georgia Research Alliance

Amanda Schroeder, Director, Public Relations, Georgia Research Alliance

If someone asked you to name something that’s been invented in Georgia – besides Coca-Cola – what would you say?

The Georgia Research Alliance is giving the city and state’s leadership 25 answers to that question. As part of its silver anniversary year, GRA has been rolling out “25 Breakthroughs in Georgia,” a series of short write-ups about the most notable inventions and discoveries that have emerged from the state’s universities.

Now, a new video from GRA takes the series a step further. Produced and narrated by Lance Russell, creator of “The Stories of Atlanta,” the video celebrates scientific ingenuity in our state and hints at what might come next from Georgia’s university laboratories.

From cancer treatments and HIV medications to enduring hydrangeas and extending the shelf life of fruits, the innovations will make an impact for generations to come.

You can find out more about these breakthroughs here.

If you are looking for an inspiring video to showcase Georgia’s inventive spirit at an upcoming event or conference, check out this video below.

Georgia: State of Invention from Georgia Research Alliance on Vimeo.

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Trends and Technology Driving Innovation in the Health IT Industry

By John Bardis, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of MedAssets

John Bardis, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of MedAssets

John Bardis, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of MedAssets

The Health IT Leadership Summit opens on Nov. 3, marking the sixth year of this signature event spotlighting the health IT industry in Georgia.

Created in 2010 by the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society, the Health IT Leadership Summit brings together leaders from across the healthcare continuum to discuss how the industry can drive innovation to enable better healthcare delivery at lower costs to more people.

This year’s conference, themed “CONNECTING HEALTHCARE: Making IT Work for You,” will feature John Bardis, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of MedAssets, as its keynote speaker.

Based in Alpharetta, MedAssets is one of the largest health provider claims management and group purchasing companies in the country. MedAssets develops software solutions that sit atop of claims management systems to make them more efficient. The company provides group purchasing for health systems, including Grady and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. MedAssets has 18 offices across the country with 3,400 employees, including 500 in Atlanta.

Below, Bardis talks about some of the latest trends in healthcare IT, one of the fastest-growing industries in Georgia. Georgia is often referred to as the health information technology (HIT) capital of the U.S. and is at the forefront of consumer digital health. There are more than 200 HIT companies in the state and that number is increasing rapidly. The eight metro Atlanta companies ranked among the top 100 in the nation by Healthcare Informatics Magazine have cumulative revenues totaling close to $5 billion.

Q: What are the biggest trends in health IT today?

A: We’re moving from closed, platform-process applications to digital platforms that engage consumers through health information and health data. We’ve gone from a large investment in meaningful use —with Epic, McKesson and Cerner — to building digital platforms to allow consumers, health systems and payers to engage. Retail strategies are now taking root.

How we pay for healthcare is changing dramatically. More people, including millennials, have high-deductible health plans — if you have a $7,000 deductible for a family, you will think carefully how to spend those dollars. Digital platforms will connect to services that may not be hospital-based. For instance, take Theranos, a lab testing company in Silicon Valley started by Elizabeth Holmes – a $9 billion-valued business that provides any test for $50 or less. These tests will be available through Walgreens.

Q: What are the challenges and opportunities for health IT?

A: Health systems are grappling with tremendous disruption – how they’re getting paid, who’s paying them and how much. They have an overwhelming cost-reduction requirement —unit utilization is going up, while price is going down. At the same time, health systems have to engage consumers with different technologies and strategies than those they have deployed in the past.

We now have 67 million people on Medicare and 67 million on Medicaid. Medicaid alone is going to increase to 85 million – that’s a lot of people covered, but at the lowest possible payment rate. How will health systems respond? There will be a need for digital platforms to assist consumers in how to best manage their health and find the best value for their plan.

Q: Why is Atlanta a good place to set up shop and grow? How is Atlanta uniquely positioned as a healthcare IT capital?

A: With Georgia Tech and startup accelerators, it’s helpful to have the incubation capabilities that research environments create. They also attract talent for companies looking to do business here. In the area of innovation, Georgia Tech and cities like Alpharetta have attracted technology incubators.

Q: As an Atlanta healthcare IT entrepreneur at heart, how is Georgia addressing the healthcare IT entrepreneur scene and future challenges?

A: The broader issues in healthcare are prevalent and present in every part of the U.S., including Georgia. Georgia is fiscally sound compared to states like Illinois, for instance, where there are enormous deficits based on entitlement costs.

I do think Georgia is a state that has made a major effort to invest in health IT. The Health IT Leadership Summit founding organizations – the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC), the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Technology Association of Georgia – are doing a great job in attracting health IT companies and making sure that different forms of capital are available to provide infrastructure support.

Q: What will your Health IT Leadership Summit keynote speech be about? Can you give us a preview?

A: The role of technological advancement and investment and the changing role of healthcare. In energy, the fracking boom in the last decade was good for consumers – it helped create jobs and increased manufacturing. Consumers benefited from energy savings through lower gas prices; manufacturers benefited financially from a lower cost of electricity. In healthcare, the consumer has to be the target audience. Information will need to be delivered through mobile devices with a direct benefit to include lower costs because that’s the way consumers will make purchasing decisions.

Q: What’s the key to leadership and success for health IT CEOs? How would you describe your leadership style while you were CEO of MedAssets?

A: I don’t pretend to have the secret sauce. For me personally, it was very important to remain highly focused on the welfare of people. Our culture had to reflect a certain level of values consistent with my personal value system. It’s about creating value well past share price and earnings, while doing what you can to engage a culture of service that has authenticity.

Q: Any advice to women health IT CEOs, as studies have shown that women are less likely to get funded by venture firms than men?

A: Many miles of road have been paved, but we have many more miles to go to solve the workplace equality issue. At MedAssets, we have a model leadership program to select the next generation of leaders; there are many women in that group. Our last couple of promotions put two women in charge of our revenue cycle business, and they’re running a pretty big part of the company. It’s a reflection of the recognition of talent that is now emerging, the reality of reacting to that and the need to promote women and put them in leadership roles that they have so well earned and deserved.

John Bardis founded MedAssets in June 1999 and served as its chairman and chief executive officer until his retirement in February 2015. He also served as president of the company since its inception until December 2014.

Today, as a consultant and trusted advisor, Bardis works closely with the company’s executive team and remains engaged in valued client relationships, and in communicating the company’s unique value proposition as a performance improvement company to healthcare organizations. He is also involved in philanthropic and charitable causes. In addition to regular and ongoing support for multiple non-profit organizations, Bardis was instrumental in establishing MedAssets’ corporate charity status for Mully Children’s Family Charitable Foundation, Heart for Africa and MedShare International. He also is the Founder and Chairman of Hire Heroes USA, the nation’s largest veteran employment integration and veteran training organization.

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The Growing Impact of Cybersecurity: Lessons Learned from Israel

By Pamela Dubin, founder, CyberUP

Pamela Dubin, founder, CyberUP

Pamela Dubin, founder, CyberUP

Last spring, I joined Alan Boehme, CIO, CTO of The Coca-Cola Co., as well as Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and 33 business leaders for a crash course on the cybersecurity ecosystem in Israel.  Organized by Conexx: America Israel Business Connector, the state of Georgia and Metro Atlanta Chamber, we had incredible access to the world’s leading cybersecurity experts.  Conexx is a non-profit organization creating opportunities for Israeli businesses in the U.S. and for American businesses in Israel. With a powerful member-driven network, Conexx provides businesses with access to ground breaking technologies, companies and partners in the Southeast, Israel and beyond.

Along with leaders from Invest Atlanta, Delta Air Lines, the U.S. Army Cyber School and Kennesaw State University, we toasted the powerful speech Mayor Reed presented earlier that evening to a global audience declaring the Southeast as “First to the Future” for cybersecurity. We knew the challenge ahead.

During that week in Israel, we saw the future and what it would take to be FIRST.  We saw the critical relationship between education and leadership to future-proof our region. We understood that thinking differently, and becoming a changed ecosystem, was our call to action.

Cybersecurity is beyond what wireless ever was. It isn’t opt-in. It is bigger than upgrades and devices. It impacts the very data, grids, systems and curricula that will shape the rest of this century and highlights the importance of integrating a cybersecurity mindset across all industries is required to survive and thrive.

Israel has a global reputation as a leader in cybersecurity. Israel is now the second largest exporter of cyber products and services after the United States, with more than 200 companies and dozens of research and development ventures devoted to developing cybersecurity. The Israeli government offers generous support for both private and public ventures into cybersecurity and encourages the country’s private, public and military sectors to work together by sharing technology and information. This makes Israel a vital partner for the Southeast as we lead the way in defending the grid.

Join me, Conexx, Baker Donelson and others on August 20-21 in Atlanta to understand the reach and grasp the enormous impact cybersecurity has on our economy and our region.

Baker Donelson’s Global Initiative is hosting a forum:  Israel and the American South: Securing your Future.  It will be a bonanza of world-class conversations for staying ahead of the cyber threats facing us. By bringing together key government officials, investors and innovators, the forum is a profound step for the Southeast.  It directly addresses two core components that are critical to cybersecurity: imagination and sharing.  This experience promises both.

Meet with top Israeli technology innovators Waterfall Security Solutions, Radware, Radiflow, Elbit Cyber Defense Solutions, ICS2, Javelin, Thetaray and Sasa Software.  Along with preeminent voices from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Communications Commission, these conversations are designed to be a tool to strengthen our economies and better understand ways to protect against cyber threats.

Join us and become informed about recent developments in cybersecurity and its impact on technology, manufacturing, healthcare, logistics and energy. Share, build, and help our region be “First to The Future.”

To register and for more information on Baker Donelson’s Global Initiative: Israel and the American South Forum: Securing your Future, please visit:

Pamela Dubin is a member of Conexx: America Israel Business Connector. As a frequent speaker & catalyst for trustees and executives, Pamela helps world leaders, diplomats, business leaders and philanthropists develop their plans, stretch their vision and realize a new level of success. Pamela is based in Atlanta and is the founder of CyberUP.  She can be reached at [email protected]

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Another Year of Celebrating Business and Entrepreneurship

By Mary Moore, Founder and CEO, The Cook’s Warehouse

Mary Moore, Founder and CEO, The Cook’s Warehouse

Mary Moore, Founder and CEO, The Cook’s Warehouse

For 29 years, the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) has celebrated business and entrepreneurship in our region at the annual Business Person of the Year Awards Luncheon. Partnering again this year with the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the June event brought together more than 450 attendees and highlighted the entrepreneurial spirit of 15 metro Atlanta businesses. Atlanta’s key industry clusters were well represented at this year’s awards luncheon, ranging from mobile and biomedical devices to manufacturing and supply chain.

The Business Person of the Year (BPOTY) award recognizes a winner in each of three categories: early-stage entrepreneur (one to three years in business); emerging entrepreneur (three to seven years in business) and experienced entrepreneur (seven or more years in business).

The winners by category are:

  • Early-Stage Entrepreneur (1-3 years) – Anna Ruth Williams, CEO and Founder, AR|PR LLC
  • Emerging Entrepreneur (3-7 years) – Rahim Charania, CEO, American Fueling Systems
  • Experienced Entrepreneur (7+ years ) – Tom DiGregorio, President & Owner, AquaGuard Foundation Solutions

This year Arnie Silverman, president, Silverman Construction Program Management (Silverman CPM), was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award for all of his hard work and dedication. Silverman CPM was founded 20 years ago to assist nonprofit organizations in metro Atlanta. Silverman CPM has been an invisible partner in numerous developments throughout the region, contributing useful information to enable construction projects in metro Atlanta. One of their most recent projects includes the development of Ponce City Market, which consists of a two-million square foot adaptive reuse of the historic Sears Roebuck & Co. building positioned on the Atlanta Beltline.

The Startups to Watch category showcases a unique group of entrepreneurs that were developed by students at our local universities. Although these companies are in their early stages of business, their unique and innovative ideas already have a positive effect on metro Atlanta’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. This year we recognized four “Startups to Watch”:

  • Advent Innovations, LLC – Regan Durkin, CEO; University of Georgia
  • Micron Biomedical – Mark Prausnitz, Co-Founder; Georgia Tech
  • Sparketh – Dwayne Walker, CEO; Kennesaw State University
  • U4gotUrBaby– Pulkit Bhatnagar, Co-Founder; Georgia State University

Congratulations to all the winners!

Watch the videos of all the BPOTY finalist:

Business Person of the Year 2015: How we got the winners

Business Person of the Year 2015: Early Stage Entrepreneurs, presented by Radiant3

Business Person of the Year 2015: Emerging Entrepreneurs, presented by Radiant3

Business Person of the Year 2015: Experienced Entrepreneurs, presented by Radiant3

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From Peach to Powerhouse: Georgia’s Health IT Scene

By Turner Taliaferro Smith, III, Psy.D., Vice President, Business Development, TeleHealth Solutions

Turner Taliaferro Smith, III, Psy.D., Vice President, Business Development, TeleHealth Solutions

Turner Taliaferro Smith, III, Psy.D., Vice President, Business Development, TeleHealth Solutions

The secret is out. Georgia has become a hotbed for health IT (HIT) companies, both veteran and startup. Georgia holds down the nation’s top spot with more than 225 HIT companies, nine of which have cumulative revenues of close to $5 billion. There are several reasons why.

Metro Atlanta ranks in the top five U.S. markets for total bandwidth and fiber access and two of the country’s largest fiber routes – north/south and east/west – cross in metro Atlanta. The region’s powerful technology grid will sustain health IT business expansion for decades to come.

Rapid job growth is another important factor. The growth in Georgia health IT is something for job seekers to get excited about. Georgia’s technology sector continues to be one of the most powerful job creators in the state with more than 4,000 net new jobs in 2014. Since 2010, Georgia has also added more than 25,000 new technology positions—over 272,000 IT jobs in five short years.

Health IT

“The health IT industry in Georgia is healthy and thriving as a result of the region’s robust infrastructure and the ongoing collaboration between our HIT corporations, academic institutions and healthcare providers,” says David Hartnett, vice president, economic development, Metro Atlanta Chamber. “Georgia also delivers a skilled workforce and pro-business environment that ensures a solid foundation to help small and mid-sized HIT companies continue to scale.”

A perfect example of a Georgia HIT company that continues to scale is McKesson. “Georgia has a unique combination of assets that are quite attractive for technology companies. In addition to a thriving service economy, the state has a strong educational system and an international travel hub in Atlanta, making for a great place to live and work. The growing number of technology companies has created a community that promotes innovation and best practices, which is highly valuable to McKesson as we continue to advance our business,” says Robert Hendricks, Chief Technology Officer, McKesson.

Fueling this progress and excitement is the annual Health IT Leadership Summit. The Health IT Leadership Summit was founded in 2010 by three organizations to support the growth of the health IT industry: the Georgia Dept. of Economic Development, Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. In its sixth year and hosted in Atlanta, the Summit brings together health IT leaders, job seekers and students for easy, one-day access to educational sessions, exhibits and networking. Click here for more details and early bird registration.

For more details about Georgia’s growing HIT scene, watch this video.

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A Chat with Two Business Person of the Year Winners

What happens when two entrepreneurs from different industries switch jobs for a day? Two of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Business Person of the Year winners, Ryan Turner, CEO and Co-Founder of Unsukay, and Jim Hall, CEO of Triatek, spent a day in each other’s shoes. The duo shares what they took away from the experience and the newfound appreciation they have for each other’s industries.

Do you have what it takes to become one a Business Person of the Year? Apply here today!


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Volunteers Play a Big Role in Helping Students Succeed in Project for a Day

By Melanie Platt and Caitlin Sims

Recently more than 300 Atlanta business and community leaders visited various Atlanta Public Schools (APS) to participate in Project For A Day (PFAD), held on Nov. 6. Project For A Day is an annual event in which volunteers from the business, civic and nonprofit communities volunteer their time on a designated project, and make a tangible impact in the lives of students.

Professionals from multiple organizations spent the morning participating in hands-on, student-focused activities at APS schools. Afterward, the volunteers were among an audience of approximately 600, including APS principals, at the celebratory luncheon at the Omni Hotel to honor student and volunteer efforts.

Project For A Day is sponsored by the Atlanta Partners for Education (APFE), a 33-year-old joint venture between the Metro Atlanta Chamber and Atlanta Public Schools.

AGL Resources was one of the Atlanta-area businesses that participated in Project For A Day by volunteering at Parkside Elementary School. But AGL’s volunteerism goes beyond one day; AGL employees have been volunteering at Parkside for more than a decade.

Parkside Principal Caitlin Sims and AGL Resources Foundation President Melanie Platt share their perspectives on how this partnership benefits the students and volunteers.

Tell us about the school-business partnership between AGL Resources and Parkside Elementary.

Melanie Platt Executive Vice President, Chief People Officer and President, AGL Resources Foundation

Melanie Platt
Executive Vice President, Chief People Officer and
President, AGL Resources Foundation

At AGL Resources, we believe the path to social mobility and enhanced opportunities includes education and career readiness. Simply put, education is a gateway to everything good in life, so it is very important to us that we support students in their educational aspirations.

The AGL Resources and Parkside Elementary partnership is now in its 11th year, and over the course of that time, we’ve seen it strengthen, thanks in large part to the leadership at the school and the enthusiasm of our employees.  It is really a win-win relationship – we’re offering a rewarding volunteer experience to our employees while contributing to the growth and development of the students.

 Why do you think it’s important for your employees to volunteer in the schools?

One of our corporate shared values is Generosity of Spirit – we give back to the communities where we live and serve.  Our employees truly take this value to heart, donating tens of thousands of hours each year to communities across our footprint. Volunteer activities are as diverse as our workforce, and the volunteer experiences at Parkside are some of our most popular.  Whether creating enthusiasm for reading or promoting careers in energy during College and Career Week, our employee volunteers are a positive presence at Parkside and enhance the traditional classroom learning experience. By promoting a love of learning and showing the possibilities that come from a good education, I wholeheartedly believe we’re building a brighter future for individuals, families and communities.

What types of activities have you completed with the students at Parkside?

Over the course of the school year, our employee volunteers have several opportunities to get involved at Parkside. Whether they choose to join the annual PFAD events sponsored by the Atlanta Partners for Education, serve as judges for the Academic Science Fair, or lead Junior Achievement in a Day sessions, our volunteers are helping to prepare Parkside students for success in life. And of course, by participating in College and Career Week, we want to encourage students to consider higher education as a next step – maybe even a career in energy!

But our involvement extends beyond the classroom. During the holidays, we are honored to welcome Parkside students to our corporate headquarters where they treat our employees to rounds of spirited songs of the season, and we, in turn, treat them to goodwill and refreshments. And our employees demonstrate our Company’s value of Generosity of Spirit by supporting students and families in need through our annual Parkside Angel Tree.

AGL Volunteers at Project For A Day:



Caitlin Sims Principal, Parkside Elementary School

Caitlin Sims
Principal, Parkside Elementary School

Q: Tell us about the partnership.

I am very proud of and grateful for the 11-year partnership between Parkside Elementary School and AGL Resources. The AGL team has done an extraordinary job of being a committed corporate partner to our school. The company brings in multiple volunteers throughout the year to talk to our students. We just hosted College and Career Week, which is a major initiative within the Atlanta Public Schools, to educate our students about different options for college and career pathways. AGL brought representatives from different departments – from meter readers and finance to HR and corporate executives – to talk about their careers.

 Q: What are some activities the AGL volunteers participate in at the school?

Reading is a big activity and very key for our students. During the Project For A Day event, the AGL volunteers came and read books to different classes.

During the recent College and Career Week, the AGL volunteers passed out drawstring knapsacks to all the kids so they could create their “bag of dreams” by drawing their visions for their career dreams on one side and college dreams on the other.

During the holidays, we take our choral students to the AGL offices and sing holiday carols. This is a nice treat for the employees and a great learning experience for the students, as they get to see a major company from the inside, visit different floors, and see the executive offices. It’s a great opportunity for exposure to the corporate world.

Each year before school starts, I meet with the core volunteer team in the summer and we map out our goals for the year and what we want to get out of the partnership. The team at AGL is very fluid and flexible; they ask what our needs are and how they can help. We develop an action plan together.

Over the years, the AGL volunteers have also contributed tin other ways, serving as judges for our science fair, providing mentoring and tutoring services and providing incentive prizes for students who reached attendance goals. They have been very involved throughout the 11-year partnership.

Q: What are the benefits you see in the students from this partnership and the involvement of AGL volunteers?

It makes such a big difference for the students to see and hear real people talking about their jobs and offer a very direct connection to the “real world.” The AGL volunteers always emphasize the importance of education in each of their visits, and show the students how they connect to a bigger community.

We talk about creating global citizens and graduates who are ready for the challenges of the 21st century – it’s thrilling for the students to have guest readers and guest speakers who can share some of their wisdom and insight. The College and Career Readiness piece is so critical, and it’s fantastic to have a partner that directly supports this is initiative.

The most important thing about the partnership is AGL’s genuine interest in keeping the partnership focused on the needs of the school and the students. That makes it rewarding on both sides. They really care about what will help the students succeed. I am grateful that AGL Resources gives its employees the time to volunteer at Parkside. The students always light up when they see the volunteers at school, reading to them in their classes or talking about their careers. Their involvement has been invaluable.

APFE has been serving the students of APS since 1981 by providing opportunities for the Atlanta business community to become involved in public education to gain a deeper understanding of how they can make a positive difference in students’ lives. The partnership also allows schools to hear from businesses about the job skills needed in the future workforce. For more information, visit

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Interns are Vital to Atlanta’s Wireless Mobility Sector

By Jonathan LeCompte, president – Georgia/Alabama Region, Verizon Wireless

By Jonathan LeCompte, president – Georgia/Alabama Region, Verizon Wireless

Atlanta’s growing wireless mobility sector has become a hub for industry innovation and growth. To keep driving that momentum we are tapping into an important resource for talent: interns.

Employers like Verizon seek value in an intern’s fresh perspective and the vital skill set these technology natives possess. Internships have been a vital recruitment method for many companies in the mobility sphere. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, approximately 77 percent of companies primarily use internship programs to recruit entry-level talent. In today’s job market, internships have evolved into an extended interview process that evaluates an individual’s work ethic, skill level and cultural fit before incurring the expense of a full-time hire.

It makes perfect sense from a business perspective. Approximately 50 percent of internships and co-ops will convert to full-time hires, which is great for sourcing talent. Of those interns that converted to full-time hires, 57 percent are still with the company after five years, which translates into a low turn-over rate.

In an effort to satisfy the demand for new talent in Atlanta’s growing mobile technology industry, Verizon Wireless partnered with our city’s biggest mobility event, Mobility LIVE!, in 2013 to host an intern summit where mobility companies connected with students from Metro Atlanta’s universities. Companies ranged from the big players to new startups and included Verizon, AT&T, The Weather Channel, Star Mobile, Catavolt, WNA and more.  The intern summit was so successful that we did it again in 2014, drawing a 60 percent increase in student attendance.

At this year’s event, Verizon Wireless’ own Morgan Henry shared insights gained as an intern with our company for three summers during her time at Howard University. Her experience was more than a stepping stone – it was a catapult into a challenging and rewarding career. Morgan has now been with Verizon for four years, and has held several different positions within our marketing organization, gaining invaluable experience along the way.

Why are events like this one vital for all parties involved? Connecting with students while they are still in school allows employers to hone in on talents and aid in connecting class lessons to the real world. By showing a student where native-technological skills and business collide, we are generating awareness about opportunities in mobile technology he or she may have not been exposed to previously. Additionally, not only are internships mutually beneficial for both the intern and the employer, but also for Metro Atlanta. By embracing young talent, we are creating a better quality talent pool for the entire region. If we keep that talent in Metro Atlanta, we can help make Atlanta the global leader in mobile innovation.

I invite you to join companies like Verizon Wireless, The Coca-Cola Company, How Stuff Works, BlueFletch, The Home Depot and more who are foraging Metro Atlanta’s universities looking for the expertise that will revolutionize the next era of mobility.

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For Job Growth, A Thriving Startup Community is Essential

By Blake Patton Managing Partner, Tech Square Ventures

By Blake Patton,
Managing Partner, Tech Square Ventures

Entrepreneurs building technology startups need more than an idea and a great team. Unless you have deep pockets or wealthy relatives, chances are you will require outside investment to turn your passion into a high-growth success.

That’s where venture capital comes in. VC firms are professional managers of risk capital that fund new innovations by investing in promising early-stage companies. These companies aren’t at the stage where it’s possible to secure traditional bank loans or raise money in the public markets.

Compared to other technology hotbeds like California, Massachusetts, New York and Texas, access to capital is a critical challenge for Georgia’s tech entrepreneurs.  The state’s share of national venture capital investments in 2013 was only one percent, while the entire Southeast saw just three percent of those dollars. Georgia also trails Virginia and North Carolina in seed and early stage investments.

The lack of capital is not just a problem for entrepreneurs. It affects all Georgians because when it comes to job growth, startups are everything. A recent study by the Kauffman Foundation highlighted the fact that since 1977, most net new jobs in the United States are created by startups. Improving access to capital is critical for keeping our best and brightest entrepreneurs from leaving the state to find the financing they need.

The funding shortage in Georgia is a big opportunity for early-stage venture capital and angel investors. The current level of investment in the state does not match the level of entrepreneurial activity and innovation coming out of our startups and research universities. For local investors, finding deal flow is easier and less competitive here than in other parts of the country.  This is why I started Tech Square Ventures, a seed and early-stage fund investing in technology startups. We’re putting our money to work right here in Atlanta and across the Southeast.

Investors outside the region are beginning to take notice, as well. Atlanta startups Ionic Security and Pindrop Security both recently raised money from iconic Silicon Valley venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Google Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.

And last week, Atlanta tech startup hopefuls got their chance.

On Oct. 21-22, a full house of local entrepreneurs gathered at the Georgia Aquarium to “swim with the sharks” at Venture Atlanta, the premier technology conference in the Southeast that connects entrepreneurs with the capital they need to grow their business.  At the event, 33 local and regional startups presented to more than 125 investors from across the country in hopes of attracting the funding they need to propel them to success.

Atlanta has all the key ingredients for a thriving technology startup ecosystem: talented innovators, world-class research universities and a history of startup success. We have a strong base of FORTUNE 1000 companies here, which makes it a great place for entrepreneurs to find early customers and connect with industry executives for networking and mentoring. But, it also takes capital to fuel that ecosystem, and Venture Atlanta is doing its part.

When local startups succeed, we all win.

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Calling All Former Boys & Girls Club Kids & Alumni – Share Stories through New Mobile Apps

Charles Holt

Charles Holt

By Vernon Rose, National Director of Affinity Markets, Boys & Girls Club of America

Meet Charles Holt. Actor. Story-teller. Producer. Author. And former Boys & Girls Club kid. In fact, he’s one of 16 million former Club kids. And we need to reach every one of these alumni in order to build a great future for today’s kids. Every Club alum has a unique story to encourage children today. The challenge for Boys & Girls Clubs? This potential army of former Club kids is nearly invisible.

In the spring of 2014, Charles stepped up for Boys & Girls Clubs of America and offered to help Club kids.  This generous offer stemmed from his childhood experiences as a Club kid in Nashville, Tenn. Charles will soon visit Club kids across America, utilizing his unique storytelling and life experiences to share his story of how he unlocked his own inner voice and found his life’s purpose.

Through the creation of new apps developed by the teams of the Mobility LIVE! Hack-Back Invitational, BGCA hopes to soon have the unique opportunity to capture the attention, volunteerism and stories of millions of former Club kids like Charles.

The Mobility Live Hack-Back Invitational is a unique event created by Technology Association of Georgia (TAG), whereby teams of hackers were invited to develop mobility solutions for national based nonprofits in a monthlong competition for cash and prizes. The 2014 program was held in conjunction with the 2014 Mobility LIVE! Conference in Atlanta in partnership with the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Teams of programmers, developers and coders were invited to compete in the event while helping to give (hack) back to three of the nation’s leading nonprofit organizations – including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which is based in Atlanta.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America logoAs BGCA Club alumni range from age 18 to 80-plus, we are continuously challenged to seek affordable outlets to maintain visibility. The Hack-Back Invitational helped us with a solution to create access that our alumni and parents have never enjoyed before.

As part of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Great Futures Campaign, engaging the 16 million alumni is a cornerstone of our efforts to build a great future for today’s kids. Many face challenges not known in earlier generations.


  • The American dream is likely unattainable for the majority of kids today. Our nation’s state of poor academic performance, obesity, drug use and youth-related violence are cause for alarm and national action.
  • Every day, 15 million kids leave school unsupervised, with no place to go. That’s more than a quarter of America’s kids left unguided and potentially unsafe after school.
  • In the summer, some 43 million (3 out of 4) kids lack access to summer learning programs, increasing their risk of significant learning loss and falling off track to graduate from high school.

Our vision is ambitious: to assure success is within reach of every young person who enters our doors, with all Club members on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship, and living a healthy lifestyle. We are excited about the launch of this new app to support our vision by engaging Club alumni to share their stories and to inspire parents with the living proof of alumni like Charles Holt.

“I challenge my fellow Club kids to join me in supporting the futures of Club kids today,” says Charles in issuing his call to action. “Igniting our energy, effort and care for the benefit of these children will be transformational, both for us and for kids!”

To learn more about the Great Futures campaign, visit

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