Atlanta Showcases its Tech Community at SXSW

By HOJUN CHOI
Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Scott Henderson, CEO of Sandbox Communities. Photo by Hojun Choi

Scott Henderson, CEO of Sandbox Communities. Photo by Hojun Choi

Community leaders from the heart of Atlanta’s tech scene had a chance to strut their city’s entrepreneurial spirit at ChooseATL’s Tech Square Takeover event on Monday.

The free SXSW event was open to the public, and was one of many events hosted at the ChooseATL House at Speakeasy nightclub on 4th St. and Congress Ave., which hosted two days of events, including special speaker panels only open to SXSW badge holders.

Monday’s event was co-sponsored by the Scheller College of Business and the Advanced Technology Development Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and The University Financing Foundation.

“ChooseATL House is a collective effort of the entire city to say that Atlanta is a great place,” said Scott Henderson, CEO and co-founder of Sandbox Communities. “It’s where hustle meets hospitality.”

Sandbox Communities is a membership-based club that focuses on providing its members with networking, education and resources to help their entrepreneurial endeavors. Henderson said that Tech Square ATL, which is set to launch during SXSW 2016, is an online news platform for telling the story of “Technology Square,” a revitalized area of Midtown Atlanta that serves as a hotbed for entrepreneurs in the area.

Henderson, who also serves on the program committee for SXSW Interactive Festival, said the Atlantan startup community decided to put together a joint effort to show SXSW goers why Atlanta-like Austin, is a great place to bring your idea to market.

“We came to Austin because the SXSW festival represents a global convergence of people trying to think of what is next,” Henderson said.

In addition to live music and open bar accommodations, the event featured six companies from Technology Square to showcase talent from the area. Attendees also had a chance to take a virtual reality tour of Technology Square.
Cory Hewett’s company, Gimme Vending, was also one of the businesses that came to help represent the city’s entrepreneurial successes, said both Austin and Atlanta have communities that seem to embrace new ideas.

“I love seeing communities that are grasping onto this idea that if you are someone that has a good idea, you just need to go out there and make it,” Hewett said.

Technology Square stretches across 1.4 million square feet and was developed with the help of the Georgia Institute of Technology. According to the university’s website for real estate development, the project began in 2000, and was projected to cost $380 million.

Jennifer Bonnett, who serves as the general manager of Advanced Technology Development Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said that the university played a pivotal role in the development of the business district. The center serves as an incubator for startups in the area.

“Georgia Tech became kind of an anchor tenant to Technology Square by putting its business school there,” Bonnett said.

Todd Ervin, director of marketing and communications for the university’s Scheller College of Business, said one of the main goals of the events centered around the Choose ATL House was to attract new talent to Atlanta, as well as retaining the talent that is already there.

“If people want to work on the next big startup; if they want to be a part of the next big thing coming, they should come to Atlanta,” Ervin said.

ChooseATL, a campaign launched by the Metro Atlanta Chamber in 2015, seeks to strengthen the city’s reputation as a space for entrepreneurship and innovation through informing the public about the benefits of pursuing their ventures in Technology Square.

“Our strategy is to meet ‘millennials’ where they are at and evolve their perceptions to have them be more open to bringing their skills to Atlanta,” said Kate Atwood, vice president of ChooseATL.

Below is a full list of Atlanta startups featured at Monday’s event, along with a short description:

352 Inc. – A web development startup that helps its clients design and create digital products for their businesses.

Converge – A digital marketing analytics company that provides a platform that allows clients to make better sense of digital, social and offline media data for their businesses. ()

Foundry 45 – Company that creates virtual reality experiences for trade shows, marketing and recruitment.

Gimme Vending – Food supply chain startup that helps vending machine operators better manage the inventories of their machines.

Monsieur – Startup that provides intuitive cocktail machines to venues to help lower costs associated with maintaining a bar.

Partpic – Company that helps its clients find the replacement parts using visual recognition technology through their mobile device.

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