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Today I couldn’t be more excited to announce that I’m joining Techstars as the Managing Director for Techstars Atlanta in partnership with Cox Enterprises.

In 2015, Techstars partnered with Cox Enterprises to launch a global mentorship-driven accelerator in Atlanta. Three years and thirty startups later, this program is having a tremendous impact on Atlanta, and I’m excited to build upon all of the success of the previous team.

I’ve been working in startups since the mid-90s in NYC, San Francisco, London, and (for the last decade) Atlanta. The startup I’m best known for is a consumer app called Scoutmob that raised $9M and got to three million users entirely by word-of-mouth. For my next venture, I teamed up with my Scoutmob cofounder again to launch a startup hub in downtown Atlanta called Switchyards Downtown Club.

Now that Switchyards is three years old and 400 members strong, I’m excited to have a much deeper level of involvement with a hand-picked group of founders from across the Southeast.

The Techstars Advantage

When Techstars Atlanta in partnership with Cox Enterprises launched three years ago, I was invited to be a mentor for the program. I knew the Techstars brand was well respected in the startup world, but that’s about all that I knew about the organization. When I was leaving the first gathering of new mentors, I told my cofounder, “that’s the most impressive group of successful founders that I’ve ever seen in the same room at one time in Atlanta.”

Fast-forward to today, and I’ve not only seen the power of pairing great founders with great mentors as part of the Techstars program, but I’ve seen up close how Techstars gives startups incredibly unfair advantages that greatly increase their odds of success. Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, and it really does help startups #domorefaster. The amount of progress that I’ve seen startups make in the three months of a Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator program is astounding.

Atlanta is the Capital of the Southeast

I grew up in Alabama.  When I went away to college in Pennsylvania in 1990, I said goodbye to the South (or so I thought at the time). I graduated college and proceeded to move just about everywhere BUT the South… I wasn’t going home.

But a funny thing happened as I lived and worked in some of America’s other great cities… I started to appreciate the South even more: that curious feeling that you get walking down Magazine Street in New Orleans; the comfort of sitting down at a soul food restaurant in Birmingham; the sound of someone finger-picking an acoustic guitar in Nashville. The American South has a spirit unlike any other.

There’s a quotation from novelist George Moore that sums up the feeling to me: “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” I returned home to the South to find that it had changed, and I had changed—and it was exactly what I needed. It might be what you and your venture need, too.

Over the last decade the American South has changed dramatically. Young people are moving back into walkable city centers. Innovation hubs are popping up in every city of more than a half-million people. Talent from other parts of the country is taking notice and moving in for a better quality of life.

Techstars believes that founders should be able to build successful businesses wherever they want to live. Changes in technology and attitudes like this are having a major impact on startups in the Southeast.

As we would say in Alabama, this ain’t your momma’s South.

While these changes were taking place in the South as a whole, something else powerful has happened as well: Atlanta has emerged as the capital of the Southeast. There are great universities, an extremely diverse and creative culture, plus lots of Fortune 500 companies. All this (and more) has caused Atlanta to emerge as one of most dynamic cities in the country.

I love this video that Atlanta put together as a top contender for Amazon HQ2. Watch it—you’ll see what I mean about how vibrant Atlanta really is. It’s even better actually living here!

As the only global accelerator in the Southeast, Techstars Atlanta in partnership with Cox Enterprises is the natural hub for the next generation of great startups that emerge from the Southeast.

What’s Next?

Applications for Techstars Atlanta in partnership with Cox Enterprises will open in mid-January for our class beginning in July 2019. Between now and then, I will spend a great deal of time meeting with connectors, investors, successful founders, and promising founders to join our next class.

If you are working on a startup in the Southeast and want to experience the Atlanta I’ve just described—please request Office Hours here, so I can learn more about what you’re working on and reach out to you.


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Dave Payne Dave Payne
David Payne is the Managing Director of the Techstars Atlanta Accelerator in Partnership with Cox Enterprises. Previously, he was cofounder & CEO of Scoutmob, one of the most successful consumer startups to launch from Atlanta, and Switchyards Downtown Club, one of the main startup hubs in Atlanta. David blogs regularly about startups at www.realfounderlessons.com and tweets at @davempayne.


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